Massive Solar Storm Evidence Discovered in 14,300-year-old Tree Rings

For years, scientists have continued to discover evidence of Earth’s exposure to increased cosmic radiation in the tree rings. While conducting research recently, researchers studied ancient tree rings and found proof of an extraordinarily massive solar storm that struck Earth around 14,300 years ago.

Astronomers have never seen anything like this before. The discovery suggests that it could be one of the most powerful solar storms to ever hit Earth. Generally, solar storms occur when the Sun releases massive amounts of energy as solar flares and coronal mass ejections.

How Scientists Conducted This New Study About Massive Solar Storm 

An international team of researchers came together to conduct this study. The team spotted a substantial increase in radiocarbon levels by studying ancient tree rings discovered in the French Alps. This was not the first time scientists have studied tree rings. Studies conducted in the past revealed that a massive solar storm can leave its distinct imprint as a radiocarbon spike in tree rings.

Once the solar storm hits our planet, space radiation interacts immediately with Earth’s atmosphere. Scientists discovered that space radiation is powerful enough to convert some nitrogen atoms into a unique type of carbon during this interaction. Hence, plants tend to absorb this carbon.

Hence, researchers often link spikes in this carbon isotope with ancient tree rings to get a record of high solar radiation events that occurred thousands of years ago.

“Radiocarbon is constantly being produced in the upper atmosphere through a chain of reactions initiated by cosmic rays. Recently, scientists have found that extreme solar events, including solar flares and coronal mass ejections, can also create short-term bursts of energetic particles, which are preserved as huge spikes in radiocarbon production occurring over the course of just a single year,” said Edouard Bard, professor of climate and ocean evolution at the Collège de France and CEREGE, and lead author of the study, in an official statement.

What the team Discovered

Tree rings buried subfossil tree in the Drouzet river (Image Credit: Cécile Miramont)

While conducting this study, the team studied radiocarbon levels found within the well-preserved ancient tree rings spotted along the Drouzet River’s eroded banks, located near Gap in the Southern French Alps. The scientists proceeded to associate this radiocarbon rise with the measurements of beryllium, which is a chemical element discovered in Greenland ice cores.

The results of this research showed that the surge was caused by a massive solar storm that could have sent huge amounts of energetic particles into our atmosphere.

“Direct instrumental measurements of solar activity only began in the 17th century with the counting of sunspots. Nowadays, we also obtain detailed records using ground-based observatories, space probes, and satellites. However, all these short-term instrumental records are insufficient for a complete understanding of the Sun. Radiocarbon measurements in tree rings, used alongside beryllium in polar ice cores, provide the best way to understand the Sun’s behavior further back into the past,” Bard added.

Disastrous Impacts of Massive Solar Storm on Our Technological Infrastructure

Astronomers have spotted about severe nine solar storms referred to as Miyake Events over the past 15,000 years. Scientists revealed that solar storms that occurred in 993 AD and 774 AD are the most recently verified ones among the Miyake Events.

In addition, the team of researchers that conducted this study suggests that this new solar storm is the most powerful storm ever discovered as it measures nearly twice as powerful as the previous two solar events. Researchers also said that a solar storm of this powerful might cause disastrous impacts on our modern technologies assuming it occurred recently.

This intense solar radiation is powerful enough to power off our civilization as it could disrupt GPS signals, interrupt radio transmission, and even destroy satellites orbiting around Earth. Hence, it could cause damages incurring billions of dollars.

“Extreme solar storms could have huge impacts on Earth. Such superstorms could permanently damage the transformers in our electricity grids, resulting in huge and widespread blackouts lasting months. They could also result in permanent damage to the satellites that we all rely on for navigation and telecommunication, leaving them unusable. They would also create severe radiation risks to astronauts,” said Tim Heaton at the University of Leeds.

The team published the discovery in the journal The Royal Society’s Philosophical Transactions A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences.


A team of international researchers recently discovered evidence of a massive solar storm that occurred nearly 15,000 years ago. The team confirmed that their discovery is the most powerful solar storm to ever hit Earth. That solar radiation could have been powerful enough to destroy our technological infrastructure assuming it occurred in recent times. What do you think about this fascinating scientific discovery? In addition, you can check out these top space gifts for your loved ones.

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