ATMOSPHERIC RADIATION INCREASING AUGUST 27th, 2018


On August 16th through 21st, the launching of a series of balloons to the stratosphere from Bishop, CA; John Day, OR; and Wenatchee, WA. found radiation levels increasing up and down the Pacific Coast. The latest data points are circled red.

Why is cosmic radiation increasing? Mainly, it's due to the solar cycle. As the sun plunges into a deep solar minimum, the sun's magnetic field is weakening. Solar wind pressures are declining as well. As a result of these changes, cosmic rays from deep space are finding it easier to penetrate the inner solar system. Surging cosmic rays hit the top of Earth's atmosphere, creating a downward spray of secondary particles and radiation that we detect using sensors on high-altitude balloons.
Our recent balloon launches from multiple US states as well as Sweden, Norway, Chile, Mexico and New Zealand confirm that cosmic rays are intensifying everywhere, but not by the same amount in all places. For instance, in the latest data we see that atmospheric radiation above Washington is almost 50% stronger than radiation above central California--a significant difference considering that the two launch sites are separated by only ~900 miles and 10 degrees of latitude. This shows that Earth's magnetic field is an uneven shield against incoming cosmic rays, protecting some places more than others.
Next week we'll be launching a cosmic ray balloon from Kansas and, soon thereafter, from Maine to extend our monitoring across the continental USA. Stay tuned.

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