The interplanetary magnetic field influences mid-latitude surface atmospheric pressure

The existence of a meteorological response in the polar regions to fluctuations in the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) component By 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 By on mid-latitude surface pressure. The difference between the mean surface pressures during times of high positive and high negative IMF By 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.


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Authors: Lam, Mai Mai, Chisham, Gareth ORCIDORCID record for Gareth Chisham, Freeman, Mervyn P. ORCIDORCID record for Mervyn P. Freeman

On this site: Gareth Chisham, Mai Mai Lam, Mervyn Freeman
4 October, 2013
Environmental Research Letters / 8
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