Tuesday, September 02, 2008

What's wrong with this picture?

Behold, I bring you The Immaculate Sol. Spotless, just the way the Holy Roman Church and countless scholastic authorities envisioned it before that pesky Galileo got up to his naughty antics with optics and revealed that usually, the sun has acne.

NOAA has changed their minds about whether our sun had 0 spots or one really tiny little zit when this picture was taken. Either way, we are at a stark solar minimum.

Why does this matter? Quoting from the Daily Tech:
Solar physicist Ilya Usoskin of the University of Oulu, Finland, tells DailyTech the correlation between cosmic rays and terrestrial cloud cover is more complex than "more rays equals more clouds". Usoskin, who notes the sun has been more active since 1940 than at any point in the past 11 centuries, says the effects are most important at certain latitudes and altitudes which control climate. He says the relationship needs more study before we can understand it fully.
See, solar activity affects the solar magnetosphere which affects the Earth's magnetosphere which changes how many and powerful are the cosmic rays that get through. Which might change the nucleation of clouds, which would change cloud cover, which would change net insolation at the ground and in the troposphere. Got all that?

More from the Daily Tech:
Normally sunspots return very quickly, as a new cycle begins.

But this year -- which corresponds to the start of Solar Cycle 24 -- has been extraordinarily long and quiet, with the first seven months averaging a sunspot number of only 3. August followed with none at all. The astonishing rapid drop of the past year has defied predictions, and caught nearly all astronomers by surprise.

In 2005, a pair of astronomers from the National Solar Observatory (NSO) in Tucson attempted to publish a paper in the journal Science. The pair looked at minute spectroscopic and magnetic changes in the sun. By extrapolating forward, they reached the startling result that, within 10 years, sunspots would vanish entirely. At the time, the sun was very active. Most of their peers laughed at what they considered an unsubstantiated conclusion.

The journal ultimately rejected the paper as being too controversial.
I bet they did. See, protracted solar somnolence is correlated with Ice Ages (see: Maunder Minimum), and we all know that fad died out with Peter Gabriel's fan base, right? (His "Here Comes the Flood" was inspired by the idea that an ice age was upon us, with a side order of Nuclear Winter. I like the song, as a meditation on folly and fate... but.)

Zany madcap environmentalismist hijinks will doubtless ensue.


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