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By Deane Morrison
One just doesn't expect cosmic rays streaming in from outer space to predict weather disturbances 10 to 15 miles above our heads. But they did, even though the gizmo detecting those rays lies under half a mile of rock.
This odd result emerged from work by a large international team of researchers, including several University of Minnesota physicists, studying cosmic rays hitting an underground detector in the University-operated Soudan Underground Laboratory, located half a mile deep in an old iron mine in northern Minnesota.
The frequency of cosmic ray "hits" correlated closely with a rare and sudden warming of the stratosphere called, appropriately, a sudden stratospheric warming (SSW). An SSW can affect both the severity of winters in northern regions and levels of ozone over the poles. Being able to detect and study these events will help weather forecasters and climate modelers improve their predictions.