The Sun is a cyclothymic system. Once every eleven years, it goes through what scientists call a solar minimum. This means that the Sun lowers its activity. The sunspots and solar flares are reduced to pin-point.
The current one that started last year is presumed to be a very deep episode of solar minimum. Just as the former one was. Back in 2009, sunspot expert David Hathaway of the National Space Science and Technology Center NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center said that “this is the quietest sun we’ve seen in almost a century.”
But the current one occurs at “a rate surpassed only once before in the Space Age,” as SpaceWeather.com reported. “Sunspot counts suggest it is one of the deepest of the past century,” also said astronomer Tony Phillips.
How to spot a solar minimum?
The Sun’s activity is measured by the changes that occur in its sunspots and solar flares. They indicate when the Sun is at its minimum or its maximum.
The sunspots are regions of lower temperature and they indicate a specific magnetic behavior. The lower temperature on the Sun means 3000-4500 degrees Celsius. It sounds like a joke, but when compared with the usual 5500 degrees Celsius, it might become reasonable.
Solar flares form around sunspots. They are abrupt flashes of brightness and often coronal mass ejection. As dangerous as they are, they are also necessary for space weather, and ultimately for Earth’s weather. A Grand Solar Minimum can dramatically lower the temperatures on Earth.
It isn’t an easy job to identify the solar minimum. Scientists can only know about it six months after it occurs. To certify the Sun activity as a solar minimum, it has to be a constant behavior of the Sun that extends over a period of at least twelve months.
So, what if the Sun is at its minimum?
Like anything else in this Universe, the solar minimum has its good side as well as its bad one.
Phillips said that the bad side is that “the sun’s magnetic field has become weak, allowing extra cosmic rays into the solar system. Excess cosmic rays pose a health hazard to astronauts and polar air travelers, affect the electro-chemistry of Earth’s upper atmosphere, and may help trigger lightning.”
Rumors are saying exaggerated things that involve expression such as “crop loss”, “famine”, “brutal cold”, and even “Ice Age”. But that’s all they are: rumors. Social media trying to catch the reader’s eye.
NASA infirm those panic traps by saying that even if it “were to last a century, global temperatures would continue to warm.”
It seems that the Grand Solar Minimum can’t compete with the greenhouse gases we produce. They would still make the global temperatures to rise. At this point, it looks like the solar minimum isn’t a threat anymore but more of a providential aid. It would act like a counterattack to our Earth destroying behavior. Or so says the PennLive report.
The second bad consequence is that this could encourage the main pollutant sources to continue to do so, or even to increase the rate.