Thursday, January 31, 2008

Sun's low magnetic activity may portend an ice age.

I was just talking about this last night and low and behold:

According to NASA, “early, well-documented records indicate that the Sun went through a period of inactivity in the late 17th century" from about 1645 to 1715, during the Maunder Minimum.

“This period of solar inactivity also corresponds to a climatic period called the Little Ice Age when rivers that are normally ice-free froze and snow fields remained year-round at lower altitudes.” It was called the Maunder Minimum, after Edward Maunder, a British accountant who saw a sunspot “like a tack in the Sun” while he was walking home, and subsequently made counting and analyzing sunspots, rather than money, his life’s work. There have been other Minimums. The Dalton Minimum of 1800 to 1810 was that period when Napoleon had his unfortunate encounter with the Russian winter.

If the Sun’s magnetic activity does not increase, and it goes dim for an extended period, it will get quite chilly. In the meantime the Canada Space Agency, the Royal Observatory Greenwich and the US Air Force Solar Optical Observing Network are all keeping an eye on the Sun.

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