Sunspots vs. Climate Change
2012 began with a strange occurrence on the sun. Two puzzling incompatibilities happened simultaneously.
Sunspot activity burst into an outbreak of explosive activity while, paradoxically, planetary solar magnetic flux continued on a decade long decline toward zero by 2025. Sunspot numbers tripled in a 6 month period at the end of 2011. That’s way above expectations.
It’s hard to know what it means. Sunspots are intense magnetic storms. There’s no explanation for a rapid rise in sunspot activity when overall solar magnetic flux declines. That shouldn’t be.
But the unexpected happened. Then the first 6 months of 2012 deepened the mystery further.
The newest flip-flop in solar activity may foretell of a reversal in global warming. It is entirely possible we are fighting the wrong battle. The real enemy we face may be global cooling.
Click the two graphs above to see the dramatic change in sunspot activity over the last 7 months.
The Sun Reverses Course
Sunspot numbers peaked at 96.7 last November. At that pace it was already higher than next year’s predicted sunspot maximum of 94. Solar max is expected in May of 2013.
However, in the last 7 months sunspot activity has dropped like a rock.
In just three months between November and February, sunspot numbers fell further down than they rocketed up during their 5 month long mercurial increase from June to November of 2011. They have went up slightly since then. But, at 64.5 in June, the numbers are now far below pace to reach the predicted sunspot maximum next year. Solar max is just 10 months from now.
This change does, however, put sunspot activity back into line with overall solar magnetic flux behavior.
Sunspot activity is fickle. Anything can happen.
Numbers can go up and down like a yo-yo in a few months. There is still time for sunspot activity to recover or to even exceed its predicted maximum level.
On the other hand, it could remain stagnant or drift off into an early decline toward sunspot minimum if the sun’s magnetic flux continues to weaken.
Will Sunspots Disappear?
From now on, if sunspot activity remains consistent with the decline in planetary solar magnetic flux then solar maximum may not reach its predicted peak, and start falling off to sunspot minimum early.
The current sunspot maximum is already predicted to be the weakest in a century. Right now it looks like it will not even be that strong.
The next sunspot maximum after this one is in 2025. But that is the same year that solar magnetic flux falls to zero at its current rate of decline.
Without any solar magnetic flux there can’t be sunspots.
It raises this very real question: Will there be a sunspot maximum in 2025?
Sunspot Effects on Earth’s Climate
Obvious, the sun is the ultimate source of all global warming. If it gets warmer or cooler the earth will get warmer or cooler.
Empirical measurements show the sun is hotter during maximum sunspot activity and cooler at minimum activity. The change isn’t much, a few tenths of a percent, but it is real.
There is a growing belief among solar physicists that planetary solar magnetic flux will decline to zero in 2025 and remain there for several solar cycles. Its not pure speculation, either.
It has happened before… and recently… during the Maunder Minimum!
One of biggest discoveries made with early telescopes were sunspots. Galileo meticulously described them in detail and drew pictures for the first time in 1610. Yet it took 150 years for the 11-year sunspot cycle to be discovered.
The reason is during the intervening 150 years there were no sunspot cycles. In fact, there were very few sunspots observed at all! Galileo was lucky enough to observe and record them just before they largely disappeared.
Sunspots and Global Warming
During the 150 years after Galileo the earth remained cold. It was cold even before the Maunder Minimum. The Thames and Potomac rivers froze over for long periods regularly during winter. Winters were longer and summers colder during that time. The period overlapping with low sunspot activity is now called the Little Ice Age.
Nobody knows how much solar cooling, if any, happens during prolonged solar minimums. Anecdotal evidence from the graph above and the one below suggests there is more than we know.
Climate history derived from ice core studies since the end of the last full ice age – 11,400 years ago – show general undulations in Earth’s temperature corresponding to the rise and fall in sunspot activity.
According to solar physicists with the AAS Solar Physics Division last June, current indicators point toward a prolonged sunspot minimum after 2013.
The Proof is in the Pudding!
In the middle of the last century we experienced the 4th largest general rise in sunspot activity since the super-max sunspot peaks during the great warming at the end of the last ice age.
In 1957 a sunspot peak of 190.2 was reached. The sunspot cycles surrounding 1957 are now collectively called the modern maximum.
Sunspot activity has been in general decline since 1957. The 1957 peak had over twice the predicted sunspots of 2013 and over 3 times the number of sunspots observed last month.
Here are some big ifs….
- If sunspot counts fail to reach the predicted cycle 24 maximum
- If sunspot max comes early and then declines to solar minimum
- If solar magnetic flux decreases to zero in 2025
- If sunspots then disappear as they did in the early 1600s
- If the solar physicists are right
Then it is likely we are headed into a period of prolonged solar inactivity and some form of global cooling.
The IPCC is aware of this. They rejected solar variability as a causal force in global climate change in their 3rd assessment report in 2001.
That should surprise no one. The IPCC has consistently rejected every possible cause for global warming except anthropological CO2 emissions since the day it was created back in 1988.
There was a 4th assessment released in 2007 and the 5th assessment is expect in 2014.
IPCC assessments no longer question the cause of global warming. They mostly prescribe ways to mitigate its expected effects.
It won’t be long before we know for sure if we are headed toward solar shutdown. Monthly sunspot counts over the next couple years will be closely watched. They will support or refute the solar physicists.
Should sunspots fail to start showing back up again in large numbers by 2024 and solar magnetic flux drops to zero then the writing is on the wall.
It would be the greatest irony of all if, by 2027, the federal government started giving tax breaks to electric power plants for going back to using CO2 belching coal again.
Put more CO2 into the atmosphere to reduce global cooling while stimulating photosynthesis and healthy plant growth.