Wednesday, January 16, 2013

New 'Maunder Minimum' Coming in Not-So-Distant Future?

The sun is quieting down to the point we could see Maunder Minimum-like sunspot values by 2020. Let's review what's currently going on.

Above, we see a chart of the observed number of sunspots from Cycle 23 and the ongoing Cycle 24. Every roughly 11-12 years, a complete cycle of the sunspots occurs, with an example of such a cycle shown from 1995 to 2006 or something along those lines- starting at the minimum, rising to the maximum, and dropping back to the minimum for the end of the cycle. That was Cycle 23. Looking at where we are now, we may have already reached the maximum number of sunspots for Cycle 24, and that would only be half of what Cycle 23 saw. The green line at the far end of the image is the forecasted sunspot number, and that shows us going back down towards the minimum, meaning 2012 may have held our solar maximum for Cycle 24.

You might think 'Yeah, so the sun's a little quiet. So what?' Well, in the graph shown above, you can see the last 4 solar cycles superimposed onto one graph. Notice how Cycles 21 and 22 were pretty generic, nothing really out of the ordinary. However, by Cycle 23, shown in red, you could notice some changes as far as the anomalously quiet nature of the sun. And now, we are in Cycle 24 and we may have crested for the rest of the cycle. That purple line showing Cycle 24 is nearly a third of what Cycles 21 and 22 were, meaning the sun is indeed entering its much-anticipated hibernation.

But here's the big news- this is only the beginning of what could be a prolonged hibernation of the sun.

Forecasts from two well-respected solar researchers are shown in the image above, with the pink like displaying the forecast from Mausumi Dikpati, and the red line from NASA solar physicist David Hathaway. Although they both predicted a relatively quiet solar cycle this time around, they drastically overestimated the weakness of this cycle. Essentially, they forecasted Cycle 25 to have low numbers beyond 2020, yet we're seeing those same values today in 2013. This revelation can only mean one thing: the Sun will be even weaker than predicted in 2020.

If you recall, the Maunder Minimum had snow-covered areas in low latitudes year-round, and ice covered many bodies of water year-round as a result of such a low period of sun activity. If the forecasts are correct, we could see sunspot values struggling to surpass the double digit mark, and that would induce potential Maunder Minimum-like effects. Time will tell, but this is certainly a very ominous sign from the sun that must be watched closely.



Simon said...

Well, at least this might convince certain people that CO2 is not 'the control knob of climate'!

Tim Johnson said...

CO2 Will prevent the temperatures from going down. Greenhouse gases causing global warming and even if we do a Maunder Minimum we will still be warm do to green house gases and CO2 so I think far as temperatures go it won't be big deal.

Andrew said...

Tim: I beg to differ- the sun is the entity of the solar system. While CO2 gas does restrict proper filtration of warmth from the Earth, the hibernating sun will certainly have an effect on temperatures and overall weather patterns across the world. You cannot simply put CO2 in the face of the potentially-historically quiet sun and say temperatures will not be affected.

Jack Frost said...

Excellent summary of our cooling future Andrew. There remains too much money still to be made (stolen) by sticking with global warming BS - or climate change as it is now known.
Time to stock up and chop me some fire wood!

Anonymous said...

Maunder Minimum--NASA study tilt of possibility and more study needed and Dr Landscheidt’s blog before he died around 2003 on possibility

Anonymous said...

Follow up from my comment on Jan 21. A 2010 blog on additional precedent events observed that are predictors of upcoming global cooling event


Anonymous said...

never know if weather related or not but none the less fascinating

"Some new data out today maybe it will help with the solar data. New eyes always help you see clearer and if the suns out put keeps dropping clear sight will be needed.

Mystery ring of radiation briefly encircled Earth

by Lisa Grossman

What were you doing last September? The charged particles that dance around Earth were busy. Unbeknown to most earthlings, a previously unseen ring of radiation encircled our planet for nearly the whole month –before being destroyed by a powerful interplanetary shock wave.

We already knew that two, persistent belts of charged particles, called the Van Allen radiation belts, encircle Earth. The discovery of a third, middle ring by NASA's twin Van Allen probes, launched in August 2012, suggests that these belts, which have puzzled scientists for over 50 years, are even stranger than we thought. Working out what caused the third ring to develop could help protect spacecraft from damaging doses of radiation.

Charged particles get trapped by Earth's magnetic field into two distinct regions, forming the belts. The inner belt, which extends from an altitude of 1600 to 12,900 kilometres, is fairly stable. But the outer belt, spanning altitudes ranging from 19,000 to 40,000 kilometres, can vary wildly. Over the course of minutes or hours, its electrons can be accelerated to close to the speed of light, and it can grow to 100 times its usual size.

Mystery acceleration

No one is sure what causes these "acceleration events", although it seems to have something to do with solar activity interacting with the Earths' magnetic field.

"That's one of the key things the probes are in place to understand," says Dan Baker of the University of Colorado, Boulder. "How does this cosmic accelerator, operating just a few thousand miles above our head, accelerate electrons to such extraordinarily high energies?"

When the Van Allen probes started taking data on 1 September 2012, one of these mysterious events was already under way. "We came in the middle of the movie there," Baker says. But otherwise, he says, "What we expected was what we saw when we first turned on: two distinct belts, separated."

That changed a day later when, to the team's surprise, an extra ring developed between the inner and outer ones. "We watched it develop right before our eyes," Baker says. The new, middle ring was relatively narrow, and its electrons had energies between 4 and 7.5 megaelectronvolts - about the same as in the outer Van Allen belt during an acceleration event.

Although the outer ring displayed its characteristic inconstancy, the new middle ring barely budged for nearly four weeks. Then a shock wave, probably linked to a burst of solar activity, wiped it out in less than an hour on 1 October...."

Journal reference: Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.1233518