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Where Are the "Killer Electrons" of the Declining Phase of Solar Cycle 23

AuthorBaker, Daniel; Lanzerotti, Louis;
KeywordsRadiation belts
Abstract\textquotedblleftKiller electrons,\textquotedblright enhanced fluxes of radiation belt electrons in the magnetosphere\textendashespecially those at geosynchronous orbit (GEO)\textendashwere an important space weather phenomenon during the decline to minimum of the last 11-year solar cycle (1993\textendash1995). Indeed, the fluxes of these electrons were reported at the time to have significantly influenced the incidence of anomalies on numerous spacecraft, both commercial and national defense. The incidences of spacecraft anomalies and the \textquotedblleftpumping up\textquotedblright of the GEO electron fluxes gave rise to the picture that solar minimum did not provide a benign environment for space-based technologies as had been assumed by many. The decline to minimum of this current (23th) solar cycle has as yet to produce the same number of reported spacecraft anomalies as the previous cycle. This cycle has also failed to produce the periodic large increases in GEO electron fluxes (insofar as can be ascertained from the fluxes reported from the NOAA GOES spacecraft). Why is this? Is there less reporting by industry and government of anomalies than there was in the past? Or is it that there are not such high fluxes of energetic electrons as there were during the last approach to solar minimum? These are important questions for future space weather modeling and forecasting that need to be addressed by the space weather research and operations communities. A major cause of the enhanced energetic electrons during the declining phase of the 22nd cycle was the Where Are the \textquotedblleftKiller Electrons\textquotedblright of the Declining Phase of Solar Cycle 2... 1 of 2 8/7/2014 9:30 AM Browse Publications Browse by Subject Resources Help About Us | Advertisers | Agents | Contact Us | Cookies Media | Privacy | Site Map | Terms \& Conditions Copyright \textcopyright 1999-2014 John Wiley \& Sons, Inc. All Rights Reserved. occurrence of quasiperiodic geomagnetic storms that arose throughout the interval of decline. The precise physical mechanism or mechanisms by which these storms produced the fluxes of killer electrons is still a matter of intense theoretical debate in the scientific literature. These storms were caused by high-speed solar wind streams in the interplanetary medium; that is, by the interactions of these streams with Earth\textquoterights magnetosphere. Is the interplanetary structure different during this decline to solar maximum than in the previous cycle? Or are there one or more other physical factors operating to seemingly lessen the effects of the solar wind and interplanetary magnetic field on Earth\textquoterights space environment? These are important questions for future space weather scientific research, research that could make major contributions to eventual practical applications. We encourage the space weather community to address with vigor and creativity in the next months the questions we raise here, prior to the beginning of the 24th solar cycle.
Year of Publication2006
JournalSpace Weather
Number of Pages
Date Published07/2006