NASA Acknowledges ‘Deep Solar Minimum’

It is true that most Americans no longer believe in Anthroprogenic (Man-made) Global Warming. Why? Mostly because of the harsh winter that we just endured and the unusually cool spring we are looking at right now. If greenhouse gas emissions are supposed to make temperatures go up, then why are temperatures going down? That is what people are asking.

But these observations may be showing us just the beginning of things to come. Most legitimate scientists (i.e. those scientists who are not on someone’s political payroll) are coming to the conclusion that climate change, whether it be warming or cooling, is driven by our sun. NASA has recently lent it’s support to that position by acknowledging the possibility of a “deep solar minimum.”

What that means is that our sun has slipped into a period of decreased activity and decreased solar energy output.

From Science@NASA:

The sunspot cycle is behaving a little like the stock market. Just when you think it has hit bottom, it goes even lower.

2008 was a bear. There were no sunspots observed on 266 of the year’s 366 days (73%). To find a year with more blank suns, you have to go all the way back to 1913, which had 311 spotless days: plot. Prompted by these numbers, some observers suggested that the solar cycle had hit bottom in 2008.

Maybe not. Sunspot counts for 2009 have dropped even lower. As of March 31st, there were no sunspots on 78 of the year’s 90 days (87%).

It adds up to one inescapable conclusion: “We’re experiencing a very deep solar minimum,” says solar physicist Dean Pesnell of the Goddard Space Flight Center.

“This is the quietest sun we’ve seen in almost a century,” agrees sunspot expert David Hathaway of the Marshall Space Flight Center.

And to show what that means graphically:


Sunspot counts are clearly at a minimum and that means decreased solar energy output as evidenced by the solar irradiance measurement:


NASA scientists admit that they do not know what will happen next. But it is clear that the sunspot cycle and the solar irradience cycle are more closely tied to global temperature change than any greenhouse gas emissions are. We know this because thanks to the efforts of China and India, greenhouse gas emissions have increased over the years, but global temperature has gone down, not up.

Other effects:

A 50-year low in solar wind pressure: Measurements by the Ulysses spacecraft reveal a 20% drop in solar wind pressure since the mid-1990s—the lowest point since such measurements began in the 1960s. The solar wind helps keep galactic cosmic rays out of the inner solar system. With the solar wind flagging, more cosmic rays are permitted to enter, resulting in increased health hazards for astronauts. Weaker solar wind also means fewer geomagnetic storms and auroras on Earth.

A 12-year low in solar “irradiance”: Careful measurements by several NASA spacecraft show that the sun’s brightness has dropped by 0.02% at visible wavelengths and 6% at extreme UV wavelengths since the solar minimum of 1996. The changes so far are not enough to reverse the course of global warming, but there are some other significant side-effects: Earth’s upper atmosphere is heated less by the sun and it is therefore less “puffed up.” Satellites in low Earth orbit experience less atmospheric drag, extending their operational lifetimes. Unfortunately, space junk also remains longer in Earth orbit, increasing hazards to spacecraft and satellites.

Also, if those sunspots don’t return and solar energy output does not increase, we will be in for some very cold times ahead.

You can access the complete article on-line here:

Deep Solar Minimum
Dr. Tony Phillips
April 1, 2009


12 Responses

  1. As this debate has continued, I always find myself wondering why it matters if global climate change is man-made or not. If the consequences are catastrophic, or even severe, and thus it needs to be averted or mitigated, what does it matter?

    • What matters is whether or not we can (or even should) control it. For example, cap-and-trade carbon taxes will not do anything to affect the energy output of the sun, thus, cap-and-trade is a wasted effort at controlling something we cannot control.

  2. Thanks for the follow up comment, and I do agree with your statement. However, that is very different than the opinion of many (not necessarily you). It would be irresponsible to say that we should not even weigh our options to mitigate global climate change just because it is caused (in part or in whole) by natural activity.

    To paraphrase Hollywood, if we knew that a 10-mile wide asteroid were bearing down on earth, we certainly would not say, “Well, that’s nature. We didn’t cause it, so let it be.” We do not fail to build levees or flood control systems or tornado warning systems or tsunami detectors, just because they protect us from natural events.

    If the consequences of global climate change are severe, and if we can reduce them, then we need a debate about the costs versus benefits of doing so. The nature vs manmade debate is only peripherally related to this question (for example, if solar activity means that our mitigation efforts would be ineffective, then that would be a basis for doing nothing).

  3. “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”. Gee we have to do something! Really? So even if that something is some scam cap and trade system that will significantly increase the size of politicians wallets and the price WE pay for the electricity we use to run our lives. What about the poor?

    Instead of stupid “feel-good” policies, we should be converting every rooftop in every major city to garden space. We should stop converting FOOD to useless biofuel that actually uses more fossil fuel to make than what it saves. We are on the doorstep of a Daulton type minimum. We need to prepare for that.

  4. Yes, there needs to be a serious debate about cap-and-trade, and any and all other solutions as well. My point is that the mere fact that the problem may or may not be caused by human activity is no reason to avoid that debate.

    At this point, dismissing cap-and-trade is only an ideological opinion, not a sound economic and environmental conclusion. It hasn’t been debated yet. The same could be said for believing cap-and-trade is a good answer. Do not prejudge. Let the debate happen.

  5. Before cap-and-trade can be debated, it must be determined whether or not climate change is actually caused by human activity. Al Gore was invited no less than 11 times to have his “scientists” engage in a forum to discuss climate change with other scientists who are skepitcal of AGW. Al Gore flatly refused each time.


    Gore “Not Interested” In Debate

    Before cap-and-trade or any other political policy can be debated, the science behind climate change must be debated first. I’m willing to let that debate happen, but Al Gore and other followers of AGW are the ones avoiding it.

  6. @84: WHY is it important to first determine if it is caused by human activity? That is exactly what I don’t get.

    We do not fail to build levees and dams, because floods are not man-made. Or to sound the civil defense sirens, because tornadoes are not man-made. Or to board up and evacuate coastal communities, because hurricanes are not man-made. Or to issue tsunami alerts because they are not man-made. Or to protect property from wildfires because they are not man-made. Or, reaching out to Hollywood, to blast some giant asteroid with missiles because it is not man-made.

    As to Al Gore, of what value is he in a debate on the science? His refusal is of no consequence. He is not a scientist.

    Let the scientists debate what matters: Whether we have the ability to ameliorate the problem, and at what cost. Why on earth would anyone object to that???

    • “Whether we have the ability to ameliorate the problem …”

      That is precisely what must be determined first before doing anything else.

      We have the ability to dam rivers and to build warning systems for those things that we know can cause a great deal of damage.

      But we do not know that carbon dioxide (or any greenhouse gas) is causing any climate change at all. Remember, global warming theory says that as CO2 concentrations increase, global temperature must go up. The reality is that as CO2 concentrations have gone up (thanks to China and India, both of whom will be exempt under cap-and-trade), for the past eight years, global temperatures have gone down.

      We may find out that we made people like Al Gore and other AGW alramists rich off of junk science.

      How do you get rid of the junk? Hold open, public debates and examine all of the data available instead of cherry picking the most politically juicy data. Let’s get to the bottom of climate change first, and then decide if it is even worthwhile trying to control.

  7. @84: That is a big change in what you have been saying.

    Before, it was, “it must be determined whether or not climate change is actually caused by human activity.” In fact, your whole original post was geared to that irrelevant aspect.

    Now you are proposing a scientific debate as to whether climate change is actually happening as so many scientists think.

    Very different issue. Much more useful, much more intellectually honest. Good for you! Thanks.

    • “That is a big change in what you have been saying.”

      Not really. I post things on this blog that you will most likely not see in the New York Times or Washigton Post nor will you hear about them on CNN or MSNBC.

      The relationship between the sun and our climate is among those issues.

      I happen to suscribe to the idea that there is more evidence that our sun drives our climate than there is evidence that humans are driving our climate.

      I’d love to see an open debate about this simply for the fact that it will bring to light all the data and analysis that big media outlets are deliberately ignoring. I’d like to see the common person get much better informed about these issues instead of being spoon-fed an agenda.

  8. @ 84: I am with you on the scientific debate part. Unfortunately, your side — if I may call it that — is very prone to applying its ideology to the scientific debate. Don’t jump out of your chair! — I think the other side of the debate does the same thing!

    However, once you get past the political and ideological debates, the scientific debate should be fairly straightforward to conduct. Not to say the issues aren’t complex.

    I am not a student of the science, nor am I qualified to be one, but I have seen very little evidence that we are NOT beginning to experience the effects of significant climate change. I am not sure what the science is based on that concludes climate change is not happening.

    Maybe you have some sources I could read up on. (But please, no political or ideological sources! — I like to do my own reading and my own interpretation). I would very much welcome the chance to read a layman-level scientific rebuttal of the climate change theory.


  9. […] don’t expect the socialist Obama administration to start looking into the real science behind climate change. It would only muddle the emotionalisms they want to […]

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