This September 21, 2009 Topeka Capital-Journal article again mentions the near record low sunspot numbers and its likely effects on climate:
I'm sure the eco-worshipers will point out that Perry is a hydrologist, not a climatologist, so we can ignore his Ph.D. in physics and astronomy, and therefore, everything he says is wrong.
But the sun's recent activity, or lack thereof, may be linked to the pleasant summer temperatures the midwest has enjoyed this year, said Charlie Perry, a research hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Lawrence.
The sun is at a low point of a deep solar minimum in which there are few to no sunspots on its surface.
In July through August, 51 consecutive days passed without a spot, one day short of tying the record of 52 days from the early 1900s.
As of Sept. 15, the current solar minimum ranks third all-time in the amount of spotless days with 717 since 2004. There have been 206 spotless days in 2009, which is 14th all-time. But there are still more than 100 days left in the year, and Perry expects that number to climb.
Perry, who studies sunspots and solar activity in his spare time, received an undergraduate degree in physics at Kansas State University and a Ph.D in physics and astronomy at The University of Kansas. He also has spent time as a meteorologist.
A sunspot, Perry explains, is a location on the sun's surface that is cooler than the surrounding area. When there are more sunspots, the sun's surface becomes more dynamic and an opposite effect takes place, releasing more heat and energy when other parts of the sun become hotter.
A solar minimum is when the amount of spots on the sun is at a low and the reverse is true for a solar maximum. The complete solar cycle is about an 11-year process. Perry says the current solar minimum could continue into 2010.
"There's a fair chance it will be a cooler winter than last year," Perry said.
Perry said there is a feeling from some in the scientific community the Earth may be entering into a grand minimum, which is an extended period with low numbers of sunspots that creates cooler temperatures. The year without a summer, which was 1816, was during a grand minimum in 1800 to 1830 when Europe became cooler, Perry said. Another grand minimum was in 1903 to 1913.
Perry said there is anecdotal evidence the Earth's temperature may be slightly decreasing, but local weather patterns are much more affected by the jet stream than solar activity.
However, Perry said snow in Buenos Aires and southern Africa, the best ski season in Australia and a cooler Arctic region are some of the anecdotal evidence for a cooling period.
So, Perry said, sunspots may have a far greater impact on weather than previously thought.
The weather here has gone from sometimes unpleasantly warm to "is it time to turn the heater back on again?" quite suddenly. And others are noticing this as well, as this September 21, 2009 Coloradan report tells us:
Southern Wyoming this morning has already seen upward of 2 inches of snow, said Don Day Jr. of DayWeather, the Coloradoan's weather service. Parts of Larimer County above 7,500 feet saw snow this morning, including Red Feather Lakes and Glacier View Meadows.Here's a pretty amazing web site concerning the role that angular momentum changes caused by planetary positions may have on solar cycles--the Landcheidt Cycle. This site has graphs showing correlation of C-14 and Be-10 production, which matters because C-14 production is a proxy for solar output. (As solar output increases, more cosmic rays are prevented from reaching Earth's upper atmosphere, reducing C-14 production.)
While that snow hasn't stuck much, Day said, it's a harbinger of things to come. Autumn officially starts tomorrow.
"Fall was cancelled and we've gone straight to winter," he said as a joke.
Day said there's a potential for a rain-snow mix to fall on the Front Range starting tomorrow night and into Wednesday morning. He said many people seem surprised at the sudden cold snap, but said about eight years of above-average temperatures have conditioned the public to expect summer to linger longer.
"This is actually a lot closer to normal," Day said.