The Sun’s Weather Cycle May Start in ‘Tsunamis,’ End with ‘Terminators’

By Passant Rabie ar Science & Astronomy 

A tsunami of plasma rushes through the sun before a new sunspot cycle begins

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An image of the sun in ultraviolet light showing a string of active regions near the Sun’s equator over about 36 hours. (Image: © NASA)

Astronomers may have finally figured out what causes the sun’s 11-year cycle of activity, and it involves a “tsunami” of magnetic fields. 

The sun, like other stars, goes through a cycle marked by a change in magnetic activity, levels of radiation, and the number and size of sunspots. While our sun’s 11-year cycle was discovered more than a century ago, predicting exactly when one cycle ends and a new one begins has been an ongoing challenge. 

A pair of related studies have mapped out the sun’s activity over the course of 140 years, looking for clues about the solar cycle that are visible on the surface. By looking at the way bright flashes of ultraviolet light migrate across the sun’s surface, the researchers discovered that the sun’s mysterious 11-year cycle may be marked by a “terminator” event that ends one cycle and a “tsunami” of magnetic fields that initiates a new one. Those bright flickers of ultraviolet light and the sun’s magnetic fields appear to drive the cycle itself, and monitoring those flashes could help scientists predict when a new cycle will begin.

Continue reading HERE to see the interactive graphics.

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Cosmic Ray Update: New Results from the Moon

By Dr Tony Phillips

July 16, 2019: Note to astronauts: 2019 is not a good year to fly into deep space. In fact, it’s shaping up to be one of the worst of the Space Age.

The reason is, the solar cycle. One of the deepest Solar Minima of the past century is underway now. As the sun’s magnetic field weakens, cosmic rays from deep space are flooding into the solar system, posing potential health risks to astronauts.

NASA is monitoring the situation with a radiation sensor in lunar orbit. The Cosmic Ray Telescope for the Effects of Radiation (CRaTER) has been circling the Moon on NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft since 2009. Researchers have just published a paper in the journal Space Weather describing CRaTER’s latest findings.

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“The overall decrease in solar activity in this period has led to an increased flux of energetic particles, to levels that are approaching those observed during the previous solar minimum in 2009/2010, which was the deepest minimum of the Space Age,” write the authors, led by Cary Zeitlin of NASA’s Johnson Space Flight Center. “The data have implications for human exploration of deep space.”

This always happens during Solar Minimum. As solar activity goes down, cosmic rays go up. The last two Solar Minima have been unusually deep, leading to high cosmic ray fluxes in 2008-2010 and again in 2018-2019. These are the worst years since humans first left Earth in the 1960s.

“It’s a bit counterintuitive,” says one of the authors, Nathan Schwadron, a space physicist at the University of New Hampshire. “Solar Minimum may actually be more dangerous than Solar Maximum.”

In their paper, Zeitlin, Schwadron and co-authors describe an interesting experiment by NASA that highlights the relative peril of solar flares vs. cosmic rays. In 2011, NASA launched the Curiosity rover to Mars. Inside its spacecraft, the rover was protected by about as much shielding (20 gm/cm^2) as a human astronaut would have. A radiation sensor tucked inside kept track of Curiosity’s exposure.

The results were surprising. During the 9-month journey to Mars, radiation from solar flares (including the strongest flare of the previous solar cycle) accounted for only about 5% of Curiosity’s total dose. The remaining 95% came from cosmic rays.

Why the imbalance? “Solar flares of the size we’ve seen during the Space Age can be largely mitigated by achievable depths of spacecraft shielding(1),” explains Zeitlin. “We can’t stop the highest energy cosmic rays, however. They penetrate the walls of any spacecraft.”

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Solar flares are still a concern. If an astronaut were caught outside on EVA during an intense, unexpected flare, acute effects could include vomiting, fatigue, and low blood counts. A quick return to Earth might be required for medical care. Cosmic rays are more insidious, acting slowly, with maladies such as cancer or heart disease showing up years after the exposure.

As 2019 unfolds, Solar Minimum appears to still be deepening. Cosmic rays haven’t quite broken the Space Age record set in 2009-2010, but they’re getting close, only percentage points from the highest values CRaTER has ever recorded.

“No one can predict what will happen next,” says Schwadron. “However, the situation speaks for itself: We are experiencing a period of unusually weak solar cycles. We have to be prepared for strong cosmic rays.”

END NOTES:

(1) According to Zeitlin, “achievable” shielding depths will be at least 20 to 30 gm/cm^2. “Vehicles carrying humans into deep space will likely have storm shelters that will provide this much shielding or more, and that would indeed be sufficient – even for an event like the great solar flare of August 1972 during the Apollo program – to keep the accumulated dose below the 30-day limit.”

REFERENCE:

“Update on Galactic Cosmic Ray Integral Flux Measurements in Lunar Orbit With CRaTER”, by C. Zeitlin, N. A. Schwadron, H. E. Spence, A. P. Jordan, M. D. Looper, J. Wilson, J. E. Mazur, L. W. Townsend. https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/2019SW002223

Link to the original post is HERE

 

The Next Grand Solar Minimum is Approaching

Oscillations of the baseline of solar magnetic field and solar irradiance on a millennial timescale

Another paper by V. V. Zharkova, S. J. Shepherd, S. I. Zharkov & E. Popova 

Abstract

Recently discovered long-term oscillations of the solar background magnetic field associated with double dynamo waves generated in inner and outer layers of the Sun indicate that the solar activity is heading in the next three decades (2019–2055) to a Modern grand minimum similar to Maunder one. On the other hand, a reconstruction of solar total irradiance suggests that since the Maunder minimum there is an increase in the cycle-averaged total solar irradiance (TSI) by a value of about 1–1.5 Wm−2 closely correlated with an increase of the baseline (average) terrestrial temperature. In order to understand these two opposite trends, we calculated the double dynamo summary curve of magnetic field variations backward one hundred thousand years allowing us to confirm strong oscillations of solar activity in regular (11 year) and recently reported grand (350–400 year) solar cycles caused by actions of the double solar dynamo. In addition, oscillations of the baseline (zero-line) of magnetic field with a period of 1950 ± 95 years (a super-grand cycle) are discovered by applying a running averaging filter to suppress large-scale oscillations of 11 year cycles. Latest minimum of the baseline oscillations is found to coincide with the grand solar minimum (the Maunder minimum) occurred before the current super-grand cycle start. Since then the baseline magnitude became slowly increasing towards its maximum at 2600 to be followed by its decrease and minimum at ~3700. These oscillations of the baseline solar magnetic field are found associated with a long-term solar inertial motion about the barycenter of the solar system and closely linked to an increase of solar irradiance and terrestrial temperature in the past two centuries. This trend is anticipated to continue in the next six centuries that can lead to a further natural increase of the terrestrial temperature by more than 2.5 °C by 2600.

Conclusions

Until recently, solar activity was accepted to be one of the important factors defining the temperature on Earth and other planets. In this paper we reproduced the summary curve of the solar magnetic field associated with solar activity5,6 for the one hundred thousand years backward by using the formulas describing the sum of the two principal components found from the full disk solar magnetograms. In the past 3000 years the summary curve shows the solar activity for every 11 years and occurrence of 9 grand solar cycles of 350–400 years, which are caused by the beating effects of two magnetic waves generated by solar dynamo at the inner and outer layers inside the solar interior with close but not equal frequencies6.

The resulting summary curve reveals a remarkable resemblance to the sunspot and terrestrial activity reported in the past millennia including the significant grand solar minima: Maunder Minimum (1645–1715), Wolf minimum (1200), Oort minimum (1010–1050), Homer minimum (800–900 BC) combined with the grand solar maxima: the medieval warm period (900–1200), the Roman warm period (400–10BC) etc. It also predicts the upcoming grand solar minimum, similar to Maunder Minimum, which starts in 2020 and will last until 2055.

A reconstruction of solar total irradiance suggests that there is an increase in the cycle-averaged total solar irradiance (TSI) since the Maunder minimum by a value of about 1–1.5 Wm−2 27. This increase is closely correlated with the similar increase of the average terrestrial temperature26,43. Moreover, from the summary curve for the past 100 thousand years we found the similar oscillations of the baseline of magnetic field with a period of 1950 ± 95 years (a super-grand solar cycle) by filtering out the large-scale oscillations in 11 year cycles. The last minimum of a super-grand cycle occurred at the beginning of Maunder minimum. Currently, the baseline magnetic field (and solar irradiance) are increasing to reach its maximum at 2600, after which the baseline magnetic field become decreasing for another 1000 years.

The oscillations of the baseline of solar magnetic field are likely to be caused by the solar inertial motion about the barycentre of the solar system caused by large planets. This, in turn, is closely linked to an increase of solar irradiance caused by the positions of the Sun either closer to aphelion and autumn equinox or perihelion and spring equinox. Therefore, the oscillations of the baseline define the global trend of solar magnetic field and solar irradiance over a period of about 2100 years. In the current millennium since Maunder minimum we have the increase of the baseline magnetic field and solar irradiance for another 580 years. This increase leads to the terrestrial temperature increase as noted by Akasofu26 during the past two hundred years. Based on the growth rate of 0.5 C per 100 years26 for the terrestrial temperature since Maunder minimum, one can anticipate that the increase of the solar baseline magnetic field expected to occure up to 2600 because of SIM will lead, in turn, to the increase of the terrestrial baseline temperature since MM by 1.3 °C (in 2100) and, at least, by 2.5–3.0 °C (in 2600).

Naturally, on top of this increase of the baseline terrestrial temperature, there are imposed much larger temperature oscillations caused by standard solar activity cycles of 11 and 350–400 years and terrestrial causes. The terrestrial temperature is expected to grow during maxima of 11 year solar cycles and to decrease during their minima. Furthermore, the substantial temperature decreases are expected during the two grand minima47 to occur in 2020–2055 and 2370–24156, whose magnitudes cannot be yet predicted and need further investigation. These oscillations of the estimated terrestrial temperature do not include any human-induced factors, which were outside the scope of the current paper.

Continue reading HERE

Keep your warm coat handy the climate is about to get interesting.

The Sun Is Stranger Than Astrophysicists Imagined

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Natalie Wolchover writing in Quantum Magazine has the details:

A decade’s worth of telescope observations of the sun have revealed a startling mystery: Gamma rays, the highest frequency waves of light, radiate from our nearest star seven times more abundantly than expected. Stranger still, despite this extreme excess of gamma rays overall, a narrow bandwidth of frequencies is curiously absent.

The surplus light, the gap in the spectrum, and other surprises about the solar gamma-ray signal potentially point to unknown features of the sun’s magnetic field, or more exotic physics.

“It’s amazing that we were so spectacularly wrong about something we should understand really well: the sun,” said Brian Fields, a particle astrophysicist at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

The unexpected signal has emerged in data from the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, a NASA observatory that scans the sky from its outpost in low-Earth orbit. As more Fermi data have accrued, revealing the spectrum of gamma rays coming from the sun in ever-greater detail, the puzzles have only proliferated.

“We just kept finding surprising things,” said Annika Peter of Ohio State University, a co-author of a recent white paper summarizing several years of findings about the solar gamma-ray signal. “It’s definitely the most surprising thing I’ve ever worked on.”

Not only is the gamma-ray signal far stronger than a decades-old theory predicts; it also extends to much higher frequencies than predicted, and it inexplicably varies across the face of the sun and throughout the 11-year solar cycle. Then there’s the gap, which researchers call a “dip” — a lack of gamma rays with frequencies around 10 trillion trillion hertz. “The dip just defies all logic,” said Tim Linden, a particle astrophysicist at Ohio State who helped analyze the signal.

Fields, who wasn’t involved in the work, said, “They’ve done a great job with the data, and the story it tells is really kind of amazing.”

Continue reading HERE.

Download white paper HERE.

The science is never settled, there is always something new to learn and marvel over.  What do you think is happening on the sun?  My vote is the dip is instrument error, until we have more data from another source to confirm the dip.  Stay tuned this is going to be exciting!

The Weakening Of Earth’s Magnetic Field Has Greatly Accelerated

Earth’s magnetic field is getting significantly weaker, the magnetic north pole is shifting at an accelerating pace, and scientists readily admit that a sudden pole shift could potentially cause “trillions of dollars” in damage. Today, most of us take the protection provided by Earth’s magnetic field completely for granted. It is essentially a colossal force field which surrounds our planet and makes life possible. And even with such protection, a giant solar storm could still potentially hit our planet and completely fry our power grid. But as our magnetic field continues to get weaker and weaker, even much smaller solar storms will have the potential to be cataclysmic. And once the magnetic field gets weak enough, we will be facing much bigger problems. As you will see below, if enough solar radiation starts reaching our planet none of us will survive.
But now we are being told that data collected from the SWARM satellite indicate that the rate of decay is now 5 percent per decade…

It’s well established that in modern times, the axial dipole component of Earth’s main magnetic field is decreasing by approximately 5% per century. Recently, scientists using the SWARM satellite announced that their data indicate a decay rate ten times faster, or 5% per decade.

In case you didn’t quite get that, 5 percent per decade is 10 times faster than 5 percent per century.

If the rate of decay continues at this pace, or if it speeds up, even more, we could be looking at a mass extinction event that is beyond what most people would dare to imagine.

Source: Zero Hedge 

As the magnetic field strength declines, more cosmic ray could create more clouds and we could see significant cooling? Of course, that could be the least of our problems. That raises a question, what was the magnetic fields strength at the start of the last grand minimum, at the start of the last Ice Age. Anyone know how to get an estimate?