The Sun is the all encompassing energy giver to life on planet Earth, said Dr. Willie Soon, an Astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
And these days the sun is getting a lot of attention from scientists.
“The Sun is just slightly dimmer and has been for about the last 18 months,” said Dr. Soon. “And that is because there are very few sunspots.”
Sunspots are giant islands of magnetism on the Sun and the appearance of sunspots runs in 11 year cycles. When sunspots are abundant during the cycle, it is called the “solar maximum” and when there are few sunspots, it is considered to be the “solar minimum.”
“Right now we are in the deepest solar minimum of the entire Space Age,” stated Dr. Soon. “In fact, this is the quietest (fewest sunspots) Sun we have had in almost a century.”
And those lack of sunspots have a link to our climate.
“When you have a lot of sunspots, there is a lot more light energy coming from the Sun and that tends to warm the Earth,” added Dr. Soon.”When the Sun produces less sunspots, it essentially gives up less energy to the Earth’s climate system.”
And less energy means a cooler planet.
“There were very few sunspots in 2008 and by all measures, 2008 was a cold year,” said Dr. Soon. And that link between temperatures on Earth and sunspot activity can be picked out many times from past history.
“For example, from 1645 to 1715 there were no sunspots and it was a very, very cold period for our planet. Most call it the “Little Ice Age,” said Dr. Soon. “Based on my research, I tend to be in support of a very, very strong role by the Sun’s energy input as a climate driver. If you were to ask me about the role of CO2, I would say its very, very small,” he added.
In fact, Dr. Soon sees this historic solar minimum as an opportunity to reframe our understanding of Earth’s climate system.
“If this deep solar minimum continues and our planet cools while CO2 levels continue to rise, thinking needs to change. This will be a very telling time and it’s very, very useful in terms of science and society in my opinion,” concluded Dr. Soon.
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