Earlier today, US scientists announced that the recent sunspot cycle that has been making the rounds in news for the past week has offered a conclusion. It seems the cycle will be entering into a hibernation period, not seen since the early 17th century. This pattern of hibernation could have a cooling effect on the earth and could very well lower the temperatures of the entire globe.
For years, scientists that have been studying the sun and its sunspots had speculated that it would evolve into a period of a solar maximum, wherein there would be a period of intense flares and an increase in temperatures throughout the globe. But recent findings have shown that the exact opposite might happen with the sunspots going into hibernation.
In the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society’s Solar Physics division, three studies pointed out several signs that definitely point to a possible hibernation. The signs include a missing jet stream in the sun, fading spots on the surface, and slower solar activity near the poles of the sun. All these signs point to the solar sunspots to be slowing down instead of rising.
“This is highly unusual and unexpected,” said Frank Hill, the Associate Director of the National Solar Observatory and its Solar Synoptic Network, “But the fact that three completely different views of the Sun point in the same direction is a powerful indicator that the sunspot cycle may be going into hibernation.” he added.
Solar activity rises and falls in a cycle of 11 years or so. The solar maximum and the solar minimum each marks the half the interval of the magnetic pole reversal on the sun. This reversal happens every 22 years. Experts are now studying whether or not this period of inactivity could be a second Maunder Minimum Age. The Maunder Minimum was a 70-year time period in which there were hardly any sunspots. This occurred from 1645 to 1715, and was known as the “Little Ice Age”.
Solar flares and sunspots can send highly charged particles toward our planet, and it has been known to interfere with satellite communications, GPS systems, and airline controls all over the world. Geomagnetic forces have been known to previously mess around with modern gadgetry and there were even warnings put out last week when a solar flare sent a coronal mass speeding towards earth. However, scientists are now skeptical of any effects brought by the sun’s recent inactivity.