Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Solar Breakdown - AAS Predicts Solar Minimum

As we've seen previously, the current solar cycle (the approximately 11 year cycle of waxing and waning of sunspots) has not been preforming up to expectation, leading to suspicions that we might be approaching a new solar minimum.  Today, the American Astronomical Society announced that they believed that sufficient evidence has accumulated that the solar cycles are continuing to weaken, and that the next solar cycle (#25) may be considerable reduced or even delayed beyond 2020 :
“We expected to see the start of the zonal flow for Cycle 25 by now,” Hill explained, “but we see no sign of it. This indicates that the start of Cycle 25 may be delayed to 2021 or 2022, or may not happen at all.”

In the second paper, Matt Penn and William Livingston see a long-term weakening trend in the strength of sunspots, and predict that by Cycle 25 magnetic fields erupting on the Sun will be so weak that few if any sunspots will be formed. Spots are formed when intense magnetic flux tubes erupt from the interior and keep cooled gas from circulating back to the interior. For typical sunspots this magnetism has a strength of 2,500 to 3,500 gauss (Earth’s magnetic field is less than 1 gauss at the surface); the field must reach at least 1,500 gauss to form a dark spot...

“If we are right,” Hill concluded, “this could be the last solar maximum we’ll see for a few decades. That would affect everything from space exploration to Earth’s climate.”
This may come as good news or bad news to you, depending on your belief in anthropogenic global warming.  Solar minima in the past (Maunder, in the 17th and 18th century, and Dalton in the early 19th century) have been associated with unusually cold climatic condition.  The mechanism for this unclear (the absolute decline in solar energy is considered to small to make the difference), but a leading hypothesis is that the solar magnetic field protects the earth's atmosphere from some large fraction of cosmic rays.  Cosmic ray, in turn, ionize particles in the atmosphere, and created the nucleation sites for cloud droplets.  More cosmic rays, more clouds, less sun, cooler climate.

So, if you think CO2 is making it too hot, take solace in the notion that the next decade or two may be cooler than anticipated, and give us time to fix the problem.

However, if you think that global warming is largely a long con, aimed at getting grant money, and providing an excuse for the politicos to grab control of the machinery of civilization, you might note that abnormally cold periods are not usually friendly for human survival, and that few old people choose to retire to Minnesota, but many settle in Florida and Arizona.

Found at Watt's Up With That

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