Solar activity is declining—what to expect?

Posted: August 18, 2015 by oldbrew in Solar physics, Temperature
Tags: ,

A bit less of this to look forward to? [image credit:]

A bit less of this to look forward to? [image credit:]

Some solar theories will be put to the test in the next few decades by the Sun’s ongoing behaviour patterns.

Is Earth slowly heading for a new ice age? Looking at the decreasing number of sunspots, it may seem that we are entering a nearly spotless solar cycle which could result in lower temperatures for decades. “The solar cycle is starting to decline. Now we have less active regions visible on the sun’s disk,” Yaireska M. Collado-Vega, a space weather forecaster at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, told

But does it really mean a colder climate for our planet in the near future? In 1645, the so-called Maunder Minimum period started, when there were almost no sunspots. It lasted for 70 years and coincided with the well-known “Little Ice Age”, when Europe and North America experienced lower-than-average temperatures. However, the theory that decreased solar activity caused the climate change is still controversial as no convincing evidence has been shown to prove this correlation.

Helen Popova, a Lomonosov Moscow State University researcher predicts that if the existing theories about the impact of solar activity on the climate are true, then this minimum will lead to a significant cooling, similar to the one during the Maunder Minimum period. She recently developed a unique physical-mathematical model of the evolution of the magnetic activity of the sun and used it to gain the patterns of occurrence of global minima of solar activity and gave them a physical interpretation.

“Given that our future minimum will last for at least three solar cycles, which is about 30 years, it is possible that the lowering of the temperature will not be as deep as during the Maunder Minimum,” Popova said earlier in July. “But we will have to examine it in detail. We keep in touch with climatologists from different countries. We plan to work in this direction.”

The solar cycle is the periodic change in the Sun’s activity and appearance like changes in the number of sunspots. It has an average duration of about 11 years. The current solar cycle began on in January 2008, with minimal activity until early 2010. The sun is now on track to have the lowest recorded sunspot activity since accurate records began in 1750. The long-term decline in solar activity set in after the last grand solar maximum peaked in 1956.

But according to Collado-Vega, the current minimum in the number of sunspots doesn’t mean that the sun won’t show us its violent nature in the coming years.

“There is a development for coronal holes, due to the reconfiguration of the sun’s magnetic field, that bear the well-known high-speed streams. These high-speed streams have the ability to cause strong geomagnetic storms at Earth, and changes to the radiation environment in the inner magnetosphere,” Collado-Vega noted.

Coronal holes are regions with lower density and temperatures in the sun’s outer atmosphere, known as the corona. The sun contains magnetic fields that arch away from areas in the corona that are very thin due to the lower levels of energy and gas, which cause coronal holes to appear when they do not fall back. Thus, solar particles or solar wind escape and create a lower density and lower temperature in that area.

The existing fleet of spacecraft studying the sun includes the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) and the Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO), which provide continuous solar observations that are currently enhancing our knowledge about sun’s corona. And if that’s not enough, a new NASA probe named Solar Probe Plus is being developed to revolutionize our understanding of solar phenomena. Significantly, the mission, with a planned launch in mid-2018, will fly closer to the sun than any previous spacecraft. Its primary science goals are to trace the flow of energy and understand the heating of the solar corona and to explore the physical mechanisms that accelerate the solar wind and energetic particles. This would definitely improve future solar activity forecasts and help us more accurately predict the impact that the features on the sun have on our planet.

Original report: Solar activity is declining—what to expect?

  1. ren says:

    The current solar activity.

  2. hunter says:

    “Slowly entering”?
    How fast is “slow”?

  3. Centinel2012 says:

    Reblogged this on Centinel2012 and commented:
    This pattern matches the model I developed in 2007 almost exactly.

  4. oldbrew says:

    hunter: NOAA forecast (red line).

    Predicted ‘low’ for sunspot numbers from December 2018 onwards (to Dec. 2019) is zero.

  5. oldbrew says:

    The ‘warmist dilemma’.

    However, everything is not hunky dory as the warmists also have something of a dilemma at hand – see
    …. as NGOs such as Greenpeace, FOE and WWF are fond of telling us all that banning CFCs was some kind of envrionmentalist victory as remarkably the ozone thinning over the poles has gone into reverse, and ozone has been thickening up. What the NGOs have always avoided is that it is the solar wind that thins the ozone over the poles by redistributing it elsewhere. It is not a hole – that is hype. They conned the politicos into banning CFCs and manufacturers of fridges and the new patent for them made a bucket of money – and no doubt the NGOs were rewarded. If not they were able to boldly proclaim they had changed the atmosphere – and earn credos from the faithful (which they still do even though the science behind ozone depletion is now well understood).

    The point of this post at Anthony’s place is that they have a dilemma in that climate scientists have been absolutely consistent in their belief that the Sun is not involved in the recent uptick in global temperatures (a few years back of the 1990s and front of 2000s). They were so sure of the greenhouse effect that they had expected the stratosphere to start warming as a result of rising co2 levels – but it never did (back then) but the stratosphere has now decided to begin warming (just as ozone levels over the poles have returned). The fact there was a lot of CMEs in the late 1990s and early 2000s which provided the solar wind to disperse ozone over the poles is just now beginning to be recognised – as with a less active Sun there is now fewer CME events and ozone has thickened over the poles. What will the alarmists do – they will of course keep on alarming. Hence, what we have now is stratospheric heating (the former magic ingredient of the greenhouse effect) happening just as ozone has returned which pretty much shows that solar activity controls temperature on earth – exactly what they have been arguing against (as they claim the Sun is a constant star). It is no accident then that the hiatus coincides with i) a less active Sun, and ii) ozone thickening over the poles coinciding with stratospheric warming. [bold added]
    [end quote]

  6. Paul Vaughan says:

    oldbrew (August 18, 2015 at 2:48 pm) wrote:
    “The fact there was a lot of CMEs in the late 1990s and early 2000s which provided the solar wind to disperse ozone over the poles is just now beginning to be recognised […]”

    Those graphs have been linked to countless times (for years), so it’s certainly not the case that enlightened parties are just waking up. More likely they’re re-running narrative control to remind the alarmists that ozone oscillations are natural.

  7. Below is my reasoning with Willis and Leif ,and people that hold their view which is a solar/climatic connection is not seen when one looks at the data. They are of course wrong because they do not have the ability or desire to look at the overall big picture or appreciate lag times which have to be appreciated when viewing a solar /climatic connection.

    In addition interpretation of data plays a role and many do not want to accept the standard non manipulated data which by the way shows since the Holocene Optimum some 8000 years ago the global temperatures of the earth have been in a gradual down trend with spikes of warmth from time to time within this trend. The recent warm spike from 1845-1998 being no exception.

    Willis here is my argument as to why you fail to connect the solar/climate dots in any convincing way although you do leave the door opened.

    A quote from Willis, which is excellent.

    Any natural regulatory system has bounds on the variations it can control, and there are events that could alter or destroy the regulation.

    Second quote from Willis which is excellent.

    “Willis- The sun has no effect whatsoever on climate you are correct I apologize also to L svaalgard

    Willis says below that
    Eliza, I have never said that, nor anything even remotely resembling that. Those are YOUR WORDS, not mine.

    I have to apologize to Willis for not listening to him carefully enough because if one really listens to what he is saying he is opened to solar, while also saying there are events that can destroy or alter the natural regulatory system of the climate.

    So I have a starting point with Willis , which at one time I thought I did not have.

    Another point we agree on is if the sun varies enough it will have an impact on the climate. Everyone submits to this ,the disagreement however, is not if solar variation will change the climate but does the sun vary enough to accomplish this?

    This leads to my argument with Willis , which is the so called 11 year sunspot normal cycle is not where one is going to be able to find solar/climate connections, because the EXTREMES in solar activity are not strong enough in degree of magnitude or long enough in duration of time to have a climate effect. In addition the 11 year cycle going from weak to strong sunspot activity cancels the climate effect it may have before any significant impact could come about.

    In other words thresholds can not be reached in the climate system due to these 11 year variations in solar activity. This is the wrong place to look if one wants to find a solar climate connection.

    The place to look is when the sun enters an extreme period of prolonged minimum solar quiet and when one looks at these periods the data does show a climate/solar correlation to one degree or another.
    The problem is there are other factors superimposed upon even this extreme solar variability which although keeps the lower global average temperature trend in place there are periods of rising temperatures within the overall lower temperature trend.

    Why ? Because within any global temperature trend initiated by solar variability one has to take into account the following factors;

    1. all solar minimum differ as was the case recently with the 1996 solar minimum versus the 2008-2010 solar lull, which effects the climate in a different manner. Coronal holes can keep the solar wind elevated long after sunspots diminish which can keep full solar climatic effects at bay.

    2. the stage of where earth is in respect to Milankovitch Cycles is either going to work in concert or against the current trend the solar variability is exerting upon the climate. Right now I would say Milankovitch Cycles are on balance acting in concert with minimum prolonged solar activity.

    3. the geo magnetic field can enhance given solar activity effects or diminish given solar activity effects upon the climate. A weaker field compounding given solar effects.

    4. land /ocean arrangements and elevations. Right now acting in concert with reduced solar activity very favorable for cooling.

    5. the ice dynamic/snow cover which when at a critical stage can enhance or diminish the solar impacts. Right now not that favorable.

    6. the rogue terrestrial event such as a super volcanic eruption or the rogue extra terrestrial event such as an impact could turn things upside down in the climate system.

    7. this being very important which is the elusive thresholds which I think are out there but I do not know what degree of solar extremes are needed to bring them about, but there must be solar extremes that will bring them about. This is also probably tied into the initial state of the climate , for example point 5, which is to say just how far is the climate system of the earth from that inter –glacial/glacial threshold at the time the prolonged minimum solar conditions commence, which I think go a long way in the climatic effect the given solar variability will have upon the climate. .

    8. the normal earth intrinsic climate factors which superimpose themselves upon the big general climatic trend regardless if they are associated directly with given solar activity or not.

    9. Lunar input- which could possibly enhance or diminish given solar activity.

    My best guess based on the historical climatic record is the solar extremes needed to have a clear climatic impact and not one that is obscured have to be slightly less then quote so called normal 11 year sunspot minimums but more importantly the duration of time has to be longer.

    Once this is in when combined with the points in the above the climate result should come about, with the exception if point 6 were to take place.

    Possible important (some) secondary effects due to solar activity which in turn can moderate the climate.

    cosmic ray change moderates cloud coverage.

    ozone changes moderates atmospheric circulation

    geological activity moderation.


    “Here we show that these spectral changes appear to have led to a significant decline from 2004 to 2007 in stratospheric ozone below an altitude of 45 km, with an increase above this altitude. ”

    “our findings raise the possibility that the effects of solar variability on temperature throughout the atmosphere may be contrary to current expectations”

    It is more complex old brew look at the latest data.

  9. I expect the lower stratosphere to continue to cool overall but the polar lower stratosphere not cooling as much as lower latitudes which should give rise to a more meridional atmospheric circulation as the prolonged solar minimum continues all other items (qbo for example) being equal.

    The upper stratosphere will probably warm due to the absence of strong solar events such as CME’s ,PROTON EVENTS ECT., which diminish ozone.

  10. oldbrew says:

    The 11 years is only a half-cycle really. The full magnetic cycle is 22 years or maybe ~22.1y as an average, although very few if any cycles are right on the average.

    As we’ve had at least a century of mostly ‘below-average’ cycles in terms of their duration, it’s not surprising we’re now going to get at least one, almost certainly 2 and probably 3 longer cycles, which tend to have lower sunspot activity.

    The effect of all that remains to be seen but the word ‘cooling’ seems to feature in many predictions 😐

  11. jim says:

    All very interesting. “But” there is that word again. “Sun” , a small variable star that we depend on. In a medium size galaxy, with “winds” from other stars, but, like Sagan said, we are made of, but I call it star *hit. To me it is a lie to say 1percent variation is of no consequence. Especially of our nearest star. 1 percent can boil us or freeze us. Cause our plants to produce or starve us out of existence. 1 percent of a million degrees is more then 400 degrees Celsius, with that variation, what would survive? So we have an atmosphere, water, magnetic field, and other modifiers, that ammeliate that difference, and we call that climate? Pluto, has an atmosphere, and the rest, but is it habitable? It’s within the 1 percent of the distance to the next star. And has a climate. Another thing not mentioned is orbit, and inclination, and interception of plasma, from the sun, which is induced by the magnetics, kind of like electric universe, but the magnetic lines enclosing and stirring the pot of the sun.

  12. oldbrew says:

    jim says: ‘To me it is a lie to say 1 percent variation is of no consequence.’

    Yes, some people are ignoring the ‘compound interest’ factor, for example:
    ‘The nominal annual rate or nominal interest rate is defined as the periodic rate multiplied by the number of compounding periods per year. For example, a monthly rate of 1% is equivalent to an annual nominal interest rate of 12%.’

  13. A couple of years ago, while arguing online with an AGW supporter about the influence of solar variation on Earth, he insisted that since current ssn numbers were roughly the same as at the early part of the 20thC, the planet should be at the same temp. Leif also uses this argument occasionally which I think is beneath him but who am I to say. Anyway, out of interest I averaged the ssn over thirty year periods since it seemed to me that lag times/residuals would spill from once cycle to the next. It also happens to be the magical ’30years is climate’ used by many.
    The results were interesting and generally supportive of a strong solar component to the 20thC warming.
    I’m guessing this must have been done many times before by folk here with considerably better math skills than me. Is there an old post on this?

  14. Gail Combs says:

    War of The Worlds,

    Try this:

    It is the index of links to Dr Evans Solar theory (@ Jo Nova’s) that Leif and Willis went through the roof over. (Again Willis was shooting from the hip without thought. One of the links addresses this.)

    The lukewarmers really really hate the idea of a solar link to climate as the attack on Dr Nir Shaviv shows. See his Sciencebits(DOT)com especially The Ocean as a Calorimeter.

    Salvatore Del Prete has done a lot of work on a solar connection, So has Dr Norman Page.

    Also look at populartechnology(DOT)net 1350+ Peer-Reviewed Papers Supporting Skeptic Arguments Against ACC/AGW Alarmism

    The papers are listed by topic to make them easy to use as references. I have lots of fun with them if I run into an Alarmist who insists that ONLY peer-reviewed papers count.

    They are also worth reading.

    Last you might want to look at this:
    The End of the Holocene?

    It is a survey of the Quaternary science literature. (Paleo-climate) and makes the idea of CAGW completely laughable.

    Aside from that use the search feature upper left part way down.

  15. many thanks for the links Gail