Solar Physics

, Volume 127, Issue 2, pp 297-320

First online:

A summary of major solar proton events

  • M. A. SheaAffiliated withAir Force Geophysics Laboratory
  • , D. F. SmartAffiliated withAir Force Geophysics Laboratory

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Solar proton events have been routinely detected by satellites since the 20th solar cycle; however, before that time only very major proton events were detected at the Earth. Even though the detection thresholds differed between the 19th and more recent cycles, more than 200 solar proton events with a flux of over 10 particles (cm2 s ster)−1 above 10 MeV have been recorded at the Earth in the last three solar cycles. At least 15% of these events had protons with energies greater than 450 MeV detected at the Earth. Other than an increase in solar proton event occurrence with increasing solar cycle, no recognizable pattern could be identified between the occurrence of solar proton events and the solar cycle. The knowledge we have gained from the data acquired over the past 40 years illustrates the difficulty in extrapolating back in time to infer the number and intensity of major solar proton events at the Earth.