Recent Solar Storms Pumped 26 billion Kilowatts of Energy into Earth’s Atmosphere

by Nancy Atkinson on March 23, 2012

The recent solar activity did more than spark pretty auroras around the poles. Researchers say the solar storms of March 8th through 10th dumped enough energy in Earth’s upper atmosphere to power every residence in New York City for two years.

“This was the biggest dose of heat we’ve received from a solar storm since 2005,” says Martin Mlynczak of NASA Langley Research Center. “It was a big event, and shows how solar activity can directly affect our planet.”

For the three day period, March 8th through 10th, the thermosphere absorbed 26 billion kWh of energy. Infrared radiation from carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide, the two most efficient coolants in the thermosphere, re-radiated 95% of that total back into space.

“Unfortunately, there’s no practical way to harness this kind of energy,” said Mlynczak. “It’s so diffuse and out of reach high above Earth’s surface. Plus, the majority of it has been sent back into space by the action of CO2 and NO.”

For more info, watch the video above, or see the Science@NASA website.

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also works with Astronomy Cast, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

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