Solar Science

A blog of solar physics

A very good question

with 12 comments

OK, so I’ve recently bemoaned my fortune in actually seeing an SC24 spot “live”. But there’s a much more serious question which Anthony Watts has brought up:

Galileo, Wolf, and other solar observers of the past would likely never have seen it. So with these Tiny Tims coming and going so quickly, that begs the question; was the Maunder Minimum, Dalton Minimum and other minimums not simply a period of Tiny Tim sunspots that nobody could detect with the observing equipment of the time?

THAT is a very good question.

History of sunspot number observations showing the recent elevated activity.

Above is the record of the Solar Cycle right back to the Maunder Minimum. As you can see Galileo reported sunspots just before the Maunder Minimum, which was fortunate because with the instrumentation available at the time, he would not have seen the “Tiny Tims” similar to the current SC24 ones.

I hope this isn’t what we’re seeing. If the Earth’s climate is dominated by variations in Solar luminosity and magnetic field strength as is believed by some, then that would mean cooling.

And that would be a global disaster as deserts expand, storms increase, glaciers expand and wipe out towns and villages in places like Switzerland and Nepal, a shorter growing season with more variability in precipitation, an increase in the number of droughts and failed harvests leading to mass starvation in certain regions.

I hope its just a hiccup in global warming, because there’s very little to be scared of in a warming climate.

Before the current scare began, climatologists talked of warm periods as “Optimums” or “Optima”, a time of plenty and societal growth and prosperity. With the advent of political supplication to climate models and the pronouncements of some climate modellers, we have been taught to fear warming and try to reverse it as wholly undesirable even at the expense of every modern device that keeps us from being victims of climate change, howsoever caused.

I really hope for global warming. At the moment, I’m pessimistic about whether it will continue.


Written by John A

May 6, 2008 at 8:23 am

12 Responses

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  1. I can give you millions of reasons why you should be scared of a warming climate:
    Gore and his zealot followers.

    Pierre Gosselin

    May 6, 2008 at 11:51 am

  2. Pierre,

    That’s not a good enough reason.

    Yes, its true that the current course of public policy as directed by Al Gore would be ruinous to Western economies, but I doubt very much that they would have been implemented anyway. Even without a solar cycle, there is still an economic cycle and the reality is that politicians were coming very close to the precipice of economic collapse and were (or are) trying to stop the mob from rushing over the edge.

    But that’s still nothing to what a sustained period of global cooling would be like.

    John A

    May 6, 2008 at 12:25 pm

  3. I think lots of societies will do far better with a sustained period of cooling than people in the 17th and 18th century did (if it will be a bad cooling). But if the envuironmentalist at the same time tries to prohibit the use of carbon fuel, then we — and espeacially the poor — will suffer unnecessary pain. (The best argument for reduction of oil consumption I know of is the decrease of the incomes the Muslim Brotherhood and such political elements will have.)


    May 6, 2008 at 2:02 pm

  4. I think a warming climate is better for people in general also, but would love to see the zealots proved wrong by a cooling climate.

    Regardless, we can do nothing about the direction it goes. We can just stand by and watch. That is becoming pretty obvious.

    James Chamberlain

    May 6, 2008 at 2:52 pm

  5. We can start reducing the CO2 release in the atmosphere 😉


    May 6, 2008 at 7:14 pm

  6. John A
    Thanks for the reply – I’d like to believe you, really. Collapse didn’t stop the Soviets and its satellite countries from crashing, the stayed in denial for decades.
    I really believe some cooling would wake up a lot of people from the sleep the warmth has put them in, and do some good. All the agricultural capacity we have added for bio-fuels could simply be shifted over to producing food. Much of this added capacity is located in fairly warm areas that would be minimally effected by a cold spell. Plus we have many new wonderful technologies that would enhance agricultural output.
    I don’t see a cooler world pessimistically at all. We can deal with both. But you are right, if we get a little ice age or worse, then we may find ourselves struggling. That would not be pretty. And I agree that governments should be preparing for colder periods, and not wasting their time trying to mitigate something that isn’t going to happen.

    Pierre Gosselin

    May 6, 2008 at 8:20 pm

  7. Pessimism is the mother of defeat – never allow yourself to succumb to it.

    Pierre Gosselin

    May 6, 2008 at 8:26 pm

  8. It could just be that the net effective cooling will be enough to stabilize temperatures for a time. The seas and the Arctic would have to dump some acquired heat first before we hit a zero-trend.

    I think NASA modeled the LIA and found that it took a few consecutive half-amplitude solar cycles before the chill really set it. If SC #25 is realistically predicted to be a half-amplitude dud, then we can surmise #26 & #27 will as well because it’s the nature of the beast.

    I’m guessing that if SC #24 surprises & maxes out as a half-amplitude cycle then the onset of marked effects will occur by the 2020’s during SC #25. Likewise then if we have to wait for SC #25 for a first half-amplitude cycle then any negative solar effects won’t be felt until SC #26 in the 2030’s.

    Either way we’ll be sure to waste lots of time worrying about it before then. And hopefully by then most of the world will be readied against crop failures through the widespread implementation of industrialized agriculture which was not available in the 17th C.


    May 14, 2008 at 5:03 am

  9. Re: Global Coldening

    Any hope at this point for a SC24 SSN max above 75 is unalloyed fantasy. The smoothed 13 month average and 10.7 cm flux are still decreasing so the 24 min. is still months ahead which means the ram up to max will be comparatively slow.
    The Janssens data clearly indicates SC24 is falling in as a regime change with SC25 a likely further diminution of activity.
    Any global warming, post SC24 max, will be slight, lasting a few years at most (one El Nino), before declining again after 2020.
    Deal with it; unless you are under 30, warming is an experience of your past.

    Gary Gulrud

    May 14, 2008 at 1:55 pm

  10. If you take the graphs of Cycle 22 & 23 sunspot activity and match them with the 2 cycles before the Dalton minimum you get a very disturbing match. Almost identical.


    June 4, 2008 at 2:16 am

  11. Chet,

    Can you please send such a matching diagram to johna.sci AT ?

    John A

    June 8, 2008 at 9:18 am

  12. Just so ya know. Industrialized agriculture is going to fail pretty quickly if it really does cool as much as they some are predicting. It would take a wholesale shift to different kinds of crops to keep things going.


    June 12, 2008 at 3:51 am

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