All Quiet Alert

“All Quiet Alert” – That sounds like an oxymoron, and maybe it is, but the sun is extremely quiet right now, so much in fact that the Solar Influences Data Center in Belgium has issued an “All quiet alert” on October 5th. Since then, the sunspot number has remained at zero.

Here is what the sun looks like now:

Daily Sun: 15 Oct 07

The sun is blank–no sunspots. Credit: SOHO/MDI

Click for a larger image.

There is talk about of an extended solar minimum occurring, or perhaps a recurrence of a Dalton or Maunder type minimum. There are signs that the sun’s activity is slowing. The solar wind has been decreasing in speed, and this is yet another indicator of a slowing in the suns magnetic dynamo. Below are near real-time (updated hourly)dials of Solar Wind speed, Solar Wind Density, and Interplanetary Magnetic Field. More on that later.

AVG_SPEED AVG_DENS AVG_BTOT
Credit: Rice Space Institute

As you may know, the Earth’s magnetosphere is distorted by the solar wind as it blows by. Modulations of the Earth’s magnetopshere are said by Svensmark to cause modulations of GCR’s (Galactic Cosmic Rays) and hence modulation of cloud condensation nuclei, resulting in variations of global cloudiness, and hence surface temperature.

In the meantime, a review of the Dalton Minimum might be valuable. It appears the when we have a quiet sun, our magnetosphere is not distorted as much, and this allows an increased incidence of GCR’s, resulting in more cloudiness.

One thing is certain, based on past climate history and solar history, if in fact the suns magnetic activity slows, or collapses and we enter a prolonged period of little or no sunspot activity, we’ll see a global cooling trend. There are a number of theories about and a couple of dozen predictions about solar cycle 24 which has yet to start. One paper by Penn & Livingston in 2006 concludes:

“If 1500 G represents a true minimum for spot magnetic fields and the field strengths continue to decrease at the rate of 52 G/yr then the number of sunspots in the next solar cycle (cycle 24) would be reduced by roughly half, and there would be very few sunspots visible on the disk during cycle 25.”

We’ll know more in about six months what the sun decides to do for cycle 24.

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51 Responses to All Quiet Alert

  1. George M says:

    As a radio amateur, I am very interested in the sunspot cycle, as they directly affect the ionosphere which is necessary for high frequency communications. Although the cycle has been followed and enumerated for several centuries, prediction of future activity is still no more than a WAG (wild a– guess). So, even though NASA and numerous other organizations produce fancy Power Point presentations and lots of smoke and mirrors, the predictions are so wildly disparate that most of them must be wrong, and possibly all of them will be wrong. So, stay tuned, as the original article says, and let’s see what ol’ Sol is going to do.

    I like the tag line on the Dalton Minimum citation, “…although the mechanism by which solar activity causes climate change is not well understood.” (from Wikipedia). Don’t let Hansen hear that. His models know EVERYTHING about climate.

  2. Evan Jones says:

    Good god, Rev. That just could (1% chance? more? Less?) be a very bad indication. How often do no sunspots come here, anyway?

    Warming would cause some extinctions, but also one would expect to see far more speciation. Someone asked me once about our luck being born in a warming period. I said it was terrific luck. Warming periods are the best for both man and beast. I wouldn’t wish a cooling period on my worst enemies. Were on the tail-end of the cyclical warm.

    I looked at the 600tya graph. The previous warm actually had a higher peak. the current warm looked as if the top were cut off leacving a wide temperature plateau.

    So, what I’m saying is the current slope in the temp graph is less today than it has been in the past, with it’s peaks and troughs (and relative lack of plateaus).

    So maybe it’s, “Things is awful quiet around here. Too quiet.”

  3. Philip_B says:

    Below is a link listing the main solar cycle predictions. What is interesting is how many are already wrong.

    http://users.telenet.be/j.janssens/SC24.html

  4. Steve Sadlov says:

    It is highly disturbing. And even moreso, since the world has been wound up to expect a warm future. Fewer than 5% of the people are prepared to sustain themselves for any length of time under conditions of food shortage and with gardening conditions less than optimal for growing one’s own food. Then, with the inevitable knock on effect pushing countries like Russia and China into a more aggressive, expansionist mode, the scenario starts to look very grim, and for reasons exactly the opposite of what Al Gore & Co would have you believe.

  5. Bob L says:

    As I understand it, with dimenished solar activity, gamma rays will cause more low level clouds which will reflect sun light and decrease temps.

    Does anyone have a timeframe for this? Is it going to take months for the quiet solar surface to manifest itself into a change in weather patterns? Or is the chance of cloud production higher today based on the level of solar activity?

  6. wattsupwiththat says:

    RE Bob L. “Does anyone have a timeframe for this? Is it going to take months for the quiet solar surface to manifest itself into a change in weather patterns?”

    My understanding is that it is a two step process. We have our own local earth’s magnetosphere distrotion, which is short time frame days to weeks, but then we have the much larger heliosphere of the sun, which extends out well beyond Pluto’s orbit. Estimation for the time for the heliosphere to react to a quiet sun and drop in solar wind is about 2 earth years. The heliosphere may play a larger role in modulating GCR’s than earth’s own magnetosphere. See this image to get an idea of scale:

    So an estimate of about 2-3 years for indications of such an effect here in earth’s weather patterns might be valid.

  7. Philip_B says:

    I recall seeing a proxy that showed how abrupt the cooling was at the start of the Little Ice Age shortly after 1600. In the region of 2C in a decade. Were such a cooling occur today, it would dramatically reduce yields for vast areas of croplands. I don’t predict global famine, although steak and chicken would be off the menu for most for years, but the geopolitical shocks of severely limited food supplies would take us down roads no one imagines.

  8. Bob L. says:

    Philip_B, your concern is far better placed than those who see the castrophe of higher ocean levels along with longer growing seasons, more tillable land, and higher levels of moisture and CO2 (plant food) in the air that warming might bring.

    However, I would argue that in a cooling world, man would rise to the technicial challenges and solve those problems just as he would in a warming world. Rampent disease and famine are political and economic, not natural phenomi

  9. scott47 says:

    I wasnt aware that there was so much monitoring of the sun, but then whe I think of it, it is necessary. The sun is a major force in our lives these days.

  10. Hans Kelp says:

    Re Bob L.

    “man would rise to the technical challenges and solve those problems” !

    That´s it. Even missing sunspots cannot cope with the capability of the brain of man to solve for even difficult situations. Let´s bring on the right spirit. . Thank you for your positive words.

    Hans K

  11. Stan Needham says:

    I grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and I’m old enough to remember the winters back in the 60’s, 70’s and early 80’s. During my senior year in high school in 1963 (when I had my first car), the only morning my car wouldn’t start, it was -18 F. During the late 70’s and early 80’s we had snow in the midwest unlike anything we’ve seen since. Anyone who lived around the Great Lakes region will never forget the Blizzard of ’78. Although the official snowfall was around 17″, the 50+ mph winds over a 36 hours span caused drifting unlike anything I had seen before or since.The average depth of snow in my driveway was nearly 4 feet, and it was drifted up to the top of the door. As you looked down our street, the only visible part of most cars parked on the street was the radio antenna. As bad as that winter was, we set an annual record for snowfall 4 years later of 81.2″ (our average is somewhere around 30″) that resulted in the famous 1982 flood, during which President Reagan visited the city and applauded the residents for sandbagging efforts that saved much of the city from a potential disaster.

    An then, of course, anyone who had a vegetable garden during those times certainly can’t forget replanting 2 or 3 times during the month of May because of frost and freeze damage. I can remember more than one year replanting for the 3rd time around Memorial Day.

    So, do I want to go back to those days? Not only no, but HELL NO!

  12. Sylvain says:

    Just to think how much they try to scare us with GW. Think how much scarier their claim will be of the coming ice age .

    Retreating glaciers and rising seas will become dangerously advancing glaciers and longer winter.
    Claims of stronger more frequent hurricane and tornado.
    Heat waves death will become cold wave death.
    More Flood and drought will be announced.
    etc.

  13. Evan Jones says:

    FWIW, I’ve heard the LIA started rather abruptly in the beginning of the 14th century. By the middle of the 15th, the Norse in Greenland were all dead (long since cut off by the ice); they either couldn’t or wouldn’t adapt to Inuit lifestyle.

    I’ve read such things are all due to the wickedness of children (and I don’t discount the theory).

  14. Mark says:

    Any word on whether the reduction in solar sunspot activity might be anthropogenic?

  15. Stan Needham says:

    Any word on whether the reduction in solar sunspot activity might be anthropogenic?

    Heh, heh, heh. Great comment.

  16. Chris says:

    Is there any recent data on low level cloudiness or albedo which might correlate with the solar changes we are seeing now? I realize that there may be a time lag for the heliosphere to weaken. Likewise, is there any trend data to show recent cosmic ray flux (muons or other particles) reaching the earth’s surface? It would seem that this information would provide more direct and very compelling support for Svensmark’s theory.

  17. wattsupwiththat says:

    test post please ignore

  18. Bill F says:

    There has been a really interesting discussion going on for the last few weeks over on the guestbook at http://www.solarcycle24.com One of the solar scientists on the prediction panel (Leif Svalgaard) has been pretty involved and I have learned alot about how at least one group of scientists view the sun and the creation of sunspots. Leif apparently believes Svensmark is wrong about the GCR climate link, but hasn’t been belligerent about it. He is one of the ones predicting a smaller cycle 24 and it sounds like the longer it takes for cycle 24 to begin, the lower he thinks the eventual peak will be.

  19. Bob Corfmack says:

    The Big Bear Solar Observatory in California ( http://www.bbso.njit.edu/ ) has an Earthshine project which measures the reflectance of the Earth (albedo) by looking at the amount of light reflected by the part of the Moon not illuminated by the Sun. The results show (look at the “Earthshine Project” on the above web page) that the Earth’s albedo was decreasing between 1988 and 1997, but has been increasing rapidly since then. Increased albedo is associated with more cloud cover, so maybe the drop into another LIA is already started.

    Look at BBSO’s graphs — they are quite dramatic.

  20. MattN says:

    Here’s a decent link on teh subject: http://www.warwickhughes.com/blog/?p=120

    David Archibald’s position is basically the longer cycle 24 takes to start, the more likely we’re heading into a solar minimum (ala Maunder/Dalton). So far, cycle 24 is WAY overdue and not showing any signs of starting anytime soon.

    I say by 2012, the question will be how cold is it going to get, not how warm. Of course, since they’ve changed the catch phrase from “global warming” to “global climate change” they can claim they were still right…..

  21. George M says:

    I went back and reread and tried to understand the sunspot data in the Oct. 7 article by the retired CA water guy. I am having trouble with graphs which show that the predominant deviation from”average” is in one direction. Now, if I understand “average” it means half is above and half is below. What am I missing there? In any event, one of his points seems to be that weather lags solar cycles by 35 years.

    In any event, we are presently in the minima between cycle 23 and cycle 24. There have been strings of days with zero sunspots, but that is in no way unusual for the minimum time. One radio operator comparison reported that a previous string of days with solar flux below 80 (few or no sunspots) extended from January 8 through July 7, 1996, 182 days, between cycles 22 and 23. The present cycle is at about 113 days below a flux of 80, after a previous period of 77 days ending on April 25, ’07. A recent string of NO spots was at 45 days, but I quit tracking it. If you read detailed examinations of the recent cycles, particularly the last 4, where not only are the sunspots counted, but various other related measurements are made, you will discover that no two are alike, and are really not even particularly similar. Rise times are different, peak shapes are different, maximum SSN are different, and so on. And, by the way, sunspot numbers are another example of our mathematically massaged data. Since the numbers vary on a 26 or 27 day cycle with sun rotation, and the 11 year cycle, and other reasons, the numbers are “smoothed”, over various periods. The most popular is the 12 month moving smoothed average, so the most recent “data” is always 6 months old. Very good for historical purposes, worthless for real time predictions. Also, the SSN is calculated as follows:
    SSN = k(10g+f) where g is the number of groups, f is the actual number of individual spots, and k is an arbitrary number derived to bring all observatories into agreement. Sort of reminds you of certain climate models, doesn’t it? Fudge factors abound. So, SSNs of 1to 10 are excluded, as are others which can be derived by the reader. One spot (= 1 group) produces a SSN of 11. And so on.

    Now, would someone be kind enough to explain to me how 80% of a graph can be below average? Average of what??

  22. Laurence Sheldon says:

    For what it is worth, my “page” has a couple of widgets in the corner (echoes of the ones in the upper left here: http://www.n3kl.com/sun/noaa.html ) that have been “normal” and “quiet” for a long time. I thought they were broken for a while, but the graphs at that page I showed above have been really boring but the dates change,

    Some time back (couple of years ago) they often had bright yellow and red MEGAFLARE! and similar values, and the graphs had all kinds of scary looking jagged stuff.

    I have little idea what it all means, but it does look like I might live long enough (I am old) to see crow on menus a lot.

    I was hoping not–the winter of 1989-1990 here was as cold as I really ever want to be again.

  23. Philip_B says:

    Bob, I couldn’t find the BBSO’s graphs at the link.

  24. Chris says:

    The BBSO Earthshine data is very interesting, showing a rise in albedo from 2001 to 2003. I am wondering if there is more current data. Most of the Earthshine references on the internet seem to be 3-4 years old. Can’t find much info currently. Wondering if the project is still funded or active. The period of albedo increase seems to roughly coincide with the initial downward trend from solar max in cycle 23. More current information would be very helpful to better establish a correlation.

  25. Chris says:

    The Earthshine graph can be accessed on the BBSO website under Projects>Earthshine Project>”Science May 28 images” (at the bottom of the page).

  26. sonicfrog says:

    Bob, about the time frame of cooling due to changes in sun activity. Isn’t warming or cooling also buffered by the vast heat storage and slow release of that energy by the ocean?

  27. henry says:

    The chart used is this one:

    http://www.bbso.njit.edu/espr/fig17.html

    Does show an increase in albedo.

  28. Steve Sadlov says:

    I’m getting worried. Something is up. I have a really bad feeling about this. I hope I am wrong.

  29. Mike H. says:

    A wikipedia article on the Maunder minimum gives a history of sunspot quiescence.

  30. Russ says:

    You can read more about the Dalton Minimum at The Dalton Minimum Returns here: http://ncwatch.typepad.com/dalton_minimum_returns/ I have written a paper collecting some papers on sun spots and the Dalton Minimum here:

    http://www.sesfoundation.org/reports.htm

  31. Cody says:

    Steve Sadlov –

    What are you worried about and what is your bad feeling? That it is going to suddenly get very cold? Or are they to do with developments in the AGW field itself, the social aspects?

  32. Evan Jones says:

    He’s afraid we may be heading for a cooling while preparing for a warming, which is a true cruising-for-a-bruising scenario.

    I’d say the odds were heavily against it (as, no doubt, would Steve), but “heavily against” is a very relative term hereabouts. It could be 10%. It could be 0.0001% . . .

    Of course, it’s human nature to emotionally regard any chance under 10% as the equivalent of 10%. (As in the 10% change of winning the lottery, getting struck by lightning, etc., etc.)

  33. Bill F says:

    George M,

    I think you are confusing the terms “average” and “median”. The average of a population of data points is the sum of all the data points divided by the number of data points. Thus if you have a few exceptionally high values and a bunch of low values, the average will be skewed upward because of how far the exceptionally high points deviate from what is normal. If you graphed that population and drew a line through the average, most of the graph would appear to be below average. It also depends on the period from which you calculate the average. If you draw the average from a smaller period than the whole population, for instance using the 1961-1990 period for a temperature average instead of 1900-2007, then it is also possible to get a graph with the majority of the graph on one side or the other of the average, depending on how representative of the whole population the period chosen to calculate the average was.

    The median of a population by contrast is the point at which half of the data points are above and half of the points are below.

  34. SteveSadlov says:

    Indeed, I am concerned with the group think that is setting in, whereby (and this is truely Orwellian) cold is good and warm is bad, compounded by absolute blindness to the possibility of futures, especially longer term ones, which are actually cold futures. Firstly another Maunderesque minimum is inevitable at some point. The AGW hysterics argue that AGW overcomes all such future minima and even prevents the looming end of the interglacial (or at very least, substantially delays it). I’ll tell you what, I have a bridge to sell you and it is not the London Bridge! A huge effort is getting put into motion to prepare for reputed negative side effects of a warm (make that, a bad warm) future. Furthermore, aspects of such efforts will lower the partial pressure of CO2 and the general level of thermal dissipation at and near the Earth’s surface. It’s like a person overcorrecting in reaction to starting to spin out while driving – very bad things may happen. Imagine a perfect storm – a Maunderesque minimum and its proximate (very, very bad!) effects, then, the impacts of sequestration and UHI reduction / energy reduction methodologies kick in. Right when plant activity is lowering due to the innate minimum, CO2 starts to go down. Sorrry for worrying about such mundane things. After all, it’s only our source of oxygen we are talking about here.

  35. English Major says:

    I found this site a couple of days ago, and, while I have to admit I don’t understand much of what is said, I find it fascinating. The math/science part of my brain emits a low hum, but doesn’t process much, so I’ll just listen quietly.

  36. papertiger says:

    I’m wondering when was the last time that the sun was quiet?

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  38. wattsupwiththat says:

    Just got this email from Philip Goode:

    Still in business. Now with a robotic telescope. We calibrated a second robot next to the first.

    The Second robot will be exported to the Canaries fairly soon.
    Thanks for your interest,
    Phil

  39. papertiger says:

    Hey Rev Anthony,

    So given the lag between changes in the sun and responce by the Earth, what is your prediction for this winter?
    I am guessing we get above average rainfall with at least a day or two of snow all the way down to the valley floor.
    Am I off the mark?

  40. Vixt says:

    There are a lot of interesting things here on this blog and I find it an easier read than many.

    On the cosmic rays, you should see this blog http://tamino.wordpress.com

    He is saying its all “bunkum” and people are fooling themselves and that the temperature trend from 1998 continues to go up.

    But wasn’t the temperature trend recently adjusted by NASA after 1998 due to some sort of error and now the temps aren’t trending positive?

  41. Evan Jones says:

    Vixt

    If you go by them ten-year averages, you can produce an upswing. But if you just go year by year, the temp. has been pretty darn flat over the last decade, in spite of a c. 5% increase in atm. CO2.

    And that’s stipulating that the measurements are on the beam, which I am not willing to concede.

  42. papertiger says:

    From Vixt’s link
    This thread features Leif Svalgaard discussing how he predicts the coming solar cycle. In at the bottom twenty comments or so.

  43. papertiger says:

    Did I get my Svens mixed up? – oh never mind.
    I found a guy who has been monitoring the Sun – think he it’s his hobby – and he posted no spots since Aug 9th.
    I happened on him by google. He isn’t political. Just a dedicated amateur logging what he sees.
    Take a look around his blog to see what I mean.
    I find him credible.
    So instead of the Sun going “quiet” on Oct 5th, it’s really been since Aug 9th.
    Thought you might like to know.

  44. Evan Jones says:

    “The AGW hysterics argue that AGW overcomes all such future minima and even prevents the looming end of the interglacial (or at very least, substantially delays it). ”

    Well, let’s damnwell hope so!

  45. Evan Jones says:

    “Indeed, I am concerned with the group think that is setting in, whereby (and this is truely Orwellian) cold is good and warm is bad”

    Warming GOOD. Cooling BAD.

    So let’s get the word out to the sheep, already, comrade!

  46. austin says:

    Don’t know how familiar you all are with this effort.

    Some interesting information that many of the USA weather stations are suffering from heat island corruption due to creeping urbanization and poor sites.

    http://www.surfacestations.org/

  47. wattsupwiththat says:

    Austin,

    Thanks, but I run that effort as well as this blog, perhaps you didn’t know, so no worries.

    Anthony

  48. austin says:

    You are the man.

  49. j. Toothman says:

    I never tought that man had the effect that was being claimed. Finally the http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Minority.Blogs&ContentRecord_id=84e9e44a-802a-23ad-493a-b35d0842fed8 This is a good read.. About time they spoke out.
    jt

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