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Scientists discover remains of 'catastrophic' solar storm in French forest

Niamh Shackleton

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Scientists discover remains of 'catastrophic' solar storm in French forest

Featured Image Credit: NASA/SDO via Getty Images / Pixabay

Scientists have made an astounding discovery dating back thousands of years.

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Edouard Bard, a climatologist at the Collège de France in Paris, led a study in The Alps and found traces of a huge solar storm that occurred around 14,300 years ago.

The event has been dubbed as the oldest and biggest solar storm to have ever happened on Earth.

The newly discovered solar storm dates back 14,300 years. Credit: Andrew Merry/Getty
The newly discovered solar storm dates back 14,300 years. Credit: Andrew Merry/Getty

But a solar storm isn't like your usual extreme weather event; in fact, it's a term used to for atmospheric effects felt on Earth from certain events that occur on the Sun.

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As per Wonderopolis, these storms occur when 'the Sun emits huge bursts of energy in the form of solar flares and coronal mass ejections'.

In regards to the evidence found from the thousands of year old storm, Bard and his colleagues made their discovery by looking at tree rings in a buried forest.

Researchers cut tree samples into hundreds of single tree-rings and analyzed each of them; looking for measurements of carbon-14 in particular.

The team analyzed trees in the French Alps. Credits: Julien Liev/Getty
The team analyzed trees in the French Alps. Credits: Julien Liev/Getty
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The trees were exposed at the edge of riverbeds in the Alps, and the signs found point to what's described as a 'Miyake event' (an observed sharp enhancement of the production of cosmogenic isotopes by cosmic rays).

The term is named after Fusa Miyake, a physicist at Nagoya University in Japan, who first used tree rings to discover traces of such an event in C.E. 774.

It was a radical one-year spike in carbon-14 that occurred 14,300 years ago that lead them to the discovery of the huge and historical solar storm.

The new solar storm that has been linked to evidence shown in the tree rings has been labelled as the largest of the 10 Miyake events that are known so far - and it would be very bad news if one was to happen of that size in the modern day.

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A modern day solar storm of that size would be 'catastrophic'. Credits: Howard Kingsnorth/Getty
A modern day solar storm of that size would be 'catastrophic'. Credits: Howard Kingsnorth/Getty

Tim Heaton, a Professor of Applied Statistics in the School of Mathematics at the University of Leeds and a coauthor on the study, said: “Extreme solar storms could have huge impacts on Earth.

"Such super storms could permanently damage the transformers in our electricity grids, resulting in huge and widespread blackouts lasting months.

"They could also result in permanent damage to the satellites that we all rely on for navigation and telecommunication, leaving them unusable."

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He added: "They would also create severe radiation risks to astronauts."

Echoing similar sentiments, Bard said it would be 'catastrophic'.

Topics: News, Science, Weather, World News, France

Niamh Shackleton
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