Geophysical Research Letters

Anomalous expansion of coronal mass ejections during solar cycle 24 and its space weather implications



The familiar correlation between the speed and angular width of coronal mass ejections (CMEs) is also found in solar cycle 24, but the regression line has a larger slope: for a given CME speed, cycle 24 CMEs are significantly wider than those in cycle 23. The slope change indicates a significant change in the physical state of the heliosphere, due to the weak solar activity. The total pressure in the heliosphere (magnetic + plasma) is reduced by ~40%, which leads to the anomalous expansion of CMEs explaining the increased slope. The excess CME expansion contributes to the diminished effectiveness of CMEs in producing magnetic storms during cycle 24, both because the magnetic content of the CMEs is diluted and also because of the weaker ambient fields. The reduced magnetic field in the heliosphere may contribute to the lack of solar energetic particles accelerated to very high energies during this cycle.