Skip to main content
University of Wisconsin–Madison
  • Home
  • News
  • Weekly Weather Event -Week of March 1st

Weekly Weather Event -Week of March 1st

March 5, 2021

In a groundbreaking new study, scientists at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom found evidence of a space hurricane. The event took place on August 20th, 2014, swirling over Earth’s North Pole for almost 8 hours invisible to the human eye. However, satellites that passed over the poles were able to detect a formation similar to a hurricane. The scientists at the University of Reading were part of a team led by Shandong University in China, and they discovered this phenomenon during a retrospective analysis of the data.

While similar in structure to hurricanes made of water and driven by uptakes of warm ocean water, the space hurricane was made of magnetic field lines and quicky moving solar wind. This created a hurricane-like shape with spiraling counter-clockwise arms made of plasma. Instead of producing precipitation made of liquid water or ice crystals, the space hurricane instead rained electrons into the Earth’s upper atmosphere.

Up until this point, the existence of space hurricanes was uncertain among space scientists. These findings now imply this phenomenon being much more common than previously thought. The researchers speculate that space hurricanes could be possible on any planet with a magnetic shield and plasma in its atmosphere, though these events would require large amounts of solar wind energy and charged particles to be transferred to the atmosphere.