After a historically snowy spring, Colorado’s snowpack currently stands at 473% of normal (almost 5 times normal), with highs peaking at 846% (more than 8 times normal!) in the San Juan Mountains, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
One of the big questions in solar physics is why the Sun’s activity follows a regular cycle of 11 years. Researchers from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR), an independent German research institute, now present new findings, indicating that the tidal forces of Venus, Earth and Jupiter influence the solar magnetic field, thus governing the solar cycle.
In principle, it is not unusual for the magnetic activity of a star like the Sun to undergo cyclic oscillation. And yet past models have been unable to adequately explain the very regular cycle of the sun. The HZDR research team has now succeeded in demonstrating that the planetary tidal forces on the Sun act like an outer clock, and are the decisive factor behind its steady rhythm. To accomplish this result, the scientists systematically compared historical observations of solar activity from the last thousand years with planetary constellations, statistically proving that the two phenomena are linked.
“There is an astonishingly high level of concordance: what we see is complete parallelism with the planets over the course of 90 cycles,” enthused Frank Stefani, lead author of the study. “Everything points to a clocked process.”
Editorial Question: What else could these high energy cosmic rays have caused? Thoughts?
A bombardment of cosmic rays from ancient supernovae may have triggered a series of events that encouraged early human ancestors to walk upright, according to a new study published in the Journal of Geology. The scientists behind the research believe that the cosmic explosion could have helped trigger a shift in Earth’s environment that forced humanity’s fore bearers to adapt.
Supernovae are some of the most dramatic and energetic events known to take place in the visible universe. They can occur either when a white dwarf strips too much matter from a nearby companion star, causing it to become unstable, or when a stellar body many times the mass of our Sun runs out of material to fuel the nuclear fusion process raging in its core.
The end result of both scenarios is a violent explosion that seeds the surrounding environment with vast amounts of stellar material, and bombards worlds hundreds of light-years away with cosmic rays.
There is evidence to suggest that Earth’s atmosphere has been interacting with cosmic energy thrown out by a series of supernovae explosions for the last 8 million years. The authors of a recently published study assert that, at the peak of the bombardment, roughly 2.6 million years ago, the radiation was partially responsible for reshaping the environment of northeast Africa, where humanity’s ancestors where developing.
“We contend it would increase the ionization of the lower atmosphere by 50-fold,” said Melott, lead author of the study. Usually, you don’t get lower-atmosphere ionization because cosmic rays don’t penetrate that far, but the more energetic ones from supernovae come right down to the surface — so there would be a lot of electrons being knocked out of the atmosphere.”
Between 1300 and 1850, the Earth experienced a Little Ice Age whose cause to this day is not known.
A blog post at Interesting Engineering has more details including the consequences and some paintings from the period. The causes listed are interesting:
The causes of the LIA are still not known, while potential candidates are reduced solar output, changes in atmospheric circulation, and volcanism.
Low sunspot activity is associated with lower solar output, and two periods of unusually low sunspot activity occurred during the Little Ice Age: the Spörer Minimum (1450–1540) and the Maunder Minimum (1645–1715), which is named for astronomer E.W. Maunder who discovered the absence of sunspots during that period. Both of these coincide with the coldest years of the LIA in parts of Europe.
Another possible candidate is a reversal of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). This is a large-scale atmospheric-circulation pattern over the North Atlantic and adjacent areas. During its “positive” phase, the track of North Atlantic storms is centered over the British Isles and Northern Europe. During its “negative” phase, cold Arctic air from Russia moves over northern Europe.
A final candidate is volcanic eruptions which propel gases and ash into the stratosphere, where they reflect incoming sunlight. In 1783, Iceland’s Laki volcano erupted, and in 1815, the Tambora volcano on Sumbawa Island erupted.
I am voting for low sunspot activity. Your thoughts?
The sun continues to be very quiet and it has been without sunspots this year more than half the time as we approach what is likely to be a deep solar minimum. In fact, all indications are that the upcoming solar minimum which is expected to begin later this year may be even quieter than the last one which was the deepest in nearly a century. Solar cycle 24 has been the weakest sunspot cycle with the fewest sunspots since cycle 14 peaked in February 1906. Solar cycle 24 continues a recent trend of weakening solar cycles which began with solar cycle 21 that peaked around 1980. The last time the sun was this blank in a given year on a percentage basis was 2009 during the last solar minimum when 71% of the time was spotless. 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. 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 and 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.
FORCE MAJEURE, THE SUN’S LARGE ROLE IN CLIMATE CHANGE (GUEST: HENRIK SVENSMARK), MAY 6, 2019
A podcast interview of Henrik Svensmark by H. Sterling Burnett of the Heritage Foundation
By bombarding the Earth with cosmic rays and being a driving force behind cloud formations, the sun plays a much larger role on climate than “consensus scientists” care to admit.
The Danish National Space Institute’s Dr. Henrik Svensmark has assembled a powerful array of data and evidence in his recent study, Force Majeure the Sun’s Large Role in Climate Change. The study shows that throughout history and now, the sun plays a powerful role in climate change. Solar activity impacts cosmic rays which are tied to cloud formation. Clouds, their abundance or dearth, directly affects the earth’s climate. Climate models don’t accurately account for the role of clouds or solar activity in climate change, with the result they assume the earth is much more sensitive to greenhouse gas levels than it is. Unfortunately, the impact of clouds and the sun on climate are understudied because climate science has become so politicized.
By Prof. Fritz Vahrenholt and Frank Bosse
(German text translated/edited by P. Gosselin)
If we speak of an average of the last 23 cycles in the months of the minimum, our only significant energy source at the center of the solar system was below average active last month as well.
The sunspot number (SSN) was 9.1, which was thus only 42% of the average of the cycles for month no. 125. Some cycles (No. 21, 18, 16, 15, 8 ) were already completed in month no. 125.
Fig. 1: The monthly sunspot activity of the current solar cycle (SC 24) since December 2008 (red) compared to the mean value of all previously systematically observed cycles since the beginning of SC 1 in March 1755 (blue) and the very similar SC 5 (black).
Figure 1 clearly shows that the latest cycle was quite below-normal, especially at the beginning and after the second peak which had an SSN of over 140 towards the end. Since February 2014 (the maximum of the entire cycle 24 with SSN = 146 in cycle month 63), it only reached 2/3 of the average activity.
What are the effects? The total radiation (TSI for total solar irradiance) is only moderately influenced:
Fig. 2: The total solar irradiance at the Earth’s distance since the end of 2003, when probe’s mission began. Source.
Since the maximum, we have seen a decrease of about 1.5 W/m². On the ground this drop decreases to 25% because the earth is not perpendicular to the sun (like the satellite’s sensor) and it rotates. This leaves only a boost of 0.38W/m² in effective radiant power, or 0.1%, which is comparatively little.
Another magnitude may have more influence: During high activity, the sun keeps the galactic cosmic radiation (actually less electromagnetic radiation, but more particles) away from the interior of the solar system. It performs this shielding less effectively with reduced solar activity.
Fig. 3: Galactic radiation since the 1960s. The series has been measured in Moscow. Source. Note: Upper peaks show strong cosmic radiation.
Since the beginning of the 2000s, a decrease of up to 16% compared to the 90s can currently be seen. Also in the maximum of SC24 around 2014 cosmic rays were about 8% stronger than in the maxima since 1980.
We had reported about the connections, which Hendrik Svensmark postulates, in the book and also in the blog (last here) several times.
Next we look at the comparison of the cycles among each other:
Fig. 4: The sunspot activity of the cycles in comparison. The numbers in the diagram are obtained by summing the monthly differences between the observed SSN and the mean (blue in Fig.1) up to the current cycle month 125.
Also the coming cycle 25 – with a probable start in August 2020 (here we showed how we came to this view) – will again be below average with a high degree of certainty. The peak phase of solar activity from 1935 to about 2005 (SC 17…SC23) is over.
This is reblogged from the No Tricks Zone. The original is HERE Comments included.
The Sun as climate driver is repeatedly discussed in the literature but proofs are often weak. In order to elucidate the solar influence, we have used a large number of temperature proxies worldwide to construct a global temperature mean G7 over the last 2000 years. The Fourier spectrum of G7 shows the strongest components as ~1000-, ~460-, and ~190 – year periods whereas other cycles of the individual proxies are considerably weaker. The G7 temperature extrema coincide with the Roman, medieval, and present optima as well as the well-known minimum of AD 1450 during the Little Ice Age. We have constructed by reverse Fourier transform a representation of G7 using only these three sine functions, which shows a remarkable Pearson correlation of 0.84 with the 31-year running average of G7. The three cycles are also found dominant in the production rates of the solar-induced cosmogenic nuclides 14C and 10Be, most strongly in the ~190 – year period being known as the De Vries/Suess cycle. By wavelet analysis, a new proof has been provided that at least the ~190-year climate cycle has a solar origin
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.”
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!
Solar experts predict the Sun’s activity in Solar Cycle 25 to be below average, similar to Solar Cycle 24
April 5, 2019 – Scientists charged with predicting the Sun’s activity for the next 11-year solar cycle say that it’s likely to be weak, much like the current one. The current solar cycle, Cycle 24, is declining and predicted to reach solar minimum – the period when the Sun is least active – late in 2019 or 2020.
Solar Cycle 25 Prediction Panel experts said Solar Cycle 25 may have a slow start, but is anticipated to peak with solar maximum occurring between 2023 and 2026, and a sunspot range of 95 to 130. This is well below the average number of sunspots, which typically ranges from 140 to 220 sunspots per solar cycle.
The panel has high confidence that the coming cycle should break the trend of weakening solar activity seen over the past four cycles.
“We expect Solar Cycle 25 will be very similar to Cycle 24: another fairly weak cycle, preceded by a long, deep minimum,” said panel co-chair Lisa Upton, Ph.D., solar physicist with Space Systems Research Corp. “The expectation that Cycle 25 will be comparable in size to Cycle 24 means that the steady decline in solar cycle amplitude, seen from cycles 21-24, has come to an end and that there is no indication that we are currently approaching a Maunder-type minimum in solar activity.”
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The solar cycle prediction gives a rough idea of the frequency of space weather storms of all types, from radio blackouts to geomagnetic storms and solar radiation storms. It is used by many industries to gauge the potential impact of space weather in the coming years. Space weather can affect power grids, critical military, airline, and shipping communications, satellites and Global Positioning System (GPS) signals, and can even threaten astronauts by exposure to harmful radiation doses.
Solar Cycle 24 reached its maximum – the period when the Sun is most active – in April 2014 with a peak average of 82 sunspots. The Sun’s Northern Hemisphere led the sunspot cycle, peaking over two years ahead of the Southern Hemisphere sunspot peak.