Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Sun's Recession

The economy is not the only entity facing a severe recession. It turns out you have to go back to 1913 to find a time when the sun was having so few sunspots. From NASA:
The sunspot cycle is behaving a little like the stock market. Just when you think it has hit bottom, it goes even lower.

2008 was a bear. There were no sunspots observed on 266 of the year's 366 days (73%). To find a year with more blank suns, you have to go all the way back to 1913, which had 311 spotless days: plot. Prompted by these numbers, some observers suggested that the solar cycle had hit bottom in 2008.

Maybe not. Sunspot counts for 2009 have dropped even lower. As of March 31st, there were no sunspots on 78 of the year's 90 days (87%).

It adds up to one inescapable conclusion: "We're experiencing a very deep solar minimum," says solar physicist Dean Pesnell of the Goddard Space Flight Center.

"This is the quietest sun we've seen in almost a century," agrees sunspot expert David Hathaway of the Marshall Space Flight Center.


  1. This is really driving people that do real-time solar monitoring (known as "space weather") bonkers. I saw a talk by the head of the space-weather center at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) who essentially threw his hands up in frustration and said that they have no idea what is going on.

    The one bright spot is that there was an increase in solar activity from about 1950 through the last cycle (~2007), so some people have blamed global warming on the sun. Models indicate that while solar activity does impact global temperatures, the changes since 1950 are too big and have happened too fast to be caused by the sun. This, however, is a chance to prove that the sun isn't causing climate change as global temperatures continue to rise while the sun is in a "recession".

  2. "The one bright spot..." Ha! Good one!

    But Nick makes an excellent point. There has been some dispute over the contribution of the sun, but official reports (meaning the UN report) put the contribution from the sun as negligible, though in reality it depends on how they calibrated their satellites used to monitor the sun. So if the sun goes into a recession then this would be an excellent opportunity to test the contribution from the sun.

    Until now we had two independent parameters going in the same direction so it was hard to tell which one had the greater impact. Now if the sun goes the other way (and does it to a significant degree (haha)) then we should be able to decouple the solar effect from human effect.


To add a link to text:
<a href="URL">Text</a>