Articles | Volume 3, issue 4
14 Jul 2003
14 Jul 2003

The detection of solar proton produced 14CO

P. Jöckel, C. A. M. Brenninkmeijer, M. G. Lawrence, and P. Siegmund

Abstract. Major solar eruptions (coronal mass ejections) are accompanied by massive ejections of protons. When these charged particles head for the Earth through the interplanetary magnetic field with high flux and energy, a solar proton event (SPE) is recorded. Strong SPEs, in which energetic protons penetrate the atmosphere in large numbers are rare, but do have chemical effects (Crutzen, 1975; Jackman et al., 1990, 2001).  They also have nucleonic effects by which they can almost instantaneously increase the atmospheric production of radio-nuclides, including 14C (radiocarbon), but this has never been demonstrated. We show, using satellite observations and modeling, that the 2nd most intensive set of SPEs on record, that of August-December 1989, must have caused detectable increases in atmospheric 14CO. This is confirmed by a sequence of peaks in the Baring Head (NZ) time series of 14CO observations (Brenninkmeijer, 1993), probably providing a unique indication of production of 14C by solar protons, thus demonstrating the use of SPE 14CO as an atmospheric tracer.

Final-revised paper