Deep Solar Minimum Continues

The sunspot cycle on the sun guides how much solar radiation, and solar storms reach the earth. This in turn affects how well our wireless communication and power grid operates. A massive solar storm in 1989 zapped the power grid in Quebec causing a 5 hour blackout. Sunspots operate on an 11-year cycle. During a solar maximum many sunspots may occur at the same time with strong solar wind and frequent solar storms, the last maximum was during the fall of 2000. We reached solar minimum in 2007, or at least that is what we thought. Then 2008 rolled around which brought the calmest sun (fewest sunspots) since 1913. NASA was convinced 2009 would bring about a surge of solar activity with a stronger solar maximum occurring during the fall of 2011. However the facts are stunning, 2009 so far has brought about even calmer conditions on the sun. So as of today 81 of the years 93 days have been sunspot free or about 87%. NASA released a statement on April 1st that concludes that we are in a very deep solar minimum with the quietest sun we’ve seen in almost a century. Here is the new prediction from NASA for the next solar cycle with the past cycle’s data as well.

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Here is the entire report from NASA: http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2009/01apr_deepsolarminimum.htm

So how does a Solar Minimum affect you?

There are a few different ways. First and foremost, a solar minimum will reduce the solar wind and storms coming toward the earth which will keep from hindering with the power grid and wireless communications. Second, climate is affected by solar minimum as well. Temperatures are typically lower globally during sunspot minimums due to the lower amount of solar radiation reaching the earth. As a result global warming will not seem as apparent during a solar minimum. Third, don’t expect to see the aurora over the next few months unless you plan on traveling closer to the Arctic.

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However, the chance for seeing an aurora this far south will likely increase over the next few years as the solar activity begins to increase. After all what goes down, also goes back up when we are talking about the solar cycle. When that does occur, not only are the northern lights possible on a rare night in Arkansas but so are sporadic blackouts and warmer global temperatures, at least in theory.

Ross Ellet

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