Annika Seppälä, Senior Lecturer in Geophysics, University of Otago
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When the Sun ejects solar particles into space, how does this affect the Earth and climate? Are clouds affected by these particles?
When we consider the sun’s influence on Earth and our climate, we tend to think about solar radiation. We are acutely aware of the skin-burning dangers of ultraviolet, or UV, radiation.
But the sun is an active star. It also continuously releases what is known as “solar wind,” made up of charged particles, largely protons and electrons, that travel at speeds of hundreds of kilometres per hour.
Some of these particles that reach Earth are guided into the polar atmosphere by our magnetic field. As a result, we can see the southern lights, aurora australis, in the southern hemisphere, and the northern equivalent, aurora borealis.