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.


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.”

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Author: Russ Steele

Freelance writer and climate change blogger. Russ spent twenty years in the Air Force as a navigator specializing in electronics warfare and digital systems. After his service he was employed for sixteen years as concept developer for TRW, an aerospace and automotive company, and then was CEO of a non-profit Internet provider for 18 months. Russ's articles have appeared in Comstock's Business, Capitol Journal, Trailer Life, Monitoring Times, and Idaho Magazine.

2 thoughts on “Three Weeks Without Sunspots”

  1. Been an interesting summer, certainly in Europe, with much media hysteria about temperatures, drought and ‘Global Warming’. Springtime, in many parts was, by contrast, cold and wet.
    So why – can we have a stab at a rational analysis. We know sunspots have bottomed out but so, interestingly, has non-spot activity. This has led to a significant contraction of the upper atmosphere, weakening the jet stream structure and allowing the ‘Sea /Land Differential’ to become the dominant factor. Once weather patterns become locked to this layout, they tend to become self reinforcing, self perpetuating. The longer they are there, the more stable the wind patterns and the higher the temperatures, the more stable the structure. This can also work in the opposite phase as we have seen in the past.
    Be interesting to see what kind of winter follows, if low overall activity continues it could get very cold. Predictions could also be blown out of the water if activity suddenly increases!

    1. It looks like the La Niña is backing off and we will have a El Niño by mid winter. If so we should have a wet winter in the Southwest. With sea surface temps falling it may be cold wet winter. Stay tuned, we live in interesting times.

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