Why I don’t want to be right.

Headline--Next solar cycle may be weakest for centuries

In the last couple of days, hundreds of news articles have been reporting on the strange behavior of the sun.

Three new scientific papers released simultaneously June 14th suggest that our sun’s magnetic activity and sunspot cycle may be going somewhat dormant for a while – possibly several decades – resulting in a period of global cooling. The results were announced at the annual meeting of the Solar Physics Division of the American Astronomical Society, which is being held this week at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces.

I’ve been following and writing about the unusual behavior of the sun for quite a while.  I check the status of solar activity and sunspots on a regular basis, sometimes daily.  It’s just a quick check, just to monitor the disparity between what’s been predicted and what is actually occurring.

On March 29, 2009 – a little over 2 years ago – I wrote, “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.”   Last December, writing about what an extended lull in solar activity might mean, I said, “Bottom line – it’s going to get colder.”

I don’t want to be right on this.

During the Dalton Minimum, a period of low solar activity lasting from about 1790 to 1830, frigid winters and cold summers resulted in massive crop failures, famine and death.  The Maunder Minimum, from about 1645 to 1715, also corresponded to a period of low solar activity and coincided with the coldest part of the Little Ice Age.

I’d rather have global warming.

Other factors could mitigate or exacerbate the effect of this solar slumber.  It is already being suggested that anthropogenic global warming – warming caused by human carbon emissions – for example, could mitigate how cold it gets.  It is also being suggested by some that , rather cooling, this might merely temper the impact of global warming.

Unfortunately, I think that society will come to learn that anthropogenic global warming has already done all that it do.

A couple of things come to mind that could cause this to be worse – increased volcanic activity and the shifting of major ocean currents from their warm phase to the cold phase.  As we’ve seen in recent news reports, volcanic activity seems to be on the rise.  As well, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, a cyclic thermal phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean that lasts several decades, is shifting out of its warm phase into its cold phase.

I really do not want to be right on this.

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The image below is a composite of the solar sunspot predictions from 4 years ago and the actual results as of December 2010.  The red lines are smoothed high and low predicted values from 2007.  The blue lines are actual monthly results and smoothed monthly results from December 2010.

Composite of sunspot perdictions and actual results

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