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Earth Space Science

Can Solar Storms Cause Wildfires? 87

astroengine writes "In the wake of recent solar activity, some space cadets were very quick to point out a causal link between geomagnetic storms and the wildfires currently ravaging the landscape surrounding Moscow. Of course, this is patently false. But is there a scenario when the onset of a solar storm could have secondary effects, sparking fires in already arid regions? Possibly. What's more, it already happened, 150 years ago."
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Can Solar Storms Cause Wildfires?

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  • by Joe The Dragon ( 967727 ) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @07:02PM (#33234066)

    lightning, arson and others are more likely

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 12, 2010 @08:09PM (#33234544)

    The scenario has occurred, but didn't result in fires that time.

    Except that this statement is false. There's newspaper reports from all over he US from the latter parts of 1859 of wildfires happening all over the place. Because the US had just covered itself in this really neat continent-sized antenna (the telegraph network) which was throwing sparks all over the place (feel free to peruse the references in this paper []).

    Still everyone wants to ridicule the Electric [] Universe [] Theory []. Can you at least humor it and see if it explains a thing or two before looking down your nose at it? Y'know, in the spirit of dispassionate inquiry.

    About the telegraph lines. The "solar wind" (that's the mechanical description of it) is the flow of charged particles from the sun. Charged particles that are in motion is the very definition of an electric current. That's just a fact. The Earth is built like a gigantic leaky capacitor with a negatively charged ionosphere, an insulating/dielectric layer of air and a positively charged ground. When electric current from the sun exceeds the normal input due to solar storms it's not a surprise that this current will especially affect conductive cables. The longer the cables the more they are affected since they are good conductors and the charge is measured in terms of volts per square meter.

    It's a shame that these days "Electric Universe" has become the new "conspiracy theory", triggering an instantaneous holier-than-thou ridicule from people who are not familiar with it and have never seriously studied it. It's the opposite of terms like "for the children" or "to fight terrorism" that instantly inspire an equally irrational level of adamand support. If you can overcome the hypnotic knee-jerk of the emotional burdens other people have wrongly placed on such terms, you achieve what is known as thinking for yourself. Good day.

  • by mangu ( 126918 ) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @08:30PM (#33234676)

    It's a shame that these days "Electric Universe" has become the new "conspiracy theory", triggering an instantaneous holier-than-thou ridicule from people who are not familiar with it and have never seriously studied it.

    No scientist has any obligation to study each new theory that someone publishes. If they did that they wouldn't have any time left to do science. That's why there are scientific publications that are "peer reviewed".

    When someone sends a paper to one of those magazines, the editor first checks the sender's credentials, to make sure he has done the preliminary work to study enough of the matter to get a degree, then he sends a copy of the paper to someone who knows enough of the subject to form an opinion.

    If you want to publish an entirely new and revolutionary theory, like that "electric universe" thing, well, the burden of the proof is with you. It's not enough that your theory explains a grass fire that happened in 1859. Your theory also has to explain everything else that "conventional" physics (i.e. what's in peer researched papers) explain.

    The "electric universe" isn't viewed as a "conspiracy theory" by scientists. It's just another of those thousands of theories that fail to explain the known facts of the universe.

  • Re:Power lines. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Capsaicin ( 412918 ) * on Friday August 13, 2010 @01:27AM (#33236072)

    Actually, if the enviromental nazis ...

    Who are these Nazis?

    just let controlled burns continue

    Whoever these Nazis are, they seem to have far less power than you imagine. Controlled burns are proceeding everywhere. We just had a swathe of bush backing onto our place burnt a few months ago, thank you RFS. Do you live in the city or something?

    we wouldn't have the magnitude of devestation [sic.] that hits so often

    Well how you explain the Victorian fires then? Taking into consideration the intensive hazard reduction campaign undertaken in the year leading up to them.

    Could the frequency of extreme fire events during the last decade have had anything to do with that much of SW-Australia was in one of the -- if not the --deepest and most prolonged droughts in history? Could it have had anything to do with record breaking spells of hot weather --especially in Victoria, where Melbourne not only recorded it's single hottest temperature on record, but where the state recorded it's longest run of extreme heat? ... low humidity? ...

    Oh gosh, how silly of me, it was the Nazis! Of course.

  • by mcvos ( 645701 ) on Friday August 13, 2010 @03:58AM (#33236516)

    An even more likely explanation for the fires to get this big, is the fact that Putin fired a lot of firefighters and forest guards a few years ago. All the fire lanes that kept the forests compartmentalized are now gone, and that allows forest fires to get this far out of control.

  • by gtall ( 79522 ) on Friday August 13, 2010 @06:09AM (#33236970)

    That and apparently during those early lusty Soviet times, there was a grand vision to power the USSR and Moscow in particular with peat. Peat is in bogs. To burn it you have to get the water out. So they drained the bogs. Fast forward to the latter Soviet times when natural gas was discovered (no, I'm not talking about Politburo speeches) and a half century of Communist WTF 5 year projects caught up with them. So they dropped the peat idea and started cooking with gas. That was all nice and tidy but no one wanted to go back and rewater the bogs. Now, a bit of global warming, a bit of La Nina, a bit of nasty drought...add some lightning, dumb Russians tossing their cigarette butts in the bogs, etc. and we have the spectacle of Putin pushing a button on a fire plane to drop a giant raindrop of water to show his solidarity with the proles.

    The only reason the bogs didn't attempt to kill the Russians before was the amount of rainfall they normally receive which put out the bog fires they normally have. That works fine until you have a drought, and even more Russian screwups like you mentioned.

"This is lemma 1.1. We start a new chapter so the numbers all go back to one." -- Prof. Seager, C&O 351