Four antarctic researchers have reported finding a correlation between the amount of ‘fixed’ nitrogen in various levels of ice at the south pole and the 11-year cycle of sunspots, auroral activity, and cosmic ray intensity. The researchers suggested that their finding could provide a new technique to help scientists determine the relationship of past solar activity to global climate.
The findings are based on the fact that increased solar activity causes a corresponding increase in auroral activity, which in turn increases nitrate production. The fixed nitrogen levels measured by the antarctic researchers were in the form of nitrates and ammonium. Bruce C. Parker of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (VPI) and Edward J. Zeller of the University of Kansas reported these results in the Antarctic Journal of the United States. The researchers, assisted by Lawrence E. Heiskell and William J. Thompson, graduate students at VPI, obtained their data by analyzing a firn core—snow accumulations that have not yet been compacted into ice—collected near the geographic south pole in November 1974.