Changes in solar electromagnetic radiation, which occur continuously and at all wavelengths of the spectrum, can have significant societal impacts on a wide range of time scales. Detection of climate change and ozone depletion requires reliable specification of solar-induced processes that mask or exacerbate anthropogenic effects. Living with, and mitigating, climate change and ozone depletion has significant economic, habitat and political impacts of international extent. As an example, taxes to restrict carbon emission may cause undue economic stress if the role of greenhouse gases in global warming is incorrectly diagnosed. Ignoring solar-induced ozone changes in the next century may lead to incorrect assessment of the success of the Montreal Protocol in protecting the ozone layer by limiting the use of ozone-destroying chlorofluorocarbons. Societal infrastructure depends in many ways on space-based technological assets. Communications and navigation for commerce, industry, science and defense rely on satellite signals transmitted through, and reflected by, electrons in the ionosphere. Electron densities change in response to solar flares, and by orders of magnitude in response to EUV and X-ray flux variations during the Sun's 11-year activity cycle. Spacecraft and space debris experience enhanced drag on their orbits when changing EUV radiation causes upper atmosphere densities to increase. Especially affected are spacecraft and debris in lower altitude orbits, such as Iridium-type communication satellites, and the International Space Station (ISS). Proper specification of solar-induced fluctuations in the neutral upper atmosphere can, for example, aid in tracking the ISS and surrounding space debris, reducing the chance of ISS damage from collisions, and maximizing its operations. Aspects of solar electromagnetic radiation variability will be briefly illustrated on a range of time scales, with specific identification of the societal impacts of different spectral regions.
AAS/Solar Physics Division Meeting #31
- Pub Date:
- May 2000