According to NASA, 2013 is shaping up to be quite a year for solar activity. The end of the 11-year solar cycle comes with the promise of coronal mass ejections, solar flares, heat waves, and possibly major mental illness. The connection between solar activity and MMI is not a new concept. There has been growing evidence that solar magnetic storms affect human physiology and pathophysiology. In fact, the idea spawned a branch of biophysics called Heliobiology, pioneered by Russian scientist Alexander Chizhevsky almost 100 years ago.
“From 1949-1997…. geomagnetic activity showed three seasonal peaks each of those years (March to May, in July, and in October). Every peak matched an increased incidence of anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and suicide in the city Kirovsk.”
Many studies have theorized on the relationship between increased solar activity and it’s effect on melatonin production in the pineal gland of the brain. Melatonin is essential in maintaining circadian rhythm - the 24-hour sleep-wake cycle that is essential to our well-being. Associate Professor Neil Cherry of Lincoln University, New Zealand linked a bump in suicide rates to solar activity, blaming the incidences on a disturbance in the Schumann Resonance Signal – the extremely low frequency portion of the Earth’s electromagnetic field spectrum. In his study, Cherry theorizes:
“The Schumann Resonance signal provides a homeostatic control of brain activity. Therefore increased and decreased Schumann Resonance intensity, produced by increased and decreased solar activity, is shown to produce homeostatic relationships with cancer, cardiac, reproductive and neurological disease and mortality rates, including anxiety, depression and suicide. This study has found significant homeostatic relationships between the monthly mean sunspot number and the suicide rates in Christchurch, New Zealand. An adaptive response appears from high, middle, low and very low solar activity over the 11-year sunspot cycle from 1988 to 1998.”
From March 8-10th 2012, solar storms dumped enough energy into Earth’s atmosphere to power New York City for two years. The storms were expected to cause severe infrastructure damage to our power grids and GPS systems but they turned out to be less severe than expected. Coincidentally (or not) the storms coincided with a start of a Syrian uprising, escalation in violence in the Gaza-Israel conflict (l130 rockets are fired into Israel from Gaza), clashes in Somalia between Al-Shabaab and Ethiopian troops, a grenade attack in Nairobi, Kenya and in the USA, a crazed gunman opening fire at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
Less than 2 weeks ago, during the weekend of July 14-16th intense solar storms rained down on Earth for a period of 36 hours, the effect of which were seen from Colorado to New Zealand. According to NASA, besides a few impressive light shows in the sky, the shaking of Earth’s magnetic field had little effect on our satellites and power grids but the storms were powerful enough to effect compass needles and “prompted electrical currents to flow through the soil at high latitudes.” As the article notes, this is only a taste of what is to come.
Don’t break out your tin foil just yet, according to one study, the best way to protect yourself from harmful solar storms is to produce melanin. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to the beach to get tanned.
Mallon Khan is a writer and artist based in New York City.