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No sunspots: 96-year record will fall this week by Steve LaNore
Monday, August 31st 2009, 7:07 AM EDT
Co2sceptic (Site Admin)
There have been 50 days in a row with no sunspots detected on the sun as of August 30, 2009. This is the 4th longest “blank streak” since 1849 and THE longest in 96 years.

The current “solar minimum” has lasted about a year longer than expected and continues to defy solar physicists’ predictions.

The photo here, taken by Metroplex resident Larry Alvarez, shows what is know as a "solar prominence". Essentially, it is a giant flare of superheated gas that shoots out from the sun.

This illustrates well how the deepest solar sleep in 100 years is still a turbulent time for our star. However, the TOTAL flux of energy coming from it has dropped a bit.

Sunspots are monitored as a time-tested method of mapping fluctuations in total solar energy output. While this only varies by about 0.2%, it has greater significance than the number suggests. Solar disturbances during high-sunspot periods disrupt satellite communications and can even cause electrical utility problems. The failure of the models to correctly predict the sun’s changes show just how much we yet have to learn about the inner workings of our nearest star.

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So what?

Low solar flux has been hypothesized to allow a greater amount of intergalactic particles, also known as "cosmic rays" to make it into the atmosphere. This may allow for more collection points for water to condense. This increased cloud cover might be one way that solar minimums influence climate but there's much work yet to be done to prove this.

This slower sun/cooler climate relationship may only be true when it undergoes a prolonged quietness as in 1645-1715 (The Maunder Minimum) and also in the early 1800s.

Detailed data and in-depth analysis possible with today’s and future technologies will eventually make the picture clearer, but since the solar cycle from one low spot to the next is (normally) 11 years, it’s likely to take quite some time.
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