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Space Earth Science

Of Late, Fewer Sunspots Than Usual 628

Posted by timothy
from the sundials-largely-unaffected dept.
esocid writes "The sun has been laying low for the past couple of years, producing no sunspots and giving a break to satellites. Periods of inactivity are normal for the sun, but this period has gone on longer than usual. The sun usually operates on an 11-year cycle with maximum activity occurring in the middle of the cycle. The last cycle reached its peak in 2001 and is believed to be just ending now, with the next cycle just beginning and expected to reach its peak sometime around 2012. Today's sun, however, is as inactive as it was two years ago, and scientists aren't sure why. In the past, solar physicists observed that the sun once went 50 years without producing sunspots, coinciding with a little ice age on Earth that lasted from 1650 to 1700." (More below.)
esocid continues: "The Hinode, a Japanese satellite mission with the US and UK as partners, has three telescopes that together show how changes on the sun's surface spread through the solar atmosphere. It orbits 431 miles (694 km) above the Earth, crossing both poles and making one lap every 95 minutes, giving Hinode an uninterrupted view of the sun for several months out of the year. Scientists are not extremely worried, but have added extra ground stations in case of interference from extra solar activity, and are ready for the Sun to resume its activity." (The Little Ice Age is fascinating, full stop.)
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Of Late, Fewer Sunspots Than Usual

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  • by FredFredrickson (1177871) * on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @12:48PM (#23728867) Homepage Journal
    That would be weird if not only the earth tried to accomodate for the inbalance- but some sort of cosmic balance that we don't understand kicked in.
  • by Kemanorel (127835) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @12:48PM (#23728873)
    ...Larry Niven's Fallen Angels [wikipedia.org]. Basic back story was that global warming was corrected, but it was the only thing holding back the next ice age. Not a bad supposition for a 17-year old novel. Pretty fun read with some decent science, as well.
  • 2012 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by FiloEleven (602040) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @01:04PM (#23729283)

    ...and expected to reach its peak sometime around 2012
    Causing the apocalypse predicted by the Mayan calendar, no doubt.
  • by steeljaw (65872) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @01:04PM (#23729291) Homepage Journal
    Surprised that nobody has yet linked this to the Mayan 2012 prophecy, in which The world will end on Dec 21, 2012. [survive2012.com].. I'm not a big believer in apocalypse prophecies, I think it's just one of Man's primal fears and along with death, probably one of the reasons religions were created.
  • 2012? (Score:3, Interesting)

    isn't that when the mayan calendar is supposed to end?

    http://skepdic.com/maya.html [skepdic.com]

    so the sun is just preparing to shut down, for the coming end of the world, of course
  • by georgep77 (97111) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @01:09PM (#23729439) Homepage Journal
    A few hundred years ago William Herschel was able to notice the inverse relationship between sunspots and the price of wheat.
    http://www.hao.ucar.edu/Public/education/bios/herschel.html [ucar.edu]

    I find it amazing that this relationship (sun spots vs agricultural output) is dismissed so easily by the current anti-CO2 crowd. I am all for eliminating pollution but I am very worried that the focus on CO2 is completely wrong and is doing a great disservice to humanity.

    CO2 is the breath of life.

    _GP_
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @01:10PM (#23729457)
    uhh; if the sun has not been producing spots AND the temperature has not been DECREASING then global warming is in fact a very real phenomenon and actually exceeds the ability of a process that previously created an ICE age to have any effect on it.

    In other words this indicates that global warming is real, and explains the lack of temperature climb in previous years, the temperature is not climbing because all of the greenhouse gases are currently countering the heat loss from lack of sunspots, it also means things are much worse then the pragmatists say (but still likely not worse then what the doomsayers say)- because once the sun does start producing spots again the temperature is going to climb suddenly.

    However it also means that we, humanity, us; have a reprieve- if we can fix this before the sun starts spotting again then we can avert the worst disasters that global warming might bring.
  • by tjstork (137384) <todd.bandrowsky@NOSpAM.gmail.com> on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @01:12PM (#23729485) Homepage Journal
    No discernible warming since 2000? Then this article from NASA [nasa.gov] must be all wrong then. Thanks for letting us know! *rolleyes

    The source isn't credible, because it's James Hansen, whose pretty plugged into the global warming scene. He has a lot of shoddy fortran code to stick up for.

    Better comparison is look at the IPCC forecasts versus today, and you'll see that the planet hasn't actually warmed.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @01:18PM (#23729639)
    Most climatologist do NOT take this into account. Are you speaking of the same scientist that swore the hole in the ozone layer was due to CFCs? Because a report (Scientific American, Spaceweather.com) both showed a direct correlation to particle emissions from the sun. NOT CFCs.

    Before you go claiming "tinfoil hat science" I would look at the universities where those climatologist teach. With Berkley, Stanford, and any other liberal biased university behind their name, you can bet on their position.
  • by mh1997 (1065630) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @01:35PM (#23730029)

    "...while the warming of Jupiter can be explained by increases in solar output, the warming of Earth can not.
    At least 25% of it can be:

    From http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/05/080512120523.htm [sciencedaily.com]

    Over the past century, Earth's average temperature has increased by approximately 0.6 degrees Celsius (1.1 degrees Fahrenheit). Solar heating accounts for about 0.15 C, or 25 percent, of this change, according to computer modeling results published by NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies researcher David Rind in 2004.

    "Right now, we are in between major ice ages, in a period that has been called the Holocene," said Cahalan. "Over recent decades, however, we have moved into a human-dominated climate that some have termed the Anthropocene. The major change in Earth's climate is now really dominated by human activity, which has never happened before."

    My question is what is the optimum temperature to sustain life on our planet? I've searched and can't find that answer and would appreciate any help. I'm not denying warming or trying to flame, I am serious about the question.

  • by Iowan41 (1139959) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @01:41PM (#23730173)
    And those few who actually are climatologists, like Mr. Hanson, know that they are lying. The facts are plain. There has been no warming (except where they move thermometers to hang over asphalt parking lots), and now there is cooling, in sync with the sunspot minimum in progress, and the Pacific Decadal Occilation. 31,000 climatologists, climate scientists and other scientists just signed a petition against the 1900 IPCC sociologists and a handful of scientists getting their grant money from promoting warming alarmism. The ice sheets are getting thicker, too. You are sooo easily deceived. Would you happen to be interested in buying a bridge? Or male enhancement pills?
  • by fumblebruschi (831320) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @01:48PM (#23730345)
    Meh. Fallen Angels is what a friend of mine calls "fan porn" -- a book cynically designed to flatter the vanity of its target audience. The book features a group of (what else?) science-fiction-fan nerds who are persecuted for being smart, creative, and open-minded -- exactly the fantasy that many SF fans construct about their own lives. (Hey, it's not that people avoid you because you're an obnoxious ass -- it's that they're all jealous because you're special.) There is no plot that sits so well with the SF market as a story about a small group of superior people who are oppressed by the inferior masses.
  • by mpeskett (1221084) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @01:49PM (#23730365)
    Depends what kind of life you prefer. There are species able to fill most niches, from polar bears and penguins at the cold end to extremophiles in the boiling hot ocean vents. The perceived problem with warming is that it removes some of the diversity of available niches (i.e. if all the ice melts the ice-living stuff has a problem). If it got significantly colder then things in the tropics might have a problem.

    For the life that has been around for the relatively recent past, the temperatures of the relatively recent past are preferred... that's how evolution works, things adapt to the conditions that are available, or they die out. There is no real optimum, any sudden change from the prevailing norm means some species or other is fucked.

    Although, if you just want to maximise the total mass of alive stuff on the face of the Earth, tropical temperatures seem to work well (lot of biomass in the rainforests), so a planet that's mostly fairly warm, with some deserts at the equator where it gets hotter and some temperate regions further north is probably your best bet. Shame about the polar bears though.
  • by WhiplashII (542766) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @02:08PM (#23730775) Homepage Journal
    Second, the cap and trade system, while not perfect , does not redistribute wealth

    Very true - that is why the older, embedded politicians and companies like it so much. Who is hurt under cap and trade? STARTUPS!

    As a startup, (building rockets, for example), I am not allowed to pollute, or at least have to pay some arbitrary amount for it. And who do I pay? My competition, who were established before the caps and now can just sit back and accept the checks.

    Why are you against progress? You want anyone trying to create something new to be beholden to the status quo? Really, how does your system help anyone that is not a large corporation?
  • by Snocone (158524) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @02:22PM (#23731097) Homepage
    Do you honestly think climate scientists don't take this into account? That's either bordering on a tinfoil hat level of crazy conspiracy theory, or it represents an equally crazy level of disdain for other people's intellect.

    Errrm ... no, there's a third option. Namely, "they've actually read the IPCC reports".

    Not only do climate scientists not take this into account, they actively conduct witch hunts on anybody who does attempt to even research it.

    Read "The Chilling Stars" for an absolutely horrifying -- if you have any respect for the scientific method at all -- chronicle of how the rather plausible Svensmark theories on linkage of solar activity with cosmic rays and therefore cloud formation and therefore climate change -- and MOST IMPORTANTLY, how the historically low amount of clouds in the late 20th C. could very well be responsible for ALL the observed warming relegating C02 to an irrelevance -- was and still is, on the whole, treated with rather less respect and integrity than the Catholic Church gave Gailileo.

  • by pjabardo (977600) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @02:30PM (#23731283)
    I did not know about this correlation of ozone hole and particle emissions from the sun. Very interesting indeed. Did you notice how fast the ozone hole "problem" was solved? It reached mainstream media and a couple of years later CFCs were banned. How fast can such broad decisions be made? I remember one paper that was widely cited that basically mixed CFCs and an atmosphere and bombarded this environment with UV and the result was the destruction of O3. But conditions (pressure, temperature concentrations, etc) were very different from those observed in the ionosphere. In fact, there was very little research on the causes of the hole. Research basically informed that there was a hole (but with no previous history) and this paper (I don't remember the authors).

    OTOH, patents on most common CFCs expired few years before and several manufacturers worldwide were beginning to manufacture CFCs and lowering prices. Suddenly the ozone layer hole hits the news and CFCs are banned in very little time. Including refrigerants such as R22 that has an excellent performance and should destroy very little ozone. And new, complicated, expensive and *patented* refrigerants show up to save the world.

    But I think it would be unfair to compare this situation with global warming because in this case there is a lot of research from groups all over the world and there is a history of measurements to compare actual conditions.
  • by tjstork (137384) <todd.bandrowsky@NOSpAM.gmail.com> on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @02:31PM (#23731297) Homepage Journal
    Blow 45 trillion dollars and knock the temp down 1/10th of a degree by living in the stone ages? Can you say straw man?

    Ah, if it only were a straw man....

    International Energy Agency Report [yahoo.com]

    Now, if we blow through this money, and knock our emissions down, we still wind up with a CO2 level STILL HIGHER THAN TODAY.

    http://ucsaction.org/campaign/3_6_07_sanders_waxman_climate_bills/explanation [ucsaction.org]

    Meaning that, we will spend 45 trillion dollars to basically get today's weather.

    Now, let's consider what this means. It means we have to use 1/5th of the energy we presently use now. By any conceivable measure, modern society places the wealth of a society based on how much energy it can consume. All things being equal, spending money to get the same or less of an effect will make people poorer. I mean, in a perfect world, where oil just poured out of a big new 100 billion barrel find in Montana and we didn't have to do anything about AGW, we could take that 45 trillion and feed the world, cure AIDs, build a base on Mars, and still have enough money to invade Iraq 20 times over. It's a lot of money to basically make us poorer.

    We might have to do it, after all. But, let's call this for what it is. Because of climate change, humanity is about to become a whole lot poorer.
  • by nsayer (86181) <nsayer AT kfu DOT com> on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @02:36PM (#23731441) Homepage
    I was an active ham [wikipedia.org] back in college - about 1998. 20 meters was great back then. But I moved into a series of apartments where I couldn't put up an antenna, and the Internet came along, so I let it slide. Recently, my wife sort of convinced me to take the hobby back up again (probably to take some of my time away from Poker), and now that I'm back on the air.... the Sun isn't cooperating. :(

    But that's ok. At least we're on the upswing rather than the downswing.

  • Natural Variation (Score:3, Interesting)

    by verloren (523497) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @02:38PM (#23731493)
    Although these cycles average at 11 years (actually 11.1), they vary markedly between approximately 9 and 14 years. So while this one is running longer than average it's going to be another 18 months or so before it's really unusual.

    On a related note the period of 'no sunspots' is referred to as the Maunder Minimum, though it should be noted that there were still sunspots, and the cycles did continue, just at a greatly reduced intensity.

    Note: I do not look at the sun directly, nor do I play someone who does so on TV.
  • by Sciros (986030) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @03:02PM (#23732157) Journal
    Prove global warming false? Just what are you talking about?

    The trillion-dollar question is what factors combine to affect the Earth's temperature, and whether/how these factors can be influenced by people.

    There ARE "carbon cultists" in the sense the GP described -- people that truly have zero grasp of the science involved in climate change and in what practical effect any sort of change will have on the Earth's populations. Every climate model that suggests a strong correlation between human activity and mean global temperature also suggests that the effect of this human activity will linger for decades to come. This means that even the science that drives fools to invest in curbing carbon emmissions really says it's better to invest in dealing with the problems that we're supposed to see for decades to come *due* to future global warming. Better levees surrounding coastal cities, etc. Basically, whatever reasons global warming is "bad," we should be addressing those reasons because if those models are correct, we'll be dealing with those reasons soon enough. (Otherwise, what's all the fuss about to begin with?)

    Mind you, cleaner energy, more efficient power generation, etc. -- that's all well and good regardless. Maintaining a clean environment is good regardless. However, this is NOT the same thing as "fighting" global warming (CO2 is not a *pollutant* any more than water vapor is). So people that say "hey, it's a good thing regardless" are not considering that 1) it may well be a meaningless thing if you're interested in a clean environment as opposed to affecting global temperature trends, and 2) it costs an enormous amount of money that may be put to far better, more practical use that is likely to be needed in the short run, at least if anthropogenic global warming proponents are correct.

    To reiterate - if anthropogenic global warming proponents are correct, they're doing the wrong things about it. If they're wrong, they're doing the wrong things, period.

    It's become too much of a political issue at this point for the science (and, in any case, reasonable action) to be relevant to most people, and that's not only a shame but truly an issue that will end up affecting us detrimentally. Because the unfortunate truth is that at the moment one cannot make billions of dollars mitigating the effects of [climate-change-driven?] natural disasters and ecosystem changes, but one certainly can by "trading carbon offsets" or creating biofuels (at the expense of food shortage).
  • by giminy (94188) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @03:29PM (#23732937) Homepage Journal
    In the past, solar physicists observed that the sun once went 50 years without producing sunspots, coinciding with a little ice age on Earth that lasted from 1650 to 1700."

    This is really really *really* hard to say. Our data on sunspots in prior to about 1750 is pretty dismal. Most of the mentions of sunspots are casual or even accidental observation. You can find a lot of data on this at the NOAA ftp site:

    Reports of sunspots from 164BC to 1918AD [noaa.gov]
    Monthly average of sunsports from 1749 to present [noaa.gov]

    Note two things: One, that there were reports of sunspots between 1650 and 1700; two, that the data prior to 1749 is inaccurate and (pardon the pun) spotty.

    Note that the monthly averages file (the second one) is fairly accurate, as the older data in that file was made by the Royal Observatory and the later data in that file was made by the NOAA. I find it really hard to jump to the conclusion that the little ice age was a result of sunspots. Without a time machine, I don't think we could say that with any degree of certainty.
  • by operagost (62405) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @05:41PM (#23736415) Homepage Journal
    What does the flat global mean temp over the last 10 years indicate? After all, we're burning more fossil fuels than ever.
  • by spun (1352) <{moc.oohay} {ta} {yranoituloverevol}> on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @06:07PM (#23736949) Journal
    You must not have researched this very hard, or even looked carefully at that site, because this is a very well known case of outright fraud that was debunked years ago. People can add their names over the Internet without any fact checking. So how is anyone going to find the person who lied on a website form?

    http://mediamatters.org/items/200706060009 [mediamatters.org]

    http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Oregon_Institute_of_Science_and_Medicine#Case_Study:_The_Oregon_Petition [sourcewatch.org]

  • by ihuntrocks (870257) <ihuntrocks@gm a i l .com> on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @06:12PM (#23737045)
    What a good point you make! You are certainly correct, that one data point doesn't indicate any sort of trend whatsoever.

    Now that we have established this, let's look at this discussion in the context of the history of the earth. There is a natural occurrence of global warming in our history (completely independent of random periods of sun spots or people...no....really, I mean it!). Given the incredibly short duration of the statistics that you mentioned to illustrate your point with respect to geologic time, I'd have to say that your statistics don't even form a full data point.

    Face it, this kind of stuff happens. We may be responsible for part of it, but I think that after reviewing the evidence of global warming existing before our species (and being worse at some points) I'd have to say that it's a little bit of hubris to think that we, as a species, could be responsible for this. I'm not saying we shouldn't clean things up and take better care of the place (I advocate that, don't get me wrong), but I believe our motivation should come from the fact that we need to maintain our environment, not from the irrational fear that we are capable of burning up the planet by driving our SUVs (and yes, I have one. It hauls more people so we only have to take one vehicle instead of two small ones and frankly its just damned convenient).
  • by tallbloke (64065) <rog AT tallbloke DOT net> on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @08:28PM (#23739183) Homepage
    I notice Realclimate has recently been overtaken in site traffic by the one man blog belonging to Anthony Watts - http://wattsupwiththat.wordpress.com/ [wordpress.com]
    Climate Audit is worth a read too.

All the evidence concerning the universe has not yet been collected, so there's still hope.

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