Tag Archives: Maunder Minimum

Decline to solar minimum continues

It’s that time again buckos! On Monday NOAA posted its monthly update of the solar cycle, showing the Sun’s sunspot activity in October. As I have done every month since 2010, I am posting it here, with annotations to give it context.

The decline in sunspot continue steadily, matching the red prediction curve except that, as it has for this entire solar maximum, the number of sunspots continues to be less than expected. Not only did the ramp up start later and not quite reach the levels predicted, the ramp down started early. Overall, this now ending solar maximum is the weakest in a century. The big question remains: Is the Sun about to head into its first Grand Minimum since the 1600s, or is this weak maximum a one-time event to be followed by stronger activity in later cycles.

No matter what anyone tells you, no one knows.

October 2015 Solar Cycle graph

The graph above has been modified to show the predictions of the solar science community. The green curves show the community’s two original predictions from April 2007, with half the scientists predicting a very strong maximum and half predicting a weak one. The red curve is their revised May 2009 prediction.

A new double dynamo theory to explain the Sun’s solar cycle

A team of solar scientists have proposed a new theory that they think explains the ebb and flow of the Sun’s eleven year solar cycle, and if right can explain the periodic occurrence of grand minimums where there are essentially no sunspots for decades, such as the Maunder Minimum in the 1600s.

The theory proposes that the Sun has two different dynamos that produce different magnetic waves in its interior. Like waves that can either cancel each other out or combine for more power, these two dynamos do the same over time and thus effect the Sun’s sunspot/solar cycle.

“We found magnetic wave components appearing in pairs, originating in two different layers in the Sun’s interior. They both have a frequency of approximately 11 years, although this frequency is slightly different, and they are offset in time. Over the cycle, the waves fluctuate between the northern and southern hemispheres of the Sun. Combining both waves together and comparing to real data for the current solar cycle, we found that our predictions showed an accuracy of 97%,” said Zharkova.

Zharkova and her colleagues derived their model using a technique called ‘principal component analysis’ of the magnetic field observations from the Wilcox Solar Observatory in California. They examined three solar cycles-worth of magnetic field activity, covering the period from 1976-2008. In addition, they compared their predictions to average sunspot numbers, another strong marker of solar activity. All the predictions and observations were closely matched.

Looking ahead to the next solar cycles, the model predicts that the pair of waves become increasingly offset during Cycle 25, which peaks in 2022. During Cycle 26, which covers the decade from 2030-2040, the two waves will become exactly out of synch and this will cause a significant reduction in solar activity.

“In cycle 26, the two waves exactly mirror each other – peaking at the same time but in opposite hemispheres of the Sun. Their interaction will be disruptive, or they will nearly cancel each other. We predict that this will lead to the properties of a ‘Maunder minimum’,” said Zharkova. “Effectively, when the waves are approximately in phase, they can show strong interaction, or resonance, and we have strong solar activity. When they are out of phase, we have solar minimums. When there is full phase separation, we have the conditions last seen during the Maunder minimum, 370 years ago.”

And on this same subject, last week NOAA posted its monthly update of the solar cycle, showing the Sun’s sunspot activity in June. As I have done every month since 2010, I am posting it here, below the fold, with annotations to give it context.
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We don’t need no solar maximum

It is that time again! Today, March 4, NOAA released its monthly update of the Sun’s sunspot cycle, covering the period of February 2013. As I do every month, I am posting this latest graph, with annotations to give it context, below the fold.

Once again, the Sun has shown a complete inability to produce sunspots, at the very moment it had been predicted to be rising towards its maximum in the sunspot cycle. The numbers in February plunged from the tepid rise we saw in January to below the crash we saw in December. Right now, when the Sun is supposed to peaking, it is instead producing sunspots in numbers as low as seen in 2011, at the very end of the last solar minimum.
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The Sun continues to fizzle

Yesterday NOAA posted its monthly update of the ongoing sunspot cycle of the Sun. You can see this latest graph, covering the month of July, below the fold.

As we have seen now for almost four years, the Sun continues to under-perform the predictions of solar scientists when it comes to the number of sunspots it is producing. In fact, that the sunspot number did not rise in July is surprising, as July had appeared to be a very active month for sunspots, with some of the strongest solar flares and coronal mass ejections seen in years. Instead, the number declined ever so slightly.
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In a paper published today in Geophysical Research Letters, researchers studying an icecore drilled in the West Antarctic Ice Sheet have found strong evidence of the 16th century Little Ice Age in the southern hemisphere.

In a paper published today in Geophysical Research Letters, researchers studying an ice core drilled in the West Antarctic Ice Sheet have found strong evidence of the 16th century’s Little Ice Age in the southern hemisphere. From the abstract:

The temperature in the time period 1400–1800 C.E. was on average 0.52 ± 0.28°C colder than the last 100-year average. … This result is consistent with the idea that the [Little Ice Age] was a global event, probably caused by a change in solar and volcanic forcing, and was not simply a seesaw-type redistribution of heat between the hemispheres as would be predicted by some ocean-circulation hypotheses.

In an effort to emphasis human-caused global warming and eliminate any evidence of climate change caused by other factors, many global warming scientists have argued that the Little Ice Age was not a global event but merely a cooling in Europe. This data proves them wrong. The global climate has varied significantly in the recent past, and not because of human behavior. Other factors, such as fluctuations in the solar cycle, must be considered more seriously for scientists to obtain a better understanding of the Earth’s climate.

The link between sunspots and climate

In a preprint paper published today on the Los Alamos astro-ph website and accepted for publication in the Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics, Norwegian scientists have found a strong correlation between the length of the solar sunspot cycle and the Earth’s temperature during the following cycle. From the abstract:

Relations between the length of a sunspot cycle and the average temperature in the same and the next cycle are calculated for a number of meteorological stations in Norway and in the North Atlantic region. No significant trend is found between the length of a cycle and the average temperature in the same cycle, but a significant negative trend is found between the length of a cycle and the temperature in the next cycle. This provides a tool to predict an average temperature decrease of at least 1.0 ◦ C from solar cycle 23 to 24 for the stations and areas analyzed. We find for the Norwegian local stations investigated that 25–56% of the temperature increase the last 150 years may be attributed to the Sun. For 3 North Atlantic stations we get 63–72% solar contribution. [emphasis mine]

You can download a copy of the paper here [pdf].

Their paper finds that if a particular sunspot cycle is longer with less activity, the climate will show significant cooling during the next cycle.

The paper makes several important points:
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Two climate papers of interest

When I appear on radio and am talking about climate change, I often get the same questions over and over.

  • Is the climate warming?
  • If so, is human behavior an important factor for causing that warming?
  • How much does the sun influence climate change?
  • Is the ozone hole linked to climate change?

The truth is that, right now, no one can really answer any of these questions with any certainty. While a large majority of climate scientists might be convinced the Earth is warming and that human activity is causing this warming, the public has great doubts about these claims, partly because of the untrustworthy behavior of many of these climate scientists and partly because the science itself is often confusing.

We simply don’t yet have enough data. Worse, much of the data we do have is tainted, unreliable because of the misconduct and political activism of the very climate scientists who are trying to prove the case for man-made global warming.

Two new papers, published today in Geophysical Research Letters, add some interesting but small data points to this whole subject.
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A fired up Sun

As it does every month, NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center today released its monthly update showing the ongoing changes of the Sun’s solar cycle sunspot activity. I have posted the graph below the fold.

For the fourth month in a row the Sun’s sunspot activity has leaped upward. In fact, for the first time since I have been tracking sunspot activity, beginning in 2008, the Sun’s sunspot activity exceeds the predicted activity by a significant amount. Since the end of the previous maximum, the Sun had consistently failed to meet the expectations of solar scientists by producing far fewer sunspots than expected.

In the past few months, however, the Sun has recovered, its activity firing upward, including some of the most active and largest sunspots in years.
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The wimpy maximum continues

The monthly updated graph of the Sun’s solar cycle sunspot activity was released today by NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center. I have posted the June graph below.

For the third month in a row, there was a decline in sunspot activity. Though the sun is producing sunspots quite regularly and there hasn’t been a blank day since January 16, the numbers of sunspots continue to fall far below the predicted level of activity as indicated by the red line.

All this is no longer a surprise or unexpected. As the solar science community noted last month, they have now gathered enough data to convince them that the sun appears to be going quiet, and might even follow this very weak solar maximum — the weakest possibly in 200 years — with a decades-long period of no sunspots at all.

This graph, however, is very intriguing. Even with an expected weak solar minimum, the sun should be producing more sunspots each month, not less, as shown on the graph. This suggests that the most up-to-date predictions for the next solar maximum might still be too high.

The sunspot graph for June 2011

Solar scientists predict a major decline in sunspot activity

At a press conference today at the 2011 meeting of the Solar Physics Division (SPD) of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) in Las Cruces, New Mexico, solar scientists predicted that not only will the next solar maximum in 2013 be the weakest in centuries, it is very likely that it will be followed by another long Maunder Minimum, a period of decades without sunspots. “The sun may be going into hiatus,” says Dr. Frank Hill, associate director of the NSO’s Solar Synoptic Network. You can read the press releases for this announcement here and here.

decline in magnetic field over the last few cycles

These conclusions are based on three lines of evidence:

  • There has been a long term weakening in the magnetic strength that produces sunspots themselves. The declining trend suggests that by 2022 it will no longer be strong enough to produce sunspots. The graph above shows this decline.
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