Quote: Waiting for solar fireworks to reach a grand finale next year ? Um, sorry, looks like you already missed them. Structures in the sun's corona indicate that the peak in our star's latest cycle of activity has been and gone, at least in its northern hemisphere. The southern hemisphere, meanwhile, is on a sluggish rise to solar maximum and may not hit its peak until 2014.
Such a large asymmetry between hemispheres could be a sign of big changes ahead, says Steven Tobias, a mathematician at the University of Leeds, UK, who models what drives the sun's magnetic field. According to his models, such a situation precedes an extended quiet phase called a grand minimum. "Changes in symmetry are more indicative of going into a grand minimum than the strength of the cycle," he says.
Grand minima can last for decades. The previous one took place between 1645 and 1715, and has been linked to the little ice age in Europe. A new one might also cause localised cold periods, but many climate scientists see a silver lining to such a turn of events: a grand minimum offers ideal conditions for testing the effects of solar variability on Earth's climate...
But Michael Proctor, a solar physicist at the University of Cambridge, is not convinced that this will happen. "This present cycle is similar to the weak one that ended in 1913, and that was followed by a strong cycle," he says.
Only time will tell.
Bob diagonally parked in a parallel universe...
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Quote:Regardless of what’s causing the Sun’s strange behavior, Hathaway and Penn, who are both in the solar prediction business, anticipate that Cycle 25, expected to peak in 2024, will be the weakest yet... Penn’s prediction is based on the weakening magnetic field he sees within sunspots; Hathaway’s are instead based on measurements of the Sun’s polar field and the meridional flow, the flow of magnetic flux from the Sun’s equator to the poles. A stronger flow would help strengthen weak fields, but meridional flows have been completely absent in Cycle 24 so far. Empahsis added.
Quote:And not to fear my friends - I prefer to see the glass half-full: If these predictions do came to pass, those of us with H alpha equipped telescopes will be the only ones seeing any solar activity - even though the sun may be completely devoid of spots - while solar physicists will have a heyday of trying to figure out what is going on, and why...
Quote:David Hathaway (Marshall Space Flight Center), who has done extensive research on the meridional flow and its role in predicting the solar cycle, says the results are “catastrophic” for current theory. “It indicates the need for revolutionary changes in our dynamo models for the sunspot cycle.”