Oh, Great. Now the Sun is on the Fritz

The hot sun that created the last 35 years of warmer temperatures is no more.

They have been expecting the sun to heat up a bit, but it is cooling down ever so slightly:

What’s special about this latest dip is that the sun is having trouble starting the next solar cycle. The sun began to calm down in late 2007, so no one expected many sunspots in 2008. But computer models predicted that when the spots did return, they would do so in force. Hathaway was reported as thinking the next solar cycle would be a “doozy”: more sunspots, more solar storms and more energy blasted into space. Others predicted that it would be the most active solar cycle on record. The trouble was, no one told the sun.

The first sign that the prediction was wrong came when 2008 turned out to be even calmer than expected. That year, the sun was spot-free 73 per cent of the time, an extreme dip even for a solar minimum. Only the minimum of 1913 was more pronounced, with 85 per cent of that year clear.

As 2009 arrived, solar physicists looked for some action. They didn’t get it. The sun continued to languish until mid-December, when the largest group of sunspots to emerge for several years appeared. Finally, a return to normal? Not really.

Even with the solar cycle finally under way again, the number of sunspots has so far been well below expectations. Something appears to have changed inside the sun, something the models did not predict. But what?

The flood of observations from space and ground-based telescopes suggests that the answer lies in the behaviour of two vast conveyor belts of gas that endlessly cycle material and magnetism through the sun’s interior and out across the surface. On average it takes 40 years for the conveyor belts to complete a circuit (see diagram).

What? 40 years? You mean like the warm spell that lasted from ~1905 to 1940, followed by a cool spell that lasted from ~1940 to 1975, and then the warm spell that lasted from ~1975 to 2010?

Why, that almost sounds like the global warming people might be wrong.

 

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