Tree rings offer new insight into devastating radiation storms

Tree rings offer insight into devastating radiation storms
Tree rings offer insight into devastating radiation storms. Queensland University

A University of Queensland study has shed new light on a mysterious, unpredictable and potentially devastating kind of astrophysical event.

A team led by Dr Benjamin Pope from UQ’s School of Mathematics and Physics applied cutting edge statistics to data from millennia-old trees, to find out more about radiation ‘storms’.

These huge bursts of cosmic radiation, known as Miyake Events, have occurred approximately once every thousand years but what causes them is unclear,” Dr Pope said.

The leading theory is that they are huge solar flares.

We need to know more, because if one of these happened today, it would destroy technology including satellites, internet cables, long-distance power lines and transformers.

The effect on global infrastructure would be unimaginable.

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Enter the humble tree ring.

First author UQ undergraduate maths student Qingyuan Zhang developed software to analyse every available piece of data on tree rings.

Because you can count a tree’s rings to identify its age, you can also observe historical cosmic events going back thousands of years,” Mr Zhang said.

When radiation strikes the atmosphere it produces radioactive carbon-14, which filters through the air, oceans, plants, and animals, and produces an annual record of radiation in tree rings.

We modelled the global carbon cycle to reconstruct the process over a 10,000-year period, to gain insight into the scale and nature of the Miyake Events.

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The common theory until now has been that Miyake Events are giant solar flares.

But our results challenge this,” Mr Zhang said.

We’ve shown they’re not correlated with sunspot activity, and some actually last one or two years.

Rather than a single instantaneous explosion or flare, what we may be looking at is a kind of astrophysical ‘storm’ or outburst.

Dr Pope said the fact scientists don’t know exactly what Miyake Events are, or how to predict their occurrence is very disturbing.

Based on available data, there’s roughly a one per cent chance of seeing another one within the next decade.

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But we don’t know how to predict it or what harms it may cause.

These odds are quite alarming, and lay the foundation for further research.

The research is published in Proceedings of the Royal Society A. [University of Queensland] has been banned from ad networks and is now entirely reader-supported CLICK HERE TO SUPPORT MY WORK

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  1. Sort of off topic:

    Tobacoo pipes made from aged and choice briar have ” growth rings” in some cases. So, you will see from the base of the bowl upward your straight flame grains or cross grains. Then if you look closely along the circumference of the side of the bowl you get darker ring grains going around the bowl. I look for that type of grain pattern. You also notice bird’s eye under bowl for a really choice block. It isn’t commonplace, and usually you will pay for that type of quality. Pipe smokers are pretty into their pipe collections. I like to buy the estate (gently used) pipes, and get my tools out, and fix them up, like we used to do with our musclecars.

    • The general rule is: 100 miles from any coast. 100 miles from any volcano that’s been active in the last 10,000 years. And at least 675-700 feet in elevation. Avoid being next to any large lakes and rivers.

    • Repent and don’t repeat the sins you repented for in the first place. Keep praying unceasingly, and maybe you will get some grace when God returns? That’s all I can think of these days.

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