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A new solar minimum will be seen this year: Maybe Deep. Sometime in April, Maybe May– the way the spots are not seen at all this month.


photo by WikiImages courtesy of

The sun goes through a more or less regular cycle of sunspots, from minimum to maximum and back again every eleven years.  Sunspots are directly related to solar flares, in which gigantic balls of charged particles come shooting off the surface hundreds of millions of miles into space, right past and through the Earth in many cases.  These balls of charged particles interfere with electrical systems on Earth, although they are somewhat attenuated by the atmosphere.  These flares result in auroral displays– and the aurora borealis is something you should try to watch when you get the chance.  Unfortunately, you won’t see any auroras for quite a while, as we are in a deep minimum right now.

Here’s a release from NASA in June 2017 that includes a nice picture of a solar maximum and minimum.  It’s no longer being updated so it’s not of much help this year.  Shouldn’t there be a story on NASA’s website about the solar minimum?  You would think so, but then you’d be wrong.

Today, Newsweek ran a story describing the current minimum as a deep solar minimum– but referred to, so going to that site, we find: a post from March 31 reminding us that we will not be able to determine when the solar minimum occurred for six months after it has passed.  Although it was predicted for April 2020, we will not know for sure until October.  By then, sunspots should have picked up at least a little.  So far this year, according to Newsweek, there have been 104 days without sunspots– including the last five days, according to SILSO (Sunspot Index and Long term Solar Observations) (not secure site).   Here’s the daily plot, which shows nothing since the first of May.

The last great solar minimum occurred between 1645 and 1715 and is known as the Maunder Minimum (see Wikipedia: solar minimum).  “The Maunder Minimum occurred with a much longer period of lower-than-average European temperatures which is likely to have been primarily caused by volcanic activity.”

Solar “insolation” is reduced by 0.1% or so during a minimum and has no effect on Earth temperatures.  Although sunspot activity was relatively high during the twentieth century, it had nothing to do with anthropogenic warming.  What’s more, the current solar minimum has nothing to do with the current, uh, you know.

This post is intended as a distraction.  I suggest, in particular, that you visit the NASA site linked above and spend some time looking at the sun (not directly, you understand, that would be unwise and certainly unpresidential) (can’t we leave Him out of at least one post?  No.).

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