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2009 moves up to 4th place for no-sunspot days by Steve LaNore
Monday, November 16th 2009, 4:23 PM EST
Co2sceptic (Site Admin)
The year 2009 has had a very high number of days without sunspots.

In fact, it moved up two places to #4 on the list as of November 14th. Here are the top 10 years with blank days since 1900:

Sunspot-free days since 1900, by year

Year Days
1913 311
2008 266
1912 253
2009 242 (as of Nov 14th)
1954 241
1933 240
1923 200
1911 200
1996 185
2007 163

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Source: Solar Influences Data Analysis Center (SIDC)

Note that three of the top 10 are associated with the present solar minimum. Two other factors monitored by NASA suggest the sun is in a longer-term downward energy trend.

The pressure of the solar “wind”, a highly energized stream of gas plasma (invisible to the naked eye), has steadily dropped. In a NASA press release issued in August 2008, researchers in the field shed additional light on what has been happening:

“The average pressure of the solar wind has dropped more than 20% since the mid-1990s," said Dave McComas of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas. "This is the weakest it's been since we began monitoring solar wind almost 50 years ago”. McComas is part of a team that monitors the solar wind sensor on board the Ulysses spacecraft, which has been measuring the solar wind from space since the early 90’s.

Since these measurements cover a fairly short time span, we just don’t know how rare it is. Arik Posner, a NASA scientist also working on the Ulysses program:

“It's hard to say. We've only been monitoring solar wind since the early years of the Space Age—from the early 60s to the present….Over that period of time, it's unique. How the event stands out over centuries or millennia, however, is anybody's guess. We don't have data going back that far."

The sun’s magnetic field has also decreased some 30% in the past 15 years, according to Posner.

The implications of this are incomplete in nature. It is known from observation that in addition to the11-year solar cycle there are longer cycles we are still learning about.

One should not conjure up an extreme notion such as the Earth will go into an ice age from these data. While some research shows a weaker solar wind leading to more cloud cover (which would cool the Earth), this has not been conclusively proven. Plus, the total irradiance reaching the Earth has only decreased by a fraction of one percent. Record heat during several years since the mid 90’s also suggests the effect is negligible on the short-term climate variation.
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