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Old 09-29-2008, 09:34 AM   #1
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A New Maunder?

From Dailytech 1 September 2008 DailyTech - Sun Makes History: First Spotless Month in a Century

The record-setting surface of the sun.

The sun has reached a milestone not seen for nearly 100 years: an entire month has passed without a single visible sunspot being noted.

The event is significant as many climatologists now believe solar magnetic activity – which determines the number of sunspots -- is an influencing factor for climate on earth.

According to data from Mount Wilson Observatory, UCLA, more than an entire month has passed without a spot. The last time such an event occurred was June of 1913. Sunspot data has been collected since 1749.

When the sun is active, it's not uncommon to see sunspot numbers of 100 or more in a single month. Every 11 years, activity slows, and numbers briefly drop to near-zero. Normally sunspots return very quickly, as a new cycle begins.

But this year -- which corresponds to the start of Solar Cycle 24 -- has been extraordinarily long and quiet, with the first seven months averaging a sunspot number of only 3. August followed with none at all. The astonishing rapid drop of the past year has defied predictions, and caught nearly all astronomers by surprise.

In 2005, a pair of astronomers from the National Solar Observatory (NSO) in Tucson attempted to publish a paper in the journal Science. The pair looked at minute spectroscopic and magnetic changes in the sun. By extrapolating forward, they reached the startling result that, within 10 years, sunspots would vanish entirely. At the time, the sun was very active. Most of their peers laughed at what they considered an unsubstantiated conclusion.
The journal ultimately rejected the paper as being too controversial.
The paper's lead author, William Livingston, tells DailyTech that, while the refusal may have been justified at the time, recent data fits his theory well. He says he will be "secretly pleased" if his predictions come to pass.
But will the rest of us? In the past 1000 years, three previous such events -- the Dalton, Maunder, and Spörer Minimums, have all led to rapid cooling. One was large enough to be called a "mini ice age". For a society dependent on agriculture, cold is more damaging than heat. The growing season shortens, yields drop, and the occurrence of crop-destroying frosts increases.

Meteorologist Anthony Watts, who runs a climate data auditing site, tells DailyTech the sunspot numbers are another indication the "sun's dynamo" is idling. According to Watts, the effect of sunspots on TSI (total solar irradiance) is negligible, but the reduction in the solar magnetosphere affects cloud formation here on Earth, which in turn modulates climate.

This theory was originally proposed by physicist Henrik Svensmark, who has published a number of scientific papers on the subject. Last year Svensmark's "SKY" experiment claimed to have proven that galactic cosmic rays -- which the sun's magnetic field partially shields the Earth from -- increase the formation of molecular clusters that promote cloud growth. Svensmark, who recently published a book on the theory, says the relationship is a larger factor in climate change than greenhouse gases.

Solar physicist Ilya Usoskin of the University of Oulu, Finland, tells DailyTech the correlation between cosmic rays and terrestrial cloud cover is more complex than "more rays equals more clouds". Usoskin, who notes the sun has been more active since 1940 than at any point in the past 11 centuries, says the effects are most important at certain latitudes and altitudes which control climate. He says the relationship needs more study before we can understand it fully.

Other researchers have proposed solar effects on other terrestrial processes besides cloud formation. The sunspot cycle has strong effects on irradiance in certain wavelengths such as the far ultraviolet, which affects ozone production. Natural production of isotopes such as C-14 is also tied to solar activity. The overall effects on climate are still poorly understood.
What is incontrovertible, though, is that ice ages have occurred before. And no scientist, even the most skeptical, is prepared to say it won't happen again.

Article Update, Sep 1 2008. After this story was published, the NOAA reversed their previous decision on a tiny speck seen Aug 21, which gives their version of the August data a half-point. Other observation centers such as Mount Wilson Observatory are still reporting a spotless month. So depending on which center you believe, August was a record for either a full century, or only 50 years

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Old 09-29-2008, 10:44 AM   #2
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There Goes The Sun

By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Tuesday, September 02, 2008 4:20 PM PT

Environment: Al Gore's been busy in recent years scaring everyone about what he's sure is disastrous global warming. More ruinous, though, would be a deep cooling, which is the direction our planet might really be heading.

For most people, August was an unremarkable month. But for those who keep an eye on celestial events, it was an extraordinary 31 days. For the first time in nearly 100 years, the sun created no visible spots. The last time that happened: June 1913.

While this caught some by surprise, it was expected by two astronomers from the National Solar Observatory in Tucson, Ariz. Dailytech.com reports that in 2005, William Livingston and Matthew Penn, who had been noting small spectroscopic and magnetic changes in the sun, concluded that "within 10 years, sunspots would vanish entirely."

While most see this as more news to yawn by, some are paying attention. One such person is Anthony Watts, a television meteorologist for a quarter-century and self-professed "green." He drives an electric car, promotes conservation and alternative energy, and is concerned about the consequences of decreased solar activity.

"Let us all hope that they are wrong," Watts wrote on his blog wattsupwiththat.com. "For a solar epoch period like the Maunder Minimum inducing a Little Ice Age will be a worldwide catastrophe economically, socially, environmentally, and morally."

And all this time we've been told that we are committing ecocide, that a warmer planet will be the end of both man and Earth.
Forget warnings of catastrophic melting polar ice and rising sea levels, though, and consider for a moment the effects of a warming Earth.

Food output would increase as growing seasons become longer and climates now too cold for agriculture evolve into temperate zones that can support crops. With a world population that is expected to grow from its current 6.7 billion to 8.9 billion in 2050, harvests will have to become more abundant to keep up with the demand.

A warming Earth would also mean a healthier human race. Heat kills, but it's not as deadly as cold. A 1990s study found that cold-related deaths kill 80,000 year in the United Kingdom — 100 times the number of those who die heat-related deaths.

Cold weather is lethal because it increases blood clots, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes, and promotes the transmission of respiratory diseases, such as pneumonia and influenza, that are among the top causes of death in the U.S. and other developed nations. Thomas Gale Moore of the Hoover Institution figures that a temperature increase of 2.5 degrees Celsius would cut deaths due to respiratory and circulatory diseases by roughly 40,000 a year.

While global warm-ongers talk in gloomy tones about SUV-induced droughts, higher temperatures would actually boost precipitation. There is little or no argument among scientists about this. On a planet with a growing population where as much as 40% of the human race could be living in regions with insufficient water supplies by 2035, an increase in precipitation is not insignificant.

Finally, a warmer planet would be a greener planet as well. Isn't this what the environmentalists want — more green? Or is their real goal to roll back concrete, asphalt, steel and glass, the building blocks of human advancement and prosperity?

No one can be sure how the sun will behave in the coming decades. There's even disagreement over August's solar activity. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration now thinks it saw a small sun spot on Aug. 21 while UCLA researchers still say it was a spotless month.

But if historical patterns hold, the sun is entering a down cycle that will make ours a more frosty world. The facts are enough to make Al Gore shiver.

© Copyright 2008 Investor's Business Daily. All Rights Reserved.

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Old 09-29-2008, 11:07 AM   #3
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Al Gore vs The Sun. I'd watch that. Aren't we due for an Ice Age anyway?
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climate change, global cooling, sun spots

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