Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit.

Sunspot update January 2019: The early solar minimum

As I have done every month since 2011, I am now posting NOAA’s the monthly update of the solar cycle, covering sunspot activity for January 2019. They posted this update on Monday, and I am posting it below, annotated to give it some context.

January 2019 sunspot activity

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.

January saw a slight uptick in sunspot activity, but the overall activity remains comparable to mid-2008, when the last prolonged solar minimum began. If you go to my October 2018 update, you can see the graph when it included data going back to 2000 and see the entire last minimum.

That last minimum started in the last half of 2007, and lasted until mid-2009, a full two years. If you look at the red line prediction of the solar science community, it appears that they are expecting this coming minimum to last far longer, almost forever. I expect this is not really true, but that they have simply not agreed on a prediction for the next cycle. Some in that solar science community have hypothesized that we are about to enter a grand minimum, with no sunspots for decades and thus no solar maximum. Others do not agree.

Since neither faction really understands the mechanism that causes these sunspot cycles, there is no way now to determine what will happen, until it does so. What we do know from climate data is that the Earth cools when the Sun is inactive. Why remains unclear, though there is at least one theory, with some evidence, that attempts to explain it.

And despite the untrustworthy claims of NOAA and NASA scientists that the last few years have been hot, experience on the ground disputes this. Their data has been adjusted (tampered if one wants to be more blunt) to make it fit their global warming theory. The raw unadjusted data suggests things have instead cooled, which better fits with the brutal winters Americans experienced for the past decade or so.

If the Sun does enter a grand minimum in the coming decades, I suspect it will become increasingly difficult for NOAA and NASA to continue their temperature adjustments and continue claiming things are getting warmer. At a minimum, we will learn something about the Sun and its behavior and its influence on the climate that we never knew before.

Readers! My Quick November Fund-Raiser for Behind the Black is now over

I cannot thank the numerous people who so generously donated or subscribed to Behind the Black during this fund drive. The response was remarkable, and reflected the steady growth and popularity of the work I have been doing here for the past ten-plus years.

Thank you again!

Though the find-raising campaign is officially over, and I am no longer plastering the main page with requests for help, if you like what you have read you can still contribute, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar below. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.

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  • Phill O

    “Since neither faction really understands the mechanism that causes these sunspot cycles, there is no way now to determine what will happen, until it does so. What we do know from climate data is that the Earth cools when the Sun is inactive. Why remains unclear, though there is at least one theory, with some evidence, that attempts to explain it.”

    Very well put Bob!

    With the Solar Powered Climate Change model, the warming seen, and the glacial retreat observed, fits the theory.

    The term global warming has, in the context of the media, the meaning of the CO2 and other greenhouse gasses model, which, as you well point out, is out of sorts with the raw data. Care needs to be taken now as the manner of reporting sun spots has been changed. The index applies for data recorded using the same criteria used 400 ears ago, for there to be useful conclusions drawn.

  • m d mill

    “What we do KNOW from climate data is that the Earth cools when the Sun is inactive.”

    Well, we believe the earth cooled globally during the last grand minimum (the little ice age–although it is not absolutely certain this was a global event), and it may be cause and effect, but it could be coincidence (probably about a 33% chance of simple given equal probabilities there is very very roughly a 33% chance things will remain about the same(near average), a 33% chance things will be significantly greater than the average, and 33% chance things will be significantly less than the average).
    Do we know this significant cooling happened more than once (during a grand minimum)?

  • m d mill

    You may be interested to see that according to the SOURCE/SIM instrument the UVA and visible and near IR wavelength solar radiation has had a uniquely strange drop during the 2018 year.
    Normally the change from solar min to solar max is on the order of 0.1% in the visible and near IR range…but there has been a 1.25% drop at 400 nanometers in 2018 alone!
    Is something strange going on with this particular solar minimum? Or is this simply an instrument failure?( the SORCE/SIM instrument has had a “difficult” history with degradation/calibration)

    See the interactive chart here and type in various wavelengths in nanometers (eg 350,400,550,700,1000) and observe for yourself!

    Personally , I don’t think I believe the data from this particular instrument…it is, and has been highly questionable.

  • m d mill wrote: “Do we know this significant cooling happened more than once (during a grand minimum)?”

    Yes. The proxy data shows that the Medieval Warm Period (centered around 900 AD) corresponded to a period of intense solar activity. Also, the proxy data has suggested that for the past seven or so grand minimums there was a corresponding drop in global temperatures.

    These results are of course uncertain, and skepticism is surely called for. Nonetheless, the data has shown this consistent trend.

    Note too that the proxy data for sunspot activity is very trustworthy, as it tracks the increase and decrease in cosmic ray activity, which has been shown for the past half century to increase when sunspot activity drops and more cosmic rays can get into the inner solar system.

    The proxy data for the global temperature is less reliable, but scientists have tried to compensate for the uncertainty by using a number of proxies.

  • Andrew

    We had a couple cold Januaries in the North-East in the past couple years, but that does not describe what happened on a global scale. I thought we were done with the debate about whether the Earth has warmed, as a lot of us are old enough to have experienced the change. I guess there will always be flat earthers.

  • Andrew: Your certainty discredits you, especially considering the danger of too much certainty was exactly the point of my post.

    Moreover, simply insulting those you disagree with you is hardly what I’d call a creditable scientific argument. I presented you some facts. You respond by slandering me and those who also raise reasonable scientific arguments. And with this you expect to change my mind? Bah.

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