Our quiet sun: long-term cooling on the way?

May 3, 2015

science agw sun

No, I’m not predicting from computer models where the results are largely predetermined by the inputs and assumptions of the programmers (1). I’m just noting a possibility based on simple observation of centuries of data. When Sol grows quiet for extended periods, the Earth grows colder:

The sun is almost completely blank. The main driver of all weather and climate, the entity which occupies 99.86% of all of the mass in our solar system, the great ball of fire in the sky has gone quiet again during what is likely to be the weakest sunspot cycle in more than a century. The sun’s X-ray output has flatlined in recent days and NOAA forecasters estimate a scant 1% chance of strong flares in the next 24 hours. Not since cycle 14 peaked in February 1906 has there been a solar cycle with fewer sunspots. We are currently more than six years into Solar Cycle 24 and the current nearly blank sun may signal the end of the solar maximum phase. Solar cycle 24 began after an unusually deep solar minimum that lasted from 2007 to 2009 which included more spotless days on the sun compared to any minimum in almost a century.

The article notes that declining solar activity doesn’t mean no solar storms that can disrupt communications — some very strong ones happen on the down-slope, so to speak. But, what we’re concerned with here is the possible effect on Earth’s climate. As you know if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, I’m of the school that holds the Sun far more responsible for Earth’s changing climate than any amount of carbon dioxide we’ve pumped into the atmosphere in the last century of so. And I believe the evidence supports that much more than it does the catastrophic man-caused climate change theology theory. From later in the article, here’s what happened the last time the Sun had a quiescent period of this magnitude or larger:

Finally, if history is a guide, it is safe to say that weak solar activity for a prolonged period of time can have a cooling impact on global temperatures in the troposphere which is the bottom-most layer of Earth’s atmosphere – and where we all live. There have been two notable historical periods with decades-long episodes of low solar activity. The first period is known as the “Maunder Minimum”, named after the solar astronomer Edward Maunder, and it lasted from around 1645 to 1715. The second one is referred to as the “Dalton Minimum”, named for the English meteorologist John Dalton, and it lasted from about 1790 to 1830 (below). Both of these historical periods coincided with colder-than-normal global temperatures in an era now referred to by many scientists as the “Little Ice Age”. In addition, research studies in just the past couple of decades have found a complicated relationship between solar activity, cosmic rays, and clouds on Earth. This research suggests that in times of low solar activity where solar winds are typically weak; more cosmic rays reach the Earth’s atmosphere which, in turn, has been found to lead to an increase in certain types of clouds that can act to cool the Earth.

The highlighted portion refers to the work of Henrik Svensmark and others to study the relation between solar activity, cosmic rays,  and cloud formation on Earth, the last of which is a regulator of temperature  Early experimental results have lent credibility to this hypothesis, and I think we’ll eventually find that such natural cycles are the real reason for climate change on Earth, and not a trace gas that’s been raised to the level of an all-powerful demon.

Footnote:
(1) That’s the UN IPCC’s job.

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“We’re gonna land on the Sun!”

September 3, 2010

That’s the punchline to an old Italian joke, at which point we’re supposed to laugh at the stupidity of the Italian scientists. I mean, who would think one could land on the Sun?

Well, it’s not such a joke, anymore:

Solar Probe+ to Plunge Directly into Sun’s Atmosphere

NASA’s daring plan to visit the sun took a giant leap forward today with the selection of five key science investigations for the Solar Probe+ spacecraft.

Slated to launch no later than 2018, the smart car-sized spacecraft will plunge directly into the atmosphere of the sun, aiming to solve some of the biggest mysteries of solar physics. Today’s announcement means that researchers can begin building sensors for unprecedented in situ measurements of the solar system’s innermost frontier.

“Solar Probe+ is going where no spacecraft has gone before,” says Lika Guhathakurta, Solar Probe+ program scientist at NASA HQ. “For the first time, we’ll be able to ‘touch, taste and smell’ the sun.”

Last year, NASA invited top researchers around the world to submit proposals detailing possible science investigations for the pioneering spacecraft. Thirteen proposals were received and five have been selected:

–SWEAP, the Solar Wind Electrons Alphas and Protons Investigation: The most abundant particles in the solar wind are electrons, protons and helium ions. SWEAP will count these particles and measure their properties, even “sweeping up” some of them in a special Solar Probe Cup for direct analysis. The principal investigator is Justin C. Kasper of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Mass.

–WISPR, the Wide-field Imager for Solar Probe Plus: WISPR is a telescope that will make 3D images of the sun’s atmosphere similar to medical CAT scans. WISPR can actually see the solar wind, allowing it to image clouds and shock waves as they approach and pass the spacecraft. This telescope is an important complement to the spacecraft’s in situ instruments, which sample the plasmas that WISPR images. The principal investigator is Russell Howard of the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC.

–FIELDS, The Fields Investigation for Solar Probe Plus: This instrument will make direct measurements of electric and magnetic fields, radio emissions, and shock waves which course through the sun’s atmospheric plasma. FIELDS also turns Solar Probe Plus into a giant dust detector, registering voltage signatures when specks of space dust hit the spacecraft’s antenna. The principal investigator is Stuart Bale of the University of California in Berkeley.

Check out the rest of NASA’s press release for more fun details. This will be an impressive feat of engineering: on entering the solar atmosphere, it will have to withstand temperatures around 2,000° Centigrade (3632° Fahrenheit) and blasts of radiation that would cripple a normal craft.

Neat!

(via WUWT)