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Solar Maximum and global warming

By | 2018-06-11T12:12:58+00:00 July 2nd, 2013|Astronomy, Sun|

solar maximumIt seems pretty much everyone agrees now that the earth is warming, and the extreme weather over the past week certainly seems to confirm that both the weather AND the climate is changing.  Steven Forrest’s July newsletter included an article about the current Solar Maximum which reminded me that I haven’t written on this topic for quite awhile.  Steven links to a The Night Speaks which discusses the research of Aleksandr Leonidovich Chizhevsky who divided the sunspot cycle into four phases that correlate to human behavior: 

Phase One: The solar minimum. With sunspot activity at its eleven-year low, humanity is in an easygoing mood, tolerant but lazy. People are occupied with personal concerns and little inclined to organize themselves into any kind of unified, history-shaping force.

Phase Two: The solar increase. Social energies begin to coalesce. Exciting new Ideas and charismatic spokes people appear, planting seeds that quickly germinate into mass movements. Alliances form. According to Chizhevsky, at this point in the cycle some fundamental problem arises and demands radical solution.

Phase Three: The solar maximum. Energies abound. Everyone is excited, eager to respond en masse to leadership or inspiration, for better or worse. An air of enthusiastic drunkenness suffuses the polity. Emigration increases. Wars begin. Tension is high.

Phase Four: The solar decline. Exhausted and often disenchanted, humanity now loses steam. The seductive easy answers of the previous several years break down. Unity and collective focus drop off. Disillusionment increases. Groups disband. People go back to tending their own gardens – and gradually we descend again into the peaceful lassitude of Phase One, the sunspot minimum.

Chizhevsky divided the four solar phases into periods of three, two, three and three years respectively. Due to the varying lengths of the […]

The Sun is definitely waking up

By | 2018-06-11T12:13:19+00:00 August 3rd, 2010|Astronomy, Sun|

After a prolonged “solar minimum,”  with record long periods without sunspots, the Sun has become extremely active again.  These periods of solar maximum alternating with solar minimum are a normal part of solar activity but the last solar minimum was particularly long: 12.4 years rather than the usual 11 years.

A positive effect of the delay in the return of sunspot activity is that the maximum period will not coincide with December 2012 as previously feared.  This was one of the explanations for the fearmongering surrounding the December 2012 date, but it’s now behind schedule and the maximum of the maximum period likely won’t arrive until 2013 or 2014.

In the meantime, reports that “the entire Earth-facing side of the Sun erupted in a tumult of activity” with a C3-class flare, a solar tsunami, radio bursts, coronal mass ejection (CME) .  The impact of the CME hit the Earth’s magnetic field today at 1:30 pm EDT.

It’s interesting (but not necessarily significant) that this burst of solar energy comes when there’s a lot of planetary energy anyway with Mars and Saturn facing off against Jupiter and Uranus.

CMEs can sometimes affect communication satellites and power grids, but this C-class flares typically do not create a lot of problems.  But those in northern latitudes may be treated to some nice auroras!

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The Sun is waking up

By | 2018-06-11T12:14:04+00:00 June 13th, 2010|Astronomy, Sun|

solar flare
Recent solar flare

Solar scientists met last week to discuss the higher levels of solar activity that are likely as we move out of the Solar Minimum of the past few years.  The head of NASA’s Heliophysics Division says “our technological society has developed an unprecedented sensitivity to solar storms.”

reports an M2-class flare on June 12th that hurled a billion-ton coronal mass ejection into space, and a new sunspot has emerged with a series of its own eruptions.   Solar flares have been connected with weather extremes, and there have been some powerful lightning storms over the past few days.

There are proven connections between Jupiter and sunspots, so the fact that the Sun is erupting into flares at the time that Jupiter conjoins Uranus in the fiery sign of Aries is an interesting coincidence.

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Low solar activity linked to cool UK winter

By | 2010-04-15T08:04:52+00:00 April 15th, 2010|Astronomy|

Last year’s cold winter sparked a huge resurgence into the global warming debate.  If the earth is warming, why did we have a cold winter?

We’ve been in a “Solar Minimum” since about 2006, a long period with virtually no solar activity.  I’ve been writing about this for quite some time in these pages as you’ll see from these links.  Much of the hysteria over 2012 stems from the fact that we were due for a Solar Maximum period in 2012 which could create chaos in communication systems and electrical grids, but the extended minimum period, which ended just this year, suggests that we won’t hit the Solar Maximum period now until at least 2014.

have now identified a link between low sunspot activity and atmospheric conditions on Earth.  This year’s winter, according to Professor Mike Lockwood, was the coldest in 160 years.  He attributes the connection to a phenomenon called “blocking” which involvles the movement of the jet stream of the northern hemisphere.

“If you haven’t got blocking, then the jet stream brings the mild, wet westerly winds to give us the weather we are famous for.”

But, he added, if the jet stream is “blocked”, and pushed further northwards, then cold, dry winds from the east flow over Europe, resulting in a sharp fall in temperatures.

“This… ‘blocking’ does seem to be one of the things that can be modulated by solar activity,” he said.

Recent studies suggest that when solar activity is low, “blocking” events move eastwards from above north-eastern North America towards Europe, and become more stable.

A prolonged “blocking” during the most recent winter was responsible for the long spell of freezing conditions that gripped Europe.

Written observations from […]

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Are we heading into another “little ice age?”

By | 2009-09-13T07:44:42+00:00 September 13th, 2009|Astronomy|

Maybe the solar warming skeptics are on to something.  As you probably know, we are in a very deep solar minimum, with over 700 days with absolutely no sunspot activity since 2004. In fact, some scientists are beginning to speculate that :

“Sunspot magnetic fields are dropping by about 50 gauss per year,” says Penn. “If we extrapolate this trend into the future, sunspots could completely vanish around the year 2015.”

This disappearing act is possible because sunspots are made of magnetism. The “firmament” of a sunspot is not matter but rather a strong magnetic field that appears dark because it blocks the upflow of heat from the sun’s interior. If Earth lost its magnetic field, the solid planet would remain intact, but if a sunspot loses its magnetism, it ceases to exist.

Between 1645 and 1715 or so, another spotless period later became known as the  “Maunder Minimum,” and happened to coincide with the beginning of the “little ice age” that spread through Europe causing bitterly cold winters.  However, the cold spell lasted well beyond the end of the Solar Minimum period, leading many scientists to dispute the correlation.

Much of the panic over 2012 and the end of the Mayan calendar also relates to the idea that this will be the year of the peak solar maximum.  If the solar cycle behaved as it was supposed to, we would be peaking during the period from 2011 to 2012.  Some scientists are predicting an even stronger peak because of the minimum.

The fact is, no one knows.  And isn’t that one of the exciting mysteries of life!

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We are in Deep Solar Minimum

By | 2018-07-15T10:12:35+00:00 April 6th, 2009|Astronomy|

Thanks to for this link to a  on the Solar Minimum, the expected period of low sunspot activity.  The Solar Minimum came right on schedule back in 2006, as I reported in this earlier article.  But this Solar Minimum is setting all kinds of records.

In 2008 the Sun was completely blank of sunspots 73% of the time, the lowest activity since 1913.  As of March 31, according to the NASA article, the Sun has been free of sunspots 87% of the time in 2009.  This is a particularly deep solar minimum that follows a 50-year period of heightened sunspot activity.

The Solar Minimum could create cooler than usual weather conditions, just as the Maunder Minimum did between 1645-1715, coinciding what was called the “Little Ice Age.”  There is also a speculated connection between the Solar Minimum periods and increased earthquake activity.  USGS statistics that indicate that earthquake activity seems to have peaked in 2003-2006, so there appears to be some correlation since the Solar Minimum appears to have begun in 2004.

Spaceweather has a new calculator for the Solar Minimum and reports that while the typical Solar Minimum lasts 485 days, we have had 592 days of a blank Sun with no sunspots.

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More on sunspot cycles

By | 2018-06-11T12:15:04+00:00 January 9th, 2008|Astronomy|

Rich is the scientist in our family, and he was commenting after reading my post on the new sunspot cycles that since these cycles alternate between positive and negative, perhaps each 11- year cycle is actually one-half of a larger 22-year cycle.

An article on the site of the National Council for Geocosmic Research (NCGR) by Jackie Slevin told the story of John H. Nelson, who is called the “patriarch” of sunspot research:

An amateur astronomer since boyhood and radio operator for RCA Communications, Nelson pioneered solar research and forecasting through over 25 years of rigorous experimentation. In 1946 he was given the title “Short- wave Radio Propagation Analyst,” and began a course of scientific observation, the results of which ended in unexpected controversy. “We have come to realize that the Sun is doing something to the planets, or the planets are doing something to the Sun that the presently recognized laws of science cannot explain. Though sunspots have never been completely understood, I found, through careful observation, that they are predictable. Why the predictions come true is not readily apparent. When future amateurs or scientists find a scientific explanation for what is taking place in the solar system, on the Sun and in the ionosphere of the Earth, we can take the subject out of the occult and assign it a scientific basis. I am confident this will be done someday.”

I found this paragraph about sunspots and the church particularly compelling:

The Chinese have been recording sunspots since ancient times, but it was the Renaissance scientist Galileo Galilei who, after viewing them with this homemade telescope, reported them to scholars in sixteenth century Italy. Scholars at this time were connected to the Catholic Church, whose strict dogmas did not allow for much free […]

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New sunspot harbinger of new solar cycle

By | 2018-06-11T12:15:22+00:00 January 5th, 2008|Astronomy|

According to this article:

A new 11-year cycle of heightened solar activity, bringing with it increased risks for power grids, critical military, civilian and airline communications, GPS signals and even cell phones and ATM transactions, showed signs it was on its way late yesterday when the cycle’s first sunspot appeared in the sun’s Northern Hemisphere, NOAA scientists said.

“This sunspot is like the first robin of spring,” said solar physicist Douglas Biesecker of NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center. “In this case, it’s an early omen of solar storms that will gradually increase over the next few years.”

A sunspot is an area of highly organized magnetic activity on the surface of the sun. The new 11-year cycle, called Solar Cycle 24, is expected to build gradually, with the number of sunspots and solar storms reaching a maximum by 2011 or 2012, though devastating storms can occur at any time.

During a solar storm, highly charged material ejected from the sun may head toward Earth, where it can bring down power grids, disrupt critical communications, and threaten astronauts with harmful radiation. Storms can also knock out commercial communications satellites and swamp Global Positioning System signals. Routine activities such as talking on a cell phone or getting money from an ATM machine could suddenly halt over a large part of the globe.

Isn’t it an interesting coincidence that the solar maximum will arrive at 2012!

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Jupiter/Saturn, sunspot cycles, and 2012

By | 2018-07-16T12:08:06+00:00 November 15th, 2007|Science|

Thanks to  for finding  about the research of the late Rhodes Fairbridge of the effects of Jupiter on our earthly climate. It has been known for some time that Jupiter has an effect on sunspots which correlate to changes in our climate, but no one really understood why. It turns out the answer may be in the relationship between Jupiter and Saturn.

At times, the sun is at the solar system’s centre of gravity. Most often, this is not the case– the orbit of the planets will align planets to one side or another of the sun. Jupiter, the planet with by far the largest mass, most influences the solar system’s centre of gravity. When Uranus, Neptune and especially Saturn — the next largest planet — join Jupiter on one side of the solar system, the solar system’s centre of gravity shifts well beyond the sun.The sun’s own orbit, he found, has eight characteristic patterns, all determined by Jupiter’s position relative to Saturn, with the other planets playing much lesser roles. Some of these eight have orderly orbits, smooth and near-circular. During such orbits, solar activity is high and Earth heats up. Some of the eight orbits are chaotic, taking a loop-the-loop path. These orbits correspond to quiet times for the sun [solar minimum], and cool periods on Earth. Every 179 years or so, the sun embarks on a new cycle of orbits. One of the cooler periods in recent centuries was the Little Ice Age of the 17th century, when the Thames River in London froze over each winter. The next cool period, if the pattern holds, began in 1996, with the effects to be felt starting in 2010. Some predict three decades of severe cold.

I wrote on […]

Solar Minimum Has Arrived

By | 2017-04-02T09:41:13+00:00 April 4th, 2006|Astronomy|

Beginning in February of this year, the Sun has been completely blank with no sunspots. NASA solar physicist David Hathaway says “Solar minimum has arrived.” In 2004, he predicted that solar minimum, a period of low sunspot activity, would arrive in late 2006 and it appears it has come a bit early.

Sunspots are “great islands of magnetism”–force fields that are cooler than the rest of the Sun. They contract and expand and change as they move across the surface of the Sun. Some scientists believe there is a connection between solar activity and climate change, and a period of low solar activity between 1666 and 1700, known as the Maunder Minimum, to have coincided with the “mini ice age” of that period, bringing bitterly cold winters to Europe and heightened volcanic activity.

What will this period of decreased energy bring to human consciousness? Astrologically, the Sun represents the individual Self, warming and encouraging our spirit to grow and evolve, just as the Sun warms and encourages growth of plants. High levels of solar activity bring an increased degree of electromagnetic energy, stimulating our own bioenergetic fields and heightening our awareness of higher realms of consciousness. Intense electromagnetic stimulation, such as what we sometimes find in a transit of Uranus, can be ungrounding and somewhat disturbing to our earth-bound natures.

has extensively researched the field of magnetobiology, which shows how organisms respond to the Earth’s magnetic fields, and how the Sun affects those fields. If high sunspot activity causes the earth’s magnetosphere to grow in size and amplify those affects, as he claims, then low sunspot activity is apt to minimize those effects.

Since the […]

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