Paper: Solar wind linked electrically to terrestrial mid-latitude atmospheric pressure variation

Posted: October 8, 2013 by tchannon in atmosphere, Electro-magnetism, general circulation, Geomagnetism, Solar physics


Figure S1. A schematic diagram to explain how the mid-latitude surface pressure is influenced by IMF B in two stages… [full caption in supplement]

Figure from supplementary data. Note: to get your brain in. This is dealing with diurnal change, electric fields have an instant effect, 6MLT and 18MLT  means Magnetic Local Time[1].

The interplanetary magnetic field influences mid-latitude surface atmospheric pressure
M M Lam, G Chisham and M P Freeman
British Antarctic Survey, High Cross, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 0ET, UK
Open access online at

The existence of a meteorological response in the polar regions to fluctuations in the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) component B y is well established. More controversially, there is evidence to suggest that this Sun–weather coupling occurs via the global atmospheric electric circuit. Consequently, it has been assumed that the effect is maximized at high latitudes and is negligible at low and mid-latitudes, because the perturbation by the IMF is concentrated in the polar regions. We demonstrate a previously unrecognized influence of the IMF B y on mid-latitude surface pressure. The difference between the mean surface pressures during times of high positive and high negative IMF B y possesses a statistically significant mid-latitude wave structure similar to atmospheric Rossby waves. Our results show that a mechanism that is known to produce atmospheric responses to the IMF in the polar regions is also able to modulate pre-existing weather patterns at mid-latitudes. We suggest the mechanism for this from conventional meteorology. The amplitude of the effect is comparable to typical initial analysis uncertainties in ensemble numerical weather prediction. Thus, a relatively localized small-amplitude solar influence on the upper atmosphere could have an important effect, via the nonlinear evolution of atmospheric dynamics, on critical atmospheric processes.

An electrical influence on the atmosphere in polar regions is well established but this paper reveals a planet wide effect, although the usage of “could have” suggests no evidence has confirmed the matter.

It suggests this will affect convective tropical weather through to

European climate and the breakup of Arctic sea ice. In particular, it affects the structure of the Rossby wavefield, which is key in determining the trajectory of storm tracks. The configuration of the North Atlantic jet stream is particularly susceptible to changes in forcing. In turn, so are the location and the timing of blocking events in this region, in which vortices are shed from the jet stream leading to prolonged periods of low or of high pressure. It has also been proposed that the low-frequency variability of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) arises as a result of variations in the occurrence of upper-level Rossby [2]
wave breaking events over the North Atlantic. The NAO itself is key to climate variability over the Atlantic–European sector stretching from the east coast of the United States to Siberia, and the Arctic to the subtropical Atlantic.


1. Magnetic Local Time
On Earth, analogous to geographic local time. MLT at a given location is determined by the angle subtended at the geomagnetic axis between the geomagnetic midnight meridian and the meridian that passes through the location. 15 degrees = 1 h. The geomagnetic meridian containing the sub-solar point defines geomagnetic local noon, and the opposite meridian defines geomagnetic midnight. (See geomagnetic field.)

2. The Barotropic Rossby wave
Which I hope is applicable.

h/t to omnologos and craig350 on Suggestions

Posted by Tim

  1. erl happ says:

    Hi Tim,
    Yes, interesting. This is part of mechanism that I hypothesized after analysis of surface pressure variation over long periods of time as it is reflected in the data at sites currently shutdown due to US Govt financing constraints.

    The electrostatic dynamics are also responsible for Sudden Stratospheric Warmings and are a driver of stratospheric ozone content and via ozone in the upper troposphere, cloud cover dynamics and sea surface temperature patterns. Ultimately its the driver of surface weather and climate change.

    Its the driver of the Northern and Southern Annular modes also known as the Arctic and Antarctic oscillations.

    This is where I was pushing Leif Svalgaard and it is a place he was very reluctant to go to.

  2. tchannon says:

    Phew, I was worried I had the wrong end of the stick Erl. There is a lot more hidden by averaging over time, sparse coverage (in time) satellites and not looking at the right things. Your input is very welcome since many of these things are difficult to grasp.

  3. suricat says:

    Hi Earl,

    I’ve had these thoughts too. I’ve often questioned the mechanism for Earth’s magnetosphere. Why source the ‘core’ when the ionosphere+ is an equally adequate source?


    Thanks for this heads up. I need time to read and cogitate.

    Best regards, Ray.

  4. Geoff Sharp says:

    The “Mansurov Effect” now extends to lower latitudes, this could be a new stake in the sand for the Solar/Earth climate connection.

    This may be one mechanism that also works with others (ozone, QBO, planetary waves etc) that explains the changes in pressure patterns and jet stream position during quite solar conditions.

    All of this is of course not linked to TSI, but the global warmista’s want you all to follow TSI to lead you off the track.

  5. wayne says:

    Seems this tiny effect is like a ball sitting on the top of a hill, takes but a very small push to send it one way or completely the other, or that is what I gathered from the bottom of the first paragraph. Interesting. Hope it holds some good predictive characteristics.

  6. Richard111 says:

    Thank you. Much food for thought. Mean while us mortals huddling here in the UK must prepare ourselves for a blast of cold from the Arctic as the jet stream follows its new dance routine.

  7. tom0mason says:

    A lot to think about – thanks.

    I had just finished reading Erl Happ and Carl Wolk blogs (@ ) and now I have to really think through the implications of this additional input.

  8. vukcevic says:

    I came across similar effect, this time due to the geo-solar magnetic oscillations, which according to the Stanford’s solar supremo apparently do not exist:

  9. Erl’s work is voluminous and impressive.

    The last time I looked at in detail was back in 2009 or thereabouts when he published this:

    At that time he associated more stratospheric ozone with an active sun and less stratospheric ozone with quiet sun. That has long been the established climatology.

    However, during the late 20th century, ozone decreased when the sun was active and may now be increasing with the less active sun.

    Consequently, in 2010, I set out my own much simpler scenario which reversed the sign of the solar effect at higher levels and towards the poles.

    Reversing the sign of the effect of the sun on ozone amounts removed the need for much of the detail that Erl goes into in trying to set out an internally consistent scenario.

    Only more data will determine which view is correct.

    I’m not yet sure whether his more recent work changes his position so I’ll have to spend some time on it.

    Nor does he follow the chain of causation through to a solar effect via cloudiness changes on the relative balance between El Nino and La Nina events over centuries so as to deal with MWP, LIA et al. (unless he has done so more recently and I haven’t seen it yet).

  10. oldbrew says:

    Well, apparently ‘the solar wind keeps all [electric and] magnetic influences away’ says Dr Leif Svalgaard 😉

  11. omnologos says:

    is there anything about this in AR5?

  12. suricat says:

    oldbrew says: October 8, 2013 at 3:51 pm

    Er, I think there’s a bit of confusion going on there oldbrew. Sol is both an EM emitter and a mass emitter. EM emissions travel at the speed of light, but mass emissions travel at the speed of the Solar wind at the time of observing it (it varies). I only mention EM emission because the quote says ‘[electric and] magnetic’.

    The source of Solar wind ‘must’ lay in the EM emission category because it’s the EM emission coming from within Sol that ensures the mass emission is in a state of ‘plasma’ (electrons and protons). However, the make-up of the Solar wind is a jumble of electrostatic particles that, if re-arranged, constitute an electric current and, thus, a magnet (of sorts).

    At the ‘extremities’ of Sol’s mass emission trajectory, both Voyagers have encountered ‘magnetic bubbles’ that imply closed field magnetic loops where, presumably, the electrons are beginning to separate from the protons.

    While I would concur that the Solar wind ‘confuses/manipulates’ planetary magneto-spheres, the planetary magneto-spheres are self induced and can’t be ‘kept (swept?) away’. I’m confused. Without a deeper insight into the dialogue Leif’s remark is over my head, but piques interest.

    Best regards, Ray.

  13. suricat says:


    Surely the Rosby waves mentioned in this paper are actually ‘Rosby-negative waves’?

    They don’t propagate from the surface, they propagate from the upper atmosphere. Don’t they?

    Best regards, Ray.

  14. tchannon says:

    I know little about the details Ray so any better references are welcome.