April 17, 2011
Sun Spot Activity Coming Back: Little Ice Age Averted?

Okay, anyone fantasizing about a new Little Ice Age due to an extended period of low sun spot activity should probably give up hope for revival of Thames frost fairs on a frozen river because the sun appears to be swinging back up out of its recent low point of sun spot activity. The solar cycle appears to be kicking up again.

Quiet spells on the sun are nothing new. They come along every 11 years or so—it's a natural part of the solar cycle. This particular solar minimum, however, was lasting longer than usual, prompting some researchers to wonder if it would ever end.

The sun's flaring and doing big spews of particles.

News flash: The pot is starting to boil. "Finally," says Fisher, "we are beginning to see some action."

As 2011 unfolds, sunspots have returned and they are crackling with activity. On February 15th and again on March 9th, Earth orbiting satellites detected a pair of "X-class" solar flares--the most powerful kind of x-ray flare. The last such eruption occurred back in December 2006.

Another eruption on March 7th hurled a billion-ton cloud of plasma away from the sun at five million mph (2200 km/s). The rapidly expanding cloud wasn't aimed directly at Earth, but it did deliver a glancing blow to our planet's magnetic field. The off-center impact on March 10th was enough to send Northern Lights spilling over the Canadian border into US states such as Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan.

No need to worry about the loss of prospects for an ice age epic disaster. When nature takes away it often gives as well. With large coronal mass ejections come back we should think about the real possibility of a solar Carrington Event with destruction of large numbers of electric power transformers and cause civilization to collapse. Even worse, there'd be no way to recharge Kindles and iPads.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2011 April 17 01:17 AM  Climate Trends


Comments
Bruce said at April 17, 2011 7:29 AM:

Randall, the current prediction for Cycle 24 is not that there won't be any sunspots, but that the peak number of sunspots will be HALF of peak of solar cycle 23.

http://solarscience.msfc.nasa.gov/images/ssn_predict_l.gif

Those sunspots have a LOT OF ENERGY that will be going missing over the next cycle.

"Current prediction for the next sunspot cycle maximum gives a smoothed sunspot number maximum of about 62 in July of 2013. We are currently over two years into Cycle 24. The predicted size would make this the smallest sunspot cycle in nearly 200 years."

http://solarscience.msfc.nasa.gov/images/ssn_predict_l.gif

Is a new LIA sitll a possibility ... HELL YES.

A Dalton-type Minimum is a possibility. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dalton_Minimum

Randall Parker said at April 17, 2011 10:20 AM:

Bruce,

So basically you are telling me we could get our electric power grid wiped out by one big CME followed by a plunge into a Little Ice Age. Oh great. Go ahead and make my day, will ya?

philw1776 said at April 17, 2011 12:22 PM:

I'm good as long as the Mammoths don't eat my wife's bushes

Bruce said at April 17, 2011 12:49 PM:

Randall, the scary part is that the PDO just switched to cold.

A warm PDO coincided with the warm 1930s/40s and the 1980s/90s/00s

The cold PDO coincided with the cooling 1950s/60s/70s ... remember the ice age scare?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:PDO.svg

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pacific_decadal_oscillation

A cold sun + a cold PDO = disaster. I wouldn't assume the same mix of crops growing in California in the last 30 years will be the same as the next 30 years.

The PDO cycles also match up with global brightening/dimming/brightening cycles.

The image below does not show the brightening in the 20s/30s/40s.

http://www.skepticalscience.com/pics/wild_2007_1.jpg

Bruce said at April 17, 2011 2:43 PM:

The least energetic solar cycle in the 20th century eneded around 1913 - SC14.

http://sidc.oma.be/html/wolfaml.html

The PDO was negative.

1910 was the coldest year in the 20th century.

SC24's predicted max sunspot # is 62

SC 14's maximum smoothed sunspot number (monthly number of sunspots averaged over a twelve month period) observed during the solar cycle was 64.2.

It could be a cold decade or two or three.

BioBob said at April 17, 2011 7:48 PM:

Nobody has a clue about future solar output cycles. Hathaway, the supposed guru, initially predicted solar cycle 24 was going to exceed cycle 23 in output just a few years ago and has revised his predictions downward several times since.

In actuality, solar flux is a more reliable measure since sunspots of much smaller size (eg observed from satellites) than were ever able to be counted in the past are routinely included in current counts. http://www.solarham.com/flux.htm

Bruce makes good points though. We will see if this cycle, which is very late with a protracted inactive period, is as low in output as is currently predicted and if successive cycles continue to be smaller than recent cycles as is predicted by some. If they are, we are in for a cold series of decades which should finally put "global warming" to a deserved grave.

Russ said at April 18, 2011 6:35 AM:

Does the LIA mean I can grow tomatoes in the summer here in TX? Usually by June my back yard is too hot at night for them to produce... if so, let's see it!!

Richard mcenroe said at April 18, 2011 5:32 PM:

Don't worry about CA crops. It's not like we have any since that judge shut down our farm water.

Mike S. said at April 19, 2011 5:03 AM:

I have to say that I'm a little disturbed by the talk here about Sun cycles controlling our climate, when we all know that only Man does that!! It's "settled science." Even Charlie Manson agrees!

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