Quiet Sun

November 8th, 2012 at 8:17 pm by under Bill's Blog, Weather

  Click on the image or click here to enlarge.  The number of sunspots has been unusually low over the last decade.  You can see that the number of sunspots is well below the predicted number.  The 11-year sunspot cycle has been forecast to peak around March 2013, but in recent weeks, there has been speculation that we may being seeing the peak here in late 2012.  This is the quietest sun in at least a century.  There have been other solar factors that have been interesting.  The solar wind has dropped to a historic low.   The article at the link also says:  “In addition to weakened solar wind, the spacecraft Ulysses also finds that the sun’s underlying magnetic field has weakened by more than 30% since the mid-1990s”.  We are at a record low for solar radio emission (since measurements began just prior to WWII).  We also have a downturn in solar irradiance, down .02% in the visible spectrum, but a full 6% in the extreme UV spectrum since the mid 1990s.   There has been some speculation about whether this downward trend of solar activity is the start of a longer period of quiet solar activity, similar to the Maunder Minimum, which coincided with a significant cooling of the Earth.   The Dalton Minimum and Spörer Minimum, also coincided with a period of lower-than-average global temperatures.   This from NASA:  “The longest minimum on record, the Maunder Minimum of 1645-1715, lasted an incredible 70 years.  Sunspots were rarely observed and the solar cycle seemed to have broken down completely. The period of quiet coincided with the Little Ice Age, a series of extraordinarily bitter winters in Earth’s northern hemisphere. Many researchers are convinced that low solar activity, acting in concert with increased volcanism and possible changes in ocean current patterns, played a role in that 17th century cooling.  For reasons no one understands, the sunspot cycle revived itself in the early 18th century and has carried on since with the familiar 11-year period. Because solar physicists do not understand what triggered the Maunder Minimum or exactly how it influenced Earth’s climate, they are always on the look-out for signs that it might be happening again.

The low solar activity has also caused a decrease in the number of days when we have a spectacular view of the auroras.

Also, there is a solar eclipse next Wednesday.  You won’t see it here, but they’ll get a nice view in Northeast Australia.   And you can check out the video of an M-Class flare that occurred Thursday morning.  At the last link you’ll also see a picture of a fireball that flew across Mexico that was much brighter than the full moon.  There’s some neat pictures of the Northern Lights here.    You can check out This Week’s Sky at a Glance and here’s a list of flyovers of the International Space Station.  There’s a couple of good ones early Weds. and Fri. of next week.

39 Responses to “Quiet Sun”

  1. Hugh says:

    Interesting. I enjoy learning new concepts. Back in the “olden days”, when I was in college, climate was based on “lace mops.” as –
    l latitude
    a air masses
    c continentality
    e elevation
    m mountain barriers
    o ocean currents
    p pressure centers
    s storm tracks
    Science has come so far now. I’m really proud of our achievements Great job all science people!!!!!

  2. Barry in Zeeland says:

    I’ve been following this to. I’m really kind of bummed since we now have access to space weather forecasting with all the satellites and things constantly monitoring the sun, and advance notice of possible auroras, but with such little activity, we are getting nothing to see around here. Years ago it was completly hit or miss to see the northern lights. You didn’t have internet blogs, and cell phones sending you “Incoming CME Warnings”, and what would be the equivalent to space radar for the auroras. Either you happened to see them, or you heard about them 3 days later from someone that did. I’ve had my kids all jacked up for the past year because they have never seen the sky light up, and all we’re getting is a major bust, kind of like every “major winter storm” that we get hit by.

    1. Cort S. says:

      I’ve been cloudy for the past year in New Hampshire every time there has been an aurora spotted in Michigan. Space weather is a fascinating young science. Think of how young the science of tornadoes was when the watch/warning program was being developed in the ’50s. Believe it or not, we’re getting better at predicting them, especially the big outbreaks. Space weather is about as young of a science as tornadoes were back in the good ol’ days. We can observe flares and measure CMEs much better than we used to, but there is still a lot of guessing involved in how exactly those particles will be affected by the earth’s magnetic field and interact with the upper atmosphere. But we’ll get better at that too. And we need to, because all of our electronics and electrical transmission lines are so vulnerable to the biggest solar storms.

  3. TomKap (Michigan St. & Fuller) Grand Rapids says:

    Wow, could this ‘quiet sun’ explain why your forecast graphic says next Friday we’ll have a high of 81??
    ;)

  4. Matt (Spring Lake) says:

    Wow, a high of 81 next Friday, Bill? Haha….might want to edit that…

    1. Bill Steffen says:

      The eighth day of the 8-day forecast reverts to a computer generated model forecast until someone goes in to change it. The computer often spits out “drizzle” as a forecast and on rare occasion prints out outrageous temperatures. It will be a topic of discussion at our next meeting.

  5. Paul S says:

    Cool stuff! ;-)

  6. Terry says:

    This past year I have been looking at SSN and Flux, trying to see if there is a downward trend and it does appear to be. The highest recorded SSN and Flux could have been one year before maximum. It looks like polar fields will flip well before March 2013 and maybe we get another ramp up 1 year on the other side of max as well. I don’t think that happened in Dalton however.

    Luke 21:25 “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. 26 Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. 27 At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.

  7. GunLakeDeb says:

    I barely understand Earth weather, let alone Solar weather – but this is all very interesting to read and ponder!! Thanks, Bill :-)

    1. GunLakeDeb says:

      I suppose next we’ll have all the Talking Heads proclaiming the Coming Ice Age and how we need to do our part to save the Earth from the Deep Freeze ;-)

      1. Bill Steffen says:

        And the solution to any problem is a tax increase.

        1. norm says:

          But not until we throw a couple of billion dollars at someone to ‘study it’, lol, wasn’t the big concern in the late 70′s global cooling? I love it, Bill, you’re awesome.

        2. Brad says:

          So be it.

      2. JD from GR says:

        It’s a good thing our electricity costs will necessarily skyrocket…

        1. Bill Steffen says:

          ???? How about the price of food? You want that to “skyrocket”? Oh, and surely the price of a gallon of gas ought to skyrocket! It’ll get those dirty trucks off the road. We can just deliver food to your assigned government food coop by rickshaw. No problem. Of course, none of this will change global temperature by 1/10th of a degree.

        2. JD from GR says:

          I thought this might happen… My post was supposed to be a sarcastic reference to the President’s comments on the coal industry. I don’t really want the price of anything to skyrocket!!!!!

        3. JD from GR says:

          Bill, given the subject of Quiet Sun, I tried, unsuccessfully I guess, to make a sarcastic reference to the Presidents comments on the coal industry. I don’t want the price of anythig to skyrocket!!!

        4. Bill Steffen says:

          Gotcha! Thanks for the clarification!

  8. Brennan Prill says:

    Ok, So where is this winter forecast. Last year Bill you had it up by Friday, 28 Oct 2011.. whats going on? :(

    1. Matt (Spring Lake) says:

      He told me on another thread that he probably won’t have one for this year. His thoughts are similar to Marino’s at the GRR NWS.

      1. Rocky (Rockford) says:

        He will definitely put out a winter forecast, unless he is gun shy from last winters forecast that everyone got wrong.

    2. Brad says:

      The winter forecast provides all sorts of fun…where be it?

  9. Skot says:

    Gee..maybe he’s still working on it?

    1. Skot says:

      Not even winter yet anyway.

  10. Scott (west olive) says:

    sun will probably shrink and pop like a light bulb. Indy, your going to need a bigger snow blower. Lol

      1. Scott (west olive) says:

        Lol the first part of that is gone. Oh well. No sun spots and its getting colder = More snow. Short version

  11. Travis (Oxford, MI) says:

    Another gorgeous sunny day! Hoping to get out on the golf course this weekend

    1. Rocky (Rockford) says:

      ROCK ON Travis

    2. Ned S. (Now in South Holland) says:

      Works for me!

  12. Mark (Okemos) says:

    Lake effect snow watch in effect – for Lake Tahoe. Who knew?

    1. michael g (SE GR) says:

      Really? I seem to remember hearing about lake effect off of Great Salt Lake, but I don’t remember hearing anything about Tahoe.

      1. michael g (SE GR) says:

        Looks like Tahoe is only about 22 miles by 12 miles. Hard to believe that would be a long enough fetch to create pure lake effect, but I guess it might enhance the snow falling on the mountains to the east.

        1. Irish coffee says:

          Happens in central NY -Finger Lakes- as well.

        2. Cort S. says:

          Cooooool !!!!! Can’t wait to watch it happen!

  13. Rocky (Rockford) says:

    Get out and enjoy the nice warm temps this weekend people! I will be out golfing on both Saturday and Sunday this weekend. You got it love it. I wonder if we will have above average temps all winter again! I will be planning on this until I see otherwise. Get ready to ROCK!

  14. Paul S says:

    Almost on cue because of the post, a spike to 188 today!

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