Solar Cycle 24 flops, SC25 cancelled

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Solar Cycle 24 flops, SC25 cancelled

Postby ViKing » Wed Jun 15, 2011 4:34 pm UTC

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news ... e-science/
Spoiler:
National Geographic wrote:Enjoy our stormy sun while it lasts. When our star drops out of its latest sunspot activity cycle, the sun is most likely going into hibernation, scientists announced today.
Three independent studies of the sun's insides, surface, and upper atmosphere all predict that the next solar cycle will be significantly delayed—if it happens at all. Normally, the next cycle would be expected to start roughly around 2020.
The combined data indicate that we may soon be headed into what's known as a grand minimum, a period of unusually low solar activity.
The predicted solar "sleep" is being compared to the last grand minimum on record, which occurred between 1645 and 1715.
Known as the Maunder Minimum, the roughly 70-year period coincided with the coldest spell of the Little Ice Age, when European canals regularly froze solid and Alpine glaciers encroached on mountain villages.
"We have some interesting hints that solar activity is associated with climate, but we don't understand the association," said Dean Pesnell, project scientist for NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO).
Also, even if there is a climate link, Pesnell doesn't think another grand minimum is likely to trigger a cold snap.
"With what's happening in current times—we've added considerable amounts of carbon dioxide and methane and other greenhouse gases to the atmosphere," said Pesnell, who wasn't involved in the suite of new sun studies.
"I don't think you'd see the same cooling effects today if the sun went into another Maunder Minimum-type behavior."

Sunspots Losing Strength
Sunspots are cool, dark blemishes visible on the sun's surface that indicate regions of intense magnetic activity.
For centuries scientists have been using sunspots—some of which can be wider than Earth—to track the sun's magnetic highs and lows.
For instance, 17th-century astronomers Galileo Galilei and Giovanni Cassini separately tracked sunspots and noticed a lack of activity during the Maunder Minimum.
In the 1800s scientists recognized that sunspots come and go on a regular cycle that lasts about 11 years. We're now in Solar Cycle 24, heading for a maximum in the sun's activity sometime in 2013.
Recently, the National Solar Observatory's Matt Penn and colleagues analyzed more than 13 years of sunspot data collected at the McMath-Pierce Telescope at Kitt Peak, Arizona.
They noticed a long-term trend of sunspot weakening, and if the trend continues, the sun's magnetic field won't be strong enough to produce sunspots during Solar Cycle 25, Penn and colleagues predict.
"The dark spots are getting brighter," Penn said today during a press briefing. Based on their data, the team predicts that, by the time it's over, the current solar cycle will have been "half as strong as Cycle 23, and the next cycle may have no sunspots at all."

Sun's "Jet Streams," Coronal Rush Also Sluggish
Separately, the National Solar Observatory's Frank Hill and colleagues have been monitoring solar cycles via a technique called helioseismology. This method uses surface vibrations caused by acoustic waves inside the star to map interior structure.
Specifically, Hill and colleagues have been tracking buried "jet streams" encircling the sun called torsional oscillations. These bands of flowing material first appear near the sun's poles and migrate toward the equator. The bands are thought to play a role in generating the sun's magnetic field.
Sunspots tend to occur along the pathways of these subsurface bands, and the sun generally becomes more active as the bands near its equator, so they act as good indicators for the timing of solar cycles.
"The torsional oscillation ... pattern for Solar Cycle 24 first appeared in 1997," Hill said today during the press briefing. "That means the flow for Cycle 25 should have appeared in 2008 or 2009, but it has not shown up yet."
According to Hill, their data suggest that the start of Solar Cycle 25 may be delayed until 2022—about two years late—or the cycle may simply not happen.
Adding to the evidence, Richard Altrock, manager of the U.S. Air Force's coronal research program for the National Solar Observatory (NSO), has observed telltale changes in a magnetic phenomenon in the sun's corona—its faint upper atmosphere.
Known as the rush to the poles, the rapid poleward movement of magnetic features in the corona has been linked to an increase in sunspot activity, with a solar cycle hitting its maximum around the time the features reach about 76 degrees latitude north and south of the sun's equator.
The rush to the poles is also linked to the sun "sweeping away" the magnetic field associated with a given solar cycle, making way for a new magnetic field and a new round of sunspot activity.
This time, however, the rush to the poles is more of a crawl, which means we could be headed toward a very weak solar maximum in 2013—and it may delay or even prevent the start of the next solar cycle.

Quiet Sun Exciting for Science
Taken together, the three lines of evidence strongly hint that Solar Cycle 25 may be a bust, the scientists said today during a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
But a solar lull is no cause for alarm, NSO's Hill said: "It's happened before, and life seems to go on. I'm not concerned but excited."
In many ways a lack of magnetic activity is a boon for science. Strong solar storms can emit blasts of charged particles that interfere with radio communications, disrupt power grids, and can even put excess drag on orbiting satellites.
"Drag is important for people like me at NASA," SDO's Pesnell said, "because we like to keep our satellites in space."
What's more, a decrease in sunspots doesn't necessarily mean a drop in other solar features such as prominences, which can produce aurora-triggering coronal mass ejections. In fact, records show that auroras continued to appear on a regular basis even during the Maunder Minimum, Pesnell said.
Instead, he said, the unusual changes to the sun's activity cycles offer an unprecedented opportunity for scientists to test theories about how the sun makes and destroys its magnetic field.
"Right now we have so many sun-watching satellites and advanced ground-based observatories ready to spring into action," Pesnell said. "If the sun is going to do something different, this is a great time for it to happen."

So, the Sun is supposed to be entering it's most active stage right now to peak in 2013, but observations of sunspots, among other things, show that this is going to be a low peak. The Sun's periods of activity come in 11 year cylces and seem to be at least partially self-driven/repleneshing. This reduced Solar activity could mean that the cycles are delayed or stop, at least for a while.

A lot of articles on the weboblag are comparing this to the Maunder Minimum in the 17th/18th centuries, which coincided with a mini ice-age, and suggesting that this will lead to decades of global cooling. But.

This is still early days, but more than one research stream independently predicting the same minimum makes this more interesting. Probably means very little for those of us bound to this rock's surface. The comparisons to the Maunder Minimum and suggesting a new ice-age is on the way are probably overstated, as there were more terrestrial factors involved at that time than the Sun alone. This will probably only affect those of us going to Mars.
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Re: Solar Cycle 24 flops, SC25 cancelled

Postby Diadem » Wed Jun 15, 2011 6:32 pm UTC

I'm always a bit mystified when people claim the sun can't have an effect on our climate. Without the sun, it would be almost 300 degrees colder here on earth. Obviously even a tiny change in solar irradiation will have a huge impact. Of course sunspots is not the same as solar irradiation. But the claim that the sun having an effect on climate is far-fetched is lunacy. The sun should always be the first suspect to look at for any climate change - it's a several orders of magnitude bigger influence on our climate than all other factors combined. Only once you have established that it isn't the culprit should you look at other sources.

I'm not saying sunspots have anything to do with our climate. I don't know, I'm not a climate scientist. But I'm hugely annoyed by many media trying to spin the idea as ridiculous.
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Re: Solar Cycle 24 flops, SC25 cancelled

Postby Heisenberg » Wed Jun 15, 2011 6:36 pm UTC

Diadem wrote:I'm always a bit mystified when people claim the sun can't have an effect on our climate.

Um, I can cover it up with my thumb, so... it can't be THAT big...
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Re: Solar Cycle 24 flops, SC25 cancelled

Postby Endless Mike » Wed Jun 15, 2011 6:56 pm UTC

Heisenberg wrote:
Diadem wrote:I'm always a bit mystified when people claim the sun can't have an effect on our climate.

Um, I can cover it up with my thumb, so... it can't be THAT big...

It's about the size of a quarter. And sets in Arizona.

http://www.esnips.com/doc/bc7c6925-00ff ... he-sun-set
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Re: Solar Cycle 24 flops, SC25 cancelled

Postby ++$_ » Wed Jun 15, 2011 7:13 pm UTC

Diadem wrote:The sun should always be the first suspect to look at for any climate change - it's a several orders of magnitude bigger influence on our climate than all other factors combined. Only once you have established that it isn't the culprit should you look at other sources.
The sun may be the biggest influence on our climate, but what matters is not the absolute size of the influence, but the size of the influence of any changes. And the change in solar irradiance due to sunspots is small enough that its impact on radiative forcing is smaller than anthropogenic factors, though not negligible.

Here's a comparison: http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/figure-spm-2.html The line "Solar irradiance" represents the change in radiative forcing due to the increase in solar irradiance since 1750. That's about 1/3 of the total increase in sunspots since the Maunder Minimum, so you can multiply by -3 if you want a very rough estimate of how things would change if sunspots were to disappear. (The influence would be about 25% of the size of the anthropogenic influence, though the error bars are large.)
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Re: Solar Cycle 24 flops, SC25 cancelled

Postby Heisenberg » Wed Jun 15, 2011 8:00 pm UTC

++$_ wrote:And the change in solar irradiance due to sunspots is small enough that its impact on radiative forcing is smaller than anthropogenic factors, though not negligible.

I don't think the article suggests that a simple lack of sunspots will effect major change. My impression was that the sunspots may indicate a far more significant reduction in the Sun's output in the future, which would result in a major impact to the climate.
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Re: Solar Cycle 24 flops, SC25 cancelled

Postby ++$_ » Wed Jun 15, 2011 8:50 pm UTC

My understanding is that when they are talking about solar activity, they mean magnetic activity. The sun regularly has periods of low magnetic activity (which also manifests itself as a lack of sunspots); what they are predicting is an extended period of low magnetic activity.

Solar irradiance is positively correlated with the number of sunspots, so such a period would result in less solar irradiance, but as far as I know, we wouldn't expect any change beyond that resulting from fewer sunspots.
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Re: Solar Cycle 24 flops, SC25 cancelled

Postby Levi » Thu Jun 16, 2011 4:25 am UTC

FFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU--

Honestly, I think the sun is just fucking with at this point. "Oh, you don't want all your electronics fried?" and then it gives us the cold shoulder.
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Re: Solar Cycle 24 flops, SC25 cancelled

Postby Duban » Thu Jun 16, 2011 4:37 am UTC

Diadem wrote:I'm always a bit mystified when people claim the sun can't have an effect on our climate. Without the sun, it would be almost 300 degrees colder here on earth. Obviously even a tiny change in solar irradiation will have a huge impact. Of course sunspots is not the same as solar irradiation. But the claim that the sun having an effect on climate is far-fetched is lunacy. The sun should always be the first suspect to look at for any climate change - it's a several orders of magnitude bigger influence on our climate than all other factors combined. Only once you have established that it isn't the culprit should you look at other sources.

I'm not saying sunspots have anything to do with our climate. I don't know, I'm not a climate scientist. But I'm hugely annoyed by many media trying to spin the idea as ridiculous.

It's amusing. Earlier today I took a parabolic mirror, small enough to touch the opposite sides of the mirror with 1 hand, and burnt holes in pieces of paper, leaves, and set fire to some wood. The sun obviously brings an extremely large amount of energy to the earth, how can anyone deny it?
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Re: Solar Cycle 24 flops, SC25 cancelled

Postby Wodashin » Thu Jun 16, 2011 4:45 am UTC

Wait.

The sun can affect our climate?

Just wait and see the conservatives cling to this to say, "Hey! The sun probably affects our climate more than the gases we release into the atmosphere!"
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Re: Solar Cycle 24 flops, SC25 cancelled

Postby ConMan » Thu Jun 16, 2011 6:35 am UTC

Diadem wrote:I'm not a climate scientist.

Excuse me, I have to drink a shot now.

Wodashin wrote:Wait.

The sun can affect our climate?

Just wait and see the conservatives cling to this to say, "Hey! The sun probably affects our climate more than the gases we release into the atmosphere!"

You think they don't? The problem is it's like saying "Hey! Gravity probably has a bigger affect on plane crashes than aerodynamics!" Technically true, but if you don't take the aerodynamics into account the plane wouldn't be up there in the first place ...
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Re: Solar Cycle 24 flops, SC25 cancelled

Postby Hawknc » Thu Jun 16, 2011 8:28 am UTC

Diadem wrote:I'm always a bit mystified when people claim the sun can't have an effect on our climate.

A strawman so strong, even the sun can't set it alight!

I haven't yet seen a reputable scientist claim that the sun doesn't have an effect on our climate. That would be a very stupid thing to claim. What is being posited is that the sun is, in large part, not responsible for the change in temperature we have seen over the past couple of hundred years. Check the graph here, for example:
Spoiler:
Image

The blue part indicates what we'd expect the temperature to be if our climate was driven purely by natural forces (such as solar variability), the red is what we'd expect when we add the effect of anthropogenic greenhouse gases. Quelle surprise, the red lines up fairly nicely with measured temperatures. We're not banging rocks together here, we know how to measure this shit.

That said, if this counteracts the effects of global warming in any way? Great, we've bought ourselves some time. But even the Maunder Minimum only lasted 70 years, and we really need to be playing the long game if we don't want our grandkids to be feeling extra toasty. On the other hand, kids annoy me, so...
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Re: Solar Cycle 24 flops, SC25 cancelled

Postby Arrian » Thu Jun 16, 2011 9:14 pm UTC

++$_ wrote:(The influence would be about 25% of the size of the anthropogenic influence, though the error bars are large.)


The nifty thing is that this might be an opportunity to narrow those down, possibly by a lot.
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