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Solar Storms Can Trigger More Strokes in Humans: Study May 9, 2014
Satellite Image
A sky full of aurora borealis over Flornes, Norway, during a January 2012 geomagnetic storm.
More people suffer strokes following solar storms directed at Earth than when the planet’s geomagnetic field is relatively calm, but scientists say they don’t know why.

Researchers in New Zealand found that of the more than 11,000 stroke sufferers studied in Europe, Australia and New Zealand between 1981 and 2004, the sudden disruption of blood flow in the brain was almost 20 percent more likely to happen on days with geomagnetic storms.

Medical researcher Valery L. Feigin and her colleagues found that while most strokes occur around the age of 70, the connection to geomagnetic storms was greater for people under 65.

“What we were particularly surprised with was the size and consistency of the effect of geomagnetic storms on the risk of stroke occurrence, suggesting that geomagnetic storms are significant risk factors for stroke,” Feigin told Reuters.

Charged particles that are sent rushing into space during solar storms can interact with Earth’s magnetic field, triggering aurora displays, disrupting satellites and sometimes causing power blackouts.

Photo: Børge Wahl Flickr