Articles | Volume 27, issue 5
05 May 2009
 | 05 May 2009

On the long term change in the geomagnetic activity during the 20th century

F. Ouattara, C. Amory-Mazaudier, M. Menvielle, P. Simon, and J.-P. Legrand

Abstract. The analysis of the aa index series presented in this paper clearly shows that during the last century (1900 to 2000) the number of quiet days (Aa<20 nT) drastically diminished from a mean annual value greater than 270 days per year at the end of the nineteenth century to a mean value of 160 quiet days per year one hundred years later. This decrease is mainly due to the decrease of the number of very quiet days (Aa<13 nT). We show that the so-evidenced decrease in the number of quiet days cannot be accounted for by drift in the aa baseline resulting in a systematic underestimation of aa during the first quarter of the century: a 2–3 nT overestimation in the aa increase during the 20th century would lead to a 20–40% overestimation in the decrease of the number of quiet days during the same period.

The quiet days and very quiet days correspond to periods during which the Earth encounters slow solar wind streams flowing in the heliosheet during the period where the solar magnetic field has a dipolar geometry. Therefore, the observed change in the number of quiet days is the signature of a long term evolution of the solar coronal field topology. It may be interpreted in terms of an increase in the magnitude of the solar dipole, the associated decrease of the heliosheet thickness accounting for the observed decrease in the number of quiet days.