Brits at their Best
Sun’s low magnetic activity may portend an ice age
The Canadian Space Agency’s radio telescope has been reporting Flux Density Values so low they will mean a mini ice age if they continue.
Like the number of sunspots, the Flux Density Values reflect the Sun’s magnetic activity, which affects the rate at which the Sun radiates energy and warmth. CSA project director Ken Tapping calls the radio telescope that supplies NASA and the rest of the world with daily values of the Sun’s magnetic activity a “stethoscope on the Sun”. In this case, however, it is the “doctor” whose health is directly affected by the readings.
This is because when the magnetic activity is low, the Sun is dimmer, and puts out less radiant warmth. If the Sun goes into dim mode, as it has in the past, the Earth gets much colder.
Tapping, who was originally from Kent, says that “Typically as you go through the ten or eleven year solar activity cycle you see the numbers go up or down. The lowest number is 64 or 68. The numbers 71 or 72 are very low, but they usually start to go up. We are at the end of a cycle, but the numbers still haven’t gone up. We have been joking around coffee that we may be seeing the Sun about to shut down.” (To date Tapping has been far more concerned about global warming.)
These were the values released yesterday –
Density Values in sfu for 22:00 on 2008:01:30
Julian Day Number : 2454496.406
Carrington Rotation Number : 2066.207
Observed Flux Density : 0073.6
Flux Density Adjusted for 1 A.U. : 0071.4
URSI Series D Flux, Adj. x 0.9 : 0064.3
According to NASA, “early, well-documented records indicate that the Sun went through a period of inactivity in the late 17th century” from about 1645 to 1715, during the Maunder Minimum.
Frost fair on the Thames, 1683
“This period of solar inactivity also corresponds to a climatic period called the Little Ice Age when rivers that are normally ice-free froze and snow fields remained year-round at lower altitudes.” It was called the Maunder Minimum, after Edward Maunder, a British accountant who saw a sunspot “like a tack in the Sun” while he was walking home, and subsequently made counting and analyzing sunspots, rather than money, his life’s work. There have been other Minimums. The Dalton Minimum of 1800 to 1810 was that period when Napoleon had his unfortunate encounter with the Russian winter.
If the Sun’s magnetic activity does not increase, and it goes dim for an extended period, it will get quite chilly. In the meantime the Canada Space Agency, the Royal Observatory Greenwich and the US Air Force Solar Optical Observing Network are all keeping an eye on the Sun.
Posted by Cat on January 31, 2008 01:06 AM
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The Sun Also Sets
Climate Change: Not every scientist is part of Al Gore’s mythical “consensus.” Scientists worried about a new ice age seek funding to better observe something bigger than your SUV — the sun.
Related topic: Global Warming
Back in 1991, before Al Gore first shouted that the Earth was in the balance, the Danish Meteorological Institute released a study using data that went back centuries that showed that global temperatures closely tracked solar cycles.
To many, those data were convincing. Now, Canadian scientists are seeking additional funding for more and better “eyes” with which to observe our sun, which has a bigger impact on Earth’s climate than all the tailpipes and smokestacks on our planet combined.
And they’re worried about global cooling, not warming.
Kenneth Tapping, a solar researcher and project director for Canada’s National Research Council, is among those looking at the sun for evidence of an increase in sunspot activity.
Solar activity fluctuates in an 11-year cycle. But so far in this cycle, the sun has been disturbingly quiet. The lack of increased activity could signal the beginning of what is known as a Maunder Minimum, an event which occurs every couple of centuries and can last as long as a century.
Such an event occurred in the 17th century. The observation of sunspots showed extraordinarily low levels of magnetism on the sun, with little or no 11-year cycle.
This solar hibernation corresponded with a period of bitter cold that began around 1650 and lasted, with intermittent spikes of warming, until 1715. Frigid winters and cold summers during that period led to massive crop failures, famine and death in Northern Europe.
Tapping reports no change in the sun’s magnetic field so far this cycle and warns that if the sun remains quiet for another year or two, it may indicate a repeat of that period of drastic cooling of the Earth, bringing massive snowfall and severe weather to the Northern Hemisphere.
Tapping oversees the operation of a 60-year-old radio telescope that he calls a “stethoscope for the sun.” But he and his colleagues need better equipment.
In Canada, where radio-telescopic monitoring of the sun has been conducted since the end of World War II, a new instrument, the next-generation solar flux monitor, could measure the sun’s emissions more rapidly and accurately.
As we have noted many times, perhaps the biggest impact on the Earth’s climate over time has been the sun.
For instance, researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Solar Research in Germany report the sun has been burning more brightly over the last 60 years, accounting for the 1 degree Celsius increase in Earth’s temperature over the last 100 years.
R. Timothy Patterson, professor of geology and director of the Ottawa-Carleton Geoscience Center of Canada’s Carleton University, says that “CO2 variations show little correlation with our planet’s climate on long, medium and even short time scales.”
Rather, he says, “I and the first-class scientists I work with are consistently finding excellent correlations between the regular fluctuations of the sun and earthly climate. This is not surprising. The sun and the stars are the ultimate source of energy on this planet.”
Patterson, sharing Tapping’s concern, says: “Solar scientists predict that, by 2020, the sun will be starting into its weakest Schwabe cycle of the past two centuries, likely leading to unusually cool conditions on Earth.”
“Solar activity has overpowered any effect that CO2 has had before, and it most likely will again,” Patterson says. “If we were to have even a medium-sized solar minimum, we could be looking at a lot more bad effects than ‘global warming’ would have had.”
In 2005, Russian astronomer Khabibullo Abdusamatov made some waves — and not a few enemies in the global warming “community” — by predicting that the sun would reach a peak of activity about three years from now, to be accompanied by “dramatic changes” in temperatures.
A Hoover Institution Study a few years back examined historical data and came to a similar conclusion.
“The effects of solar activity and volcanoes are impossible to miss. Temperatures fluctuated exactly as expected, and the pattern was so clear that, statistically, the odds of the correlation existing by chance were one in 100,” according to Hoover fellow Bruce Berkowitz.
The study says that “try as we might, we simply could not find any relationship between industrial activity, energy consumption and changes in global temperatures.”
The study concludes that if you shut down all the world’s power plants and factories, “there would not be much effect on temperatures.”
But if the sun shuts down, we’ve got a problem. It is the sun, not the Earth, that’s hanging in the balance.Tags: age, agency, canada, ice, space