LOW SOLAR ACTIVITY CONTINUES
By Meteorologist Randy Mann
Since early in 2008, sunspot numbers (storms on the sun) have greatly decreased. Some scientists are concerned that the recent decline in our sun’s activity is unusual and could persist. Others say that our sun is expected to start seeing an increase in sunspots based on previous long-term cycles, but those numbers were earlier predicted to pick up by the fall of 2008, which didn’t happen.
In August of 2008, there were no sunspots. Since that time, there has only been a slight increase in solar activity. As of early 2009, low sunspot activity persists with about 10-12 sunspots showing up for only a few days at a time. The rest of the period had no solar activity. Some scientists are starting to wonder if we’re heading toward a new "Maunder Minimum," a long-term colder cycle. Only time will tell.
There has been a correlation between the sun’s inactive phase and the recent global cooling. During the peak of the Earth’s warming in the late 1990s and early 2000s, solar activity was considered by many to be unusually high, enough to actually damage satellites and other devices.
One of the sun’s most quiet times was between 1645 and 1715, a period astronomers call the "Maunder Minimum". During those 70 years, the face of the sun was nearly devoid of sunspots, or solar storms, and broke away from its normal 11-year cycle.
However, NASA solar physicist David Hathaway stated in a recent article, "The ongoing lull in sunspot numbers is well within history norms for the solar cycle. The sun is now near the low point of its 11-year activity cycle. We call this Solar Minimum. It’s the period of quiet that separates one Solar Max from another."
As earlier stated, during solar maximums, huge sunspots and intense solar flares create auroras. Satellites are damaged due to high radiation and there are numerous radio blackouts. This occurred in 2000, 2001 and in mid 2005.
Many scientists still say that we should see an increase in solar activity, but this process has yet to happen.
With this pattern showing no signs of changing, at least in the near-term, it looks like our period of cooler and wetter than normal weather will continue across our region. It’s also possible that if we don’t see any significant warming in the waters of the south-central Pacific Ocean, El Nino, plus sunspot activity remains very low, then another cold, and perhaps, snowy winter may be in store for the next season.