365 Years Ago the Sun got weird – is it Doing it Again?

 History has demonstrated that the Sun is not the reliable work a day engine that most assume it to be. It is a dynamic engine whose behavior changes over cyclic periods. One such cycle, governed by magnetism, has been recognized since the 17th century, and that is the appearance of sunspots and solar flares.

Sunspot formation is triggered by magnetic fields that cycle over an 11 year period from the solar minimum (low sunspot activity) to the solar maximum (high sunspot activity), during which time solar flares occurs. Of 1500 sunspots studied it was found that the average strength of the magnetic field of the sunspots has dropped from around 2700 gauss to 2000 gauss – a gauss is the unit of measure of a magnetic field's strength, the Earth's magnetic field is less than 1 gauss. Solar minimums usually lasts around 16 months, but the current minimum has already lasted 26 months, which is the longest minimum in over a hundred years.

Scientists have observed that the magnetic fields have been steadily declining over a number of years. From the evidence collected and historical records of solar activity they have extrapolated , based on the current trend, that by 2016 ( the next solar minimum) the magnetic fields will fall below the strength necessary for sunspots formation (~1500 gauss), there may be no sunspots formation and the sun may stay spotless for several decades.

Despite the evidence, the mechanics and effects of the sunspot cycle is, in large part, still a mystery. Sooooo, why should this mean anything to anybody?

365 years ago, the last time the sunspots disappeared almost completely was during a 70 year period in the 17th and 18th century (1645 to 1715), and coincided with a long planetary cooling period known as the Maunder Minimum (the Little Ice Age), there were almost no sunspots. But, is there a direct causal relation between the two events?

If, the scenario posited does, in fact, occur would the cooling offset the effects of global warming (regardless of one's position on the cause) and at the same time ameliorate the cooling effects of the solar activity? Would the event aggravate climate stability creating an even worse situation? Or, does it all mean nothing but idle speculation?

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I think there is some quite compelling evidence that the climate has shifted very rapidly in the past, with big changes occurring at the limits of the resolution of the ice core measurements at the time - sudden glaciation occurring in <10 years for example. Given that I see no reason why it can't happen again.




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