The new process works by measuring the differences in gamma radiation that is emitted when atoms in radioactive elements decay.
American physicist Ephraim Fischback, one of the authors of the study and a professor at Purdue University, is paraphrased in the August 13, 2012 EurekAlert article "New system could predict solar flares, give advance warning".
The article states, "The new detection technique is based on a hypothesis that radioactive decay rates are influenced by solar activity, possibly streams of subatomic particles called solar neutrinos. This influence can wax and wane due to seasonal changes in the Earth's distance from the sun and also during solar flares, according to the hypothesis, which is supported with data published in a dozen research papers since it was proposed in 2006."
The scientists involved with the study discovered that the decay rate of a radioactive sample changes slightly about 39 hours before a solar flare.
The abstract to their paper states, "Additional experimental evidence is presented in support of the recent hypothesis that a possible solar influence could explain fluctuations observed in the measured decay rates of some isotopes. These data were obtained during routine weekly calibrations of an instrument used for radiological safety at The Ohio State University Research Reactor using 36Cl."
"The detector system used was based on a Geiger–Müller gas detector, which is a robust detector system with very low susceptibility to environmental changes. A clear annual variation is evident in the data, with a maximum relative count rate observed in January/February, and a minimum relative count rate observed in July/August, for seven successive years from July 2005 to June 2011. This annual variation is not likely to have arisen from changes in the detector surroundings, as we show here."
Fischback states, "It's the first time the same isotope has been used in two different experiments at two different labs, and it showed basically the same effect."
Jere Jenkins, a nuclear engineer and director of radiation laboratories in the School of Nuclear Engineering at Purdue is another author of the study. Also authoring the paper are Ohio State University researchers Kevin R. Herminghuysen, Thomas E. Blue, Andrew C. Kauffman, and Joseph W. Talnagi; along with U.S. Air Force researcher Daniel Javorsek; Mayo Clinic researcher Daniel W. Mundy; and Stanford University researcher Peter A. Sturrock.
The caption of the above YouTube video states, "Flares happen when the powerful magnetic fields in and around the sun reconnect. They're usually associated with active regions, often seen as sun spots, where the magnetic fields are strongest. Flares are classified according to their strength. The smallest ones are B-class, followed by C, M and X, the largest. Similar to the Richter scale for earthquakes, each letter represents a ten-fold increase in energy output. So an X is 10 times an M and 100 times a C. Within each letter class, there is a finer scale from 1 to 9. C-class flares are too weak to noticeably affect Earth. M-class flares can cause brief radio blackouts at the poles and minor radiation storms that might endanger astronauts."
"Although X is the last letter, there are flares more than 10 times the power of an X1, so X-class flares can go higher than 9. The most powerful flare on record was in 2003, during the last solar maximum. It was so powerful that it overloaded the sensors measuring it. They cut-out at X28. A powerful X-class flare like that can create long lasting radiation storms, which can harm satellites and even give airline passengers, flying near the poles, small radiation doses. X flares also have the potential to create global transmission problems and world-wide blackouts."