Atmospheric radiation is near a 5-year high. This plot shows a 15% increase since the monitoring program began in 2015:
What’s happening up there?
The answer is “Solar Minimum.”
During the nadir of the 11-year solar cycle, the sun’s magnetic field weakens, allowing extra cosmic rays from deep space to penetrate the solar system.
These cosmic rays are hitting Earth’s atmosphere, creating an intensifying spray of secondary cosmic rays detected by sensors.
The graph, above, shows that Solar Minimum is underway. Recently, NASA and NOAA announced the onset of a new (but still feeble) solar cycle. Eventually, Solar Cycle 25 will bend the curve down again. But when?
More from the cosmic ray balloons
In central California, the historic Creek Fire is burning more than 300,000 acres of Sierra National Forest.
The cosmic ray balloons from Sky Calculus are getting a unique view. This photo was taken on Sept. 6th when the megafire was exploding in size only two days after it started:
The ominous plume looked like a volcanic eruption, anvil-topped at the tropopause where cold air prevented the smoke from rising into stratosphere.
Later, when the balloon reached the stratosphere, cameras looked down from an altitude of 113,400 feet, revealing the top of the anvil:
Here more pictures from space:
Beneath that eggshell-hued mass of smoke lies hundreds of square miles of scorched terrain – a tragedy which is still unfolding today.
As of Oct. 16th, the Creek Fire has burned 341,722 acres and is only 58% contained.