A Mystery In The Mesosphere

This summer, something strange has been happening in the mesosphere. The mesosphere is a layer of the atmosphere so high that it almost touches space. In the rarefied air 83 km above Earth’s surface, summertime wisps of water vapor wrap themselves around specks of meteor smoke. The resulting swarms of ice crystals form noctilucent clouds (NLCs), which can be seen glowing in the night sky at high latitudes.

More Details HERE.

During the first half of August 2018, reports of NLCs to Spaceweather.com have tripled compared to the same period in 2017. The clouds refuse to go away.

Researchers at the University of Colorado may have figured out why. “There has been an unexpected surge of water vapor in the mesosphere,” says Lynn Harvey of Colorado’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP). This plot, which Harvey prepared using data from NASA’s satellite-based Microwave Limb Sounder (MLS) instrument, shows that the days of late July and August 2018 have been the wettest in the mesosphere for the past 11 years:

mls2_strip

In addition to being extra wet, the mesosphere has also been a bit colder than usual, according to MLS data. The combination of wet and cold has created favorable conditions for icy noctilucent clouds.

Water vapor is the primary greenhouse gas, even in the mesosphere.

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Pre-Columbian America was plagued by decades-long megadroughts

Anthony Watts writes at Watts Up With That

In the August issue of Physics Today, climate scientists Toby Ault and Scott St. George share a pair of startling research findings. Between roughly 800 and 1500 CE, the American West suffered a succession of decades-long droughts, much longer than anything we’ve endured in modern history. And statistical models suggest that, as the climate warms, such megadroughts are increasingly likely to return.

western-US-megadroughts

How can scientists be so sure about the duration and extent of droughts that happened long before the era of instrument-based precipitation records? As Ault and St. George explain, the annual growth rings of ancient trees contain a rich paleoclimatic record of precipitation and soil moisture patterns. The width of a tree ring gives clues as to how well nourished the tree was in a given year. The map shows four western US megadroughts predicted from tree-ring data.

Ring-width analyses provide the most complete set of data on past moisture levels. But researchers have other ways of determining those conditions. Here are four of them:

Underwater tree stumps
Archaeological artifacts
Sand-dune cores
Pollen-grain deposits

The Full article is HERE.

Here are some other views of the long-term drought;

Long Drought History

G10b Sac River Flow 30T

 

Sunspot Update for July 2018: The Sun Flatlines!

From Behind the Black, by Robert Zimmerman

Yesterday NOAA posted its monthly update of the solar cycle, covering sunspot activity for July 2018. As I do every month, I am posting it below, annotated to give it some context.

This might be the most significant month of solar activity that has been observed since Galileo. Except for two very short-lived and very weak sunspots that observers hardly noted, the Sun was blank for entire month of July. This has not happened since 2009, during the height of the last solar minimum.

What makes this so significant and unique is that it almost certainly signals the return of the next solar minimum, a return that comes more than a year early. The solar cycle the Sun is now completing has only been ten years long. It is also one of the weakest in more than a hundred years. This combination is unprecedented. In the past such a weak cycle required a long cycle, not a short one.

Read the full post with graphics HERE.

Robert discusses the Next Grand Minimums:

For almost a decade some solar scientists have predicted, based on the Sun’s recent behavior, that we are about to enter an era of little sunspot activity, with the possibility that we could be facing the first Grand Minimum since the Maunder Minimum in the 1600s. During that last grand minimum, named for the man who identified it, the Sun’s solar cycle produced almost no visible sunspots for decades. Though scientists think the eleven-year solar cycle was occurring, sunspot activity was so weak that the solar astronomers at the time, equipped with the very first telescopes, could not see it.

My emphasis added. There is more discussion in the text.

A Solar Activity Update- By Stephanie Osborn

Some informed thoughts for you to think about.

According To Hoyt

A Solar Activity Update- By Stephanie Osborn

http://www.stephanie-osborn.com

My experience

I did my graduate work in spotted variable stars at Vanderbilt University, so in the astronomical community I would be considered a variable star astronomer. Based on our experience, many variable star astronomers consider the Sun to be at least borderline variable, and I am one of these. In point of fact, pretty much across the board, astronomers dropped the “solar constant” years ago, because it simply wasn’t. (Unfortunately, other disciplines have not.)

I personally have been watching solar activity for many years now and have watched the activity gradually decrease. As a consequence, I began keeping a rough spreadsheet in summer 2016 as I watched activity begin to drop dramatically. So I have about 2 years of recorded data. It is fairly simplistic, because I only wanted a snapshot and didn’t have time to do more detail, but it…

View original post 1,676 more words

Atmospheric Radiation Update – 18% Cosmic Ray Increase!

As the sunspot cycle declines, we expect cosmic rays to increase. Is this actually happening? The answer is “yes.” Spaceweather.com and the students of Earth to Sky Calculus have been monitoring cosmic radiation in the atmosphere with frequent high-altitude balloon flights over California. Here are the latest results, current as of July 2018:

stratosphere_california_strip

The data show radiation levels intensifying with an approximately 18% increase in monthly averages since March 2015. This comes as sunspot counts have dipped to a ~10-year low in June and July 2018.
Cosmic rays are the subatomic debris of dying stars, accelerated to nearly light speed by supernova explosions. They travel across the galaxy and approach Earth from all directions, peppering our planet 24/7. When cosmic rays crash into Earth’s atmosphere, they produce a spray of secondary particles and photons that is most intense at the entrance to the stratosphere. This secondary spray is what we measure.

Read the rest of the story HERE.

More cosmic rays should be increasing cloud cover, cooling the oceans.  See Joe Bastardi’s daily summary at https://www.weatherbell.com   According to Joe the Pacific and Atlantic are cooler than normal for this time of the year.

 

Three Weeks Without Sunspots

As July 17th comes to a close, the sun has been blank for 21 straight days–a remarkable 3 weeks without sunspots. To find an equal stretch of spotless suns in the historical record, you have to go back to July-August 2009 when the sun was emerging from a century-class solar minimum. We are now entering a new solar minimum, possibly as deep as the last one.

bigblanksun_strip3

Solar minimum is a normal part of the solar cycle. Every 11 years or so, sunspot production sputters. Dark cores that produce solar flares and CMEs vanish from the solar disk, leaving the sun blank for long stretches of time. These quiet spells have been coming with regularity since the sunspot cycle was discovered in 1859.

However, not all solar minima are alike. The last one in 2008-2009 surprised observers with its depth and side-effects. Sunspot counts dropped to a 100-year low; the sun dimmed by 0.1%; Earth’s upper atmosphere collapsed, allowing space junk to accumulate; and the pressure of the solar wind flagged while cosmic rays (normally repelled by solar wind) surged to Space Age highs. These events upended the orthodox picture of solar minimum as “uneventful.”

Rest of the article at spaceweather.com

 

Our Planet Is Being Roasted By Cosmic Rays From This Binary Star System Only 10,000 Light-Years Away

For years, Earth has been bombarded by cosmic rays emanating from a mysterious source astronomers couldn’t identify. Now, new research conducted with the help of NASA’s NuSTAR space telescope has finally tracked down the source of these rays: Eta Carinae, a binary star system just 10,000 light-years away. In an event called the Great Eruption of 1838, the system created a stunning hourglass nebula in a tremendous burst of energy that temporarily made it the second-brightest object in the night sky.

According to Fiona Harrison, the principal investigator of NuSTAR: “We’ve known for some time that the region around Eta Carinae is the source of energetic emission in high-energy X-rays and gamma rays. But until NuSTAR was able to pinpoint the radiation, show it comes from the binary and study its properties in detail, the origin was mysterious.”

The powerful cosmic radiation is caused, in part, by two currents of stellar wind colliding as they swirl around the twin stars. These winds then create shockwaves that boost the strength of the X-rays and gamma rays also being emitted. According to Kenji Hamaguchi, of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center: “We know the blast waves of exploded stars can accelerate cosmic ray particles to speeds comparable to that of light, an incredible energy boost. Similar processes must occur in other extreme environments. Our analysis indicates Eta Carinae is one of them.”

Discovering the source of these cosmic rays helps astronomers to understand a bit more about Eta Carinae, which is still something of a mystery: scientists have no idea what caused its famous “eruption” in 1838 which, by all rights, should have ended in a supernova.

Although Earth’s magnetosphere keeps us safe from (most) radiation, cosmic rays might actually be increasing around our planet. This makes space travel more deadly than it already is. And if the amount of radiation keeps increasing, we might find out the limits of our atmosphere the hard way.

Source article HERE.

Cosmic rays are increasing,

newhampshirevscalifornia_strip

According to space weather, Cosmic Rays are increasing and that may influence the amount of cloud cover.  n increase in cloud cover could cool the planet. More cosmic rays, more clouds, more cooling. Interesting that cooling maybe influenced by an external source, a binary star 10,000 light years away.

The question is how long will the increase continue? If the cosmic ray cloud connection is valid science, we could be in for some serious cold events.  The sun moderates the flow of cosmic rays, but the source is increasing, so how much can a quiet sun moderate? We live in interesting times.