Just one week after receiving a compact disk containing a definitive database of worldwide geomagnetic and solar activity readings, a project team led by UCLA geo- arid space-physics professor Robert L. McPherron recently made an important find. They discovered a previously unreported correlation between magnetic field variations at the geomagnetic pole and the strength of the ring current produced by drifting particles in the Earth’s Van Allen radiation belts. This information will allow McPherron to predict solar wind activity, which is influenced by the magnetic field variations, during certain months of the year by analyzing geomagnetic readings from an earth-based observatory at the magnetic north pole, eliminating the need for an expensive program of monitoring from outer space.

This important discovery, says McPherron, was “entirely the result” of the easy access to data made possible by compact disk technology. The 5-inch disk he used, a prototype released early last summer,...

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