Magnetically Reversed Sunspot

Not by Fire but by Ice


Updated 1 September 06


Magnetically Reversed Sunspot

16 Aug 06 - On July 31st, a tiny sunspot popped up from the sun’s interior,
floated around a bit, and vanished again in a few hours. This sort of thing happens
all the time on the sun and ordinarily wouldn’t be worth mentioning. But this
sunspot was special: It was backward – magnetically reversed.

“We’ve been waiting for this,” says David Hathaway, a solar physicist at the
Marshall Space Flight in Huntsville , Alabama . “A backward sunspot is a sign 
that the next solar cycle is beginning.”

Sunspots are planet-sized magnets created by the sun’s inner magnetic dynamo.
Like all magnets, sunspots have north and south magnetic poles.  

This tiny reversed sunspot matters because of what it might foretell: A really big
solar cycle. Solar activity rises and falls in 11-year cycles, swinging back and forth
between times of quiet and storminess. Right now the sun is quiet. “We’re near the
end of Solar Cycle 23, which peaked way back in 2001,” explains Hathaway. The
next cycle, Solar Cycle 24, should begin “any time now,” returning the sun to a
stormy state.

Satellite operators and NASA mission planners are bracing for this next solar 
cycle because it is expected to be exceptionally stormy, perhaps the stormiest in decades. Sunspots and solar flares will return in abundance, producing bright
auroras on Earth and dangerous proton storms in space.

The latitude of the spot is suspicious. New-cycle sunspots almost always pop up 
at mid-latitudes, around 30 degrees N or 30 degrees S. The backward sunspot popped up at 13 degrees S. “That’s strange.”

4 Sep 06 - Some of my readers have asked what significance this reversed sunspot - and its "incorrect" location - may have to my ice-age forecasts. I don't have an answer yet. 

Is this a precursor to a period of greatly reduced sunspot activity as occurred during the Maunder Minimum? (Many scientists believe - and I agree - that the lack of sunspot activity during the Maunder Minimum  caused the last Little Ice Age.) If it is a precursor to low sunspot activity, then I think it could be yet another phase of the ice-age cycle. Such a scenario wouldn't surprise me, but the truth is that I just simply do not know.

Thanks to Tom Weatherby for this link




Order Book l E-Mail Robert l Q & A l Book Reviews l Plant Hardiness Zone Maps l Radio Interviews l Table of Contents l Excerpts l Author Photo l Pacemaker of the Ice Ages l Extent of Previous Glaciation l Crane Buried in Antarctic Ice Sheet l Ice Ages and Magnetic Reversals l Expanding Glaciers