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The sun is dead!! Mini iceage???

  • 21-04-2009 12:35pm
    Closed Accounts Posts: 2,693 ✭✭✭Redsunset

    Are we approaching a mini iceage folks? history does have a habit of repeating itself.its definately bein colder of late.bring it on i's some info on current state of our shining orb.all comments and thoughts welcome folks.

    Dark spots, some as large as 50,000 miles in diameter, typically move across the surface of the sun, contracting and expanding as they go. These strange and powerful phenomena are known as sunspots, but now they are all gone. Not even solar physicists know why it’s happening and what this odd solar silence might be indicating for our future.

    Although periods of inactivity are normal for the sun, this current period has gone on much longer than usual and scientists are starting to worry—at least a little bit. Recently 100 scientists from Europe, Asia, Latin America, Africa and North America gathered to discuss the issue at an international solar conference at Montana State University. Today's sun is as inactive as it was two years ago, and solar physicists don’t have a clue as to why.
    "It continues to be dead," said Saku Tsuneta with the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, program manager for the Hinode solar mission, noting that it is at least a little bit worrisome for scientists.
    Dana Longcope, a solar physicist at MSU, said the sun usually operates on an 11-year cycle with maximum activity occurring in the middle of the cycle. 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. But so far nothing is happening.
    "It's a dead face," Tsuneta said of the sun's appearance.
    Tsuneta said solar physicists aren't weather forecasters and they can't predict the future. They do have the ability to observe, however, and they have observed a longer-than-normal period of solar inactivity. In the past, they observed that the sun once went 50 years without producing sunspots. That period coincided with a little ice age on Earth that lasted from 1650 to 1700. Coincidence? Some scientists say it was, but many worry that it wasn’t.
    Geophysicist Phil Chapman, the first Australian to become an astronaut with NASA, said pictures from the US Solar and Heliospheric Observatory also show that there are currently no spots on the sun. He also noted that the world cooled quickly between January last year and January this year, by about 0.7C.
    "This is the fastest temperature change in the instrumental record, and it puts us back to where we were in 1930," Dr Chapman noted in The Australian recently.
    If the world does face another mini Ice Age, it could come without warning. Evidence for abrupt climate change is readily found in ice cores taken from Greenland and Antarctica. One of the best known examples of such an event is the Younger Dryas cooling, which occurred about 12,000 years ago, named after the arctic wildflower found in northern European sediments. This event began and ended rather abruptly, and for its entire 1000 year duration the North Atlantic region was about 5°C colder. Could something like this happen again? There’s no way to tell, and because the changes can happen all within one decade—we might not even see it coming.
    The Younger Dryas occurred at a time when orbital forcing should have continued to drive climate to the present warm state. The unexplained phenomenon has been the topic of much intense scientific debate, as well as other millennial scale events.
    Now this 11-year low in Sunspot activity has raised fears among a small but growing number of scientists that rather than getting warmer, the Earth could possibly be about to return to another cooling period. The idea is especially intriguing considering that most of the world is in preparation for global warming.
    Canadian scientist Kenneth Tapping of the National Research Council has also noted that solar activity has entered into an unusually inactive phase, but what that means—if anything—is still anyone’s guess. Another solar scientist, Oleg Sorokhtin, a fellow of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, however, is certain that it’s an indication of a coming cooling period.
    Sorokhtin believes that a lack of sunspots does indicate a coming cooling period based on certain past trends and early records. In fact, he calls manmade climate change "a drop in the bucket" compared to the fierce and abrupt cold that can potentially be brought on by inactive solar phases.
    Sorokhtin’s advice: "Stock up on fur coats"…just in case

    The Sun is the dimmest it has been for nearly a century.
    There are no sunspots, very few solar flares - and our nearest star is the quietest it has been for a very long time.
    The observations are baffling astronomers, who are due to study new pictures of the Sun, taken from space, at the UK National Astronomy Meeting.
    The Sun normally undergoes an 11-year cycle of activity. At its peak, it has a tumultuous boiling atmosphere that spits out flares and planet-sized chunks of super-hot gas. This is followed by a calmer period.
    Last year, it was expected that it would have been hotting up after a quiet spell. But instead it hit a 50-year year low in solar wind pressure, a 55-year low in radio emissions, and a 100-year low in sunspot activity.
    According to Prof Louise Hara of University College London, it is unclear why this is happening or when the Sun is likely to become more active again.
    "There's no sign of us coming out of it yet," she told BBC News.
    "At the moment, there are scientific papers coming out suggesting that we'll be going into a normal period of activity soon.
    "Others are suggesting we'll be going into another minimum period - this is a big scientific debate at the moment."
    _45683065_sun-images.jpg Sunspots could be seen by the Soho telescope in 2001 (l), but not this year (r)

    In the mid-17th Century, a quiet spell - known as the Maunder Minimum - lasted 70 years, and led to a "mini ice-age".
    This has resulted in some people suggesting that a similar cooling might offset the impact of climate change.
    According to Prof Mike Lockwood of Southampton University, this view is too simplistic.
    "I wish the Sun was coming to our aid but, unfortunately, the data shows that is not the case," he said.
    Prof Lockwood was one of the first researchers to show that the Sun's activity has been gradually decreasing since 1985, yet overall global temperatures have continued to rise.
    "If you look carefully at the observations, it's pretty clear that the underlying level of the Sun peaked at about 1985 and what we are seeing is a continuation of a downward trend (in solar activity) that's been going on for a couple of decades.
    "If the Sun's dimming were to have a cooling effect, we'd have seen it by now."
    'Middle ground'
    Evidence from tree trunks and ice cores suggest that the Sun is calming down after an unusually high point in its activity.
    Professor Lockwood believes that as well as the Sun's 11-year cycle, there is an underlying solar oscillation lasting hundreds of years.
    He suggests that 1985 marked the "grand maximum" in this long-term cycle and the Maunder Minimum marked its low point.
    "We are re-entering the middle ground after a period which has seen the Sun in its top 10% of activity," said Professor Lockwood.
    "We would expect it to be more than a hundred years before we get down to the levels of the Maunder Minimum."
    He added that the current slight dimming of the Sun is not going to reverse the rise in global temperatures caused by the burning of fossil fuels.
    "What we are seeing is consistent with a global temperature rise, not that the Sun is coming to our aid."
    Data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) shows global average temperatures have risen by about 0.7C since the beginning of the 20th Century.
    And the IPCC projects that the world will continue to warm, with temperatures expected to rise between 1.8C and 4C by the end of the century.
    No-one knows how the centuries-long waxing and waning of the Sun works. However, astronomers now have space telescopes studying the Sun in detail.
    According to Prof Richard Harrison of the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Oxfordshire, this current quiet period gives astronomers a unique opportunity.
    "This is very exciting because as astronomers we've never seen anything like this before in our lifetimes," he said.
    "We have spacecraft up there to study the Sun in phenomenal detail. With these telescopes we can study this minimum of activity in a way that we could not have done so in the past."

    The sunspot cycle is behaving a little like the stock market. Just when you think it has hit bottom, it goes even lower.
    2008 was a bear. There were no sunspots observed on 266 of the year's 366 days (73%). To find a year with more blank suns, you have to go all the way back to 1913, which had 311 spotless days: Prompted by these numbers, some observers suggested that the solar cycle had hit bottom in 2008.
    Maybe not. Sunspot counts for 2009 have dropped even lower. As of March 31st, there were no sunspots on 78 of the year's 90 days (87%).
    It adds up to one inescapable conclusion: "We're experiencing a very deep solar minimum," says solar physicist Dean Pesnell of the Goddard Space Flight Center.
    "This is the quietest sun we've seen in almost a century," agrees sunspot expert David Hathaway of the Marshall Space Flight Center.

    Quiet suns come along every 11 years or so. It's a natural part of the sunspot cycle, discovered by German astronomer Heinrich Schwabe in the mid-1800s. Sunspots are planet-sized islands of magnetism on the surface of the sun; they are sources of solar flares, coronal mass ejections and intense UV radiation. Plotting sunspot counts, Schwabe saw that peaks of solar activity were always followed by valleys of relative calm—a clockwork pattern that has held true for more than 200 years:.
    The current solar minimum is part of that pattern. In fact, it's right on time. "We're due for a bit of quiet—and here it is," says Pesnell.

    But is it supposed to be this quiet? In 2008, the sun set the following records:

    A 50-year low in solar wind pressure: Measurements by the Ulysses spacecraft reveal a 20% drop in solar wind pressure since the mid-1990s—the lowest point since such measurements began in the 1960s. The solar wind helps keep galactic cosmic rays out of the inner solar system. With the solar wind flagging, more cosmic rays are permitted to enter, resulting in increased health hazards for astronauts. Weaker solar wind also means fewer geomagnetic storms and auroras on Earth.
    A 12-year low in solar "irradiance": Careful measurements by several NASA spacecraft show that the sun's brightness has dropped by 0.02% at visible wavelengths and 6% at extreme UV wavelengths since the solar minimum of 1996. The changes so far are not enough to reverse the course of global warming, but there are some other significant side-effects: Earth's upper atmosphere is heated less by the sun and it is therefore less "puffed up." Satellites in low Earth orbit experience less atmospheric drag, extending their operational lifetimes. Unfortunately, space junk also remains longer in Earth orbit, increasing hazards to spacecraft and satellites.

    "What is Solar Minimum and Why Should We Care?"
    A 55-year low in solar radio emissions: After World War II, astronomers began keeping records of the sun's brightness at radio wavelengths. Records of 10.7 cm flux extend back all the way to the early 1950s. Radio telescopes are now recording the dimmest "radio sun" since 1955: Some researchers believe that the lessening of radio emissions is an indication of weakness in the sun's global magnetic field. No one is certain, however, because the source of these long-monitored radio emissions is not fully understood.
    All these lows have sparked a debate about whether the ongoing minimum is "weird", "extreme" or just an overdue "market correction" following a string of unusually intense solar maxima.
    "Since the Space Age began in the 1950s, solar activity has been generally high," notes Hathaway. "Five of the ten most intense solar cycles on record have occurred in the last 50 years. We're just not used to this kind of deep calm."
    Deep calm was fairly common a hundred years ago. The solar minima of 1901 and 1913, for instance, were even longer than the one we're experiencing now. To match those minima in terms of depth and longevity, the current minimum will have to last at least another year.
    In a way, the calm is exciting, says Pesnell. "For the first time in history, we're getting to see what a deep solar minimum is really like." A fleet of spacecraft including the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), the twin STEREO probes, the five THEMIS probes, Hinode, ACE, Wind, TRACE, AIM, TIMED, Geotail and others are studying the sun and its effects on Earth 24/7 using technology that didn't exist 100 years ago. Their measurements of solar wind, cosmic rays, irradiance and magnetic fields show that solar minimum is much more interesting and profound than anyone expected.
    Bristling with advanced sensors, "SDO" is slated to launch later this year--perfect timing to study the ongoing solar minimum.
    Modern technology cannot, however, predict what comes next. Competing models by dozens of top solar physicists disagree, sometimes sharply, on when this solar minimum will end and how big the next solar maximum will be. The great uncertainty stems from one simple fact: No one fully understands the underlying physics of the sunspot cycle.

    Current conditions
    Updated: Today at: 1145 UT spacer.gif spacer.gifThe sun is blank
    spacer.gifspacer.gifSunspot number: 0

    NEW: Spotless Days
    Current Stretch: 25 days
    2009 total: 97 days (88%)
    Since 2004: 608 days
    Typical Solar Min: 485 days

    Updated 20 Apr 2009
    Updated: Today at 1146 UT spacer.gifCoronal Holes: spacer.gifcoronalhole_soho_163.gif spacer.gifThere are no large coronal holes on the Earth-facing side of the sun. Credit: SOHO Extreme UV Telescope spacer.gifspacer.gifSPACE WEATHER

    What impact will the sun's deep minima have on the future climate? 569 votes

    Climate getting progressively cooler through next solar cycles
    8% 48 votes
    No impact
    48% 274 votes
    Global warming is here to stay
    24% 137 votes
    Calm before the solar storm of 2012-2013
    19% 110 votes



  • Closed Accounts Posts: 2,693 ✭✭✭Redsunset

    spaceweather update-new sunspot forming

    Daily Sun: 21 Apr 09 spacer.gifmidi163.gif spacer.gifA new sunspot is forming at the circled location. The magnetic polarity of the spot identifies it as a member of new Solar Cycle 24. Credit: SOHO/MDI
    spacer.gifred_gradient_band.jpgspacer.gifSunspot number: 7
    What is the sunspot number?
    Updated 21 Apr 2009

    NEW: Spotless Days
    Current Stretch: 0 days
    2009 total: 97 days (88%)
    Since 2004: 608 days
    Typical Solar Min: 485 days
    explanation | more info
    Updated 21 Apr 2009

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 2,693 ✭✭✭Redsunset

    this breaks 25 consecutive days of no is the spotless days to date this year and last year.

    Out of 365 days in 2008, 266 were without sunspots. So far in 2009, January had 25 sunspot free days; February had 23 sun spot free days; and March had 28 sun spot free days. Solar Cycle 23 began in a May 1996 minimum, so by April 2009, it's been thirteen years between minimums and still no increasing sunspots. The last time a solar cycle has gone thirteen years between minimums was Solar Cycle 15 in 1902 to 1913.

  • Registered Users Posts: 14,223 ✭✭✭✭M.T. Cranium

    Here's how I see it ...

    We appear to be heading for at least a minor solar downturn, perhaps not another Maunder minimum, but possibly something equivalent to the Dalton minimum which lasted from about 1797 to 1827 with only weak solar peaks around 1801-04, 1815-17 in that stretch.

    The current situation is about the same as around 1810, you could compare the two major peaks in 1778 and 1787 (a long duration peak) with 1979 and 1989, and then the moderate peak of 1801-04 with the recent 1999-2002 period. So we are in that situation with declining peaks of activity in our recent past, and a long extinction of the most recent peak followed by several years of very quiet solar behaviour as in 1809-11 (almost no sunspots then either).

    The Dalton minimum was also associated with a downturn in global temperatures but this is compromised by the 1815 eruption of Tamboro and the largest volcanic dust veil of recent historic times. If that had not come along in the middle of the Dalton minimum (albeit at one of the weak sunspot peaks) it is not so clear how much of a temperature signal would have been reported in the Dalton.

    There was another minimum that goes without a name from about 1875 to 1915, this was a more subdued downturn in solar activity but in general the weather was fairly cold in this period as well; once again, there was a major volcanic eruption (Krakatoa) at a weak solar maximum in this interval.

    Our current situation relative to that period would be similar to about 1877-78 although there was a major El Nino event in 1876-77 so the climate signals would have been different going into this analogue. The years 1879 to 1881brought notable cold to Europe although in North America the more obvious cold period was 1883 to 1888.

    I have to qualify all of my statements on climate with the observation that I see "global warming" as considerably over-hyped in the first place, so a slight downturn in temperatures in recent years means nothing much more to me than a sign of random variability raising its head. I don't see the current global climate as unusually cold, in fact over in the UK they are on course to record the second if not all-time warmest April in 350 years. Of course it was a colder than average winter in most of Europe and some parts of North America too.

    The other variable in this puzzle is that solar-terrestrial connections are not proven either, the Maunder minimum certainly fell in the coldest part of the Little Ice Age but that extended through many centuries of variable solar activity, granted much of it was lower than the active 20th century, but there are glaring counter-examples to the solar activity theory, for example, the winter of 1947 took place near a very active solar max, and the hot summer of 1911 was during a three-year interval of quiet sun conditions, while 2006 was also a declining rather quiet year.

    The main thing for me is that the global warming or climate change lobby have probably failed to prove their contention that runaway warming lies ahead unless we follow some extreme program of greenhouse gas reductions, what seems more likely to me is that natural variability has been driving the observed changes, and that scientists have been confusing their model output based on assumptions with locked-in real world changes that must necessarily occur (because their models predict them). This to me is the continuing fallacy often present in climatology through the decades, that the future climate will be a linear extension of the recent past climate. These trends often reverse and sometimes on very short notice.

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 2,693 ✭✭✭Redsunset


    Beautiful image where you can clearly see that newly formed sunspot.

    Some scientists believe that an extreme cooling episode, potentially a mini-ice age, is imminent. Others think that it may already be under way.


    We know that when UV rays combine with oxygen to produce ozone, heat is generated. Fewer UV rays means less ozone—and thus less heat—is produced.
    When eruptive activity on the Sun decreases, solar winds weaken; fewer solar flares occur; and fewer geomagnetic storms reach Earth's atmosphere. A decrease in solar activity leads to an increase in cosmic rays reaching Earth's lower atmosphere.
    Cosmic rays increase low cloudiness, which reflects solar radiation. Thus, an increase in cosmic rays leads to cooling. (Conversely, fewer cosmic rays result in fewer low clouds, more sunshine, and warmer temperatures.)

    9265-6a00d8341cecb553ef00e5542471748834-120pi.jpgimagine this eh!!!

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 2,693 ✭✭✭Redsunset

    hey MTC,glad to read your thoughts and important relevant info on all this.i agree with you 100%,its not set in stone by any means on what actually triggered past severe cold spells.perhaps all we need now is a serious eruption to take place during this quiet solar spell.plumes of ash to start the chain reaction or perhaps its all cods wallop.however all past experiences can't be overlooked.

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  • Closed Accounts Posts: 88,978 ✭✭✭✭mike65

    Say yes to global warming!

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 2,693 ✭✭✭Redsunset

    mike65 wrote: »
    Say yes to global warming!

    :pac::pac: Global Warming has gone on strike.

    latest sunspot activity movie for the last month


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 2,693 ✭✭✭Redsunset

    Here's some more info for those not fully understanding what we mean when we talk of the Maunder Minimum.

    The Maunder minimum is the name given to a period of extreme solar inactivity that occurred between 1645 and 1710. Of particular interest is that this period of inactivity corresponds closely to one of the coldest periods of the so-called "Little Ice Age" in Europe, a time of long, cold winters that caused severe hardships in the pre-industrial revolution world. This has led scientists to extensively study the possible influences of solar activity on terrestrial climate, as well as examine other stars for evidence of activity cycle behavior similar to the Sun's.

    Some of the first telescopic observations were made by Galileo in 1611, and he immediately noted the presence of dark blemishes on the Sun's surface; these were the now well-known sunspots. (Several of Galileo's contemporaries saw sunspots as well, but Galileo is the most famous and usually gets the credit for "discovering" sunspots.) Today we know that the number of sunspots rises and falls in a roughly 11-year cycle; this is one of the most obvious manifestations of the solar activity cycle.

    Although sunspots were observed telescopically in 1611, it was not until 1843 that an amateur German astronomer, Heinrich Schwabe, noticed a periodic rise and fall in their numbers. That it took over 200 years for astronomers to notice something so seemingly obvious is some cause for wonder, but it may be partly explained by the nearly complete absence of sunspots for 70 of those years, between 1645 and 1715.

    For reasons not yet understood, the solar cycle operated at a greatly reduced amplitude during that time. Evidence suggests it did not cease entirely, but the sunspot number—an index representing the total level of sunspot activity at a given time—during the late 1600s was reduced by a factor of 10-20 from its typical value during "normal" cycles. This perplexing aspect of the sunspot record was formally pointed out by the astronomers F. W. G. Sporer and E. H. Maunder in 1890, and it is now known as the Maunder minimum.

    The existence of the Maunder minimum is interesting on purely astrophysical grounds, because it suggests that the regular rise and fall of sunspots observed from 1715 all the way through to the present day may not be a permanent, or even typical, aspect of solar behavior. It is possible to create a rough reconstruction of the sunspot record prior to the invention of the telescope, using indirect indicators of solar activity, and there is evidence for other Maunder minimum-like periods intermittently from about A.D. 1250 through 1715. The solar cycle as observed today, is therefore not the state in which the Sun spends all—or even most—of its time. Having only observed one Maunder minimum, we have no idea whether the Sun spends 10%, 50%, or 90% of its time in such a state.

    Even the "normal" 11-year cycle seems to have longer-term behavior. Different cycles have different strengths, with some of them showing more sunspot activity than others. The strengths of the cycle peaks seem to follow a roughly 80-year period of very strong cycles, slightly weaker ones, then back to stronger ones, and so forth. With detailed sunspot records extending only a few hundred years, it is difficult to confirm or disprove this hypothesis. Combined with evidence for multiple periods of nearly complete inactivity, it becomes impossible to say whether the solar activity cycle, so extensively studied in the last 30 years, is normality or an aberration.

    The seemingly erratic behavior of the solar cycle has led a number of astronomers to spend the better parts of their careers studying activity cycles on other stars, the idea being that if those stars show activity cycles or Maunder minimum-like characteristics, we might be better able to understand our own star. Most of this pioneering work has been carried out at the Mt. Wilson Observatory, near Los Angeles. Observations of solar-like stars have been underway at Mt. Wilson since 1963, and the program has accumulated a vast database of solar activity data. The result has been the discovery of a veritable zoo of activity cycles. Some stars have well-behaved cycles with periods comparable to our own Sun's 11-year cycle; these are of particular interest for comparison to the Sun. Other stars have highly variable cycles, while still others vary wildly but with no discernible, regular period. Finally, there are stars that show a complete absence of any activity cycle. Some of them appear to show no cyclic activity at all, while others exhibit tantalizing evidence of having "turned off" midway through the 30 years they have been observed from Earth. Whether or not these stars are truly in a Maunder minimum phase has not been answered, because it is very difficult to tell if they have low-amplitude cycles or no cycles at all, and it is even more difficult to study their finer characteristics in detail. However, there is no doubt that pronounced, fairly regular activity cycles like the Sun's are not universal either for the Sun or its stellar cousins.

    Examinations of the solar activity cycle and the unusually cold weather of the Maunder minimum period have spurred significant controversy among astronomers, atmospheric scientists, and climatologists. The period from about 1300-1715 is known as the "Little Ice Age" in Europe, a period characterized by unusually long and cold winters. This period coincides closely with the time during which the Sun is known to have had time of inactivity, with some of the worst weather occurring squarely during the Maunder minimum.

    In 1991, a pair of Danish meteorologists published a paper in which they pointed out a remarkably strong correlation between the length of the solar activity cycle and the global mean temperature in the northern hemisphere. Not all activity cycles are the same length, with longer cycles (12-14 years) seeming to indicate cooler global temperatures than the short (9-10 year) cycles. It is very difficult to assess the effect of even recent solar cycles on global climate, let alone those from the Maunder minimum period, because of the relatively short time span for which detailed observations exist, and because climate records become sparse to nonexistent as one looks back more than a century or so.
    Despite the ongoing controversy, for which there is decidedly no definitive answer as of the year 2000, there is no doubt the Maunder minimum years were a time of significant misery in Europe, with the long, harsh winters leading to shortened growing seasons, failed crops, and widespread famine. Whether, or to what degree, the Sun is responsible for this, is an important question for atmospheric scientists and astronomers to tackle over the next few decades.

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 2,693 ✭✭✭Redsunset

    FADING SUNSPOT: New sunspot 1015 emerged yesterday to break a string of 25 consecutive spotless days. A new string of spotlessness is about to begin. Less than 24 hours after it appeared, the tiny sunspot is already fading away.looks like its been handed its P45,ah bless:D


    Daily Sun: 22 Apr 09
    Sunspot 1015 is fading away. It emerged late yesterday, April 21st, with a magnetic imprint that identifies it as a member of new Solar Cycle 24. At the rate it is decaying, the lifetime of the spot could total fewer than 24 hours. Credit: SOHO/MDI

    Sunspot number: 11
    What is the sunspot number?
    Updated 22 Apr 2009

    NEW: Spotless Days
    Current Stretch: 0 days
    2009 total: 97 days (88%)
    Since 2004: 608 days
    Typical Solar Min: 485 days
    explanation | more info
    Updated 22 Apr 2009

    just for fun,heres a solar flare with the earth next to it.anyone for toast.

  • Registered Users Posts: 14,223 ✭✭✭✭M.T. Cranium

    There are some solar activity records from before the telescope age, that are reconstructed mainly from auroral sightings through the centuries. Schove published these about forty years ago and they are available in the appendix to Hubert Lamb's two-volume work, "Climate, Past, Present and Future."

    I have a copy and it shows basically the following trends since about 290 AD (there are some scattered reports from earlier times but a more continuous record begins with a peak in 290 AD).

    Most of the 3rd and 4th centuries were active, comparable to the 18th century. From about 500 to 900 the Sun was somewhat less active according to these records, but the downturns were not any weaker than the Dalton, and there were some intervals of fairly intense activity. The 10th century was a period of strong activity, and this seemed to fade slowly through the 11th century.

    The period from about the 12th to the 14th century was active and some of the peaks in the late 14th century were estimated to be among the strongest ever recorded.

    Then the 15th century had a much weaker period, which is now known as the Sporer minimum. This century was just about as weak as the Maunder. The Sun then rebooted its cycles and became moderately active in the 16th and the first half of the 17th century. Galileo got to see some fairly regular sunspot cycles before he died (whenever that was) and there was a cycle that peaked in 1649 before the Maunder minimum set in.

    Longer records can be estimated on a more general basis from indirect records in pollen sediments (slight differences in radiation etc) and in general terms it is believed that the Sun basically has two modalities, one that is active and regular with 10-year cycles, and one that is less active and irregular with 12-15 year cycles. These seem to occupy roughly 75 and 25 per cent of the time, respectively.

    So the chances are fairly good that one of these weaker periods lies ahead, but weaker periods seem to come in all shapes and sizes; the average of their duration is about 30-40 years, and the longest they seem to last is about 70-80 years. However, the Sun can remain active without significant breakdowns of the cycles for up to 200 years. During these longer intervals of regular activity, there is a tendency for the peaks to increase towards a grand finale, then one or two moderate peaks towards the weak modality that follows. However, this is not always the case.

    I suspect some complex external cause because it is rather scary to think that our "stable" Sun is capable of such variations in activity just from internal processes alone. It makes you wonder what its range might actually be over ten thousand or a million years if what we've seen since 1500 is any indication.

    Now, in case anyone wonders, the correlation of auroral activity and sunspots is fairly high and so that method of estimation is probably fairly reliable. However, the auroral peak in each cycle often comes a little later than the sunspot cycle. So if you look at Schove's dates, you are probably looking at years that average 2-3 years later than the sunspot cycles.

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  • Closed Accounts Posts: 12,456 ✭✭✭✭Mr Benevolent

    Am I missing something? There's an enormous star 8 minutes light travel away. Its thermonuclear energy is furiously blazing away to keep us alive and toasty for the next few billion years, and people are saying it's dead?

    That's just stupid.

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 2,693 ✭✭✭Redsunset

    ah come on now confab,its the scientist way of discribing the sun going through its extended solar minimum cycle.should have picked up by now.thats why there's all this talk of previous historic events like the dalton and maunder minimum.

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 2,693 ✭✭✭Redsunset

    Right everyone had a discussion today on the unusual solar minimum today,now its all very technical but basically saying that,

    Looking at the magnetic field strength on the surface of the sun, there is little difference with "normal" cycles, but there ARE differences, and as expected, they are at the end of the cycle

    Looking at bands at the middle of both hemispheres and comparing the magnetic field in it with the region around the equator shows that the northern hemisphere is basically the same but there is a significant difference in the southern hemispere

    This also comes out clearly in the butterfly diagrams of the magnetic field, where the northern "wing" is the same (basicaly) for cycles 21 22 and 23, however, the southern "wing" is longer and more intense for 23 as compared with 21 and 22

    Also, the solar magnetic field has not yet returned to a dipole field, which is usual for the real solar minimum

    What could be important is that the sun is on its way to exit the period of GSM (Grand Solar Maximum). As the last time this occurred was before the space age, we do not know what "is supposed to happen" at that point. The estimate was that the GSM would end in 9 +/- 8 years, so it could be happening soon

    The UV emission of the Sun has not changed at all, which is interesting as the other parameters have changed a lot (being "dimmer", solar wind less magnetic field strength and less ram pressure because of lower density). The ratio of He of H has not changed.

    Basically, the feeling is that we are in a very very interesting time of solar physics. Everything is being measured, and this is the first time in the space age that we have an anomalous minimum and that we are leaving a GSM.

    the whole abstract pdf of meeting is

    Alot to take in but interesting if our sun does decide to stay in a slumber.we really don't know whats gonna happen but personally i'd welcome a return to great snowstorms of yesteryear.

    (AB2) MIST/UKSP The Unusual (?) Solar Minimum
    When Did Solar Cycle 23 Go Wrong?
    K. Strong (NASA GSFC / SP Systems), Julia Saba (Lockheed Martin Advanced
    Technology Center)
    We use over 400 Kitt Peak synoptic maps of the unsigned solar magnetic flux to contrast and
    compare the magnetic evolution of the last 3 solar cycles. We find that flux levels and the
    spatial distribution of the strong field (>50G) during Cycle 23 are similar to the previous 2
    cycles in the northern hemisphere. However, the southern hemisphere of the Sun has
    behaved anomalously during Cycle 23. Could we have predicted this? If so, how long ago
    would this change in the magnetic evolution in the South have become evident? The
    behavior of the strong-field flux poses several challenges for dynamo and flux transport
    models by imposing faster timescales and asymmetries that are currently not included in the
    Stark Differences between Solar Activity Data and
    Oscillation Frequencies Observed in BiSON Data
    A. Broomhall (University of Birmingham), W.J. Chaplin, Y. Elsworth, S.T.
    Fletcher, R. New
    It is well known that seismic frequencies obtained from Sun-as-a-Star Doppler velocity
    observations, such as those made by the Birmingham Solar Oscillations Network (BiSON),
    respond to changes in the surface activity associated with the solar cycle. The solar cycle
    shifts associated with p-mode frequencies are usually well correlated to activity proxies such
    as the 10.7cm radio flux. BiSON is in a unique position as it has now been collecting data for
    over 30yrs and so is able to compare observed frequencies with activity data for more than 2
    complete solar cycles.
    We find unusually large differences between the p-mode frequencies observed in BiSON
    data and the levels of activity indicated by different proxies during the declining phase of
    cycle 23 and the current solar minimum. Furthermore, we find that the cycle minimum
    indicated by the helioseismic data is significantly deeper than the minima observed by the
    activity proxies. We also observe a quasi-biennial signal in the p-mode frequencies.
    Observational Periodicities of Sunspot and
    Background Magnetic Fields in the solar cycle and
    their Role in the Future Prediction
    S.Zharkov (University of Sheffield, University of Bradford) and
    Zharkova V.V. (University of Bradford)
    We will present comparative statistical analysis of latitudinal variations of the sunspot and
    background magnetic fields (BMF) in a few past solar cycles and deduce some additional
    periodicities fluctuating in time and latitudes. The deduced periods will be tested with
    Principle Component Analysis methodology and the principle eigenvalues are to be reported.
    The role of principal dynamo waves in the solar activity and their implications on sunspot
    numbers in the current cycle will be discussed.
    (AB2) MIST/UKSP The Unusual (?) Solar Minimum
    Open Solar Flux and Irradiance during the Current
    Exceptional Solar Minimum: Implications for
    Reconstruction of Past Solar Variability
    M. Lockwood (Southampton University and RAL), Alexis Rouillard and Matt
    The current solar minimum has revealed record low values of both the open solar flux and the
    solar irradiance since space measurements began. The implications for reconstructions of
    the variations of both prior to the space age are discussed.
    Heliospheric Observations of a Deep Solar Minimum
    M. Owens (Imperial College London)
    The deep solar minimum seen in remote observations of anomalously-low sunspot number
    and weak photospheric magnetic fields, is also present in heliospheric measurements made
    in situ. The solar wind dynamic pressure has dropped approximately 20 % from previous
    solar cycles and the near-Earth heliospheric field strength is at its weakest since
    observations began ~45-years ago. We interpret single point heliospheric observations in
    terms of the global heliosphere and show the total magnetic flux content of the heliosphere
    has been falling over the last three solar minima. The solar minimum-to-maximum cycle
    variation in flux can be attributed, to some degree, to closed magnetic flux added by coronal
    mass ejections (CMEs). There is some observational evidence that the CME rate is also
    slightly reduced this minimum compared to the previous, though not sufficiently to completely
    explain the weakening of the heliospheric magnetic field.
    The 3D Heliosphere at the Minimum of Solar Cycle 23
    R. Forsyth (Imperial College London), T S Horbury, A Balogh
    The Ulysses spacecraft made its third set of polar passes through the heliosphere during the
    minimum of solar cycle 23 providing a 3D perspective on what has proved to be a
    dramatically different minimum from any other during the space age. Specifically the Ulysses
    observations also permit a direct comparison with the equivalent set of solar minimum
    passes 12 years previously during the late declining phase of solar cycle 22. Among the
    differences observed are a 22 % reduction in solar wind dynamic pressure, a 34 %
    reduction in the flux of the heliospheric magnetic field, and an approximately 40 % reduction
    in the amplitude of waves and turbulence in the high speed solar wind. A further emerging
    feature is evidence of a north-south asymmetry in the heliosphere, manifested for example in
    the structure of the heliospheric current sheet, the temperature of the high speed solar wind
    and the strength of magnetic field fluctuations. The sense of this asymmetry does not change
    through the solar cycle polarity reversal of the heliospheric magnetic field.
    Monitoring and First- Light Spectra from SphinX on
    Koronas- Photon during the Present Solar Minimum
    K. Phillips (UCL-Mullard Space Science Laboratory), B. Sylwester, J. Sylwester,
    and the SphinX Team

    AB2) MIST/UKSP The Unusual (?) Solar Minimum
    The levels of solar X-ray emission during the present minimum have dropped so low that one
    of the chief traditional means of defining the emission, viz. the 1-8 Angstrom channel of
    GOES, is below A1, the lowest level that can be reached by the ion chambers on board
    GOES. The SphinX instrument, part of the TESIS instrument package on KORONASPHOTON
    and built and operated by the Space Research Centre in Wroclaw, Poland (PI Prof.
    J. Sylwester), has been recording the emission in the 1.5-15 keV (0.8-8 A) band since shortly
    after spacecraft launch on 2009 February 20. SphinX is a spectrophotometer with four
    channels (D1-D4) able to record the solar spectrum with spectral resolution of between 320
    eV (D2-D4) and 460 eV (D1) using PIN detectors, so enabling the main features of the solar
    spectrum to be identified and used for temperature determination. Pre-launch calibration
    procedures (at BESSY and Palermo) should enable a high intensity calibration accuracy. In
    this presentation, initial results including estimates of the solar soft X-ray flux and luminosity
    will be given and compared with those made during previous solar minima.
    The Solar Cycle, the Mean Global Temperature and
    Solar Irradiance
    A. Wolfendale (Durham), A.D.Erlykin and T Sloan.
    The correlation of low cloud cover and mean temperature with cosmic ray flux and solar
    irradiance is examined. We find no genuine signal for the former but a small one for solar
    irradiance. However, even here there are problems.

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 2,693 ✭✭✭Redsunset

    And now to really throw a spanner in the works,here's an article from the mail online,gas how it then concludes that its due but may not now hoping too that this quiet period we're experiencing isn't the calm before the storm.

    Meltdown! A solar superstorm could send us back into the dark ages - and one is due in just THREE years

    By Michael Hanlon
    Last updated at 11:24 PM on 19th April 2009
    The catastrophe, when it comes, will be beautiful at first. It is a balmy evening in late September 2012. Ever since the sun set, the dimming skies over London have been alive with fire.

    Pillars of incandescent green writhe like gigantic serpents across the skies.

    Sheets of orange race across the horizon during the most spectacular display of the aurora borealis seen in southern England for 153 years.

    article-1171951-048ABEAF000005DC-343_468x286.jpg Trouble ahead: How the sun storm might look in London

    And then, 90 seconds later, the lights start to go out. Not the lights in the sky - they will dazzle until dawn - but the lights on the ground.

    Within an hour, large parts of Britain are without power.

    By midnight, every mobile network is down and the internet is dying. Television - terrestrial and satellite - blinks off the air.

    Radio is reduced to a burst of static.

    By noon the following day, it is clear something terrible has happened and the civilised world has plunged into chaos.

    A year later, Britain, most of Europe plus North America is in the grip of the deepest economic catastrophe in history.

    By the end of 2013, 100,000 Europeans have died of starvation.

    The dead go unburied, the sick untreated.

    It will take two decades or more for the first green shoots of recovery to appear - recovery from the first solar superstorm in modern history.

    This catastrophe is not some academic one-in-a-million chance scenario.

    It is a very real threat which, according to a report in the latest issue of New Scientist, remains one of the most potent, yet least recognised, threats to the future of human civilisation.

    article-1171951-006F2A05000004B0-942_468x286.jpg Solar activity: The sun, seen through a NASA telescope

    Moreover, it is something that has happened before - not that long ago - and indeed has the potential to arrive every 11 years.

    So what actually is it?

    Solar storms do not normally cause much concern. Swarms of electrically charged subatomic particles from the Sun periodically buffet the Earth and its surroundings, causing health worries for astronauts and the owners of satellites, whose delicate electronics can be fried.

    But down on the surface, cocooned under an ocean of air, we rarely notice more than the pretty lights in the sky, created as the electrically charged particles from the Sun sweep into the Earth's own magnetic field to generate the Northern and Southern Lights.

    But every now and then, the Sun is convulsed by a gigantic tempest: 50,000-mile-wide eddies of boiling hydrogen plasma on its surface ejecting a billion-tonne, malevolent blob of crackling-charged gas into space at a million miles an hour.

    And, very occasionally, one of these mighty coronal mass ejections, as they are called, smacks into the Earth head-on.

    This last happened on the morning of September 1, 1859.

    That day, one of Britain's top astronomers, Richard Carrington, was observing the Sun.

    Using a filter, he was able to study the solar surface through his telescope, and he saw something unusual.

    A bright flash of light erupted from the Sun's surface and detached itself from it.

    Unbeknown to Carrington, that bright spot was a cloud of charged plasma on its way to Earth.

    Just 48 hours later it struck, and the effects were extraordinary.

    Brilliant aurorae lit the Earth's night skies right down to the Tropics - their light being so brilliant it was possible to read a newspaper at midnight.

    In California, a group of gold miners were roused from their bed hours early, thinking the dawn and a new day's prospecting had come. It was 2am.

    Telegraph operators received severe electric shocks as solar-induced currents surged through the networks. It was as though the Earth had been immersed in a bath of electricity.

    Such damage as there was, was easy to repair. In 1859, the world ran mostly on steam and muscle.

    article-1171951-046E074A000005DC-110_468x409.jpg Solar flare: Large-scale activity on the sun in 2003

    Human civilisation did not depend on a gargantuan super-network of electric power and communications.

    But it does now. Electric power is modern society's 'cornerstone technology', the technology on which virtually all other infrastructures and services depend.

    Daniel Baker, a space weather expert at the University of Colorado, prepared a report for the U.S. National Academy of Sciences last month, and the conclusions make grim reading.

    'Every year, our human technology becomes more vulnerable,' he says.

    A repeat of the 1859 Carrington event today would have far graver consequences than the frying of some telegraph wires.

    The problem comes with our dependence on electricity and the way this electricity is generated and transmitted.

    A huge solar storm would cause massive power surges, amounting to billions of unwanted watts surging through the grids.

    Most critically, the transformers which convert the multi-thousand-volt current carried by the pylons into 240v domestic current would melt - thousands of them, in every country.

    This would bring the world to its knees. With no electricity, we would not just be in the dark.

    We are dependent, to a degree few of us perhaps appreciate, on a functioning grid for our survival. All our water and sewage plants run on electricity.

    A couple of days after a solar superstorm, the taps would run dry.

    Within a week, we would lose all heat and light as reserves ran out, the supermarket shelves would run empty and the complex supply and distribution networks upon which our society depends would have started to break down.

    No telephones, no medicines, no manufacturing, no farming - and no food.

    Global communications and travel would also collapse - a solar superstorm would probably destroy the network of GPS satellites upon which every airline depends.

    Of course, the power grid can be rebuilt, new transformers and cables made, new satellites launched - but organising this in a world teetering on the brink of collapse would not be easy.

    Humanity would recover, but it would take decades. A seemingly innocuous event, one which apparently poses no direct threat to human health at all, would have an effect on our world comparable to that of a small nuclear war.
    So could this really happen? And why is 2012 a year to worry about? Well, we know that solar superstorm did happen, back in 1859.

    And we know that 20 years ago a much smaller storm knocked out the power grid across much of eastern Canada, leaving nine million people without electricity.

    We also know that the Sun's activity waxes and wanes in 11-year cycles.

    Currently, the Sun is very quiet. But a solar maximum - a peak of activity - is predicted for 2012, and this is when a superstorm could strike, probably around either the spring or autumn equinox, when the orientation of the Earth's magnetic field to the Sun makes us very vulnerable.

    The main point is that every solar maximum puts us more in danger as our growing population becomes ever more dependent on electricity.

    Ironically, the least-affected parts of the world would probably be the poorest areas.

    Those Third World nations that usually suffer most from natural disasters, on account of their poor infrastructure, would adjust most quickly to life without electricity, while richer nations would be paralysed.

    So can anything be done to prevent an epic disaster?

    A more robust electricity grid would be a start. And we need new satellites to give warning of what is happening on the Sun.

    Of course, it may not happen in 2012 - it may not happen in 2023, the year of the next solar maximum.

    But sooner or later, a re-run of the Carrington event is inevitable.

    Perhaps it would be wise to start stocking up on some candles

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 212 ✭✭Jackeenboy

    So is the world ending or not??:p

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 441 ✭✭Kieo

    watching discovery channel a few months back they reckon there is to be a major tsunami on the way and it will completley cover most of southern europe and reach the american coast covering the entire new york state. There is a volcano on one of the canary islands(i think) and they think it will eurpt causing the entire west side of the island to break off and hit the water at such speed it will cause one of the biggest ever tsunamis that will travel at 500kms an this the end for us :eek:.

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 2,693 ✭✭✭Redsunset

    thats correct.half the volcano will slide into the atlantic creating will happen but we can,t tell when.gettin back to the thread,any comments on whats been happening with our sun and a possible severe cold occurance.

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 2,693 ✭✭✭Redsunset

    Posting this so people don't think the doomsday is coming after that mail online post.

    First and foremost, the Sun has a natural cycle with a period of approximately 11 years. During the lifetime of each cycle, the magnetic field lines of the Sun are dragged around the solar body by differential rotation at the solar equator. This means that the equator is spinning faster than the magnetic poles. As this continues, solar plasma drags the magnetic field lines around the Sun, causing stress and a build up of energy (an illustration of this is pictured). As magnetic energy increases, kinks in the magnetic flux form, forcing them to the surface. These kinks are known as coronal loops which become more numerous during periods of high solar activity.

    This is where the sunspots come in. As coronal loops continue to pop up over the surface, sunspots appear too, often located at the loop footpoints. Coronal loops have the effect of pushing the hotter surface layers of the Sun (the photosphere and chromosphere) aside, exposing the cooler convection zone (the reasons why the solar surface and atmosphere is hotter than the solar interior is down to the coronal heating phenomenon). As magnetic energy builds up, we can expect more and more magnetic flux to be forced together. This is when a phenomenon known as magnetic reconnection occurs.

    Reconnection is the trigger for solar flares of various sizes. As previously reported, solar flares from “nanoflares” to “X-class flares” are very energetic events. Granted, the largest flares my generate enough energy for 100 billion atomic explosions, but don’t let this huge figure concern you. For a start, this flare occurs in the low corona, right near the solar surface. That’s nearly 100 million miles away (1AU). The Earth is nowhere close to the blast.

    As the solar magnetic field lines release a huge amount of energy, solar plasma is accelerated and confined within the magnetic environment (solar plasma is superheated particles like protons, electrons and some light elements such as helium nuclei). As the plasma particles interact, X-rays may be generated if the conditions are right and bremsstrahlung is possible. (Bremsstrahlung occurs when charged particles interact, resulting in X-ray emission.) This may create an X-ray flare.

    The Problem with X-ray Solar Flares

    The biggest problem with an X-ray flare is that we get little warning when it is going to happen as X-rays travel at the speed of light (one of the record breaking 2003 solar flares is pictured.

    X-rays from an X-class flare will reach the Earth in around eight minutes. As X-rays hit our atmosphere, they are absorbed in the outermost layer called the ionosphere. As you can guess from the name, this is a highly charged, reactive environment, full of ions (atomic nuclei, and free electrons).

    During powerful solar events such as flares, rates of ionization between X-rays and atmospheric gases increase in the D and E region layers of the ionosphere. There is a sudden surge in electron production in these layers. These electrons can cause interference to the passage of radio waves through the atmosphere, absorbing short wave radio signals (in the high frequency range), possibly blocking global communications. These events are known as “Sudden Ionospheric Disturbances” (or SIDs) and they become commonplace during periods of high solar activity. Interestingly, the increase in electron density during a SID boosts the propagation of Very Low Frequency (VLF) radio, a phenomenon scientists use to measure the intensity of X-rays coming from the Sun.

    Coronal Mass Ejections?

    X-ray solar flare emissions are only part of the story. If the conditions are right, a coronal mass ejection (CME) might be produced at the site of the flare (although either phenomenon can occur independently). CMEs are slower than the propagation of X-rays, but their global effects here on Earth can be more problematic. They may not travel at the speed of light, but they still travel fast; they can travel at a rate of 2 million miles per hour (3.2 million km/hr), meaning they may reach us in a matter of hours.

    This is where much effort is being put into space weather prediction. We have a handful of spacecraft sitting between the Earth and the Sun at the Earth-Sun Lagrangian (L1) point with sensors on board to measure the energy and intensity of the solar wind. Should a CME pass through their location, energetic particles and the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) can be measured directly. One mission called the Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) sits in the L1 point and provides scientists with up to an hour notice on the approach of a CME. ACE teams up with the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) and the Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory (STEREO), so CMEs can be tracked from the lower corona into interplanetary space, through the L1 point toward Earth.

    These solar missions are actively working together to provide space agencies with advanced notice of an Earth-directed CME.
    So what if a CME reaches Earth? For a start, much depends on the magnetic configuration of the IMF (from the Sun) and the geomagnetic field of the Earth (the magnetosphere). Generally speaking, if both magnetic fields are aligned with polarities pointing in the same direction, it is highly probable that the CME will be repelled by the magnetosphere.

    In this case, the CME will slide past the Earth, causing some pressure and distortion on the magnetosphere, but otherwise passing without a problem. However, if the magnetic field lines are in an anti-parallel configuration (i.e. magnetic polarities in opposite directions), magnetic reconnection may occur at the leading edge of the magnetosphere.
    In this event, the IMF and magnetosphere will merge, connecting the Earth’s magnetic field with the Sun’s. This sets the scene for one of the most awe inspiring events in nature: the aurora.

    Satellites in Peril
    As the CME magnetic field connects with the Earth’s, high energy particles are injected into the magnetosphere. Due to solar wind pressure, the Sun’s magnetic field lines will fold around the Earth, sweeping behind our planet. The particles injected in the “dayside” will be funnelled into the polar regions of the Earth where they interact with our atmosphere, generating light as aurorae.

    During this time, the Van Allen belt will also become “super-charged”, creating a region around the Earth that could cause problems to unprotected astronauts and any unshielded satellites. For more on the damage that can be caused to astronauts and spacecraft, check out “Radiation Sickness, Cellular Damage and Increased Cancer Risk for Long-term Missions to Mars” and “New Transistor Could Side-Step Space Radiation Problem.”

    As if the radiation from the Van Allen belt wasn’t enough, satellites could succumb to the threat of an expanding atmosphere. As you’d expect, as if the Sun hits the Earth with X-rays and CMEs, there will be inevitable heating and global expansion of the atmosphere, possibly encroaching into satellite orbital altitudes.

    If left unchecked, an aerobraking effect on satellites could cause them to slow and drop in altitude. Aerobraking has been used extensively as a space flight tool to slow spacecraft down when being inserted into orbit around another planet, but this will have an adverse effect on satellites orbiting Earth as any slowing of velocity could cause it to re-enter the atmosphere.

    We Feel the Effects on the Ground Too

    Although satellites are on the front line, if there is a powerful surge in energetic particles entering the atmosphere, we may feel the adverse effects down here on Earth too. Due to the X-ray generation of electrons in the ionosphere, some forms of communication may become patchy (or be removed all together), but this isn’t all that can happen.

    Particularly in high-latitude regions, a vast electric current, known as an “electrojet”, may form through the ionosphere by these incoming particles. With an electric current comes a magnetic field. Depending on the intensity of the solar storm, currents may be induced down here on the ground, possibly overloading national power grids. On March 13th 1989, six million people lost power in the Quebec region of Canada after a huge increase in solar activity caused a surge from ground-induced currents. Quebec was paralysed for nine hours whilst engineers worked on a solution to the problem.

    Can Our Sun Produce a Killer Flare?

    The short answer to this is “no”.
    The longer answer is a little more involved. Whilst a solar flare from out Sun, aimed directly at us, could cause secondary problems such as satellite damage and injury to unprotected astronauts and blackouts, the flare itself is not powerful enough to destroy Earth, certainly not in 2012.

    I dare say, in the far future when the Sun begins to run out of fuel and swell into a red giant, it might be a bad era for life on Earth, but we have a few billion years to wait for that to happen. There could even be the possibility of several X-class flares being launched and by pure bad luck we may get hit by a series of CMEs and X-ray bursts, but none will be powerful to overcome our magnetosphere, ionosphere and thick atmosphere below.

    “Killer” solar flares have been observed on other stars. In 2006, NASA’s Swift observatory saw the largest stellar flare ever observed 135 light-years away. Estimated to have unleashed an energy of 50 million trillion atomic bombs, the II Pegasi flare will have wiped out most life on Earth if our Sun fired X-rays from a flare of that energy at us. However, our Sun is not II Pegasi. II Pegasi is a violent red giant star with a binary partner in a very close orbit. It is believed the gravitational interaction with its binary partner and the fact II Pegasi is a red giant is the root cause behind this energetic flare event.

    Doomsayers point to the Sun as a possible Earth-killer source, but the fact remains that our Sun is a very stable star. It does not have a binary partner (like II Pegasi), it has a predictable cycle (of approximately 11 years) and there is no evidence that our Sun contributed to any mass extinction event in the past via a huge Earth-directed flare. Very large solar flares have been observed (such as the 1859 Carrington white light flare)… but we are still here.

    In an added twist, solar physicists are surprised by the lack of solar activity at the start of this 24th solar cycle, leading to some scientists to speculate we might be on the verge of another Maunder minimum and “Little Ice Age”. This is in stark contrast to NASA solar physicist’s 2006 prediction that this cycle will be a “doozy”.

    This leads me to conclude that we still have a long way to go when predicting solar flare events. Although space weather prediction is improving, it will be a few years yet until we can read the Sun accurately enough to say with any certainty just how active a solar cycle is going to be. So, regardless of prophecy, prediction or myth, there is no physical way to say that the Earth will be hit by any flare, let alone a big one in 2012. Even if a big flare did hit us, it will not be an extinction event. Yes, satellites may be damaged, causing secondary problems such as a GPS loss (which might disrupt air traffic control for example) or national power grids may be overwhelmed by auroral electrojets, but nothing more extreme than that.

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 2,693 ✭✭✭Redsunset

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 2,693 ✭✭✭Redsunset

    The Little Ice Age, Ca. 1300 - 1870

    The Little Ice Age is a period between about 1300 and 1870 during which Europe and North America were subjected to much colder winters than during the 20th century. The period and can be divided in two phases, the first beginning around 1300 and continuing until the late 1400s.

    There was a slightly warmer period in the 1500s, after which the climate deteriorated substantially. The period between 1600 and 1800 marks the height of the Little Ice Age. The period was characterized by the expansion of European trade and the formation of European sea born Empires.

    This was directly linked to advances in technology harnessing more of nature's power and towards the end of the period fossil-fuelled power. These two hundred years also saw the specialization of agricultural regions, which produced specific products for local and international markets.

    What caused the Little Ice Age?

    Maunder minimum
    The cause of the Little Ice Age is unknown, but many people have pointed at the coincidence in low sunspot activity and the timing of the Little Ice. This so called Maunder Minimum1 coincided with the coldest part of the Little Ice Age, in particular during the period roughly from 1645 to 1715, when sunspots were a rare occurrence, as noted by solar observers such as Galileo. A minimum in sunspots, indicates an inactive and possibly colder sun and qonsequently less energy output to warm the earth.

    North Atlantic Oscillation
    The north Atlantic is one of the most climatically unstable regions in the world. This is caused by a complex interaction between the atmosphere and the ocean. The main feature of this is the North Atlantic Oscillation (NOA), a seesaw of atmospheric pressure between a persistent high over the Azores and an equally persistent low over Iceland. This is the "normal" pattern, but sometimes the pressure cells are trading places and that has severe consequences for the weather in Europe.

    When the situation reverses, called a Negative NOA (high over Iceland and Low over Azores) the westerlies weaken or even reverse and cold air is streaming over Europe, causing a cold winter here. In negative NAO winters, it is much less stormy over the North Atlantic.

    Any storms, which do occur, bring warm wet air from the ocean into the Mediterranean region. The small pressure difference allows northerly air to blow into Northern Europe making the winters dry and sunny but very cold here. There are strong indications that during the Little Ice Age the NOA was more often in a negative mode.

    Volcanic eruptions are another possible cause - for example, the year after the Tambora eruption (1815) was known as the "year without a summer." But, the effect of such eruptions might be limited to only a few years so this can not have been the cause for the prolonged climatic variations associated with the Little Ice Age.
    After 1870 the Little Ice Age made place for the slightly milder conditions of the 20th century.

    Marginal regions
    During the height of the Little Ice Age general, it was about 1 degree Celsius colder than at present. The Baltic Sea froze over, as did most of the rivers in Europe. Winters were bitterly cold and prolonged, reducing the growing season with several weeks. These conditions led to widespread crop failure, famine, and in some regions population decline.

    The prices of grain increased and wine became difficult to produce in many areas and commercial vineyards vanished in England. Fishing also was bad as the cod migrated south to find warmer water. Storminess and flooding increased. In mountainous regions the tree line and snowline dropped. In addition glaciers advanced in the Alps and Northern Europe, overrunning towns and farms in the process.

    Iceland was one of the hardest hit areas. Sea ice, which today is far to the north, came down around Iceland. In some years, it was difficult to bring a ship ashore anywhere along the coast. Grain became impossible to grow and even hay crops failed. Volcanic eruptions made life even harder. Iceland lost half of its population during the Little Ice Age.

    Scandinavia was also hard hit by the colder conditions of the Little Ice Age. Tax records show many farms were destroyed by advancing ice and by melt water streams. Travellers in Scotland reported permanent snow cover over the Cairgorms in Scotland at an altitude of about 1200 metres. In the Alps, the glaciers advanced and bulldozed over towns.

    Ice-dammed lakes burst periodically, destroying hundreds of buildings and killing many people. As late as 1930 the French Government commissioned a report to investigate the threat of the glaciers. They could not have foreseen that human induced global warming was to deal more effective with this problem than any committee ever could.

    Flourishing of European culture
    Despite the difficulties in marginal regions, culture and economy were flowering in Europe. This is most visible in the way that people transformed their environment during the 17th and 18th centuries.

    The Little Ice Age coincided with the maritime expansion of Europe and the creation of seaborne trading and later colonial empires. First came the Spanish and Portuguese, followed by the Dutch, English and other European nations. Key to this success was the development of shipbuilding technology which was a response to both trading, strategic but also climatic pressures.

    Art and architecture also flourished, which is probably best embodied in the wonderful winter landscape paintings which can be considered a direct result of the Little Ice Age. These paintings show us skating people enjoying themselves, a sign that they were more than capable to withstand the hasher winter conditions and that they had also enough food. The latter is a key element in the success of European culture at that time.

    Agricultural revolution
    During the later Middle Ages., slowly but steadily farmers started to experiment with new agricultural methods, in order to adapt to increasingly unpredictable climates and also stimulated by the growth of profitable markets in growing cities and long distance trade.

    This initially low technology agricultural revolution started in Flanders and the Netherlands in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Dutch farmers experimented with lay farming, the deliberate growing of animal fodder and cultivating grasslands for cattle. In addition they started systematic breeding of cows and the Frisian milk cow is probably the most famous example of this.

    Another innovation was the continuous growing of specialized crops. Instead of letting valuable ground lay fallow, they planted peas, beans and especially nitrogen-rich clover, all of which provided food for humans and animals alike. The vegetables were rotated with grain, turnips and later potato for export but also for feeding dairy cattle. As a result of this system the amount of fallow land contracted rapidly until non was existent. Agriculture became an intensive activity.

    The new intensive agriculture produced such a high surplus that Flanders and later the Netherlands could specialize and diversify their agricultural activity. With abundance of fodder, animal and dairy farming (think of Dutch cheese) became increasingly important. More meat, wool, and leather as well cheese cam on the market as the new agriculture broke the dependence on grain. At the same time farmers diversified into industrial crops such as flax, mustard and hops for brewing beer.

    This agricultural revolution could not have succeeded when new ships to withstand the harsher climatic conditions imported large amounts of grain form the Baltic, undermining local grain production. These grain imports made the Flemish and Dutch economy independent from climatic fluctuations causing famine.

    Land reclamation

    Between 1600 and 1800, large areas of the Netherlands, England and some other countries around the North Sea were reclaimed. Notable examples are the draining of lakes in Holland and the reclamations in East Anglia.

    The Dutch possessed sufficient technological expertise and a sufficient degree of organization to diffuse the worst effects of short term climatic variations. The Little Ice Age might have imposed more benefits than costs on Dutch society.

    Extensive land reclamation and the use of new mechanical technology, as well as the intensive exploitation of natural resources (peat) turned liabilities into assets so powerful that they helped to forge the first modern economy in Europe.

    Soon the new agriculture and reclamation technologies as well as other mechanical techniques were introduced in Britain where it was all taken a step further in terms of scale and later the improvement movement would make agriculture more scientific. In addition the mechanical technology would be used to develop mechanical machines driven by steam and a new fuel: coal.

    It was the start of the Industrial Revolution and the transition from natural power, mainly derived from wind and water, to fossil fuel based industries. Unlocking the power of fossil fuel would transform the relationship between human culture and the natural environment in ways the world had never seen before.

    1. The Maunder Minimum is named after astronomer E.W. Maunder who discovered the absence of sunspots during that period. Recently published data suggests that the Sun expanded during the Maunder Minimum and its rotation slowed. A larger and slower Sun, it is speculated, might also mean a cooler Sun that provides less heat to Earth. (Just why the Sun expands and contracts is not entirely understood.

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  • Closed Accounts Posts: 2,693 ✭✭✭Redsunset

    And so begins the start of another spotless stretch.

    Daily Sun: 23 Apr 09 spacer.gifmidi163.gif spacer.gifThe sun is blank--no sunspots. Credit: SOHO/MDI
    spacer.gifred_gradient_band.jpgspacer.gifSunspot number: 0
    What is the sunspot number?
    Updated 22 Apr 2009

    NEW: Spotless Days
    Current Stretch: 1 days
    2009 total: 98 days (88%)
    Since 2004: 609 days
    Typical Solar Min: 485 days
    explanation | more info

  • Registered Users Posts: 14,223 ✭✭✭✭M.T. Cranium

    I'm not too sure how much science there is behind the 2012 massive solar flare predictions, possibly some are being swayed by the Mayan calendar business, which seems like one of those Nostradamus-style predictions to me. The Mayan calendar has been running through cycles of 260 years much as our calendar runs through 100 year cycles, and while they have a legend of big things happening at the end of each grand cycle, evidently this is not always the case. And one is reminded of the fizzle-out of the Y2K non-event.

    Having said that, I do subscribe to the view that sooner or later (whether in 2012 or later) the odds favour another giant solar storm that will certainly throw the earth's electrical grids into chaos. The largest event of recent years, in March 1989, had that effect on the Quebec (eastern Canada) grid, and I remember the bright auroral display at that time, living fairly close by in Ontario. However, our power didn't go out for more than a few minutes. In Quebec it was more like one or two days.

    You would think that the world would have 24-48 hours warning of such an event as the 1859 flares, and it might be possible to stage a planned outage of most electricity before the magnetic storm hit the earth, then bring back the power in a controlled manner after the storm faded out. This would require more international co-operation than we presently might expect, but it could be done region by region, the world's electrical grids are basically continental in scale, or regions within continents. If North America managed its grid successfully and Asia did not, the aftermath would be different in each case, although there would be some effects either way.

    You also have to wonder how safe our electrical grids are from terrorist or hostile nation attack, there are many stories circulating about (for example) China's ability to program into computer networks and read what's going on from an unknown safe vantage point (in cyber-space terms) then have the ability to throw a big old monkey wrench into what seems like a secure system at some unknown future time (for some unforeseen reason too).

    Have a nice day, as they say. :D

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 2,693 ✭✭✭Redsunset

    This image was taken at 11:36am this morning.just amazing.we take it so much for granted,along with lots of other stuff.

    NEW: Spotless Days
    Current Stretch: 2 days
    2009 total: 99 days (88%)
    Since 2004: 610 days
    Typical Solar Min: 485 days

    However our not so little beauty burst into life yesterday.

    NOT-SO-QUIET SUN: The sun produced an unexpected burst of activity yesterday, April 23rd, when an enormous prominence rose over the northeastern limb and erupted. SOHO recorded the blast from beginning to end with a series of high-cadence UV snapshots. Click on the image to set the scene in motion:
    The complex explosion produced not one but two billion-ton coronal mass ejections (CMEs): movie. An impact from such a double-CME would almost surely spark magnetic storms around the poles of Earth, but it is not heading in our direction. The chance of auroras remains low.

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 2,693 ✭✭✭Redsunset

    Daily Sun: 27 Apr 09
    The sun is blank--no sunspots. Credit: SOHO/MDI

    Sunspot number: 0
    What is the sunspot number?
    Updated 27 Apr 2009

    NEW: Spotless Days
    Current Stretch: 6 days
    2009 total: 103 days (88%)
    Since 2004: 614 days
    Typical Solar Min: 485 days

    Coronal Holes:
    A solar wind stream flowing from the indicated coronal hole will probably miss Earth, sailing high above our planet's north pole

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 2,693 ✭✭✭Redsunset

    SUNSPOT 1016: A ring-shaped sunspot numbered 1016 has emerged near the sun's equator. Its magnetic polarity identifies it as a member of old Solar Cycle 23. Until these old cycle sunspots go away,the solar minimum shall remain.

    30 Apr 09
    Sunspot 1016 is a member of old Solar Cycle 23. Credit: SOHO/MDI

    Sunspot number: 15
    What is the sunspot number?
    Updated 29 Apr 2009

    NEW: Spotless Days
    Current Stretch: 0 days
    2009 total: 104 days (88%)
    Since 2004: 615 days
    Typical Solar Min: 485 days
    explanation | more info

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 2,693 ✭✭✭Redsunset

    more interesting stuff on the sun

    and in this one Scientist David Archibald explains in detail the phenomonen that sunspots have more to do with the earths climate than other factors


    Today's image is a magnetic map of the sun. Two active regions are circled. Their polarity identifies them as members of new Solar Cycle 24, but they lack the dark cores required of true sunspots. So, in spite of these lively magnetic imprints, we must still say "the sun is blank--no sunspots." Credit: SOHO/MDI

    Sunspot number: 0
    What is the sunspot number?
    Updated 10 May 2009

    Spotless Days
    Current Stretch: 10 days
    2009 total: 112 days (86%)
    Since 2004: 623 days
    Typical Solar Min: 485 days

    NOT A SUNSPOT: Solar activity comes in many forms. Today, astronomers are monitoring an enormous patch of seething magnetism churning through the sun's surface in a splash of bright, white froth. It is not a sunspot, but it is worth a look:
    Sylvain Weiller took the picture this morning from his backyard observatory in Saint Rémy lès Chevreuse, France. "I used a Colorado SolarMax90," he says. That is an "H-alpha" telescope tuned to the red glow of solar hydrogen.
    The active region could be a "proto-sunspot"--a sunspot struggling to form, but not quite able to organize its own magnetic fields into a coherent, dark core. Or it could be a "sunspot corpse"--the decaying remains of a farside sunspot turning toward Earth at the end of its short life. Whatever it is, its magnetic polarity identifies it as a member of new Solar Cycle 24--and that makes it a sign of things to come.

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 2,693 ✭✭✭Redsunset

    For all of you who believe harsh times are ahead ,watch this survival vid:D

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 25 QuasarK19


    great thread youve got going here.Wish I had read it sooner.Im hoping for a nice frosty minimum too.It would be a nice change from these record breaking summers.

    Lol gotta love the 2012 hype.Great video:D:D.Someone should tell him that most mountain ranges sit on top of fault lines.

    With you 100% on the moonLanding.How stupid do they think we are?They were going to the moon every weekend,mucking about playing golf 35 yrs ago,and now they need 20 yrs and $20 billion just to go once.What,was it some futuristic alien technology that theyve now lost:D.Maybe its like the movie Idiocracy.

    Looking forward to more insightful updates,


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 1,186 ✭✭✭Kippure

    redsunset wrote: »
    For all of you who believe harsh times are ahead ,watch this survival vid:D

    Wait till they fix hubble, then we,ll see whats coming....i suppose?

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  • Closed Accounts Posts: 10,700 ✭✭✭✭holly1

    It all seems like doome and glume,is there anything to look forward to..