Skip to comments.Record levels of solar ultraviolet measured in South America (in the Tropical Andes)
Posted on 07/10/2014 12:48:53 PM PDT by Ernest_at_the_Beach
A team of researchers in the U.S. and Germany has measured the highest level of ultraviolet radiation ever recorded on the Earths surface. The extraordinary UV fluxes, observed in the Bolivian Andes only 1,500 miles from the equator, are far above those normally considered to be harmful to both terrestrial and aquatic life. The results are being published in the open-access journal Frontiers in Environmental Science.
These record-setting levels were not measured in Antarctica, where ozone holes have been a recurring problem for decades, says team leader Nathalie A. Cabrol of the SETI Institute and NASA Ames Research Center. This is in the tropics, in an area where there are small towns and villages.
The measurements were made in the southern hemisphere summer of 2003 and 2004, using instruments developed for the European Light Dosimeter Network (Eldonet). They were undertaken as Cabrols team was investigating high altitude Andean lakes as part of an astrobiology study of Mars-like environments. Dosimeters were deployed on the summit of the towering Licancabur volcano (altitude: 5,917 meters) and at nearby Laguna Blanca (altitude 4,340 meters). The combination of a midday sun near the zenith, as well as the high elevation of these sites, produces higher irradiance levels because of naturally low ozone in such locations. But these intensities of short-wavelength UV-B radiation (280 315 nm) are unprecedented.
A UV index of 11 is considered extreme, and has reached up to 26 in nearby locations in recent years, notes Cabrol. But on December 29, 2003, we measured an index of 43. If youre at a beach in the U.S., you might experience an index of 8 or 9 during the summer, intense enough to warrant protection. You simply do not want to be outside when the index reaches 30 or 40.
The intense radiation coincided with other circumstances that may have increased the UV flux, including ozone depletion by increased aerosols from both seasonal storms and fires in the area. In addition, a large solar flare occurred just two weeks before the highest UV fluxes were registered. Ultraviolet spikes continued to occur albeit at lower intensity throughout the period of solar instability, and stopped thereafter. While the evidence linking the solar event to the record-breaking radiation is only circumstantial, particles from such flares are known to affect atmospheric chemistry and may have increased ozone depletion.
While these events are not directly tied to climate change, they are sentinels of what could occur if ozone thins globally, Cabrol says. The thinner and more unstable the ozone, the more prone we will be to this kind of event.
High UV-B exposure negatively affects the entire biosphere, not just humans. It damages DNA, affects photosynthesis, and decreases the viability of eggs and larvae. For these reasons, it is important to keep a close watch on UV flux levels.
While this unsettling record might be the result of a perfect storm of events, it could happen again, says Cabrol, because the factors that caused it are not rare. What we need is more monitoring of the ozone changes in these areas. These fluxes, which are comparable to those of early Mars, are occurring in a populated area.
David Black, president and CEO of the SETI Institute, notes that this is an excellent example of how astrobiology which includes understanding the atmospheres of other planets is germane to contemporary concerns here on Earth.
Note to editors
Article title: Record Solar UV Irradiance in the Tropical Andes
Journal: Frontiers in Environmental Science
Weakness in the Earth's magnetic Shield???
Or the Sun's output increased?
OK OK How much will it cost us the Fix It , D’oh
One more dam thing to worry about!
Definitely Dubya’s fault, as it happened in 2003-2004. If Kerry had known, he could’ve exploited it, and won the election.
2003 & 2004 had record levels of solar activity, including an X flare that was off the chart on 5 November 2003. See here (scroll down a little bit)
Wonder if this could explains these extreme solar indices?
The article cites 2003, but does not say if it has been ongoing.
Solar flares the cause, I would assume.
Okay, all together now, WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE!!!!!
The most important thing from the article is missing. What is the baseline level of UV at that location over several solar cycles? Without baseline data the observed new data is not relevant. For all they know this data may be baseline or less as the sun is somewhat quiescent in this current solar cycle. Baseline may be much higher.
To be fair, yes, the magnetic pole is off a little more than usual. That can weaken protection against rays and allow a couple of other somewhat fun geo-activities (slight increases in seismic stuff and odd storm fluctuations), especially if we’re about the see the occasional flip. It’s no huge deal, though. The extended minimum may be more full of fluctuations toward coolness for us between 3 and 9 years from now. So maybe we’ll get some extra hot and cold here and there—mostly cold.
Must be time to go out and pimp for more grants.
Why else would these cretins wait 10 years to release the information?
“The measurements were made in the southern hemisphere summer of 2003 and 2004”
Looks like banning freon was pointless.