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Solar flares not contributing to hurricanes

I just read an article that stated the sun is currently going through a very active stage where it sends out huge solar flares (solar storms). I think it's interesting that they seem to be occurring concurrently with all these big hurricanes. Is there any connection between solar storms and our weather here on Earth, or is this just a coincidence this year?

— Robert, Ashland

The radiation from solar flares can cause interruptions to the power grid and damage satellites, but it's unlikely they're to blame for this year's crop of hurricanes, according Mike Petrucelli, meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Medford.

"There's probably not really an impact on weather," he said.

During a period of high activity earlier this month, the sun sent out the strongest solar flare in more than a decade, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Recent solar flares have resulted in short periods of high frequency radio blackouts, NOAA reported.

Solar flares can cause beautiful auroras, but also damage satellites, communications and power systems, NOAA says.

As for hurricanes, they are the Earth's way of circulating heat that builds up along the equator and shifting it toward the poles. As heat increases during the summer and early fall, hurricanes convert heat energy into mechanical energy that takes the form of powerful waves and wind, according to NASA and meteorologists who study the monster storms.

While solar flares aren't contributing to the power of this year's hurricanes, could global warming be a culprit?

It's difficult to say whether gradually increasing temperatures since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution have worsened recent hurricanes. Scientists are better able to track and measure today's hurricanes, and there are more people on land and on ships at sea to observe and record storms that might have been missed in the past, NOAA said this year after reviewing a number of studies and historical data.

NOAA concluded it's premature to say human-caused global warming has caused a detectable change in current Atlantic hurricane activity.

However, NOAA said, as the 21st century continues, climate warming will likely cause hurricanes to be more intense and produce more rainfall. While the number of very intense category four and five hurricanes will likely increase, the total number of hurricanes globally is likely to either decrease or remain essentially unchanged. 

— Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.