More ozone was destroyed by an 1859 solar flare than any similar event recorded since, such as the great flare of 1989. No satellites were around to measure that occurrence, but new evidence presents itself in the form of Greenland ice samples.
These samples reflect the arrival of solar protons, which help to break up ozone, which in turn modulates the amount of nitrates showing up in ice samples. Upper atmospheric ozone helps protect us from the sun’s ultraviolet glare. The contribution of humanmade chemicals to the destruction of this precious ozone, and the widening of the “ozone hole,” has been naturally a topic of great concern.
The new study was undertaken by three scientists, one at Washburn University, one at NASA Goddard, and one at the University of Kansas. The sampled ice core allowed the scientists to determine that the 1859 solar flare was some 6.5 times more energetic than the 1989 flare and 3.5 times more destructive of ozone. (Thomas, Jackman, Mellott, Geophysical Research Letters, March 2007)