NASA scientists are warning that a “Solar Minimum” is coming and one that occurred in the 1800s called the “Dalton Minimum” had some dire consequences for Earth.
NASA says the solar minimum is coming
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Since 2017, NASA scientists knew a phenomenon called a “solar minimum” was coming – they just didn’t know precisely when. However, they did make a broad prediction expecting it to arrive sometime between the years 2019-2020.
During the solar minimum, as the name suggests, there is less activity on the sun. Specifically, “sunspots fade away, bringing a period of relative calm,” NASA says.
Evidence shows solar minimum may already be here
“So far this year, the Sun has been blank 76 percent of the time, a rate surpassed only once before in the Space Age,” Forbes reported. “Last year, 2019, the Sun was blank 77 percent of the time. Two consecutive years of record-setting spotlessness adds up to a very deep solar minimum.”
What could be happening is a very normal period in the Sun’s 11-year cycle; it’s called solar minimum,” Science Alert reported.
Adding that we are currently in solar cycle 24 and that the Solar Cycle 25 Prediction Panel of The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicted the next solar cycle to occur in April 2020 (+/- 6 months).
A solar cycle occurs around every 11 years, defined by when the sun’s magnetic field flips on its axis reversing the north and south magnetic poles. What drives the cycles is unknown.
What could happen during the solar minimum?
Opinions vary on what could occur ranging from not much to catastrophic.
Starting with the bad news first, going back to a solar minimum that occurred during the 1800’s we have the “Dalton minimum” named after the meteorologist John Dalton. This solar minimum lasted from roughly 1792 to 1830, or 1796 to 1820, which corresponds to the solar cycle 4 to solar cycle 7.
During the Dalton Minimum, some rather unfortunate things occurred on earth.
A Wikipedia article confirms that one of the two largest eruptions in the past 2000 years occurred during the Dalton Minimum and states there is a “statistically significant link between the decreased solar output and an increase in volcanism.”
“On April 10, 1815, a terrible eruption on Mount Tambora in Indonesia killed 61,000 people. The very next year (1818) the world saw the ‘year without summer’. In July of that year, snow fell in many parts of the world,” Zee News of India reported.
Bad things may not happen
However, there is reason to be optimistic. In addition to the Dalton Minimum, two other events, the Maunder Minimum and Spörer Minimum, occurred during a period of lower-than-average global temperatures.
Clearly, with all the concern about global warming, it would seem that the current above-average earth temperatures would reduce the likelihood of a repeat of what has occurred in the past when temperatures were cooler.
“Even if a Grand Solar Minimum were to last a century, global temperatures would continue to warm,” wrote the NASA Global Climate Change team.
“Because more factors than just variations in the Sun’s output change global temperatures on Earth, the most dominant of those today being the warming coming from human-induced greenhouse gas emissions.”
“The warming caused by the greenhouse gas emissions from the human burning of fossil fuels is six times greater than the possible decades-long cooling from a prolonged Grand Solar Minimum.”