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Disappearing sunspots may signal end to global warming

By Kirk Myers | Seminole County Environmental News Examiner | December 16, 2009
Sunspot numbers are now at a 100-year low, a possible sign of a cooler climate ahead.
Sunspot numbers are now at a 100-year low, a possible sign of a cooler climate ahead.

Oh, where, oh where have all the sunspots gone?

The fiery orange ball overhead has quieted during the past three years. Quiet in the sense that there have been very few sunspots – those black blotches on the sun’s surface caused by intense magnetic activity.

But just how quiet is quiet? Well, so far during the recent solar minimum (a period of low activity during the sun’s typical 11-year solar cycle), we’ve seen 183 sun-spotless days in 2007, 266 in 2008 and 259 in 2009 (as of Dec. 16 2009). Earth hasn’t witnessed a similar three-year stretch (1911, 1912, 1913) of sun-spotless days since the early 1900s.

The blank sun has not gone unnoticed by the experts. “We’re experiencing a very deep solar minimum,” says solar physicist Dean Pesnell of the Goddard Space Flight Center.

“This is the quietest sun we’ve seen in almost a century,” agrees sunspot expert David Hathaway of the Marshall Space Flight Center.

So why are sunspots under the spotlight? Because, according to solar scientists, their declining numbers, significant even by solar-minimum standards, could be the harbinger of colder temperatures ahead.

If so, it won’t be the first time the earth shivered as sunspots numbers declined. In the 17th century, the sun experienced a sunspot drought, dubbed the Maunder Minimum, which lasted 70 years – from 1645 until 1715. Astronomers at the time counted only a few dozen sunspots per year, thousands fewer than usual.

As sunspots vanished temperatures fell. The River Thames in London froze, sea ice was reported along the coasts of southeast England, and ice floes blocked many harbors. Agricultural production nose-dived as growing seasons grew shorter, leading to lower crop yields, food shortages and famine.

Canadian author and National Post environmental columnist Lawrence Solomon describes the period:

“Glaciers advanced rapidly in Greenland, Iceland, Scandinavia and North America, making vast tracts of land uninhabitable. The Arctic pack ice extended so far south that several reports describe Eskimos landing their kayaks in Scotland. Finland’s population fell by one-third, Iceland’s by half, the Viking colonies in Greenland [yes, it was once green, with forests and pastureland] were abandoned altogether, as were many Inuit communities. The cold in North America spread so far south that, in the winter of 1780, New York Harbor froze, enabling people to walk from Manhattan to Staten Island.”

Is mankind headed for another cool-down or big freeze? Based on recent scientific findings, it might be a possibility. A Danish research team led by Henrik Svensmark, director of the Center for Sun-Climate Research at the Danish National Space Center in Copenhagen, has discovered a strong correlation between sunspot activity, galactic cosmic rays and variations in the earth’s climate, a theory (supported by experiments) that challenges the prevailing concept of human-induced climate change, popularly known as anthropogenic global warming.

Henrik and his team have discovered that increased solar activity in the form of sunspots, flares and other disturbances generate solar winds that strengthen the magnetic fields surrounding earth, creating a bubble that suppresses cosmic ray penetration, inhibiting cloud formation and causing warming.

Conversely, when solar activity diminishes, the protective magnetic bubble weakens and more cosmic rays penetrate the earth’s atmosphere. The high-energy particles serve as host nuclei around which water vapor can condense and form droplets, resulting in more cloud cover and precipitation. Temperatures begin to fall as the clouds reflect more sunlight back into space.

“Galactic cosmic rays carry with them radiation from other parts of our galaxy,” says Ed Smith, NASA’s Ulysses project scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “With the solar wind at an all-time low, there is an excellent chance the heliosphere [earth’s protective bubble] will diminish in size and strength. If that occurs, more galactic cosmic rays will make it into the inner part of our solar system.”

If Svensmark and other climate scientists are correct, the decline in solar activity may be responsible for the recent fall in global temperatures. In 1998, global temperatures at the earth’s surface began leveling off and have actually declined slightly since 2001, despite an increase in CO2 levels, calling into question the accuracy of climate models that predict catastrophic global warming.

The decade-long cool-down is clearly visible in satellite temperature measurements, which are widely viewed as more accurate than land-based temperatures readings, according to Dr. David Evans, who was a researcher with the Australian Greenhouse Office from 1995 to 2005. Such readings, he says, are often skewed by what is called the “urban heat island” effect, which articially elevates temperatures.

“NASA reports only land-based data, and reports a modest warming trend and recent cooling,” says Evans. “The other three global temperature records use a mix of satellite and land measurements, or satellite only, and they all show no warming since 2001 and a recent cooling.”

As Svensmark observes:

“In fact, global warming has stopped and a cooling is beginning. No climate model has predicted a cooling of the Earth – quite the contrary. And this means that the [global warming] projections of future climate are unreliable.”

If what Svensmark and other researchers say is true, it is very likely that when the heated debate between global warmers and global-warming skeptics finally ends, cooler heads may ultimately prevail.


December 18, 2009 - Posted by | Science and Pseudo-Science

1 Comment

  1. Reblogged this on Finding Truth In an Illusory World.


    Comment by lozzafun | July 12, 2015

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