Where have all the sunspots gone?

The Sun in more active times: Sunspot activity, which is linked to weather and other phenomena on Earth, peaked in 2001. But for the last two years there’s been almost nothing.
The Sun in more active times: Sunspot activity, which is linked to weather and other phenomena on Earth, peaked in 2001. But for the last two years there’s been almost nothing.Courtesy NASA

Occasionally, intense magnetic activity in the Sun creates sunspots, dark regions on the surface of the Sun. Sunspot activity rises and falls roughly every 11 years – the last maximum was in 2001, and activity slowly fell off to zero by 2006.

And since then…almost nothing. Scientists had expected sunspot activity to start increasing by now, but it hasn’t. No one knows why, or when the cycle will pick up again.

Why is this important?

Sunspots, created by intense magnetic activity, are associated with solar flares, enormous streams of high-energy particles sent shooting out into the Solar System. These play havoc with satellites and other electronic communication. So, no sunspots in this case would be a good thing.

Solar flares also create the beautiful northern and southern lights. In this case, no sunspots is a bad thing.

Perhaps most important, sunspots seem to be an indicator of solar activity. And low activity can mean lower temperatures here on Earth. The Sun once went 50 years without producing any spots – from 1650 to 1700 – and these years were some of the coldest in recorded history. Today they are known as the little Ice Age.

Are we on the brink of a new Ice Age? It’s wayyyy to early to tell. But scientists are keeping an eye on the Sun, to see if it reveals any clues.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Francis T. Manns's picture
Francis T. Manns says:

As I understand it the hypotheis of the Danish National Space Center goes as folows:

‘Active’ sun → enhanced magnetic and thermal flux = solar wind → geomagnetic shield response → less low-level clouds → less albedo (less heat reflected) → warmer climate

Less active sun → reduced magnetic and thermal flux = reduced solar wind → geomagnetic shield drops → galactic cosmic ray flux → more low-level clouds and more snow → more albedo effect (more heat reflected) → colder climate

That’s how the bulk of climate change might work, coupled with (modulated by) sunspot peak frequency there are cycles of global warming and cooling like waves in the ocean. When the waves are closely spaced, the planets warm; when the waves are spaced farther apart, the planets cool

posted on Sun, 06/29/2008 - 7:44pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

A paper from the Astronomical Society of Australia supports the theory that low Sun activity will mean lower temperatures on Earth.

posted on Sun, 06/29/2008 - 8:02pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

NASA scientist David Hathaway says that the lack of sunspots is nothing unusual. While the solar minimum has lasted longer than average, it is still within the normal range.

posted on Sat, 07/19/2008 - 2:47am
bubba-mike's picture
bubba-mike says:

I use the solar cycles to predict the climate for the year. In my locale, some years are better for growing corn than others and that is how I make recomendations to my father as to what to plant in his vegetable garden. I was looking at the history of solar cyles and noticed that the 20th centrury had more sunspots than the 19th century. This has led me to conclude that the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere, is more of an anomoly of global warming than a cause. (there is more decay to give off carbon dioxide when the temperatures are higher) 5000 years ago there was a global warming event but there was no industry to cause it. Some say that the cause was vocanism, but I have not seen the figures on it. Yes global warming is occuring but we cant do anything about it.

posted on Tue, 08/05/2008 - 9:18pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

hi Bubba Mike

Unfortunately you have to do a little more reading, since this post was opened the temperature drop recorded to date from 2006 has seen a drop of -0.7 degrees this would mean global cooling!

In fact it hasn't been this cool since the 1930's according to reliable records... However saying this, if the sun begins producing sun spots once more then obviously the temperatures would rise once more... depending on the activity rates of course.

Of course there are people (scientist cough cough...) who would argue that sun spots and any other activity from the sun doesn't cause cooling or warming and they argue if it did it would be marginal compared with CO2 blah blah, but I for one am not convince of this arguement.

There is more proof available to support the theory that CO2 has no corellation to the warming of the earth than there is for it.

The more sun spots the warmer the atmosphere... less sun spots or none would mean a possible mini ice age if left for long enough.

So in summary if the sun keeps on being quiet then its time to start thinking of a trip to the equator and invest in a woolly cardy.

I hear there is cheap property and houses in south america =0)

posted on Fri, 09/12/2008 - 8:46pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

The Space and Science Research Center recently sent a letter to all US leaders of impending-immediate long term cooling which will likely result into a mini ice age. http://www.spaceandscience.net/id16.html

posted on Sat, 09/27/2008 - 9:43pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

According to NASA, 2008 was the quietest year for sunspots in 95 years, and early 2009 has been even quieter.

posted on Thu, 04/23/2009 - 9:29am

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