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Sunspots and global cooling: Clear connection? by Steve LaNore, Dallas Weather Examiner
Tuesday, July 7th 2009, 4:08 AM EDT
Co2sceptic (Site Admin)
During the past four years, the sun has been in a prolonged quiet phase which has led some to claim this signals a period of global cooling. The number of “blank” sunspot days, a measure of overall solar energy output, has been more than 30% above the long-term average.

The year 2008 saw the sun with its lowest number of sunspots for any year in a century. This only fueled the speculation of an impending global cooling scenario.

In fact, slight cooling has been observed since the year 2001, but the link to lower solar activity is inconclusive at best. Shifting ocean patterns are the more likely, or at least primary, cause.

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Some climatologists point to the “Maunder Minimum”, a very cold period between 1645 and 1715 when there were virtually no sunspots, as a parallel to the current solar sleep and slight global cooling.

The error in this line of thinking is found by looking at the climate picture outside of the Maunder Minimum itself. Europe and indeed the entire Northern Hemisphere descended into the LIA (Little Ice Age) around 1325 and stayed in this cold period until the 1850s.

History suggests that events as wide ranging as the Plague in 1348 to the Irish Potato Famine in the 1840s are linked to this cold spell. Even the Pilgrims suffered the shivers in their first in the New World (1620) because of the LIA.

So this long period of a Big Chill ran well before and after the Maunder Minimum. While it’s certainly possible the sluggish solar period enhanced the cold during the 17th Century, we simply don’t have enough data from that time period to arrive at a solid scientific conclusion. We have very little hard data of ocean temperatures or even surface readings to get a compete picture of what happened back then. Tree rings only give us so much.

It may be a moot point anyway: the solar trend has ramped markedly upward since May 2009 with more and more sunspots erupting on the solar sphere. Time alone will show us whether this trend will continue, but the latest signs of an awakening sun are consistent with new solar research.

You can read more about that here.

Either way, don’t forget the Sunblock when you’re out in the rays for an extended period of time!
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