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.
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“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.”
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