Friday, December 19, 2008

Something to watch

An article from raises the specter once more of upcoming solar flares wreaking havoc on communications and electronics here on earth. I pretty much dismiss these since we see news items like this all the time yet I don't recall any widespread communications outages attributed to solar activity.

But since there's a faction in the scientific community which insists that solar activity affects our climate more than human-generated CO2, I found it interesting.
The Sun operates on an 11-year cycle, alternating between active and quiet periods. We are currently in a quiet period, with few sunspots on the sun's surface and fewer solar flares, though the next cycle of activity has begun.

It is expected to peak around 2012, bringing lots of sunspots, flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs). CMEs can interact with the Earth's magnetosphere, causing problems for satellites, communications, and power grids.

This upcoming active period now looks like it will be more intense than the previous one, which peaked around 2006, some scientists think.
Simply put, the theory behind solar effect on the weather is that high solar activity inhibits cloud formation here on earth, leading to warmer temperatures. Low solar activity leads to more cloud formation and lower terrestrial temperatures.

The current period of cooling we're experiencing (which prompted the name change from "Global Warming" to "Climate Change") coincides pretty nicely with the current lull in solar activity. So it'll be interesting to see if we experience an increase in global temperatures concurrent with the increase in solar activity, especially if the global economic slump results in a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions.


Rita Hennessey said...

Hmm, 2012 - that is also the year of the "Mayan Apocolypse." Coincidence?
Yes, but wait until someone at the History Channel finds out, and there will be a spate of documentaries about it.

Eric said...

And here I thought the Mayan Apocalypse happened a thousand or so years ago. Silly me.

Mark said...

Not so fast... the next cycle has been delayed 3 times by those who mark such events: