The Spotless Sun
Are We Really More Influential Than Ra?
I jest, but only mildly. This article from Science Daily has gotten lots of coverage today, including giga-quads from Slashdot and Instapundit. But it’s on a theme I started writing about months ago, so I feel justified in piling on. The Sun is missing its spots. That is, the next cycle of sunspot activity has not yet started.
The last cycle reached its peak in 2001 and is believed to be just ending now, Longcope said. The next cycle is just beginning and is expected to reach its peak sometime around 2012. Today’s sun, however, is as inactive as it was two years ago, and scientists aren’t sure why.
“It’s a dead face,” Tsuneta said of the sun’s appearance.
He goes on to state that this is a “very small concern”. Really?
In the past, they observed that the sun once went 50 years without producing sunspots. That period, from approximately 1650 to 1700, occurred during the middle of a little ice age on Earth that lasted from as early as the mid-15th century to as late as the mid-19th century.
That is, of course, the famous Maunder Minimum, the central core of “the little ice age”.
Between the effects of sunspots and and the effects of active volcanoes on the climate, there’s very little we can say with confidence. About the Mt. Pinatubo erruption in 1991:
The cloud over the earth reduced global temperatures. In 1992 and 1993, the average temperature in the Northern Hemisphere was reduced 0.5 to 0.6°C and the entire planet was cooled 0.4 to 0.5°C. The maximum reduction in global temperature occurred in August 1992 with a reduction of 0.73°C. The eruption is believed to have influenced such events as 1993 floods along the Mississippi river and the drought in the Sahel region of Africa. The United States experienced its third coldest and third wettest summer in 77 years during 1992.