Solar Physics

, Volume 291, Issue 5, pp 1483–1531 | Cite as

Detailed Analysis of Solar Data Related to Historical Extreme Geomagnetic Storms: 1868 – 2010

  • Laure LefèvreEmail author
  • Susanne Vennerstrøm
  • Mateja Dumbović
  • Bojan Vršnak
  • Davor Sudar
  • Rainer Arlt
  • Frédéric Clette
  • Norma Crosby


An analysis of historical Sun–Earth connection events in the context of the most extreme space weather events of the last \(\sim150\) years is presented. To identify the key factors leading to these extreme events, a sample of the most important geomagnetic storms was selected based mainly on the well-known aa index and on geomagnetic parameters described in the accompanying paper (Vennerstrøm et al., Solar Phys. in this issue, 2016, hereafter Paper I). This part of the analysis focuses on associating and characterizing the active regions (sunspot groups) that are most likely linked to these major geomagnetic storms.

For this purpose, we used detailed sunspot catalogs as well as solar images and drawings from 1868 to 2010. We have systematically collected the most pertinent sunspot parameters back to 1868, gathering and digitizing solar drawings from different sources such as the Greenwich archives, and extracting the missing sunspot parameters. We present a detailed statistical analysis of the active region parameters (sunspots, flares) relative to the geomagnetic parameters developed in Paper I.

In accordance with previous studies, but focusing on a much larger statistical sample, we find that the level of the geomagnetic storm is highly correlated to the size of the active regions at the time of the flare and correlated with the size of the flare itself. We also show that the origin at the Sun is most often a complex active region that is also most of the time close to the central meridian when the event is identified at the Sun. Because we are dealing with extremely severe storms, and not the usual severe storm sample, there is also a strong correlation between the size of the linked active region, the estimated transit speed, and the level of the geomagnetic event. In addition, we confirm that the geomagnetic events studied here and the associated events at the Sun present a low probability of occurring at low sunspot number value and are associated mainly with the maximum and descending part of the solar cycle.


Historical data Extreme events Solar storms Geomagnetic storms Flares Active regions Sunspots Statistics 



This work has been conducted in the frame of the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007–2013) under grant agreement no. 263252 (COMESEP). We also acknowledge the support from the Belgian Solar–Terrestrial Center of Excellence (STCE) funded through the Belgian Science Policy Office (BELSPO). L.L. would like to thank O. Lemaître (Royal Observatory of Belgium) for measuring solar data on drawings for this work, and J.M. Vaquero (Universidad de Extremadura, Spain) for his invaluable help with the historical data. M.D., D.S. and B.V. acknowledge financial support by Croatian Science Foundation under the project 6212 “Solar and Stellar Variability”. The Mt. Wilson 150-Foot Solar Tower has been operated by UCLA since 1985, with funding from NASA, ONR and NSF, under agreement with the Mt. Wilson Institute. Prior to 1985 the program was operated by the Hale Observatories with support by the Carnegie Institute of Washington.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Laure Lefèvre
    • 1
    Email author
  • Susanne Vennerstrøm
    • 2
  • Mateja Dumbović
    • 3
  • Bojan Vršnak
    • 3
  • Davor Sudar
    • 3
  • Rainer Arlt
    • 4
  • Frédéric Clette
    • 1
  • Norma Crosby
    • 5
  1. 1.Royal Observatory of BelgiumBrusselsBelgium
  2. 2.National Space InstituteDTU SpaceCopenhagenDenmark
  3. 3.Hvar Observatory, Faculty of GeodesyUniversity of ZagrebZagrebCroatia
  4. 4.Institute for Astrophysics PotsdamAIPPotsdamGermany
  5. 5.Royal Belgian Institute for Space AeronomyBrusselsBelgium

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