BBC News, Rebecca Morelle, Science reporter, 18 January 2014
|Rebecca Morelle reports for Newsnight on the solar lull that is baffling scientists|
- Sun's 'quiet period' explained
- Sun activity link to cold winters
- Four colossal Sun flares in 48 hours
"I've been a solar physicist for 30 years, and I've never seen anything quite like this," says Richard Harrison, head of space physics at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire.
He shows me recent footage captured by spacecraft that have their sights trained on our star. The Sun is revealed in exquisite detail, but its face is strangely featureless.
"If you want to go back to see when the Sun was this inactive... you've got to go back about 100 years," he says.
This solar lull is baffling scientists, because right now the Sun should be awash with activity.
It has reached its solar maximum, the point in its 11-year cycle where activity is at a peak.
This giant ball of plasma should be peppered with sunspots, exploding with flares and spewing out huge clouds of charged particles into space in the form of coronal mass ejections.
|The Sun should be at the peak of its|
activity - bursting with flares and coronal
"It's completely taken me and many other solar scientists by surprise," says Dr Lucie Green, from University College London's Mullard Space Science Laboratory.
The drop off in activity is happening surprisingly quickly, and scientists are now watching closely to see if it will continue to plummet.
"It could mean a very, very inactive star, it would feel like the Sun is asleep... a very dormant ball of gas at the centre of our Solar System," explains Dr Green.
This, though, would certainly not be the first time this has happened.
During the latter half of the 17th Century, the Sun went through an extremely quiet phase - a period called the Maunder Minimum.
Historical records reveal that sunspots virtually disappeared during this time.
Dr Green says: "There is a very strong hint that the Sun is acting in the same way now as it did in the run-up to the Maunder Minimum."
Mike Lockwood, professor of space environment physics, from the University of Reading, thinks there is a significant chance that the Sun could become increasingly quiet.
An analysis of ice-cores, which hold a long-term record of solar activity, suggests the decline in activity is the fastest that has been seen in 10,000 years.
"It's an unusually rapid decline," explains Prof Lockwood.
"We estimate that within about 40 years or so there is a 10% to 20% - nearer 20% - probability that we'll be back in Maunder Minimum conditions."
The era of solar inactivity in the 17th Century coincided with a period of bitterly cold winters in Europe.
Londoners enjoyed frost fairs on the Thames after it froze over, snow cover across the continent increased, the Baltic Sea iced over - the conditions were so harsh, some describe it as a mini-Ice Age.
And Prof Lockwood believes that this regional effect could have been in part driven by the dearth of activity on the Sun, and may happen again if our star continues to wane.
"It's a very active research topic at the present time, but we do think there is a mechanism in Europe where we should expect more cold winters when solar activity is low," he says.
He believes this local effect happens because the amount of ultraviolet light radiating from the Sun dips when solar activity is low.
This means that less UV radiation hits the stratosphere - the layer of air that sits high above the Earth. And this in turn feeds into the jet stream - the fast-flowing air current in the upper atmosphere that can drive the weather.
The results of this are dominantly felt above Europe, says Prof Lockwood.
|Cold, snowy winters could become the norm for Europe|
"These are large meanders in the jet stream, and they're called blocking events because they block off the normal moist, mild winds we get from the Atlantic, and instead we get cold air being dragged down from the Arctic and from Russia," he says.
"These are what we call a cold snap... a series of three or four cold snaps in a row adds up to a cold winter. And that's quite likely what we'll see as solar activity declines."
So could this regional change in Europe have a knock-on effect on for the rest of the world's climate? And what are the implications for global warming?
In a recent report by the UN's climate panel, scientists concluded that they were 95% certain that humans were the "dominant cause" of global warming since the 1950s, and if greenhouse gases continue to rise at their current rate, then the global mean temperature could rise by as much as 4.8C.
And while some have argued that ebbs and flows in the Sun's activity are driving the climate - overriding the effect of greenhouse gas emissions, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concludes that solar variation only makes a small contribution to the Earth's climate.
Prof Lockwood says that while UV light varies with solar activity, other forms of radiation from the Sun that penetrate the troposphere (the lower layer of air that sits above the Earth) do not change that much.
He explains: "If we take all the science that we know relating to how the Sun emits heat and light and how that heat and light powers our climate system, and we look at the climate system globally, the difference that it makes even going back into Maunder Minimum conditions is very small.
"I've done a number of studies that show at the very most it might buy you about five years before you reach a certain global average temperature level. But that's not to say, on a more regional basis there aren't changes to the patterns of our weather that we'll have to get used to."
But this weather would not be the only consequence of a drawn out period of inactivity, says Dr Green.
"If the Sun were to get very quiet, one of the few things that would happen is that we'd have very few displays of the northern lights. They are driven by solar activity, and we'd miss out on this beautiful natural phenomenon," she explains.
However, there could be positive effects too.
"Solar activity drives a whole range of space weather, and these are ultimately effects on the electricity networks, on satellites, on radio communications and GPS on your sat-nav," she explains.
And while scientists cannot discount that the random bursts of activity may still occur, calmer periods of space weather would help to maintain the technological infrastructure that we rely so heavily on.
While the full consequences of a quietening Sun are not fully understood, one thing scientists are certain about is that our star is unpredictable, and anything could happen next.
"This feels like a period where it's very strange... but also it stresses that we don't really understand the star that we live with." says Prof Harrison.
"Because it's complicated - it's a complex beast."
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"Recalibration of Knowledge" – Jan 14, 2012 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll) - (Subjects: Channelling, God-Creator, Benevolent Design, New Energy, Shift of Human Consciousness, (Old) Souls, Reincarnation, Gaia, Old Energies (Africa,Terrorists, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela ... ), Weather, Rejuvenation, Akash, Nicolas Tesla / Einstein, Cold Fusion, Magnetics, Lemuria, Atomic Structure (Electrons, Particles, Polarity, Self Balancing, Magnetism, Higgs Boson), Entanglement, "Life is necessary for a Universe to exist and not the other way around", DNA, Humans (Baby getting ready, First Breath, Stem Cells, Embryonic Stem Cells, Rejuvenation), Global Unity, ... etc.) - (Text Version)
"...The Weather... Again
My partner has been "against the grain" in the past years, giving you what I have channelled about the weather. Is it global warming? No. Is it going to get better? No. This is a two-generation cycle. There will continue to be earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, and storms. This is a recalibration of life in the ocean, and humanity must go through this in any way they can. This is a cycle, a known and expected one, but since you haven't gone through it in modern times, it's not well understood yet. ..."
(Subjects: Religion, Shift of Human Consciousness, 2012, Intelligent/Benevolent Design, EU, South America, 5 Currencies, Water Cycle (Heat up, Mini Ice Ace, Oceans, Fish, Earthquakes ..), Middle East, Internet, Israel, Dictators, Palestine, US, Japan (Quake/Tsunami Disasters , People, Society ...), Nuclear Power Revealed, Hydro Power, Geothermal Power, Moon, Financial Institutes (Recession, Realign integrity values ..) , China, North Korea, Global Unity,..... etc.) - (Text version)
New Mini Ice Age
“… The Weather
Let's talk about the weather. We retreat to exactly what we told you before in this very chair. The water cycle is a cooling cycle, not a heating cycle. You're going to have more severe winters and storms. It's going to get colder. But it gets warmer before it gets colder. That is the cycle, and it has always been the cycle. You can see it in the rings of the trees and the cores of the ice. Don't let your scientists pull the political wool over your eyes for their own purposes. Start seeing these things for what they are. It's a recurring cycle based on four Earth alignment attributes, including the wobble (the precession). You're in this cycle. Prepare.
The beginnings of it will be with you from now at least until the end of the 2012 36-year window, and you can watch it work. The first thing that happens is that the ice melts at the poles, but not completely. It's the way it has happened before. As the redistribution of weight from the poles to the oceans of the earth takes place, the weight is redistributed to the crust, and that creates earthquakes. And the earthquakes that will be the most powerful are the ones that are closest to the poles. We told you that some time ago. So it's not a mystery that suddenly you have some of the most powerful earthquakes that you've ever had. Not only that, but a cooling ocean creates larger storms.
What do the conspiracists do with all this? "See? We're doomed. Here it comes," they say. "Here it comes! The end is here!" Twenty-two years ago, we gave you the information that is happening today. We told you about the weather. We told you to get ready for it, but we still haven't told you why the water cycle is needed. We've hinted at it since it is very controversial, and we'll lose many readers right here and now. Here's the prediction: The scientists are going to laugh and biologists are going to scratch their heads and roll their eyes.
The Refreshing of the Cycle of Life
When you change the temperature of the waters of the planet, it changes the life cycle of the ocean and it eventually renews itself. The life cycle of the planet has a limit to its viability over time. There has to be a refreshing of the very cycle of life, and this is what the water cycle does. Are there any places you've seen too many fish lately? Yes. Millions of salmon in the north. Odd that it was in Alaska, isn't it? Alaska is very close to the poles where the water temperature is being felt first. Oh, again the experts will tell you that this is not the reason. It's about hatcheries and rivers. But nobody predicted this, did they? Science is fast to give you reasons, but slow to give you logic in advance. They always seem to be surprised.
We are saying things we haven't said before. Again, watch for this, an actual change in the life cycle of the planet's oceans because of the water temperature shift. Biologists are going to have to start redesigning the paradigm of how everything works, including reefs, ocean bottoms, and how plankton survive and reproduce. Listen, this is not the first time that the life cycle has been refreshed! But again, this may take generations of humanity to complete. In the process, you may again lose species. This is normal. Gaia is slow, and Humans are impatient. Your textbooks may someday tell of how naive humanity was back in 2011 when they tried to blame weather changes on everything but a natural cycle. Now you know why there is a water cycle.
So what does that tell you about Gaia? Gaia is beginning the cycle of refreshing life on over-fished oceans. It tells you that in the cracks, there is love and caring about the Humans who live on the earth. There's a reason you're here. There's a plan here, and a benevolent Universe and quantum energy with intelligent design. All is there for you, precious, sacred Human Being. …”
Pink salmon, shown in a file photograph,
have a lifespan of two years
"The weather you have today, and all the alarming attributes of it, is a scenario of what was scheduled to happen on Earth anyway. I review again that the weather changes you are seeing prophesied by myself, 21 years ago, are not a surprise. The changes are not caused by the pollutants you put in the air. You call it global warming and that's a nice phrase, and perhaps that will get you to put less pollutants in the air – a very good thing. But what you are seeing in the weather shift today was not caused by Humans putting things into the air. It would have happened anyway in about 300 years."
"We've called this process the water cycle, since it's all about water, not about air. The water is the predominant attribute of Gaia and of the weather cycle you're seeing. More predominant is the temperature of it. The cycle is ice to water and water to ice, and has been repeated on this planet over and over and over. It is not new. It is not exceptional. It is not frightening. But it's a cycle that modern humanity has not seen before, and it's a long cycle that is beyond the life span of a Human Being. Therefore, it tends to be overlooked or not seen at all !"
"In the days of the Lemurians, the water level of the Pacific Ocean was almost 400 feet lower, and that's only 50,000 years ago. [Kryon invites science to check this out – the water level at that time.] That was a water cycle working, and the reason it was lower was due to so much of the water being stored as ice. Today you're going through another water cycle that will eventually lead to cooling. The last one was in the 1400s."
"Science sees that at about 1650. As mentioned, they are so slow there is no remembrance that a Human has of them except in past writings and in the rings of the trees. The time span of the changes is so great that environmental record keeping does not exist in the form that it does today. But you can still look at the rings of the trees and at the striations of the rocks and can generally figure out that a few hundred years ago, you had a mini-ice age. Now you're going to have another one."
“2011 and Beyond” - What you are seeing, and why - Jan 16, 2010 (Kryon channeled by Lee Carroll) (Text version)
“… So now we've refreshed that which we have said before, a review. You are in the middle of a cycle that will bring cooling to the planet. It is not a heat cycle, but rather a cooling cycle. But it always starts with a short heat cycle. It has been here before. It will come again. It is a long cycle - one generation plus five years. That's how long it's going to last. It starts with the melting of the ice caps, which is far more than any of you have seen in your lifetime or those of your ancestors. It is a cycle whose repetition is thousands of years long, but one that has not yet been recorded to the books of Human record. But it's definitely been recorded in the cores of the ice and in the rings of the trees.
Thousands of years old, it is, and it happens in a cyclical way. It's about water. It starts with that which is the melting of the ice caps to a particular degree, which has a profound effect on the planet in all ways. You can't have that happen without seeing life change as well as Gaia change and you've seeing it already. What happens when you take that which is heavy on the poles [ice] and you melt it? It then becomes cold water added to that which is a very, very gentle and finite balance of temperature in the seas of the planet (1). The first thing that happens is a redistribution of the weight of water on the thin crust of the earth from ice at the poles to new water in the seas. The results become earthquakes and volcanoes, and you're seeing them, aren't you? You are having earthquakes in places that are not supposed to have earthquakes. Volcanoes are coming to life in a way that you've not seen before on a regular basis. There will be more. Expect them.
Is it too much to ask of a Human Being that if you live by a volcano that you know might erupt, maybe you ought to move? Yet there will be those who say, "It hasn't erupted in my lifetime or my parents' lifetime or my grandparents' lifetime; therefore, it won't." You may have a surprise, for all things are changing. That is what is happening to Gaia. ….“