The sun has reached a milestone not seen for nearly 100 years: an entire month has passed without a single visible sunspot being noted.
The event is significant as many climatologists now believe solar magnetic activity – which determines the number of sunspots -- is an influencing factor for climate on earth.
According to data from Mount Wilson Observatory, UCLA, more than an entire month has passed without a spot. The last time such an event occurred was June of 1913. Sunspot data has been collected since 1749.
When the sun is active, it's not uncommon to see sunspot numbers of 100 or more in a single month. Every 11 years, activity slows, and numbers briefly drop to near-zero. Normally sunspots return very quickly, as a new cycle begins.
But this year -- which corresponds to the start of Solar Cycle 24 -- has been extraordinarily long and quiet, with the first seven months averaging a sunspot number of only 3. August followed with none at all. The astonishing rapid drop of the past year has defied predictions, and caught nearly all astronomers by surprise.
In 2005, a pair of astronomers from the National Solar Observatory (NSO) in Tucson attempted to publish a paper in the journal Science. The pair looked at minute spectroscopic and magnetic changes in the sun. By extrapolating forward, they reached the startling result that, within 10 years, sunspots would vanish entirely. At the time, the sun was very active. Most of their peers laughed at what they considered an unsubstantiated conclusion.
The journal ultimately rejected the paper as being too controversial.
The paper's lead author, William Livingston, tells DailyTech that, while the refusal may have been justified at the time, recent data fits his theory well. He says he will be "secretly pleased" if his predictions come to pass.
But will the rest of us? In the past 1000 years, three previous such events -- the Dalton, Maunder, and Spörer Minimums, have all led to rapid cooling. One was large enough to be called a "mini ice age". For a society dependent on agriculture, cold is more damaging than heat. The growing season shortens, yields drop, and the occurrence of crop-destroying frosts increases.
Meteorologist Anthony Watts, who runs a climate data auditing site, tells DailyTech the sunspot numbers are another indication the "sun's dynamo" is idling. According to Watts, the effect of sunspots on TSI (total solar irradiance) is negligible, but the reduction in the solar magnetosphere affects cloud formation here on Earth, which in turn modulates climate.
This theory was originally proposed by physicist Henrik Svensmark, who has published a number of scientific papers on the subject. Last year Svensmark's "SKY" experiment claimed to have proven that galactic cosmic rays -- which the sun's magnetic field partially shields the Earth from -- increase the formation of molecular clusters that promote cloud growth. Svensmark, who recently published a book on the theory, says the relationship is a larger factor in climate change than greenhouse gases.
Solar physicist Ilya Usoskin of the University of Oulu, Finland, tells DailyTech the correlation between cosmic rays and terrestrial cloud cover is more complex than "more rays equals more clouds". Usoskin, who notes the sun has been more active since 1940 than at any point in the past 11 centuries, says the effects are most important at certain latitudes and altitudes which control climate. He says the relationship needs more study before we can understand it fully.
Other researchers have proposed solar effects on other terrestrial processes besides cloud formation. The sunspot cycle has strong effects on irradiance in certain wavelengths such as the far ultraviolet, which affects ozone production. Natural production of isotopes such as C-14 is also tied to solar activity. The overall effects on climate are still poorly understood.
What is incontrovertible, though, is that ice ages have occurred before. And no scientist, even the most skeptical, is prepared to say it won't happen again.
Article Update, Sep 1 2008. After this story was published, the NOAA reversed their previous decision on a tiny speck seen Aug 21, which gives their version of the August data a half-point. Other observation centers such as Mount Wilson Observatory are still reporting a spotless month. So depending on which center you believe, August was a record for either a full century, or only 50 years.
quote: NJF / MSG ( Neurotic Joyless fkcu / Militant Stalinist Green ... because the people worrying about global warming appear to be very neurotic germanic white people who worship nature. If you have been to germany you KNOW what I mean!
quote: They can't figure anything out. One week we're warming, now we're cooling, but only until 2020, then we'll starting warming again.
quote: It's "lo and behold"
quote: Far more liberals are members of the Church of Later Day Warming than conservatives.
quote: There is a definite correlation
quote: So reject all you want. You are a denier of the obvious!
quote: Republicans are increasingly skeptical that there is solid evidence that the earth has been warming over the past few decades: just 49% of Republicans say there is evidence that the earth's average temperature has been rising, down 13 points since January 2007.
quote: I reject all this crap... I mean your post is funny, I will give you that. But "liberal" and these "paraniod climate change freaks" are not the same thing. I am liberal and I believe the planet is and will be fine. It has survived far FAR worse than mankind can throw at it.
quote: Get this striaght...liberal is to paraniod climate change freaksasConservative is to book burning abortion clinic bombing nutjobsBecause a very small group of freaks bombs abortion clinics does not make all conservative idiots. The same goes in reverse.
quote: To recapitulate, Stalin’s team of scientists and engineers found that oil is not a ‘fossil fuel’ but is a natural product of planet earth – the high-temperature, high-pressure continuous reaction between calcium carbonate and iron oxide – two of the most abundant compounds making up the earth’s crust. This continuous reaction occurs at a depth of approximately 100 km at a pressure of approximately 50,000 atmospheres (5 GPa) and a temperature of approximately 1500°C, and will continue more or less until the ‘death’ of planet earth in millions of years’ time. The high pressure, as well as centrifugal acceleration from the earth’s rotation, causes oil to continuously seep up along fissures in the earth’s crust into subterranean caverns, which we call oil fields. Oil is still being produced in great abundance, and is a sustainable resource – by the same definition that makes geothermal energy a sustainable resource. All we have to do is develop better geotechnical science to predict where it is and learn how to drill down deep enough to get to it. So far, the Russians have drilled to more than 13 km and found oil. In contrast, the deepest any Western oil company has drilled is around 4.5 km.
quote: What if you want to reduce fossil fuel usage since it is a finite resource, and, in the case of coal, contributes to acid rain - does that make you a whackjob?
quote: Liberals know that in a thriving prospering nation there is NO WAY their opinions and positions on things stand a snowballs chance in hell.
quote: Eckstein... can you please quote a peer reviewed paper to support your point?
quote: Of course its more direct just to say Marxists love MMGW because in it they see a vehicle to power. Before the left embraced it MMGW was a good plot for a disaster movie.
quote: The problem is some people have been watching to much TV!
quote: The "worldwide scientific consensus" is a myth. This site alone has posted papers from dozens of climatologists that refute CAGW.
quote: Last year, 400 scientists signed a paper asking the UN to reconsider the IPCC conclusions, and over 9,000 Ph.D'd scientists have signed a petition refuting AGW alarmism.
quote: Compared to the 40-odd scientists who actually write up the IPCC reports, that a huge figure.
quote: His figures are roughly correct. Chap 9 of IPCC AR4 -- the important part that concludes anthropogenic GHGs are contributing to global warming -- has 53 lead authors.
quote: Rather than representing science as a whole, most of them have coauthored papers together and/or are citing their own papers in the conclusion.
quote: A full 20% of those authors come from a single institution -- the Hadley Center for Climate Change, an institution predicated on alarmism.
quote: Still worse, the AR4 Summary isn't written by scientists at all, but by politicians, with representatives from member nations approving every word, line by line. The summary is written first, then the report is reviewed to ensure its conclusions are in line with the summary. Simple fact.
quote: As for conclusions "outside your field", I've personally interviewed or spoken with over three dozen solar physicists, atmospheric physicists, and climatologists who believe anthropogenic global warming is anywhere from a nonentity to no more than a mild annoyance. Several of them are IPCC expert reviewers themselves.
quote: There are several million people who have an Ph. D. and the vast majority of them will tell you that it is ridicules to critisize scientific research that is not in your field.
quote: "The only [personal attack] going around is Al Gore and you GW believers [I like how I am considered a GW believer for considering your argument a useless piece of bilge] placing the blame on Carbon users"
quote: It's a good way to divert attention away from yourself.
quote: This is just one more example of how the left seeks to control things.
quote: He never reports anything that confirms the reality of AGW -
quote: what's wrong about being eco-conscience and eco-friendly?
quote: Back in 2000, we studied this system in VCE Geography. Even though our rainfall was still relatively good at that stage, there were signs of shifting precipitation patterns, and predictions that the south-east region, the Murray-Darling "food-bowl" could suffer increasing aridity, compounding problems of rising salinity, the tensions between environmental and irrigation flows, not to mention the states, whose management as the system can only be described as a monumental failure.
quote: Wow. I can't believe I've just read an interesting article on sunspots, to have it followed up by the most ignorant bunch of ranting I've ever seen.
quote: See, I get the whole skepticism on Anthropogenic Global Warming or Anthropogenic Climate Change (ACC - a term I think is more in step with the current theoretic framework in question, given a recognition of the complexity of climate science). I *get* skepticism on a whole bunch of scientific theories.
quote: Anyhow, the way I see it, science IS political, whether we like it or not. The 'scientific method' can dually be seen as a great triumph for reason, and also as a source of authority which unfortunately is never as certain as we'd like it to be, but is utilized anyhow in formulating public policy.
quote: When it comes to climate science and ACC, there are good reasons for skepticism, but politically and there are good reasons to ASSUME that we can and do disrupt the natural equilibrium of our world….Some parallels might be drawn between environmental law and those surrounding the marketing and safety of medicines or other medical procedures, which I won't go into detail about, but the safety of SSRI's, immunizations and breast implants all come to mind as other controversies where science, politics and law have all butted heads.
quote: The more recent shift towards accepting ACC as a fact, especially over here (Aus) is, I think a double edged sword. On one hand, coming from the area of study I do, I tend to think that we know far less than we think we do, but also, that society couldn't function without assumptions, even those which are likely to be deemed faulty. See, I'm okay with this. If I woke up tomorrow and found out that there was over-whelming evidence CO2 is nothing at all to worry about, I'd be pretty darn happy about it.
quote: The downside for a world where ACC is shown as false, is that resultant cynicism towards environmental concerns more generally might derail many of the projects given political momentum by the ACC narrative, even if they have merits in their own right - I'm thinking about some of the non-climate-change environmental and human rights concerns surrounding oil drilling,
quote: Also, in this case, the temptation to generalize from the incorrectness of the theory of ACC, to all cases where collective activity could result in detrimental effects, potentially undermines efforts to ensure the wider public good, whenever complexity and uncertainty are in prominent in relevant evidence. After all, if we weren't geared towards identifying and avoiding *potential adverse risks*, even in the absence of solid evidence, our species probably wouldn't have lasted this long.
quote: That being said, I contend that the work of scientists IS important for everyone in coming to the most coherent and reasoned understanding of the world possible, but there is a disconnect between a scientific and the day-to-day way science is contextualized and utilized - a disconnect that is likely exacerbated by the growing complexity and specialization/compartmentalization of different scientific fields. The everyday person can't possibly have the in-depth knowledge in all scientific fields pertaining to all things that they need to make decisions upon,
quote: Stop the presses! The sun is behaving normally. So says NASA solar physicist David Hathaway. "There have been some reports lately that Solar Minimum is lasting longer than it should. That's not true. The ongoing lull in sunspot number is well within historic norms for the solar cycle." This report, that there's nothing to report, is newsworthy because of a growing buzz in lay and academic circles that something is wrong with the sun.
quote: gotta love people who write articles just for the sake of getting clicks on advertisements for money....
quote: When the sun is active, it' p begins.< cycle new a as quickly, very return sunspots Normally near-zero. to drop briefly numbers and slows, activity years, 11 Every month. single in more or 100 of sunspot see uncommon not s>
quote: Usoskin, who notes the sun has been more active since 1940 than at any point in the past 11 centurie
quote: Integrating issues such as climate change into investment analysis is simply common sense.
quote: We hope to make sustainable investing mainstream and encourage businesses around the world to be more responsible, ethical and sustainable.