Sep
02
2008

Where, oh where, have my sunspots gone?: Sunspot activity tied a record low of zero in August, 2008.
Where, oh where, have my sunspots gone?: Sunspot activity tied a record low of zero in August, 2008.Courtesy NASA

For the first time in almost a century, the Sun has a spotless record. There were no observed sunspots in August. None. Zero. Zip. Can't get a record any lower than that. That's the first time this has happened since 1913.

That's before commercial radio. Before talking movies. Before World War I. Why, it's almost as long as since the last time the Cubs won the World Series.

Now, that's a long time!

Plus, as we've discussed before, the Sun has been unusually quiet of late. Sunspots generally go through an 11-year cycle, and we're a couple years late for the next rise in activity.

But, you are no doubt wondering, what does this mean to me, the Average Joe? (Assuming your name is indeed "Average Joe," which would be pretty remarkable and, ironically, not average.) Well, sunspots seem to be tied to weather. Three times, since astronomers began observing suspots, has the Sun fallen silent, and each time coincides with significant drops in global temperatures. One such dip, from roughly 1600 to 1750, was so severe it is known as "The Little Ice Age."

Are we heading into another glacial period? Much too soon to tell. But if you start feeling chilly, keep your eye on the Sun. Astronomers will be doing the same.

(NOTE FOR THE METAPHORCALLY-IMPAIRED: That was meant figuratively. Do not look directly at the Sun with your naked eye. You'll burn out your retina.)

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Gene's picture
Gene says:

Here's a roundup of commentary on the Sun's inactivity, including a claim that there was, indeed, on tiny sunspot in August.

posted on Tue, 09/02/2008 - 10:14am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I used to like Scence Buzz. Lately, half of your articles read like rough draft fluff pieces. Any important scence information in the articles is lost in sea of goofy comments (like the "average joe" and "metaphorically challenged" sentence above). Instead of making the pieces livelier, they make the news harder to follow.

posted on Tue, 09/02/2008 - 12:36pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

This is why we have links.

If I did not include the "metaphorically challenged" note, can you imagine the number of complaints I'd receive about encouraging people to look at the Sun?

posted on Tue, 09/02/2008 - 11:39pm
caromed's picture
caromed says:

There has been more cold weather than hot in summer....For my opinion I think we are heading for a little ice age because there is no more hot weather..

posted on Wed, 10/15/2008 - 5:39pm
Teresa's picture
Teresa says:

I don't understand why this is not being reported by the mainstream media...Oh I guess we need to tell Al Gore about it and, climatologist that he is, make sure he gets the credit.

posted on Sat, 10/25/2008 - 5:23pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

NASA reports that the Sun is growing slightly more active again. However, they predict the next sunspot “peak” will come later than expected, and be the lowest such peak in over 80 years.

posted on Sat, 06/06/2009 - 10:55pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

Sunspot activity has picked up recently. This may be the long-awaited start of the Sun's next active cycle, or it could be just a blip. Time, and further research, will tell.

posted on Wed, 07/08/2009 - 8:26am
Gene's picture
Gene says:

There was an uptick in solar activity in the past month or so, but now the Sun is quiet again. Scientists continue to research sunspots, and revise their predictions for the future.

posted on Tue, 07/21/2009 - 1:37pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

The Sun seems to be slowly waking up. 2008 and 2009 were the second and third quietest years for sunspots on record. However, a more active December hints that the long dry spell may be coming to an end.

posted on Wed, 01/13/2010 - 10:25pm
rick's picture
rick says:

I am looking into if there is a correlation between low sunspot activity and increased earthquake activity. Not saying there is an actual cause-effect mechanism, but just curious if they match-up. Any good sites to find data? rickandsue@yahoo.com

posted on Wed, 04/14/2010 - 7:52am

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