A New Run of the CLOUD Experiment Examines the Direct Effect of Cosmic Rays on Clouds

“Direct effects of cosmic-ray ionisation on the formation of fair-weather clouds are highly speculative and almost completely unexplored experimentally,” says Kirkby. “So this run could be the most boring we’ve ever done—or the most exciting! We won’t know until we try, but by the end of the CLOUD experiment, we want to be able to answer definitively whether cosmic rays affect clouds and the climate, and not leave any stone unturned.”

The full Phys.org article is HERE

Stay Tuned, November is going to be an interesting month, though it may be months before the report is published.

Do you think cosmic rays impact the earth’s climate?  Please answer in the comments.

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Potential role of low solar activity this winter as solar minimum deepens and the wide-ranging impacts of increasing cosmic rays

Reblogged from Watts Up With That

Guest post by Paul Dorian

*Potential role of low solar activity this winter as solar minimum deepens and the wide-ranging impacts of increasing cosmic rays*

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The sun is blank again today and for the 200th day in 2019 as the solar minimum deepens; image courtesy NASA

Overview
The sun continues to be very quiet and it has been without sunspots on 200 days during 2019 or 72% of the time which is the highest percentage since 2009. We have entered into a solar minimum phase of the solar cycle and sunspot counts suggest this could turn out to be the deepest of the past century. Low solar activity has been well correlated with an atmospheric phenomenon known as “high-latitude blocking” and this could play an important role in the upcoming winter season; especially, across the eastern US. In addition, one of the natural impacts of decreasing solar activity is the weakening of the ambient solar wind and its magnetic field which, in turn, allows more cosmic rays to penetrate the solar system. The intensification of cosmic rays can have important consequences on such things as Earth’s cloud cover and climate, the safety of air travelers, and as a possible trigger mechanism for lightning.

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Daily observations of the number of sunspots since 1 January 1900 according to Solar Influences Data Analysis Center (SIDC). The thin blue line indicates the daily sunspot number, while the dark blue line indicates the running annual average. The recent low sunspot activity is clearly reflected in the recent low values for the total solar irradiance. Data source: WDC-SILSO, Royal Observatory of Belgium, Brussels. Last day shown: 30 September 2019. Plot courtesy “climate4you.com”.

Background

Solar cycle 24 was the weakest sunspot cycle with the fewest sunspots since cycle 14 peaked in February 1906. Solar cycle 24 continued a recent trend of weakening solar cycles which began with solar cycle 21 that peaked around 1980. The sun is blank again today for the 200th day this year and the last time the sun was this spotless in a given year on a percentage basis was 2009 during the last solar minimum when 71% of the days were without visible sunspots.  That last solar minimum actually reached a nadir in 2008 when an astounding 73% of the year featured a spotless sun – the most spotless days in a given year since 1913 – and this year has a chance to match or exceed that quietest of years in more than a century.

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Low solar activity years are well correlated with abnormally high geopotential height anomalies at 500 millibars over high-latitude regions such as Greenland and Iceland (shown in red, orange, yellow); data courtesy NOAA/NCAR

Low solar activity and “high-latitude blocking”

As any snow lover and weather enthusiast knows living in the I-95 corridor, it takes many ingredients to fall into place for a snowstorm to actually take place; especially, in the urban areas of DC, Philly, New York City and Boston. One requirement for accumulating snow is, of course, cold air near or below freezing, but it can be a little more complicated than that. It is one thing to have cold air around at the beginning of a potential storm, but the best chance for significant snow comes when there is sustained cold air; otherwise, you could end up with a snow-changing-to-rain type of event; especially, in the big cities and areas closer to the coast. One of the ways to sustain a cold air mass in the Mid-Atlantic/NE US is to have “high-latitude blocking” and that type of weather phenomenon is well correlated with low solar activity.

“High-latitude blocking” during the winter season is characterized by persistent high pressure in northern latitude areas such as Greenland, northeastern Canada, and Iceland. If you look back at years with low solar activity, the upper-level geopotential height anomaly pattern is dominated by high pressure over these high-latitude regions during the winter season (December-to-February). Without this type of blocking pattern in the upper atmosphere, it is more difficult to get sustained cold air masses in the eastern US during the winter season.

In addition to the increased chance of sustained cold air during low solar activity years, “high-latitude blocking” in the upper atmosphere tends to slow down the movement and departure of storms along the Mid-Atlantic/NE US coastlines and this too increases the chances for significant snowfall as long as there is entrenched cold air. In fact, some of the greatest snowstorms in the Mid-Atlantic/NE US regions took place in low solar activity winters including, for example, those in February 2010, December 2009, and January 1996. There are, of course, other important factors in addition to solar activity to consider in the prediction of accumulating snow along the I-95 corridor including sea surface temperatures in the western Atlantic and the positioning of polar and sub-tropical jet streaks. The 2019-2020 “Winter Outlook” by Perspecta Weather will be released shortly and low solar activity will certainly be one key factor among several.

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Data source: The Sodankyla Geophysical Observatory in Oulu, Finland. Plot courtesy Spaceweather.com

Low solar activity and cosmic rays
Galactic cosmic rays are high-energy particles originating from outside the solar system that can impact the Earth’s atmosphere. Our first line of defense from cosmic rays comes from the sun as its magnetic field and the solar wind combine to create a ‘shield’ that fends off cosmic rays attempting to enter the solar system. The shielding action of the sun is strongest during Solar Maximum and weakest during Solar Minimum with the weakening magnetic field and solar wind.  The intensity of cosmic rays varies naturally during the typical 11-year solar cycle with about a 15% variation because of the changes in the strength of the solar wind.

Evidence of an increase in stratospheric radiation
One way to monitor cosmic ray penetration into the Earth’s upper atmosphere is to measure stratospheric radiation over an extended period of time.  “Spaceweather.com” has led an effort for nearly four years to monitor radiation levels in the stratosphere over California with frequent high-altitude helium balloon flights.  These balloons contain sensors which detect X-rays and gamma-rays in the energy range 10 keV to 20 MeV and are produced by the crash of primary cosmic rays into Earth’s atmosphere. These energies span the range of medical X-ray machines and airport security scanners.  The findings confirm the notion that indeed cosmic rays have been steadily increasing over California as we climb into the solar minimum.

During the last solar minimum in 2009, radiation peppering Earth from deep space reached a 50-year high at levels never before seen during the satellite era – and we’re getting very close to those same levels and a new record is certainly on the table in the near future. Ground-based neutron monitors and high-altitude cosmic ray balloons are registering the increase in cosmic rays. Neutron monitors at the Sodankyla Geophysical Observatory in Oulu, Finland show that cosmic rays are just percentages away from a new record in the satellite era which was set in 2009. Data has been measured at this observatory in Finland since 1964. When cosmic rays hit Earth’s atmosphere, they produce a spray of secondary particles that rain down on Earth’s surface. Among these particles are neutrons and the detectors at the observatory in Oulu count them as a proxy for cosmic rays.

Consequences of increasing cosmic rays

1) Cloud cover/climate
The correlation between cosmic rays and cloud cover over a solar cycle was first reported by Svensmark and Friis-Christensen in 1997. A more recent study by Svensmark published in the August 2016 issue of Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics continues to support the idea of an important connection between cosmic rays and clouds.

In this publication, the authors found that “the observed variation of 3–4% of the global cloud cover during the recent solar cycle is strongly correlated with the cosmic ray flux. This, in turn, is inversely correlated with the solar activity. The effect is larger at higher latitudes in agreement with the shielding effect of the Earth’s magnetic field on high-energy charged particles. The above relation between cosmic ray flux and cloud cover should also be of importance in an explanation of the correlation between solar cycle length and global temperature that has been found”.

2) Threat to air travelers
Not only can an increase of cosmic rays have an impact on Earth’s cloud cover and climate, it is of special interest to air travelers.  Cosmic radiation at aviation altitudes is typically 50 times that of natural sources at sea level. Cosmic rays cause “air showers” of secondary particles when they hit Earth’s atmosphere. Indeed, this is what neutron monitors and cosmic ray balloons are measuring–the secondary spray of cosmic rays that rains down on Earth. Secondary cosmic rays penetrate the hulls of commercial aircraft, dosing passengers with the whole body equivalent of a dental X-ray even on ordinary mid-latitude flights across the USA. International travelers receive even greater doses (source). The International Commission on Radiological Protection has classified pilots as occupational radiation workers because of accumulated cosmic ray doses they receive while flying. Moreover, a recent study by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health shows that flight attendants face an elevated risk of cancer compared to members of the general population. They listed cosmic rays as one of several risk factors.

3) Possible lightning trigger
Finally, there has been some research suggesting there is a connection between cosmic rays and lightning (paper 1paper 2).  When cosmic rays smash into molecules in our atmosphere, the collisions create showers of subatomic particles, including electrons, positrons, and other electrically charged particles. This shower of electrons would collide into still more air molecules, generating more electrons. All in all, cosmic rays could each set off an avalanche of electrons and trigger lightning.

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Circled areas on plot indicate locations that experienced the northern lights during the Carrington Event of 1859.

Final Thoughts
While the frequency of solar storm activity generally lessens during periods of low solar activity (e.g., during solar minimum phases), there is actually some evidence that suggests the severity does not diminish.  In fact, the most famous solar storm of all now known as The Carrington Event took place in 1859 during an overall weak solar cycle (#10).  In addition, other solar activity, such as coronal holes that unleash streams of solar material out into space, can amplify the auroras at Earth’s poles.  The bottom line, a lack of sunspots does not mean the sun’s activity stops altogether and it needs to be constantly monitored – even during periods of a blank sun.

Meteorologist Paul Dorian
Perspecta, Inc.
perspectaweather.com

Application of Synoptic Magnetograms to Global Solar Activity Forecast

[Solar Cycle 25 peak lower than Solar Cycle 24]

Irina N. Kitiashvili. (Submitted on 2 Oct 2019)

Synoptic magnetograms provide us with knowledge about the evolution of magnetic fields on the solar surface and present important information for forecasting future solar activity. In this work, poloidal and toroidal magnetic field components derived from synoptic magnetograms are assimilated, using the Ensemble Kalman Filter method, into a mean-field dynamo model based on Parker’s migratory dynamo theory complemented by magnetic helicity conservation. It was found that the predicted toroidal field is in good agreement with observations for almost the entire following solar cycle. However, poloidal field predictions agree with observations only for the first 2 – 3 years of the predicted cycle. The results indicate that the upcoming Solar Maximum of Cycle 25 (SC25) is expected to be weaker than the current Cycle 24. The model results show that a deep extended solar activity minimum is expected during 2019 – 2021, and that the next solar maximum will occur in 2024 – 2025. The sunspot number at the maximum will be about 50 with an error estimate of 15 – 30 %. The maximum will likely have a double peak or show extended periods (for 2 – 2.5 years) of high activity. According to the hemispheric prediction results, SC25 will start in 2020 in the Southern hemisphere, and will have a maximum in 2024 with a sunspot number of about 28. In the Northern hemisphere the cycle will be delayed for about 1 year (with an error of ±0.5 year), and reach a maximum in 2025 with a sunspot number of about 23.

[Emphasis added]

More HERE

Will Thames Freeze Again? UK Vulnerable to Cooling Catastrophe

By Vijay Jayaraj writing at CNSNews.com

[. . . ]

Studies suggest that the previous lows in solar activity—solar cycles 5 and 6 during the Dalton Minimum (1790–1830)—coincided with the Little Ice Age that disrupted the entire Northern Hemisphere. It was during this time that London’s River Thames (not far from the Parliament) froze, and agriculture in Britain and elsewhere came to a standstill.

According to recent research papers by scientists, the two coming solar cycles—25 and 26—will display much lower solar activity than the solar cycles of the Little Ice Age, with a potential period of cooling, as NASA suggests.

“The solar cycle 25 will start in the year 2021 (January) and will last till 2031 (February), while the solar cycle 26 will start in the year 2031 (March) and will last till the year 2041 (February),” said the report.
The scientists concluded, “We have also compared the activities of solar cycles 5 and 6 (Dalton minima periods) to solar cycles 25 and 26 and have observed that the other solar minimum is underway.”

Such a period could demolish the UK’s agricultural sector. It would also negatively affect agriculture in the rest of the world. There could be a complete lockdown of agriculture and a severe proven stress on the energy sector, including electricity generation, not just in Britain but throughout the Northern Hemisphere.

Warnings about the on-going solar minima should not be ignored. Yet the climate crisis movement, focusing exclusively on warming as a threat, promotes a lack of awareness of this threat.

The full article is HERE.

1921 Solar Event May Have Been Bigger than Carrington Event

Details at ARRL Newsletter.

Scientific American reports that, according to new data, the “New York Railroad Storm” of 1921 may have surpassed the intensity of the famous Carrington Event of 1859. In his paper published in the journal Space Weather, Jeffrey Love of the US Geological Survey and his colleagues reexamined the intensity of the 1921 event in greater detail than previously.

Although different measures of intensity exist, geomagnetic storms are often rated on an index called disturbance storm time (Dst) — a way of gauging global magnetic activity by averaging out values for the strength of Earth’s magnetic field measured at multiple locations. Earth’s baseline Dst level is about -20 nanoteslas (nT), with a “superstorm” condition occurring when levels fall below -250 nT. Studies of the very limited magnetic data from the Carrington Event peg its intensity at anywhere from -850 to -1,050 nT. According to Love’s study, the 1921 storm came in at about -907 nT.

Peter Ward in his 2017 New York History Blog article “Strange Phenomena: The New York Railroad Storm” recounted that theatre-goers in New York City “marveled at the spectacle” of an iridescent cloud that was brighter than the moon. “On the roof of the Times Building, reporters, having discovered the telegraph lines to be curiously blocked, gathered to watch the aerial kaleidoscope,” he wrote.

As with the earlier Carrington Event, telegraph operators experienced wild fluctuations in the current on their circuits, while wireless propagation was enhanced. “The next day, papers reported that the Central New England railroad station (also home to the telegraph switchboard) had burned to the ground.” Railroad officials later blamed the fire on the aurora.

According to Ward’s article, the lights were visible in New York, California, and Nevada. Especially in rural areas, “the lights were said to be brighter, appear closer to the ground, and even move with a swishing sound.”

Railroad and telegraph service were restored the following week, although one Western Union transatlantic cable showed signs of damage. “Delays and damage lead to some referring to it as the New York Railroad Storm,” Ward wrote.

A dramatic description of the event on the SolarStorms.org website said, “At 7:04 AM on May 15, the entire signal and switching system of the New York Central Railroad below 125th Street was put out of operation, followed by a fire in the control tower at 57th Street and Park Avenue.”

The short article said a telegraph operator reported being driven away from his station by flames that enveloped his switchboard and set the building on fire. “In Sweden a telephone station was reported to have been ‘burned out,’ and the storm interfered with telephone, telegraph, and cable traffic over most of Europe,” the article said.

A Summer Without Sunspots

Space Weather has the details;

Could summer 2019 go down in history as “the summer without sunspots”? From June 21st until Sept 22nd, the sun was blank–no sunspots–more than 89% of the time. During the entire season only 6 tiny sunspots briefly popped up, often fading so quickly that readers would complain to Spaceweather.com, “you’ve labeled a sunspot that doesn’t exist!” (No, it just disappeared.) Not a single significant solar flare was detected during this period of extreme quiet.


The sun on Sept. 22, 2019–as blank as a billiard ball. Credit: NASA/SDO

This is a sign that Solar Minimum is underway and probably near its deepest point. For 2019 overall (January through September), the sun has been blank 72% of the time, comparable to annual averages during the century-class Solar Minimum of 2008 (73%) and 2009 (71%). The current Solar Minimum appears to be century-class as well, meaning you have to go back to the beginnning of the 20th century to find lulls in solar activity this deep.

Solar Minimum is not boring. During this phase of the solar cycle, the sun’s magnetic field weakens, allowing cosmic rays to enter the solar system. This doses astronauts and possibly air travelers with extra radiation. The sun also dims, especially at extreme ultraviolet wavelengths, causing the upper atmosphere to cool and collapse. Space junk accumulates in Earth orbit as a result. Finally, streams of solar wind punch through the sun’s weakening magnetic field, lashing Earth with gaseous material that can cause geomagnetic storms.

Interestingly, the summer of 2019 also brought us a sign that Solar Minimum is coming to an end. One of the numbered sunspots that briefly appeared on July 7th had a reversed magnetic polarity:


A magnetic map of the sun’s surface (AR2744 inset) from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory

According to Hale’s Law, sunspots switch polarities from one solar cycle to the next. This small summertime sunspot was +/- instead of the usual -/+, marking it as a member of the next solar cycle, Solar Cycle 25. Solar Minimum won’t last forever!

Solar cycles always mix together at their boundaries. We can expect to see more new-cycle sunspots in the months and years ahead as Solar Cycle 25 slowly comes to life. If forecasters are correct, the next Solar Maximum will be in full swing by 2023.

Do cosmic rays trigger red sprites?

Details at Ice Age Now:

“Radiation from deep space is intensifying because of Solar Minimum.

Do cosmic rays trigger red sprites?

“According to NASA, cosmic rays are intensifying,” says this article (link below). “On Aug. 6th, Roger Spinner of Montsevelier, Switzerland, witnessed a likely side-effect. “Red sprites were flashing above a thunderstorm in northern Italy about 215 km away,” says Spinner, who recorded an HD video of the display.

As the storm raged over Italy’s Lombardy region, Spinner recorded three magnificent clusters of sprites in rare detail. Shaped like jellyfish, the sprites were more than 40 km tall, with purple tentacles dangling toward the thunderstorm below and red bushy heads touching the edge of space. Balls of red light only a few hundred meters in diameter dot the jellyfish’s waist and tentacles.

“Cosmic rays may be helping Spinner capture such images,” the article concludes. “Radiation from deep space is intensifying because of Solar Minimum. During this phase of the solar cycle, cosmic rays penetrate the sun’s weakening magnetic defenses and enter Earth’s atmosphere more than usual. Some researchers believe that extra cosmic rays provide the ionizing “spark” that triggers sprites.”

See the complete HD video on Youtube.

http://spaceweather.com/archive.php?view=1&day=16&month=08&year=2019

H/T to Ice Age Now

‘Polar Coaster’ Winter Forecast May Be Related to the ‘Terminator’

An NCAR scientist said a terminator starts the next sunspot cycle, which may impact the weather on the earth.

BOULDER, Colo — Scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) are watching the sun for something they call the “Terminator.”

[ More on the Terminator HERE]

It’s an event that signals the end of a solar cycle (in this case, 24) and the start of the next (25).

“We’ll actually see the progression of this terminator event as it ripples around the circumference of the sun,” said Scott McIntosh, director of NCAR’s High Altitude Observatory.

McIntosh said the sun is currently at the bottom of its roughly 11-year-long energy cycle, a point called solar minimum. He expects it to switch back into an active phase sometime in the next 9 months, kicking off the next solar cycle. He said the exact moment of transition may be visible in a signal called a terminator.

“The terminator event is really the signature, the flipping of the switch,” said McIntosh.

He said it takes the terminator about 27 days to complete, which is one rotation of the sun. After that, Solar Cycle 25 will begin.

“Normally it’s only something that can be hind-cast. We don’t know that we’ve hit rock bottom until you’re 12 to 13 months passed it because of the diagnostics that they use,” said McIntosh.

[ . . .]

“Years in which sunspot production are very low typically produce very erratic weather,” said McIntosh.

McIntosh said erratic refers mainly to ocean oscillations and jet stream behavior. That could be applicable to more unpredictable weather with extremely warm and dry periods, followed closely by extreme cold and wet periods.

The famous Farmer’s Almanac winter forecast is one of the few that uses solar activity in their equation. In this year’s edition — the eye-catching headline, “Ride the Polar Coaster” could be in reference to the same erratic weather that McIntosh has seen in his sunspot research.

“The data kind of backs it up,” said McIntosh. “The question is, ‘How the hell does it work?’ That for us especially here at NCAR, that’s the question.”

Read the full article HERE, as it includes Twitter Posts and Graphics.

Plasma flow near the sun’s surface explains sunspots, other solar phenomena

Understanding the previously mysterious properties of the sun.
Every 11 years or so, the Sun’s magnetic field completely flips. This means that the Sun’s north and south poles switch places. Then it takes about another 11 years for the Sun’s north and south poles to flip back again.

The solar cycle affects activity on the surface of the Sun, such as sunspots which are caused by the Sun’s magnetic fields. Until now, various theories have tracked sunspots, but unable to explain why the number of spots peaks every 11 years.

In an effort to understand it, scientists at the University of Washington have proposed a model of plasma motion to explain the 11-year sunspot cycle and several other previously mysterious properties of the Sun.

Scientists created this model by relying on their previous work with fusion energy research. The model demonstrates that a slight layer underneath the Sun’s surface is key to many highlights we see from Earth, such as sunspots, magnetic reversals, and solar flow.

The fusion reactor uses very high temperatures similar to those inside the Sun to separate hydrogen nuclei from their electrons. In both the Sun and in fusion reactors, the nuclei of two hydrogen atoms fuse, releasing vast amounts of energy.

The type of reactor scientists have focused on; a spheromak contains the electron plasma within a sphere that causes it to self-organize into specific patterns. When they began to consider the Sun, they observed similarities and created a model for what might be happening in the celestial body.

First author Thomas Jarboe, a UW professor of aeronautics and astronautics, said, “Our model is completely different from a normal picture of the Sun. I think we’re the first people that are telling you the nature and source of solar magnetic phenomena—how the Sun works.”

In the new model, a thin layer of magnetic flux and plasma, or floating electrons, moves at different speeds on a different part of the Sun. The distinction in speed between the flows makes bits of magnetism, known as magnetic helicity, that are similar to what happens in some fusion reactor concepts.

Jarboe said, “Every 11 years, the Sun grows this layer until it’s too big to be stable, and then it sloughs off. Its departure exposes the lower layer of plasma moving in the opposite direction with a flipped magnetic field.”

“When the circuits in both hemispheres are moving at the same speed, more sunspots appear. When the circuits are different speeds, there is less sunspot activity. That mismatch may have happened during the decades of little sunspot activity known as the “Maunder Minimum.”

“If the two hemispheres rotate at different speeds, then the sunspots near the equator won’t match up, and the whole thing will die.”

“Scientists had thought that a sunspot was generated down at 30 percent of the depth of the Sun, and then came up in a twisted rope of plasma that pops out. Instead, his model shows that the sunspots are in the “supergranules” that form within the thin, subsurface layer of plasma that the study calculates to be roughly 100 to 300 miles (150 to 450 kilometers) thick, or a fraction of the Sun’s 430,000-mile radius.”

“The sunspot is an amazing thing. There’s nothing there, and then all of a sudden, you see it in a flash.”

“Other properties explained by the theory include flow inside the Sun, the twisting action that leads to sunspots and the entire magnetic structure of the Sun. The paper is likely to provoke intense discussion.”  [Emphasis added]

“I hope that scientists will look at their data in a new light, and the researchers who worked their whole lives to gather that data will have a new tool to understand what it all means.”

The study describing the model is published in the journal Physics of Plasmas

Another link to the paper:  https://aip.scitation.org/doi/10.1063/1.5087613

Question:  How does this model fit with Professor Valentina Zharkova model of the sun with four plasma layers?  I may have to find the time to re-read the Professors paper and compare. If a reader gets the paper read before I do please post your analysis in the comments. Thanks.