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« The Point Radio: Fatherhood 101 | Main | Rest in peace »

September 25, 2008

Out, Damn’d Spot, Out I Say!

250pxantarcticadomecsnow As Dave the Swede (not his real name) has told you, I'm fascinated by sun spots -- or more precisely, the lack of them.

Apparently, I'm not the only person so fascinated.The sun's recent quiescence prompted NASA to hold a press conference on the state of the sun and the lack of sunspots in what is called Solar Cycle 24.

At the conference, Dr. Nancy Crooker of Boston University cited the emergence of what is designated sunspot 1002 as evidence that a "Maunder Minimum is not likely.”

Only two small problems: one, number 1002 is apparently kaput. Like its Cycle 24 brethren, it was small and very short-lived.

Two, Maunder Minimum! Did she say "Maunder Minimum?" Did she say that that feeble little sunspot was the only assurance we have that we're not entering another Maunder Minimum? If that's true, we are so hosed! I mean the kind of hosed that will make us look back on the Wall Street financial crisis as the "good old days."

That's because the Maunder Minimum is associated with the coldest part of what is called the "Little Ice Age." Here's a sample from Wikipedia of what the "The Little Ice Age" was like:

In the mid-17th century, glaciers in the Swiss Alps advanced, gradually engulfing farms and crushing entire villages. The River Thames and the canals and rivers of the Netherlands often froze over during the winter, and people skated and even held frost fairs on the ice . . . In 1658, a Swedish army marched across the Great Belt to Denmark to invade Copenhagen. The winter of 1794/1795 was particularly harsh when the French invasion army under Pichegru could march on the frozen rivers of the Netherlands, whilst the Dutch fleet was fixed in the ice in Den Helder harbour. In the winter of 1780, New York Harbor froze, allowing people to walk from Manhattan to Staten Island. Sea ice surrounding Iceland extended for miles in every direction, closing that island's harbors to shipping.

Mind you, the events from the latter part of the 18th century took place during what is called the Dalton Minimum, a period of somewhat more intense ("intense" being a relative term) solar activity than the Maunder Minimum. But it was still bad enough to be credited with helping to defeat Napoleon's Army in Russia.

The other night, I watched an episode of the Science Channel's Project Earth series about a "crazy experiment" to combat global warming by surrounding the earth with a bunch of mirrors on satellites. Dave the Swede (not his real name) wasn't around so I had to chortle alone. Given the capacity for human folly, these guys might succeed just enough to tip the plant into a big ice age -- who knows, maybe even a Snowball Earth.

At least there's a bunch of worthless paper we can burn to stay warm.

(Image courtesy of Wikipedia)

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Comments

Dave the Swede

A chill just ran down my spine. That a NASA official would even use the phrase "Maunder Minimum" means they're thinking about the possibility over there.

Yikes.

When will we realize we are SO not in control of the universe?

labrialumn

Oh, yes, Global Warming is such a crock and we may well be in for a Little Ice Age. Crops failing in the Red River Valley of the North, herds of cattle freezing to death on the plains, the Thames and the Hudson freezing over in winter, and ice skaters on the canals of Holland.

Of course, it might only be a Dalton-type minimum, and therefore might only last 22 years or so, which is closer to what the Farmer's Almanac is predicting.

The Solar Wind is at a lower velocity than ever recorded, resulting in more radiation reaching the atmosphere, thus more cloud nucleation, thus more cooling. it isn't good for astronauts in Fred, either, and Mars missions will have to have a water jacket around the crew quarters for protection (but that would have been done anyway, and it makes nice reaction mass for VASMIR).

labrialumn

Good point, that was the Dalton. So we might be looking at the depopulating of Greenland again, along with many other northern and southern regions (the latter have already seen harsher winters and colder summers than ever recorded)

We could even be looking at Volkswanderung. I wonder if the Mexican government will have an open border policy *the other way*?

A number of years back Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven wrote a novel called _Fallen Angels_ which is about just such a scenario. It was meant to be a farce. It be downloaded for free from the publisher's site at baen.com.

It is a fun poke at the Alarmists.

Throw another log on the fire!

labrialumn

heh, combined with a Great Depression, I wonder if these means I need to pack up and drive back to the farm, get Dad to get the oat seeder back from the museum, and buy some winter wheat seed to plant while the dollar is still worth something, so that we can eat next year! LOL.

Roberto

I want to be clear: in your Volkswanderung, who is playing the role of the Goths and barbarians? The Canadians fleeing to the U.S., the Americans fleeing to Mexico, or both?

labrialumn

The Canadians, Americans Russians and northern Europeans moving south, and the Argentines and South Africans moving north.

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