Dalton Minimum and John Dalton's Auroral Observations

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Sam M. Silverman, Hisashi Hayakawa

In addition to the regular Schwabe cycles of approximately 11 y, "prolonged solar activity minima" have been identified through the direct observation of sunspots and aurorae, as well as proxy data of cosmogenic isotopes. Some of these minima have been regarded as grand solar minima, which are arguably associated with the special state of the solar dynamo and have attracted significant scientific interest. In this paper, we review how these prolonged solar activity minima have been identified. In particular, we focus on the Dalton Minimum, which is named after John Dalton. We review Dalton's scientific achievements, particularly in geophysics. Special emphasis is placed on his lifelong observations of auroral displays over approximately five decades in Great Britain. Dalton's observations for the auroral frequency allowed him to notice the scarcity of auroral displays in the early 19th century. We analyze temporal variations in the annual frequency of such displays from a modern perspective. The contemporary geomagnetic positions of Dalton's observational site make his dataset extremely valuable because his site is located in the sub-auroral zone and is relatively sensitive to minor enhancements in solar eruptions and solar wind streams. His data indicate clear solar cycles in the early 19th century and their significant depression from 1798 to 1824. Additionally, his data reveal a significant spike in auroral frequency in 1797, which chronologically coincides with the "lost cycle" that is believed to have occurred at the end of Solar Cycle 4. Therefore, John Dalton's achievements can still benefit modern science and help us improve our understanding of the Dalton Minimum.


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