The Sun has found some spots

The sun wasn’t totally spotless in April.  Unfortunately, the most recent new spot is an old spot.

“Say WHAT?” You ask. “How can a new spot be an old spot?”

Sunspot polarity, March 27, 2008 magnetogram

Sunspot polarity, March 27, 2008 magnetogram

Right now, the sunspot activity is in a low period between sunspot cycles.  Sunspots are features on the sun that are cooler that their surrounding areas.  That’s why they appear dark.

Sunspots are also magnetic features, having polarity, with north and south poles, much like a magnet.  Their magnetic alignment — where the poles are in relationship to each other — is dependent upon what hemisphere they are in and, more importantly to this discussion, what solar cycle they are in.

Sunspot polarity is reversed from one sunspot cycle to the next.  During the solar minimum period when sunspot activity is at the lowest, sunspots from both cycles can appear.  Most of the recent sunspots have had the polarity for cycle 24; they have been “new” sunspots.  The most recent sunspot has the polarity of cycle 23; thus, an “old” sunspot.

Sunspot 1016, April 30, 2009

Sunspot 1016, April 30, 2009

There were but 2 sunspots, as I recall, during the month of April, neither of them very significant.  Overall solar activity remains low.  According to spaceweather.com, “Until these old cycle sunspots go away, the next solar cycle will remain in abeyance.”

What does it all mean?

It wasn’t that long ago that scientists were predicting a much different level of activity for the sun.  A March 10, 2006 NASA article headlined Solar Storm Warning, said:

This week researchers announced that a storm is coming–the most intense solar maximum in fifty years. The prediction comes from a team led by Mausumi Dikpati of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). “The next sunspot cycle will be 30% to 50% stronger than the previous one,” she says. If correct, the years ahead could produce a burst of solar activity second only to the historic Solar Max of 1958.

It looks like they really missed the mark.

Last month, in The Sun Has Lost Its Spots — Part 2, I asked, “What happens when the solar indicators remain low  for an extended period of time?”

A number of scientists are projecting that global warming is over, for now, and that global average temperatures will be dropping for the next 20 to 30 years.  This is based on predictions that solar output will remain low for an extended period of time.

projected_temperature_profile

A number of indicators seem to be supporting the idea that global warming has stopped for now.

Astronomy, climate change, environment, global warming, science, Uncategorized, weather
3 comments… add one
  • Patricia May 1, 2009

    Oh Global warming is over? We have really had Global cooling here over the past several years – major weather changes, but maybe this trend will assist the polar bears in their survival. What do you think?

    <abbr>Patricia’s last blog post..anniversary</abbr>

  • Mike May 1, 2009

    Patricia,

    To be honest with you, I'd rather have global warming. The consequences of global cooling may be quite dire — if we are cooling and if it continues for an extended period of time.

    The polar bear threat story is just that — a story. It's been recycled several times over the last several years. When it resurfaced recently, I looked it up in a book that I have on climate change and there it was, except this book gave some background. There are 20 or so different populations of polar bear in the arctic. Of these, there are two or three that may be in trouble. The rest are either stable or flourishing. In recent decades, overall polar bear population, from what I understand, has grown.

    The photo that is repeated over and over online with the polar bears on top of a funny shaped iceberg was taken by a student on a polar expedition a few years ago. There was plenty of ice around and the polar bears were doing what polar bears do, climbing around on the ice. A friend shared a copy with another friend and somehow it got shared with one of the major news association (AP, UPI, etc.) and started showing up in news stories.

    According to some of the papers I've read, the Arctic was probably almost totally ice free in earlier parts of the Holocene – the geologic period that we are living in — and polar bears survived that. Polar bears thrive on ice, but apparently can survive quite well without it.

  • Patricia May 1, 2009

    Mike,
    Thank you for this spectacular answer/comment. I learned a great deal here and I have been polar bear worried for years – hmm?
    I grew up for 16 years where I live now again after many years away…I just can not believe how cold it is here and how much snow and so little summer. I am worried about the weather…and the results.

    I just don't buy that El Nino, El Nina stuff…and about 8 years ago we had two summers in a row that were like 108-110 degrees for several weeks – not usual, and since then it has gotten cooler and cooler in the summers. We usually don't think of summer arriving before the 4th of July…2008 we had a week of the 80s in April and no more until middle of August…it was just gray and cold and no tomatoes ripened.
    Something is changing and I am not comfortable with this change

    <abbr>Patricia’s last blog post..anniversary</abbr>

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