Teen’s project also yields new weather findingsKatrina Korman’s examination of the seasonal variation in the number of muons reaching the MINOS detector indirectly led to another discovery — the underground detector also can detect when the atmosphere between 12 and 31 miles above the planet suddenly warms up.
By: News Tribune, Duluth News Tribune
Katrina Korman’s examination of the seasonal variation in the number of muons reaching the MINOS detector indirectly led to another discovery — the underground detector also can detect when the atmosphere between 12 and 31 miles above the planet suddenly warms up.
That finding could help scientists working to understand how changes in the upper atmosphere affect the weather on Earth’s surface.
The discovery came after UMD physics professor Alec Habig asked atmospheric researchers if there was more precise temperature data for the upper atmosphere than what Korman had to use.
“They said, ‘Yes, here’s a model that should be more exact than weather balloon data and, oh, by the way have you seen these sudden stratospheric warmings?’ ” Habig said.
His response was immediate.
“What are those?” he asked.
In little-understood ways, sudden stratospheric warmings can affect the severity of winters in northern latitudes. Learning about the events, Habig’s team began looking at the data they had from the detector and found that, just as more muons reach the detector during the summer when the air is warm and less dense, more muons reach the detector during winters when the stratosphere suddenly warms up.
The finding is important because there are cosmic ray records from various sites around the world dating back years. Those records could help researchers pinpoint when past sudden stratospheric warming events happened. Comparing that to what the weather was like at the time on the planet’s surface could help researchers better understand and predict the weather.
“This gives the weather guys a different stream of data,” Habig said. “That will give them another way of making sure that their models of what is going on match up with reality. That would give them a better chance for the models to work.”