January 27, 2009
Cosmic rays reflect stratospheric weather
British scientists say they've detected cosmic rays reaching an underground detector that reflect major weather events occurring in the Earth's stratosphere.
The researchers said the cosmic-rays detected half a mile underground in a unused U.S. iron mine can be used to determine major weather events occurring 20 miles above the Earth.
The researchers from the United Kingdom's National Center for Atmospheric Science and the Science and Technology Facilities Council said the study shows how the number of high-energy cosmic-rays reaching the underground detector closely matched temperature measurements in the stratosphere.
The scientists said their findings, for the first time, demonstrate how that relationship can be used to identify weather events that occur very suddenly in the stratosphere during the Northern Hemisphere winter.
Scott Osprey, lead scientist for the National Center for Atmospheric Science, said: "Up until now we have relied on weather balloons and satellite data to provide information about these major weather events. Now we can potentially use records of cosmic-ray data dating back 50 years to give us a pretty accurate idea of what was happening to the temperature in the stratosphere over this time.
Looking forward, data being collected by other large underground detectors around the world can also be used to study this phenomenon.
The findings are to be reported in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.