Articles in Sunspots
Usually NOAA forecasters tells us that the odds of an X-flare (the highest category of solar flares) is less than 1%, even at what is supposedly the peak of the solar cycle. Today they say 15%, and 40% chance of a lesser M-Flare, due to a very large sunspot pointing at us. Read more at SpaceWeather.com.
It is only the biggest X-Flares that we should be fearing. Anything less than say X10 isn’t worth mentioning. But as we go up the scale (each number is 10 times more than the previous), then it gets scary. To put any flare today in perspective, the Carrington Event was a pair of flares,
The biggest flares since 1976 are listed here – a couple of dozen greater than X10 and only 6 greater than X15. The best guess regarding the Carrington Event says greater than X10, but they don’t attempt to put a precise number on it.
I said this a few days ago:
If sunspot AR1654 sends an X-flare our way, it will still most likely be one of the hundreds per century that do us and our satellites no harm at all. But because it is a large sunspot, pointing our way soon, then the potential for the next Carrington Event is there.
That hasn’t changed, but the relative threat of this particular sunspot has got worse. SpaceWeather.com say:
An X-flare could be in the offing. The magnetic field of big sunspot AR1654 is growing more complex. It is now classified as a ‘beta-gamma-delta’ magnetic field, which means it harbors energy for X-class eruptions. Any explosion today would be Earth-directed.
AR1654 is getting bigger as it turns toward Earth. Not only is the chance of flares increasing, but also the chance of an Earth-directed eruption.This could be the sunspot that breaks the recent lengthy spell of calm space weather around our planet.
It is all about potential. While a killer solar storm could catch us unawares in the quietest part of the solar cycle, the odds of it happening greatly increase:
at the height of the solar cycle (more sunspots to erupt)
from clusters of sunspots
from large sunspots
If sunspot AR1654 sends an X-flare our way, it will still most likely be one of the hundreds per century that do us and our satellites no harm at all. But because it is a large sunspot, pointing our way soon, then the potential for the next Carrington Event is there. While scientists say that the odds are something like 8% (or much less) per solar cycle …
Ordinarily more sun spots means more solar storms. Get some sunspots combining and a major storm is possible.
But right now it looks like there won’t even be a minor X -Class flare. NASA rates the odds at just 1%.
The following is the latest Joint USAF/NOAA Solar Geophysical Activity Report and Forecast:
IA. Analysis of Solar Active Regions and Activity from 19/2100Z to 20/2100Z: Solar activity has been at very low levels for the past 24 hours. There are currently 3 numbered sunspot regions on the disk.
IB. Solar Activity Forecast: Solar activity is likely to be at low levels on days one, two, and three (21 Dec, 22 Dec, 23 Dec).
IIA. Geophysical Activity Summary 19/2100Z to 20/2100Z: The geomagnetic field has been at quiet to unsettled levels for the past 24 hours. Solar wind speed, as measured by the ACE spacecraft, reached a peak around 500 km/s. Total IMF reached 7.2 nT …
The Northern Lights have just been seen as far south as Iowa, Nebraska and Maryland in the United States which, relative to Europe, are about as far South as southern Spain and the Mediterranean.
A double CME from a sunspot on Saturday caused auroras like the photograph above from South Dakota (more at Daily Mail). And the one below is from Victoria, Australia (more at Universe Today). Truly unusual, but nothing compared to how widespread auroras were during the Carrington Event. Any time you see auroras somewhere that doesn’t usually get them – your power grid could be failing. Pretty skies, scary consequences.
I love simplicity. It beats math-heavy arguments, or singular ideas that need an entire book to try and convince you. Check this out for a simple explanation for why you could/should be preparing for the worst:
Philip Norton, a member of Lincoln Astronomical Society, forecast the current harsh winter conditions way back in the 1980s. He also correctly forecast the weather this time around and last winter.
When there are lots of sunspots, there are fewer clouds on Earth. If there is a lack of sunspot activity, the Earth gets cloudy, lowering temperatures.
“This winter is mild compared to those of the 2020s.”
“The sunspot activity is roughly following a 400-year trend.
“I predicted the last sunspot cycle would be the most active for a long time and it was.
“This would be followed by a long, deep solar minimum. We are just getting out of this.
“The next sunspot cycle, which has just started, would …
Because I know that is has happened before – the Maunder Minimum was a period between 1645 to 1715 where sunspots were very rare compared to today – I am quite concerned that the decline in the magnetic field strength of sunspots will continue.
“According to our measurements, sunspots seem to form only if the magnetic field is stronger than about 1500 gauss,” says Livingston. “If the current trend continues, we’ll hit that threshold in the near future, and solar magnetic fields would become too weak to form sunspots.”
What could it mean for us? We could be entering a phase of global cooling. According to Wikipedia:
The Maunder Minimum coincided with the middle — and coldest part — of the Little Ice Age, during which Europe and North America, and perhaps much of the rest of the world, were subjected to bitterly cold winters. Whether there is a causal connection between …
For the first time since 1913 we have had a month without a single sunspot. The 7 months prior to August averaged a very low 3 sunspots. This is the most likely cause for global temperatures dropping this year. Is it something we should be concerned about?
On the one hand, we could be heading into a “mini-Ice Age” that coincided with the Maunder Minimum of 1645 to 1715. This would mean colder weather and nothing an extra layer of clothing and a million glasshouses won’t fix.
On the other hand, it could just be “one of those things” and come right soon.
Or, there is grave concern that the Sun is building up to an almighty Coronal Mass Ejection or similar, in 2012, that could wipe out humankind.
Read more at Bob Kingsley’s site.
The scientists said periods of inactivity are normal for the sun, but this period has gone on longer than usual.
“It continues to be dead,” said Saku Tsuneta with the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, program manager for the Hinode solar mission. “That’s a small concern, a very small concern.”
It could be that the Sun is just saving up for a massive amount of activity in 2012. Or, on the other hand, it could do nothing for 50 years and give us a mini ice age like we had from 1650 to 1700.
Approximately 100 scientists from Europe, Asia, Latin America, Africa and North America gathered June 1-6 to talk about “Solar Variability, Earth’s Climate and the Space Environment.” – and they are thinking that 2 years without a sunspot is perhaps too long. Read more…
It could be starting now.
“New solar cycles always begin with a high-latitude, reversed polarity sunspot,” explains Hathaway. “Reversed polarity ” means a sunspot with opposite magnetic polarity compared to sunspots from the previous solar cycle. “High-latitude” refers to the sun’s grid of latitude and longitude. Old cycle spots congregate near the sun’s equator. New cycle spots appear higher, around 25 or 30 degrees latitude.
The region that appeared on Dec. 11th fits both these criteria. It is high latitude (24 degrees N) and magnetically reversed. Just one problem: There is no sunspot. So far the region is just a bright knot of magnetic fields. If, however, these fields coalesce into a dark sunspot, scientists are ready to announce that Solar Cycle 24 has officially begun.