Perspective

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Fact: Sunspot 930 on the sun right now is three times as wide as the earth. This picture of the sun was taken today from the SOHO satellite and I superimposed the Earth to give you an idea of its size. Last week sunspot 930 erupted with a massive Solar Flare and Coronal Mass Ejection which disrupted some satellite communications. This came during a time when the sun is “supposed” to be relatively quiet.

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These pictures might help in understanding just how puny we are compared to the sun and its total energy output, and just how little we can do when the sun changes its energy output. By the way, here is a comparison of how much energy the sun produces and how much we receive on Earth:

386 YottoWatts – Total luminosity of the Sun
( 386,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 watts)
174.0 PetaWatts – Total luminosity received by the Earth from the Sun
(174,000,000,000,000,000 watts)

Based on historical records, earth has gone through warmer periods when sunspot activity peaks, as show by the graph below.

Remember the droughts and high temperatures in California in 1978, 79, and 80? Check out the sunspots then. The graph below shows the number of days of 100+ temperatures that year compared to the number of sunspots (thin red line). Click the graph for a larger image.

Notice also that the overall swings in solar activity are getting larger than they were 100 years ago, and that the variances in 100+ temperature days are also getting correspondingly larger.

This graph displays a climatic record for the Dallas-Ft. Worth area for the period 1899 – present, charting the number of days per year that the temperature exceeds 100 F (shown with blue diamonds). The data range from a minimum of 0 days (in 1906) to a maximum of 69 days (1980). The pattern is not totally random, nor is it perfectly regular. Both small and large variations occur from year to year. Short term trends are difficult to predict, yet some long-term patterns are suggested (note occurrence of “hot” maxima roughly every 10-11 years). Patterns repeat, but never precisely, and next year’s prediction is uncertain, within limits.

This uncertainty is one property of deterministic chaos, a signal that is ubiquitous in nature. Pedicting chaos is no easy nor certain matter.

The data is from NOAA/National Weather Service: http://www.srh.noaa.gov/fwd/CLIMO/dfw/annual/d100data.html
(Year 2000 and 2001 data from The Ft. Worth Star Telegram).

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One thought on “Perspective

  1. What I find fascinating is that our star, the sun is actually very quiescent compared to most, probably why we exist at all. What most people do not realize is this is not a permanent or guaranteed state. Even a slight belch would have significant repercussions for us on Earth. What we see with the sunspot minimums and maximums is nothing compared to the potential of worse. We have indeed been lucky.

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