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Space Earth Science

Of Late, Fewer Sunspots Than Usual 628

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 bunratty ( 545641 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @01:01PM (#23729219)
    No discernible warming since 2000? Then this article from NASA [nasa.gov] must be all wrong then. Thanks for letting us know! *rolleyes*
  • 22 not 11 years (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @01:01PM (#23729221)
    It's actually a 22 year cycle because every 11 years the sunspots have a different polarity of the magnetic field associated with each pair of spots.
  • by pushing-robot ( 1037830 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @01:02PM (#23729233)

    Incidentally this lull in solar activity coincides with there having been no discernable warming since 2000.

    Even if that were true, which it isn't [nasa.gov], one would expect *cooling* during this half of the cycle.
  • by bunratty ( 545641 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @01:18PM (#23729645)
    You mean like these graphs from the IPCC [wri.org] which show an increase in global temperatures from 2000 to 2007?
  • by PhreakOfTime ( 588141 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @01:19PM (#23729659) Homepage

    Insightful? Yikes!!!

    Jupiter is experiencing warming NEAR THE POLES. Not the entire planet. Did you read the research behind what you are spouting? Or are you just cherry-picking the sound bites that make you point you have already 'decided' must be true.

    If you decided to read it, then you surely came across the fact that "While the analysis remains to be proven, it is seen by other researchers as interesting and, importantly, testable even with large backyard telescopes."

    So while evidence that is mounting in favor of the cause of the RETENTION of the heat on the planet earth, which causes it to retain heat energy in the infrared part of the spectrum, then that is just 'junk science' and needs to be pointed out how there is no hard evidence to support it.

    But when the same limited data set and hypothesis is put forward that jupiter is experiencing climate change, that lack of actual evidence to prove the theory is something that can just be brushed aside for the sake of arguing against the same cirumstances on Earth that have similar holes in the data set?

    Next time, you need to be able to think about what you are parroting, lest it make you like a complete fool.

  • Correction (Score:3, Informative)

    by PhreakOfTime ( 588141 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @01:20PM (#23729695) Homepage
    Sorry, Jupiter is experiencing warming near the EQUATOR, not the poles like I erroneously posted in the above post.
  • by limaxray ( 1292094 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @01:24PM (#23729807)
    I hate to tell you this, but seeing as the temperature in 1998 is still the warmest year on record, that doesn't indicate warming. Worst case it indicates no change for the past decade. Furthermore, this goes counter to what the majority of the climate models have predicted: that the world would continue to warm almost exponentially. Personally, I find it amusing that 'global warming' has officially been replaced with 'climate change' for this very reason, yet people still try to defend global warming.
  • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @01:31PM (#23729927) Journal
    Ok, let's do some science. Physics, to be precise. We'll start from the StefanBoltzmann law [wikipedia.org].

    Radiated energy is proportional to the _fourth_ power of the temperature. For a black body j = sigma * T^4, for a body that's not quite black, you just plug an emissivity factor in too.

    A body heated by an external source (e.g., Earth) reaches equilibrium when the radiated energy equals the incoming energy. So the equation works just the same with j being the _incoming_ energy from the Sun.

    What I'm getting at is that the average temperature of Earth is in the ballpark of 300K. We had an increase of 1K in a whole bloody century. That's the whole Global Warming. That's an increase of 0.3% or so. Plugging it back into the StefanBoltzmann law, we need an increase of only 1.003^4=1.01205 times in solar output to _fully_ explain it. That's 1.2% btw.

    But even that's a bit over-calculated. Being that the same law applies to the Sun's power output, basically we just need the same 0.3% increase in the Sun's temperature to get that effect, all else being equal. You don't need anything spectacular to happen, really.

    Yes, sunspots are a cause of short term variations, but we really don't know what the Sun has been gradually doing over that century. If both Jupiter _and_ Mars have been warming up, maybe the Sun is warming up after all.

    And finally, well, if you're that concerned about insults to people's intelligence... maybe you should STFU with the "shut up and don't dare question the High Priests" attitude. Just a thought.
  • by futuresheep ( 531366 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @01:38PM (#23730101) Journal
    NASA disagrees with Wikipedia then. They changed their mind on this and now think that 1934 was the warmest year on record. Something about that NOAA data not necessarily being very accurate... http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/graphs/Fig.D.txt [nasa.gov] http://www.norcalblogs.com/watts/2007/08/1998_no_longer_the_hottest_yea.html [norcalblogs.com]
  • by tjstork ( 137384 ) <todd.bandrowsky@gma i l .com> on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @01:41PM (#23730179) Homepage Journal
    You mean like these graphs from the IPCC

    I was thinking more like the snow in China, and the hurricane season that hasn't happened in 4 years. But oh, we're going to get more hurricanes, any day now.

    I mean by satellites operated without AGW funding on the line. NASA keeps changing its historical data, as do other people.

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/05/02/a_tale_of_two_thermometers/ [theregister.co.uk]

    But really, the prediction is pretty simple. For the last six months, the earth's temperature has fallen, according to satellite measurements.

    ftp://ftp.ssmi.com/msu/monthly_time_series/rss_monthly_msu_amsu_channel_tlt_anomalies_land_and_ocean_v03_1.txt [ssmi.com]

    The reason given for this in AGW circles is the recently ended LaNina. If temperatures continue to fall, then, AGW theories won't stack up.

    But the main point is this: I've not seen a single climate (as in non-weather event), that justifies the amount of money proposed be spent on AGW. Just give me one predicted event... and I'll see you a snow in Iraq.

  • by mikeee ( 137160 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @01:49PM (#23730361)
    Well, here you go [theregister.co.uk], then.

    Certainly determining warming/cooling on a short scale is surprisingly much argued.
  • by AWhiteFlame ( 928642 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @01:59PM (#23730559) Homepage
    Except that in the 70's there was already a huge calmour about a Global Cooling.
  • Except ... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Ambitwistor ( 1041236 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @02:04PM (#23730683)

    Plugging it back into the StefanBoltzmann law, we need an increase of only 1.003^4=1.01205 times in solar output to _fully_ explain it. That's 1.2% btw.
    However, over the last 150 years or so, solar irradiance has only increased by about 0.1% (from ~1364.5 to 1366 W/m^2, IIRC).
  • by ericferris ( 1087061 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @02:14PM (#23730921) Homepage
    Do you honestly think climate scientists don't take this into account?

    Actually, they don't. All the models I am running in my datacenter are using a "solar constant" for solar energy flux, and modulate it only through albedo variations.

    I have yet to see a model that takes solar variability into account. Mostly because, to be honest, we don't know much about said variability. So we'd be hard pressed to model it. Hey, give us a break, we have had satellites up there for only a few decades, and the Sun has cycles measured in centuries!

    Side note: numerical simulation is a mess today. Everyone and their dog do it, with mixed results. I even came across people who write flow simulations in Excel VB (!) and manage to get budgets for this. It doesn't inspire confidence.

  • by Coriolis ( 110923 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @02:23PM (#23731121)

    Are you perhaps referring to this article from 2001 [sciam.com] which suggests that cosmic rays (which are different from emissions from the Sun, btw) intensify the effect of CFCs?

    I suggest that you first read through the resources on realclimate.org on solar forcing, where it has been extensively discussed, and if you wish to dispute their findings, then please attack the science, not the scientist.

  • by tjstork ( 137384 ) <todd.bandrowsky@gma i l .com> on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @02:44PM (#23731647) Homepage Journal
    Huricane frequency isn't all that connected with global warming, hurricane intensity is what should increase.

    That hasn't happened either. I work in hurricane insurance software, and it just hasn't happened.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @02:47PM (#23731719)
    Or do you mean these graphs of the UAH and RSS satellites [theregister.co.uk] showing net global temperature actually decreasing over the past 10 years and how NASA's methodology is flawed?

    Congratulations, the IPCC, UCS, and Al Gore have finally figured out another way to use you all as tools. GFG.
  • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @03:01PM (#23732105) Journal
    Even NASA's data [nasa.gov] seems to disagree with you. We had twice your number since 1970 alone. Go figure. A 0.05% increase per decade, over a century, is 0.5%. (And over 150 years, it's 0.75%.) Now it doesn't go the full 1.2% we'd need to explain the Global Warming (unless it went up as a different rate before), but it almost halves the effect we can blame ourselves for.
  • by Ambitwistor ( 1041236 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @03:01PM (#23732117)

    The question of the influence of solar output on the Earth's energy budget is not as settled as you imply. In the first place, he's right, only very subtle changes in the huge amounts of energy flowing in and out of the Earth's ecosystem are required, and these are inherently difficult to measure accurately. Generally speaking, you're subtracting large and nearly equal numbers from each other, which is always tricky.
    You're confusing two issues: measuring solar input, and measuring the Earth's energy balance. The latter is hard. The former can be done with precision. We do know how large the changes in the Sun's output have been, and they're not really very large. In fact, they've been flat for about 50 years.

    Secondly, the Sun does more than simply heat the Earth through radiation. [...] These things may have subtle effects on, for example, cloud formation -- and therefore on the Earth's albedo.
    That's true, but you're still going to run into the problem that it's hard to explain a changing climate using solar output which isn't changing.

    It's only by averaging over a long time that you can even see any temperature change.
    You have to average over about 20-30 years to get a smooth signal, but the trend over the last 150 years is very visible above the noise.
  • by Ambitwistor ( 1041236 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @03:19PM (#23732593)

    It's known to increase the warming effect in the laboratory. That's easy physics. But in real life? That's harder.
    The spectral bands of CO2 don't go away if the CO2 is in the free atmosphere instead of a lab.

    We don't know enough about the atmosphere to calculate the effect with enough certainty
    Says you. The strength of the CO2 greenhouse effect is not the real uncertainty here; that's known pretty well from line-by-line radiative transfer codes. The uncertainties are mostly in the atmospheric feedbacks that you mentioned before (e.g., clouds).

    [Reducing CO2 emissions] would have enormous dislocating economic effects. That means it will greatly reduce the size and health of the future world economy, slow down scientific and technological progress (which both depend on a healthy economy to pay for them), and greatly strain social and political agreements that keep world peace.
    Again, says you. Have you read any of the economics? Try here [www.ipcc.ch] or here [yale.edu].

    Besides, whether it's expensive is not the question. The question is whether cutting CO2 is more expensive than the alternative (not cutting it and letting global warming happen).

    Pretty much every economic cost-benefit analysis indicates that some mitigation of CO2 emissions is more cost effective than none. See my links above for details.

    That's all fine if it's necessary to prevent an Ice Age or runaway warming that will leave Earth like Venus.
    Runaway warming isn't going to happen, and reducing the warming that will happen does not require the destruction of the world economy.

    problem is, we can only make such a staggeringly huge change in our habits perhaps once in a thousand years.
    Another conclusion backed up by extensive socioeconomic analysis, no doubt. But perhaps you could deign to provide some citations to this analysis.

    By making that change now, in the direction of reducing CO2 emissions, we give up the ability to make any similarly massive change for a long time.
    Because we'll be in a post-apocalyptic world living in caves and cannibalizing each other? Give me a break. We will cut back on whatever CO2 we can afford, and adapt to whatever climate change remains. Note that we're going to have to wean ourselves off of fossil fuels ANYWAY, albeit at a slower rate than if GHGs weren't a concern.

    Or might there be some other climate effect, driven by the Sun, say, to which we will in the future really wish we had preserved our ability to respond?
    An unforseen climate effect could produce unforseen warming, or unforseen cooling. If it produces warming, then we needed to cut back on CO2 anyway, even more so than with the current global warming. If it produces cooling, we can start burning the fossil fuels that we stopped burning earlier to fight global warming.

    If you're really concerned about future climate change, you should be arguing that we should save our fossil fuels in case we need them later to influence the climate, instead of burning them all when we don't. The more uncertainty we have about future climate, the less willing we should be today to do things which perturb that climate, and the more insurance we should buy. "Not cutting CO2 emissions" is only a sensible decision if you have a lot of certainty about future climate: namely, that it's not going to get much warmer.
  • by lawaetf1 ( 613291 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @03:23PM (#23732719)
    Try 12,000 years [space.com].

    I'm sure it has nothing to do with the incredibly rapid 2.5C temp increase [independent.co.uk] in the last 50 years.

    ... that just happens to coincide with us digging up sequestered carbon and burning it by the megaton, pushing CO2 levels to ever increasing highs. [noaa.gov]

    Nay, my good man, all is well. Continue whistling and dance that little jig you do so well.
  • by FirstOne ( 193462 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @03:23PM (#23732729) Homepage

    "Attn: 400 scientist worldwide have come forward and denounced global warming theory. Some of them are actually listed on the IPCC's original report."

    Inhofe's 400 Global Warming Deniers Debunked [thedailygreen.com]
  • by radioweather ( 1088475 ) * on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @03:38PM (#23733157)
    The NASA GISTEMP data you cite is polluted with questionable surface station data. Even the press is beginning to questions James Hansens methods in arriving at the data and graphs he distributes. Loys of "adjustment" going on. See this article from the UK Register [theregister.co.uk]

    A much better metric is the Lower Troposphere temperature as measured by satellite. It in fact shows no trend from 1998, and also shows a big drop globally in temperature since January 2007. See this analysis of the satellite data [wordpress.com].

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @03:42PM (#23733249)

    As if the whole world revolves around it
    That's right. The earth does revolve around the sun. The earth rotates about it's own axis.
  • by CustomDesigned ( 250089 ) <stuart@gathman.org> on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @03:55PM (#23733655) Homepage Journal
    Break down by specialty:

    http://www.petitionproject.org/gwdatabase/GWPP/Qualifications_Of_Signers.html [petitionproject.org]

    Only 40 "climatologists", but 3000+ in highly relevant fields.
  • by ArcherB ( 796902 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @10:32PM (#23741117) Journal
    Read my post and then kick yourself for responding to something I never said. What I said was:

    For example, if all the planets and even asteroids in the solar system are warmer, then you can eliminate all the causes that are unique to one particular solar body. On the other hand, if one particular body is warming more than the others, THEN you look at that particular object to find out what makes that body unique that could be the cause.
    But since you brought it up, I did a little research on the matter and found that you were dead wrong when you said:

    Earth IS warming more than the others, where have you heard otherwise?
    I don't belive you are going to make me look this up, but here it goes...
    From MIT [mit.edu]:

    the average surface temperature of the nitrogen ice on Pluto has increased slightly less than 2 degrees Celsius over the past 14 years
    Also from MIT [mit.edu]:

    At least since 1989, Triton has been undergoing a period of global warming. Percentage-wise, it's a very large increase," said Elliot, professor of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences and director of the Wallace Astrophysical Observatory. The 5 percent increase on the absolute temperature scale from about minus-392 degrees Fahrenheit to about minus-389 degrees Fahrenheit would be like the Earth experiencing a jump of about 22 degrees Fahrenheit.
    From Space.com [space.com]:

    The latest images could provide evidence that Jupiter is in the midst of a global change that can modify temperatures by as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit on different parts of the globe.
    For comparison sake, the most extreme guesses at how much the earth has warmed in the past 100 years is 1 (ONE) degree Fahrenheit.

    Feel smarter now? :-)

It is not for me to attempt to fathom the inscrutable workings of Providence. -- The Earl of Birkenhead