Solar-cycle variation of low density solar wind during more than three solar cycles


The May, 1999 low density (<1 cm−3) solar wind interval is one of a series of intervals of low density solar wind which have been detected since in-situ, near-Earth observations began. Examining the NSSDC OMNI database since 1965, covering solar Cycles 20–23, we show that such intervals, which are also periods of unusually low mass flux and low dynamic pressure, occur most frequently around sunspot maximum and are rarer at solar minimum. The occurrence rate of low-density plasma may be higher in weaker sunspot cycles (Cycle 20 and the current Cycle 23). Around two-thirds of periods with densities ≤1 cm−3 are associated with transient solar wind structures, in particular with ejecta and post-shock flows. The majority of other events are associated with corotating streams. The May 1999 event is unusual because it is not associated with an ejecta or stream. A similar period was observed in July–August 1979.

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Geophysical Research Letters



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