The Fading Sunspot Cycle
Doomsday theories abound. Pick your favorite. There are many disaster choices:
- Asteroid strikes earth
- Yellowstone explodes into a supervolcano
- Global nuclear holocaust
- Alien invasion
- A nearby star goes supernovae
- Episodic tornadoes, massive earthquakes and/or superstorms
- Unexpected comet angles into the inner solar system from deep space
According to a recent Discovery Channel special, the #1 threat to life on earth is global warming.
However, there is one disaster event more likely than all the others combined. It is a daily, constant threat to life as we know it. It can’t be prevented and its totally unpredictable!
That threat is a Carrington Event. According to ice core samples, one occurs about every 500 years. The last was in 1859. It is an extreme X-class coronal mass ejection – CME – from the sun that, unlucky for us, gets aimed directly at earth.
One happened in September 1859, during simpler electronic times, in the upswing to a peak of the 11 year solar cycle, exactly where we are right now today. Should an extreme X-class CME be aimed directly at earth today then, at most, we will have just hours to prepare for our doom.
The good news is that the threat of a Carrington Event is declining.
The bad news is… wellll… we await a different fate… the earth will get cold!
An unlikely Carrington Event is confirmed in this month’s NOAA sunspot number.
The Carrington Event
On September 1 of 1859, as he did every day, amateur astronomer Richard Carrington, pointed his brass telescope at the sun.
He began to meticulously sketch sunspots. He had seen the same ones before, but they change a bit each day. He carefully began documenting those changes.
Recording data is a tedious function necessary to advance the cause of science.
But this was not to be an ordinary day.
While drawing, a sudden and spectacular brilliant flash of light appeared. Carrington witnessed the very first major solar flare ever seen by humans.
He was so shocked that he rushed out to find another nearby amateur astronomer to see the event. He knew, if not, he’d never be believed. The whole event was over in just 5 minutes.
Within 24 hours, telegraph communications were disrupted. They became downright dangerous. Telegraph operators near wires were severely shocked. Sparks flew off telegraph poles. The sparks in offices destroyed equipment. Papers near telegraph keys were set on fire.
Aurora all over earth were spectacular and seen for days afterward as far south as the Caribbean. The sky was so bright the first night that Colorado miners were awakened and went to work thinking it was daybreak.
Carrington figured out the connection. Today, the physics behind it is well understood.
A Carrington Disaster
We live in an entirely different electronic world today than in 1859. When a Carrington Event inevitably happens again within 400 years the results will be catastrophic compared to then.
Powerful induced currents from a Carrington level CME will burn out most existing electronic circuit boards. Such devices did not exist in 1859.
Every earth orbiting satellite, including GPS, will be fried and cease functioning. Unprotected earth orbiting astronauts will probably die.
The power grids of today will be overloaded by Carrington induced currents. Overloaded transformers will explode, much like they did in New Jersey and New York because of downed power lines during Superstorm Sandy. Electric power all over planet earth will be cut off.
Computers everywhere, including those surge protected, will burn out and cease functioning.
Yes, modern automobiles, dependent on electronic ignition, will stop in their tracks and, indeed, circuitry dependent airplanes will literally fall from the sky!!!
A Carrington disaster, though inevitable, is thankfully not likely in earth’s immediate future.
NOAA Monthly Sunspot Activity Report
That takes the story to this month’s sunspot activity report just out from NOAA on Monday.
November’s sunspot number is 61.4, compared to a very paltry starting forecast. If the first 4 days of December is any indication, we are headed for another month with a sunspot number in the low 50s.
Its remarkable. It is just 4 months to solar max for Cycle 24. This is the least active sun in 200 years. A Carrington Event, fortunately, is VERY unlikely. It is the least of our worries.
Our problem… the sun appears ready to shut down for an extended period of time. That is what solar physicists tell us.
In the infant science of space weather, the current observed solar cycle was most accurately forecast by solar physicist Leif Svalgaard back in October 2004.
At a meeting in Las Cruces, New Mexico in June 2011 solar physicists backed up Svalgaard’s theoretical prediction with empirical measurements.
Svalgaard and literally every solar physicist predicts the next cycle – Solar Cycle 25 – will be considerably weaker than even Cycle 24’s exceptionally weak one now. According to them, weak or non-existent cycles might last for several solar cycles. Scientific discussion remains hot and heavy.
Based on Svalgaard’s predictions and his own experimentation, solar physicist Henrik Svendmark predicts an even grimmer prospect for future global climate change. He suggests earth is destined for cooling, not warming as commonly believed!
Svendmark’s theory and actual measurements suggests global cooling is inescapable.
His reasoning is solid as a rock. That explanation, however, awaits a future article!
Posted on Dec 5, 2012, in Climate, climate change, culture, Global Climate Change, Global Warming, Life, news, Opinion, Politics, solar cycle, sunspot activity, sunspot report, Thoughts. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.