Weather and climate prediction are inevitably limited by incomplete knowledge of the Earth system and its external influences. One underexplored and consequently controversial area of research is the meteorological influence of the Sun through processes other than direct radiation, such as variations in the Earth-ionosphere electric potential in the global electric circuit driven by solar wind-magnetosphere-ionosphere interactions. Previous work has suggested that a relationship exists (often termed the Mansurov effect) but previous correlations have been indirect and the effects most likely underestimated.
Our aim is to perform an analysis of the effect of the solar wind-driven ionospheric electric potential variations on lower atmosphere temperature and pressure. The accurate quantification of this effect will allow a clear assessment of whether it is significant and large enough that it needs to be considered in global climate models and will clarify an area of controversial research that has been ongoing for 35 years.
Figure 1: the postulated processes that affect the GEC through varying either the atmospheric conductivity or the Earth-ionosphere potential difference, and hence the vertical atmospheric current density (adapted from Tinsley, 2008). The figure also presents a basic summary of the proposed mechanisms that link these variations to weather and climate.