How’s summer treating the people out on the fruited plain? Hot enough for ya? Out here in the Mississippi River Valley it’s been a mixed bag, mostly hot and humid, but for the first time in a few years, it sounds like we’ll have peaches. YEA!
The ongoing debate of whether or not there is such a thing as “anthropologic climate change” (that means humans and industrialization are guilty of making planet earth hotter) usually ignores the age old method of determining temperatures, and, well, the historic record beyond actual measured temperatures. Back before thermometers were a regular thing in weather recording, the people used sunspots as a way of tracking – GASP – solar activity, without which there would be no life on earth.
See, when the sun is more active, it gets hotter, and so do we. When it’s not as active, the temps here on earth tend to drop – just like they did in what is known as the Maunder Minimum during the seventeeth century, a time that history records as being very cold. Since 1600 AD, observed sunspot activity looks like this.
The ups and downs are known as the Gleisberg Cycle. It takes 80-90 years to make it completely through one. What is causing a lot of consternation at the moment is that the current sunspot cycle is starting to resemble that of the beginning of the Maunder and the Dalton Minimums, periods that were very cold here on planet earth. Right now, according to NASA data, this is the plot of the number of sunspots as observed for the last 30 years.
Don’t know about anyone else, but this writer remembers the summer of 1988 as being particularly brutally hot. 1989 was no prize. Note the spikes on the chart at about that time.
Naturally, sunspots are not the only cosmos related factor in earthly temperatures or weather for that matter. El Niño, the Pacific water warming phenomenon that happens every few years, and ash sitting at the top of the atmosphere from volcanic eruptions are also known disruptors of regular weather patterns.
Why these charts are important is that there is a whole lot of hand wringing out there as the scientists are trying to figure out what lower numbers of sunspots mean. Other than meaning the sun is less active and the temperatures on earth are not quite as high as they can get, of course. From Brian Koberlein, an astrophysicist, professor and author via Forbes.
What is clear is that periods of minimal sunspot activity are notoriously difficult to predict. While the pattern of the past few cycles has similarities with the early Dalton minimum, it could also be a small fluke before a return to cycles as normal.
Or it could be, if some huge volcano blows up and El Niño disappears for a while, a reason to stock up on long underwear. The tea leaves aren’t saying. Stay tuned for the Global Warming/Climate Change rhetoric to take another pivot.