posted by Rebecca Sato
June 11, 2008
from DailyGalaxy Website
These strange and powerful phenomena are
known as sunspots, but now they are all gone. Not even solar
physicists know why it’s happening and what this odd solar silence
might be indicating for our future.
Recently 100 scientists from Europe, Asia, Latin America, Africa and North America gathered to discuss the issue at an international solar conference at Montana State University.
Today's sun is as inactive as it was two years ago, and solar physicists don’t have a clue as to why.
Dana Longcope, a solar physicist at MSU, said the sun usually operates on an 11-year cycle with maximum activity occurring in the middle of the cycle. The last cycle reached its peak in 2001 and is believed to be just ending now, Longcope said. The next cycle is just beginning and is expected to reach its peak sometime around 2012.
But so far nothing is happening.
Tsuneta said solar physicists aren't
weather forecasters and they can't predict the future. They do have
the ability to observe, however, and they have observed a
longer-than-normal period of solar inactivity. In the past, they
observed that the sun once went 50 years without producing sunspots.
That period coincided with a little ice age on Earth that lasted
from 1650 to 1700. Coincidence? Some scientists say it was, but many
worry that it wasn’t.
He also noted that the world cooled quickly between January last year and January this year, by about 0.7C.
If the world does face another mini Ice Age, it could come without warning. Evidence for abrupt climate change is readily found in ice cores taken from Greenland and Antarctica. One of the best known examples of such an event is the Younger Dryas cooling, which occurred about 12,000 years ago, named after the arctic wildflower found in northern European sediments. This event began and ended rather abruptly, and for its entire 1000 year duration the North Atlantic region was about 5°C colder.
Could something like this happen again?
There’s no way to tell, and because the
changes can happen all within one decade - we might not even see it