1972 and All That

11 Nov 2018

At http://spaceweather.com (November 9th 2018) ... we have a story about space weather during the Vietnam war.  In 1972 a giant sun spot let loose with a blast of solar wind (plasma) in a series of X-class flares which caused radio black outs on Earth. One plasma plume, or CME, travelled between the Sun and the Earth in just 14.6 hours. This is in contrast to recent movements that take two to three days. The resulting geometric shower sparked auroras so bright they cast shadows in countries as far south as Britain.

The 1972 plasma storm occurred between two Apollo missions. If the timing had been a bit different the astronauts would have suffered radiation sickness and possibly long term health problems. According to a research paper accepted for publication in 'Space Weather' declassified naval records reveal an extraordinary bout of explosions in the sea lanes near Vietnam of multiple mines laid by the Americans. This is especially true of a minefield in the sea near a major port facility in North Vietnam. The exploding mines were detonated by magnetic perturbations caused by the solar storm. A US Navy person, Chief Petty Officer Michael Gonzalez, actually attributed the explosions of mines along the Vietnamese coast to solar flares affecting the magnetic field of the Earth. The chain of events caused the detonation of 4000 magnetically sensitive mines. The Navy, in the aftermath, quickly replaced magnetically influenced mines - and they went out of use. This is in a way remarkable as there was, and still is to some extent, a resistance to the idea the solar wind (and the Sun) can affect the surface of the Earth. In this instance it clearly did so - which must give credence to the idea that earthquakes can perhaps be generated by plasma that is able to penetrate the Earth's magnetic shield. The Navy, being full of practical people, readily accepted the idea and were prepared to put their money on the line in order to replace this particular kind of mine.

The 1972 solar storm affected the Earth in ways scientists are only now beginning to understand - and accept (50 years later). It is even being suggested the solar flares of that year may have been Carrington class - but that may be taking it a stage further than necessary. One is reminded of the comings and goings of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean that are conveniently forgotten by climate scientists. The British Navy had records of sea ice lows and highs going back several centuries but these have been studiously ignored by climate scientists. The urban myth is that these records were even archived in the basement of the Met Office (which has since moved house) and yet they were never consulted. That seems to illustrate just how completely computers and the internet have replaced paper records and in a way is understandable. In the 20th century meteorologists would have consulted these records - but only prior to the advent of the CAGW hype which conspired to hide such inconvenient facts. The record of the 1972 explosions was classified as secret and no access by Joe Public was allowed. This is a different kettle of fish to the deliberate obscuration of the British naval records on sea ice in the Arctic. It's a strange world we live in but I expect was ever thus.