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Earth Space Science

Puzzled Scientists Say Strange Things Are Happening On the Sun 342

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-blame-the-schools dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Robert Lee Hotz reports in the WSJ that current solar activity is stranger than it has been in a century or more. The sun is producing barely half the number of sunspots as expected, and its magnetic poles are oddly out of sync. Based on historical records, astronomers say the sun this fall ought to be nearing the explosive climax of its approximate 11-year cycle of activity—the so-called solar maximum. But this peak is 'a total punk,' says Jonathan Cirtain. 'I would say it is the weakest in 200 years,' adds David Hathaway, head of the solar physics group at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. Researchers are puzzled. They can't tell if the lull is temporary or the onset of a decades-long decline, which might ease global warming a bit by altering the sun's brightness or the wavelengths of its light. To complicate the riddle, the sun also is undergoing one of its oddest magnetic reversals on record, with the sun's magnetic poles out of sync for the past year so the sun technically has two South Poles. Several solar scientists speculate that the sun may be returning to a more relaxed state after an era of unusually high activity that started in the 1940s (PDF). 'More than half of solar physicists would say we are returning to a norm,' says Mark Miesch. 'We might be in for a longer state of suppressed activity.' If so, the decline in magnetic activity could ease global warming, the scientists say. But such a subtle change in the sun—lowering its luminosity by about 0.1%—wouldn't be enough to outweigh the build-up of greenhouse gases and soot that most researchers consider the main cause of rising world temperatures over the past century or so. 'Given our current understanding of how the sun varies and how climate responds, were the sun to enter a new Maunder Minimum, it would not mean a new Little Ice Age,' says Judith Lean. 'It would simply slow down the current warming by a modest amount.'"
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Puzzled Scientists Say Strange Things Are Happening On the Sun

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  • by Silpher (1379267) on Wednesday November 13, 2013 @02:13AM (#45410153)

    Just sayin.. you're warned..

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 13, 2013 @03:02AM (#45410363)

      The human ingenuity has no limits! We saw a new ice age coming and created the polluting industrial society to counter the effect.

    • by geogob (569250)

      Just sayin.. you're warmed..

      You missed one half of an m...

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by AikonMGB (1013995)

      When will people finally realize that anthropogenic solar cooling is a real issue that affects all of us?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 13, 2013 @02:14AM (#45410157)

    Climate change is messing up our sun!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 13, 2013 @02:33AM (#45410231)

    Scientists don't know everything about everything, but they want to know. That's how science works: it's a process.

  • by beaverdownunder (1822050) on Wednesday November 13, 2013 @02:37AM (#45410245)

    ...hey, if it buys us a hundred years to figure this pollution shit out, I ain't gonna look a gift horse in the mouth.

    Are you?

    • so more like an extra year or two, at best, and probably more like a few months.

      it's later than you think, and possibly too late already, only we hope not.

      • by khallow (566160)
        Or possibly a lot earlier than you think. I guess we'll just have to see what actually happens.
      • This is American news. Over in Europe, most governments have been looking into the impacts of long-term global cooling for the past decade. Or so says that liberal hard-on machine Slate; I'm surprised Fox News hasn't jumped on this, doubly surprised that Republicans are usually the ones to call bullshit on the modern global cooling theory and immediately start spouting about how global warming is a well-established scientific fact. It's like the political ideologists can't keep straight what side of whi

        • by geekoid (135745)

          global warming is a well extablished fact. I wonder which part of the science you don't knoe?
          Help me find out:
          1) Do you not know visible light comes from the sun?
          2) Do you not know that when visible light hits something Infra red is created?
          3) Do you not know that CO2 is 'clear' to visible light?
          4) Do you not know that CO2 is opaque it infra red?

          Those are scientific facts.
          So the hypothesis based on those facts is that the trapped energy will increase on earth.
          That means an increase in global temperature and

    • by c0lo (1497653)

      ...hey, if it buys us a hundred years to figure this pollution shit out, I ain't gonna look a gift horse in the mouth.

      Are you?

      Nah, not doing it even if the horse's not a gift.

    • by riverat1 (1048260)

      From what I've seen it buys about a decade at best. And it does nothing about the ocean acidification problem.

  • Sun’s Hemispheres Out Of Sync During Magnetic Field

    Written by: Tara Dodrill Trending August 8, 2013 3 Comments

  • Please come back my crappy antenna needs all the help it can get.

  • by jamesh (87723) on Wednesday November 13, 2013 @03:04AM (#45410367)

    'Given our current understanding of how the sun varies and how climate responds, were the sun to enter a new Maunder Minimum, it would not mean a new Little Ice Age,' says Judith Lean. 'It would simply slow down the current warming by a modest amount.'

    That's a glass half empty point of view. If we hadn't added a protective layer of CO2 to our atmosphere we could be in an ice age right now.

    • by Sockatume (732728)

      If the difference between high solar activity and low solar activity is just a slowing of warming, how do you conclude that we would be in "an ice age" were the warming not present?

      • Re:glass half empty (Score:4, Informative)

        by Kamien (1561193) on Wednesday November 13, 2013 @06:29AM (#45411159)
        Exactly.
        The difference between high and low solar activity is small (0.1% difference).
        With solar radiation at the average level of ~1366 W/sqm the variation is a tiny 1.3 Watts...

        The temperatures during the so-called Little Ice Age were lower than average by less than 1 degree Celsius.
        Calling the period an "Ice Age" is incorrect.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by msauve (701917)
      It's worse than that.

      Based on historical records, astronomers say the sun this fall ought to be nearing the explosive climax...Researchers are puzzled...'Given our current understanding of how the sun varies and how climate responds, were the sun to enter a new Maunder Minimum, it would not mean a new Little Ice Age,' says Judith Lean.

      So, the sun is behaving differently than any other time in it's recorded history. Researchers don't know why. But Judith Lean feels comfortable stating conclusively what effec

  • by thisisauniqueid (825395) on Wednesday November 13, 2013 @03:26AM (#45410463)
    In other news, archaeologists discover we were one year off in our estimates of the end of the next Long Count cycle on the Mayan Calendar.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Look, I know the sun hasnt been meeting its performance goals as of late, but its just going through some stuff, OK? The sun is working on getting its shit together and will be back better than ever, but you just gotta cool off man.
  • by tanveer1979 (530624) on Wednesday November 13, 2013 @04:27AM (#45410661) Homepage Journal

    After witnessing the Aurora, I say this is sad news. Quiet sun means fewer displays like this
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hEHRoyvh_Ec [youtube.com]

    And maybe no more of those wild sun moments when satellite engineers go berserk in fear.

  • by quenda (644621) on Wednesday November 13, 2013 @04:50AM (#45410765)

    Only Doctor Hans Zarkhov, formerly at NASA, has provided any explanation.

  • by biodata (1981610) on Wednesday November 13, 2013 @05:09AM (#45410835)
    I'm guessing the solution will involve Bruce Willis and a spaceship full of nukes flying to the sun to save us all
  • for causes and effects of global warming. It's a nearly
    stable factor.
    Do something about the shit under your nose.

  • by argStyopa (232550) on Wednesday November 13, 2013 @07:46AM (#45411473) Journal

    I note that global climate seems to be going through a startlingly fast, almost uniquely fast change. (Well, ok, there are similar almost-vertical pulses of warming about every 120-140kY.)

    The sun seems to be going through a startling, unobserved mixture of activity.

    Generally, when one startling random happenstance occurs in close proximity to another, it's not unreasonable to wonder if they're connected.

    One might point out that our understanding of solar cycles comes from direct observation of approximately only 250-some years.

    Observation of a system can only observe periodicity of 0.5N, and suggest confirmation 0.33N; that is you only get a HINT that something is periodic after you see it twice, and really only a strong suggestion of periodicity after the third observation. Turning that around, then, the longest periodic cycles within our 4.5-billion-old Sun that we could have directly observed is not much more than 80 years. (Granted, one can make some inferred solar observations on a longer scale based on tree ring data, etc.)

    That's an amazingly short time, given the scale of our sun's span. We don't really know all that much about it.

  • It's just the photino birds.

  • ... that if anyone presents you a model of anything, it is likely wrong to a degree they can only guess at.

    Economic, social, biological, climate (to mention just a few) are to be taken with a huge grain of salt. It is nice people study these things and increase our knowledge. That sort of pursuit is to be encouraged and applauded. But the minute anyone says they have it all understood ... stop listening. They don't.

    Think: when was the last time you heard about a model and were told its accuracy _and_ as

    • by Sockatume (732728)

      In science, as opposed to the press, a method's limitations are basically the first thing you hear after the method is described. When that qualification is absent, it's the first thing the audience asks about. In this context look at how much of the IPCC reports or the BEST study are concerned with testing method sensitivity.

  • by PPH (736903) on Wednesday November 13, 2013 @10:30AM (#45412837)

    Send people to Mars. While the level of solar activity is low and the risk of CMEs [wikipedia.org] is less.

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