Shop Windows to the Universe

Learn about planets outside our solar system through Exoplanets and Alien Solar Systems by Tahir Yaqoob, Ph.D., a book in our online store book collection.
Clouds are one part of weather on Earth.
Click on image for full size
Aris Multimedia Entertainment, Inc. 1994

Earth Weather vs. Space Weather

How is space weather similar to Earth weather? How are they different? Does space weather affect weather on Earth, and if so, how? What sorts of short term "weather" and longer term "climate" changes are there in space weather?

When we describe weather on Earth, we talk about several interrelated factors such as temperature, wind speed and direction, humidity, precipitation, barometric pressure, cloud cover, and so on. Similarly, when we speak of space weather there are several key values that we mention, such as the speed of the solar wind, particle density of electrons and protons, the strength and orientation of the IMF, and so on.

Weather on Earth varies from place to place and over time. The same is true for space weather. Space weather might be "stormy" in the vicinity of Mars while it is calm in the neighborhood of Jupiter. A CME aimed at Earth might disrupt space weather in our neck of the woods for a day or two, but could be followed by a period of less disturbed conditions. Changes in weather, both the Earth and space varieties, take place over a wide range of time scales. Some changes happen in matters of minutes and hours, others take days or weeks, and some span periods of years or longer.

Because heat from the Sun is the primary driver of weather on Earth, you might suspect that space weather has a strong influence on Earthly weather. Scientists believe that this is likely, but convincing evidence in support of this assumption has been difficult to come by. Although the Sun's brightness varies over the course of the 11-year sunspot cycle, the variation of output in the visible portion of the spectrum from the highest to the lowest point in the cycle is a slight 1/10th of one percent. However, there have been periods of extreme weather, such as a severe cold snap in the 1800's, that correspond with unusual periods in the solar cycle.

Last modified August 12, 2008 by Randy Russell.

Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!

Our online store includes issues of NESTA's quarterly journal, The Earth Scientist, full of classroom activities on different topics in Earth and space science, ranging from seismology, rocks and minerals, oceanography, and Earth system science to astronomy!

Windows to the Universe Community

News

Opportunities

You might also be interested in:

Clouds

Clouds are the pretty white fluffs you see in the sky. They are made up of tiny water drops. Sometimes, if the wind is fast enough, you can even watch the clouds move. Clouds can come in all sizes and...more

IMF

The Sun acts like it has a big magnet in the middle of it. We call this the Sun's magnetic field. The Sun's magnetic field has a fancier name, the Interplanetary Magnetic Field (IMF). This just means that...more

Coronal Mass Ejections

Have you ever seen an explosion before? Maybe you've seen a volcano explode on t.v. Or maybe you've seen a potato explode in the microwave because your mom forgot to poke holes in it. Well, explosions...more

The Electromagnetic Spectrum

Text for this level has not been written yet. Please see the "Intermediate" text for this page if you want to learn about this topic. To get to the "Intermediate" text, click on the blue "Intermediate"...more

How Scientists Study Space Weather

Scientists use different ways to study space weather. They use instruments in space like satellites and orbiting telescopes. Scientists also use instruments on Earth to study space weather. They use these...more

How does Space Weather affect Life on Earth?

Earth's magnetic field is a shield that keeps most of space weather's effects where they belong; safely out in space! But space weather does effect life on Earth. Outside of the Earth's magnetic field,...more

Space Weather Mysteries & Unanswered Questions

Space weather is a new science. It hasn't been studied for thousands of years. So space weather has many questions that still need to be answered. And it has a lot of unsolved mysteries which is exciting!...more

The Sun and the Solar Atmosphere

Scientists have named the parts of the Sun. The "surface" of the Sun is called the photosphere. The three areas inside the Sun are called the core, the radiation zone, and the convection zone....more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF