What Happened to Spot? A Solar Update By Stephanie Osborn

What Happened to Spot? A Solar Update

By Stephanie Osborn


Well, well, well. Other people are sitting up and taking notice:


I’ve been keeping a spreadsheet since late last summer, and here are the results, as of June 6th, 2017. (Quick and easy data source, the daily sunspot image archives from Solarham.)

Year Month % 0-1 0%
2016 Aug 16.1 9.7
Sep 23.3 3.3
Oct 38.7 3.2
Nov 36.7 13.3
Dec 67.7 16.1
2017 Jan 41.9 25.8
Feb 60.7 3.5
Mar 71.0 45.2
Apr 43.3 16.7
May 64.5 22.6
Jun 100.0 0.0




Solar disk as of 6 June 2017

solar disk1
Solar disk as of 6 June 2017


Solar disk as of May 31, 2017

solar disk2
Solar disk as of May 31, 2017

This data (through March; I’ve updated it since then) was posted on Jerry Pournelle’s blog a while back, and it elicited several questions from readers, who didn’t understand the information contained therein. So here is an effort to elaborate on the data, for those of you who aren’t astronomers/ astrophysicists and don’t want to have to keep up with all this stuff.

1) I have been following sunspot numbers for many years now. And while sunspot numbers have been decreasing steadily for several cycles to date, the current dearth is very unusual — especially for this point in the cycle — and, to quote my favorite Vulcan, “Fascinating.” I am definitely continuing to keep an eye on the activity, or rather lack thereof. For those of you who may not be familiar with my background, I am an astrophysicist turned rocket scientist turned author; my graduate work was in spotted variable star astronomy. This IS my principal field of expertise.

2) There is a relatively new model out, the “double-dynamo” model of the solar interior, only about 2 years old, which does a reasonable (though not perfect; it’s still not complex enough, IMHO) job of predicting extended solar minima, as well as the somewhat unusual “two-hump” shapes of recent solar cycles (when sunspot numbers vs. time are plotted). [https://www.ras.org.uk/news-and-press/2680-irregular-heartbeat-of-the-sun-driven-by-double-dynamo also https://www.nature.com/articles/srep15689 ]

The double dynamo flow as depicted

in the model developers’ Nature article, linked above.




This model is predicting an extended minimum beginning in about 10-15 years (1-1.5 solar cycles), and this roughly matches my own considerations based on observation. If it is indeed not complex enough (as I strongly believe), then it may be that said extended minimum may begin sooner or later than predicted. The current rather precipitous decrease in sunspot numbers so soon after a solar max — which was itself somewhat paltry — may indicate an early start…or not. We will have to wait and see.

yearly averaged

Image credit: NASA

active region

Most recent solar cycles; note data ends in 2014.

Image taken from website Watts Up With That

latter half

Latter half of Cycle 23 plus Cycle 24 to date.

Note: red line was predicted curve, and that was adjusted downward

after the solar max ended so low, and we are still dropping well beneath it.

Image credit NOAA/SWPC


3) The “Little Ice Age” was actually a significantly extended cool period lasting several centuries, and no less than FOUR extended minima occurred during its “tenure.” These include, in order, the Wolf, the Spörer, the Maunder, and the Dalton minima. These extended minima were not all of the same “depth,” in that the minimum numbers of sunspots were not the same across all of them — the Maunder was far deeper than the rest — but there are indications that we are hitting numbers in the range of the Dalton already.

Note that, during the Maunder Minimum, sunspots became so rare that a grand total of only ~50 were observed over 28 years — this corresponds roughly to two and a half solar cycles. In a “normal” cycle, we would expect to see around 50,000 sunspots in that same timeframe, some THREE ORDERS OF MAGNITUDE MORE than were observed during the Maunder Minimum. Entire month spans went by with NO sunspots. Also understand that, when sunspots resumed, they did not pick up mid-cycle, despite the fractional-cycle timeframe; the extended minimum was, effectively, a reset.

Also realize that as observing capabilities have increased, sunspot counting has been adjusted via modeling to ensure that current sunspot data is consistent and contiguous with the earliest sunspot numbers. (In other words, given we can now see teeny-tiny sunspots that might not have been visible in, say, the 1700s, we also now know roughly the percentage of teeny-tiny sunspots that occur relative to the larger ones, and can extrapolate the data so that everything stays consistent.)

In addition, we have learned to cross-correlate databases so that we can use other data, such as Carbon-14 and other isotopic abundances in tree rings and ice cores, to be able to approximate solar activity in earlier timeframes before sunspot observations began, though it is not as accurate. And we don’t get actual sunspot numbers out of ‘em, but instead we get relative solar activity. So, for instance, we know that a relatively “shallow” extended minimum, aka the Oort Minimum, likely occurred in the 1000s AD, though determining specific dates is a bit more difficult. We can thereby extend our knowledge of solar activity back several millennia with relative ease.

the small unlabeled

Note: the small, unlabeled minimum between the Maunder and the Modern Maximum is the Dalton Minimum. Also note the lag between the relatively deep Wolf and the beginning of the Little Ice Age, and a similar lag after the Maunder/Dalton Minima and the beginning of the Modern Maximum. This lag may or may not correspond to the time required for the delta-energy input to work its way through the various coupling mechanisms.

Image credit USGS.


4) The fact that, as sunspot numbers go down, the overall energies output by the Sun also go down is an indication that, in this instance, correlation may well equal causation, at least to some degree. Add in a few large (or many small) volcanic eruptions to complicate matters — and there usually ARE such concatenations of volcanic eruptions in such multi-decadal timeframes, as a matter of course — and it may well prove interesting times ahead, as well as in the past.

5) Data indicate that cosmic ray fluxes are increasing, and this is further indication that solar activity is decreasing, as the solar wind normally tends to provide a shield of some (relative) substance against cosmic rays, which originate outside our solar system, mostly from galactic sources (supernovae, active galactic nuclei, etc). But as solar activity declines, the solar wind also declines, and so too would the cosmic ray flux increase, as the plasma which shields us from its entrance into the inner solar system decreases. (We still have the magnetosphere shielding us.)

[See, e.g. http://news.spaceweather.com/cosmic-rays-are-intensifying/  and

http://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/local-news/cu-boulder-scientist-predicts-increase-in-radiation-exposure-on-airlines-in-coming-years . For the historical knowledge of the solar wind’s influence on cosmic ray flux, see https://journals.aps.org/pr/abstract/10.1103/PhysRev.110.1445 .]

cosmic rays

This is an illustration of why cosmic rays are important and dangerous; as soon as they hit matter — in this case, the atmosphere, but the metal of a spacecraft is even more effective — each “cosmic ray” particle interacts with the particles in that obstacle and produces a shower of particles, gamma rays, and x-rays.

Image credit Francisco Barradas Solas


I’m simplifying all of this, of course; things are always more complex than meets the eye. But given the steady decrease in numbers for a good 3 or more cycles now (with considerable fluctuation for several cycles before that), I will be surprised if, at some time in the next few cycles, we do not enter an extended minimum, even if only of moderate depth. And it really isn’t a matter of “if,” but of when. Many variable star astronomers (and that’s what I studied in school — spotted variables, no less) consider that the Sun is at the very least borderline variable; some consider it outrightly so. I tend to fall in the latter camp; it all depends on the percentage of variability, and we are only now obtaining the kind of data we need to determine that. But it doesn’t actually take much.

So things are picking up steam, and after many years of my talks, blog posts, etc., I am finally no longer the only person in the room standing up and saying, “Hey, folks, something interesting is going on here.” What’s going to happen next? I can’t say for sure. But it definitely bears watching. I’ll keep you posted as things develop, to the best of my ability.


Addendum from Old Uncle Lar:

I asked Steph to work this up from several on-line discussions she and I were a party to as well as a recent general observation from many sources that sunspot activity was way down from previous levels. I will endeavor to badger her into further developments as they occur.

Since I am also her business advisor I am compelled to mention that A Very UnCONventional Christmas, book three of the Division One series, will be available for pre-order on June 13 and sale on July 11. We expect to have print copies from a pre-production run available at Libertycon as well. Hope to see many of you there.


439 thoughts on “What Happened to Spot? A Solar Update By Stephanie Osborn

  1. Very interesting. I have seen stuff like this mentioned on “climate deniers” blog postings, and in a couple of novels. Thanks for detailing a lot of good information here.

    1. As a “climate denier” I can’t help but wonder: what explanation do “climate alarmists” have for the extreme ice ages and absence of ice caps in the past? Does the sun have anything to do with these things? For that matter, what role does the galaxy itself have in these? (I have seen a suggestion that the sun’s “wobble” in its orbit around the galaxy, that takes the sun above, then below, then back above the galaxy’s central plane, may be the cause of the extinction events that seem to happen every 30 million years, when it crosses the galaxy’s central plane*.)

      For that matter, the atmosphere was at one point 7,000 ppm carbon dioxide. Why is 140ppm ideal, as opposed to 350ppm (which it is now) or even 500ppm? (I have seen the claim that 40,000ppm is poisonous to humans, but I haven’t yet confirmed that — and I don’t think that the atmosphere will ever get that much carbon dioxide. I have also heard that if the atmosphere drops to below 140ppm, it will cause plants to asphyxiate, but I haven’t confirmed that either….)

      * Ah, blast it. Now I’m wondering how an orbit can wobble up and down like that! What’s pulling the sun up and down in its orbit? Or does this wobble exist for planets as well, just not in an obvious way?

      1. As for the “wobble,” it probably isn’t a wobble as much as it is the Sun’s orbit around the CM of the galaxy is tilted slightly relative to the galactic plane.

        I haven’t looked into the quantities of CO2 required for plants, or how much is “poisonous” to humans in those units. I do know that quantities have varied rather drastically in the past, both in historical times and prehistory.

        1. …that said, wobbles are still possible due to the passage of other massive objects nearby, perturbing the Sun’s orbit. (Think about how we discern the presence of exoplanets by looking for their parent star’s wobble.)

      2. As far as the ‘wobble’ in the sun’s galactic orbit, it’s because you cannot consider that orbit as if the sun were orbiting a point mass. The galaxy is a permeable, extended disc. It’s gravitation is not spherically symmetric. If you have an object ‘above’ such a disc, most of the disc’s mass is ‘below’ it, so it accelerates towards the disc, picking up speed. If it can pass through the disc, it will, but then most of the disc’s mass is ‘above’ it, causing the object to slow down, stop, the reverse course back towards the disc. This produces an up-down ‘bobbing’ motion. Combine that with the sun’s circular path around the galactic center, you get a sine-wave pattern, which is what the sun’s orbit actually is.

        1. Also true. Still and all, there is a more or less established orbit — which is not circular, but elliptical — and it can be readily perturbed by massive objects passing nearby. Mass distributions fit fairly well based on the motions detected in nearby stars, open clusters, and the more spherically-distributed globular clusters, so we do have a pretty good idea of what the orbits are.

          1. The dangers of solar perturbations due to passing masses indicate an immediate need for government action. We need to immediately re-energize the space program to enable using spacecraft to deploy a series of assigns declaring Sol’s orbit a “mass free zone” — complete with a series of delineated limits marked by large signs declaring “No masses greater than X tons beyond this point.”

            The science is settled, we must maintain solar stability!

        2. That makes sense. I’m now wondering why it took me so long from the time of the article to now to wonder why that wobble would exist… 🙂

        1. While that doesn’t describe what happens to plants, it’s interesting that CO2 levels isn’t necessarily deadly-poisonous at 40,000 ppm, but it is at 100,000 ppm…but can start to be noticeable at levels as low as 600ppm.

          I also wasn’t aware that CO2 had an odor. I’m now trying to think how I might learn what that odor smells like without necessarily putting my life in danger…

          And, because OSHA is apparently involved in setting those levels, they can be trusted without question! 😛

          1. It’s actually very easy. Get in a pool, turn a 5-gallon bucket overtop of your head, squat down until the edge of the bucket is underwater, and breathe the trapped air for a couple of minutes. You might want to have someone nearby in case you’re particularly susceptible, but my experience when younger is that it smells stale WAY before it gets dangerous.

            1. I may have already smelled it then. The reason why I was concerned about safety, though, was that my initial ideas involved dry ice, and it’s not difficult to imagine either overdosing or asphyxiating on that without being careful…

        2. I never knew the Engineering Toolbox had that info, and I’ve been using it for years…..

  2. that fusion reactor 93 million miles away may have fluctuations that the warming models don’t account for? And solar variability may have a greater effect on climate that man’s CO2 output?

    pshaw i say! unpossible! after all, The Right People have assured us their models are infallible!

      1. There are some subtle cues that this is in fact Draven, and not RES. Can’t be me because it doesn’t blame stoners, Democrats, and Trump is really a Democrat ya hear!

    1. pshaw i say! unpossible! after all, The Right People have assured us their models are infallible!

      *Snort* *wheeze* *chortle* *choke* *giggle* *guffaw*

      If the data going into those models is proprietary, and the algorithms embedded in the programs are proprietary, then those running the models are either protecting trade secrets or creating fiction. What they are not doing is science.

      1. If the model returns a warming trend when fed a random table of numbers, it is not science. If the model cannot accurately predict the 1990s and 00s temperatures when fed data that ends on 31Dec89, it is not science.(hint: it predicts warming that didn’t happen)

          1. wow… ok, hadn’t heard that. I did know that it used a constant value for solar cycles tho.

          2. I thought it was random data, rather than constant, but even still, the result ought to raise eyebrows.

        1. I seem to recall seeing records of weather stations, where the data used for climate science has been gradually adjusted upwards, while the original data seemed rather normal-ish.

          Now, perhaps there are very good reasons to adjust the temperature like that. If there are, I would *really* like to see the reasons. Without reasons, it causes me to wonder “isn’t it odd how the adjustments rise at the same rate that the climate scientists have been saying it has been rising?”

          I believe it was Jamie from Mythbusters who said “If it isn’t written down, it isn’t science!” and this is one of those areas where it would be very useful to see the justifications.

      2. One justification I’ve seen for withholding data and models is “it will just be used and manipulated by deniers to pretend that nothing is happening; they’ll just be criticizing things they don’t understand!”

        Never mind that (1) even if the deniers are manipulating things, all you have to do is call out “show us your data! show us your reasoning!” and you get to explain why what they are doing is flawed, (2) sometimes amateurs raise questions that, when addressed, actually improve the model and the theory, (3) by withholding the data from deniers, you’re also withholding it alarmists who might actually make a stronger case that what you claim is happening, is actually happening, if only they had access to the data, and (4) isn’t awfully convenient that we can do science without the messy “be sure to let other people confirm your results”? It allows you to reach your conclusions much faster than the old way! (Never mind that medical and psychological fields are facing a crisis because we are gradually discovering that their studies aren’t nearly as repeatable as we should expect them to be…) Indeed, the only problem with this new approach is the pesky deniers who still insist on Old School science.

  3. Not trying to be contrary, it happens without effort, but how can there be an actual study of spotted stars, plural, when we can’t resolve spots on distant stars? Aren’t we inferring variability arises from spots we can’t see?

              1. At least no one mentioned that guy with a candle who kidnaps those who say his name out loud.

                1. Y’all do know the star is not pronounced the same way, right? Betelgeuse is typically pronounced “BAY-tul-jooz” or “BAY-tul-juuz.” This, as opposed to the creature in the movie, called “BEE-tul-joose.”

                    1. There’s an entire gag in the film of him trying to get Lydia to say his name, and pointing to the tombstone, and her not knowing how to say it. Also, one of the posters for the film was of that tombstone.

    1. A few weeks ago, I saw reports of an observation of a sunspot on another star. As I recall, the sunspot was unusual in that it occupied most of one hemisphere of the star.

      Ah. here we go.

    2. Oh, that’s actually surprisingly easy. There are several categories of spotted variable stars, but the easiest way to observe them is to use photoelectric photometry. Photometry is a study of the light levels being emitted by astronomical objects. As the spot group rotates in and out of the field of view, it produces a variation in brightness at the wavelengths of the star’s photosphere. This generally results in a sine wave when the brightness is plotted against time. The wavelength determines the rotational period, the amplitude gives us an idea about the size of the spot, etc. You can actually derive a whole lot of information about the star in this fashion.

      If the variable is also an eclipsing binary (meaning two stars orbiting a common center of mass, with the plane of the orbit in the line of sight such that one passes in front of the other relative to the observer, generating periodic eclipses), then even more data can be gleaned based on extracting the orbital elements from the eclipse data. This includes masses of the stars, diameters, orbits, etc.

      And yes, our tech is now starting to be able to actually image spots on the nearer stars.

      1. May I assume the rotational period derived from light intensity variation due to sunspots can be verified by red and blue shifting of the star’s light from the receding and approaching sides of the star?

  4. “definitely bears watching”

    Whew.. at least the bears are on the job.

    In all seriousness. This is awesome! I feel smarter already just for having read all that. I was never good enough at the Maths to be a scientist (Maths make brain hurt). Thanks for putting all this here in a way that a math-averse person can understand.

    1. I’d bare for watching, except I’d be arrested for committing homicide by uncontrolled laughter.

      1. It strikes me that the second amendment guarantee of a right to “keep and bear arms” may, in fact, be a guarantee to own a castle and have access to Texas-sized buffalo wings.

    2. Good! I’m really glad that it made sense to you, and even happier that you learned something from it. I love to informally teach about this stuff.

      1. How much longer before the weather gets colder than usual? If you can narrow it down, I mean in TX.

        1. Europe is already cooler. And I say that for more reasons than being in Northern Germany with a wind chill of 45F and the air temp of 55. This is the second year of cold and wet related crop losses here and in the Balkans.

          1. Food shortages in the offing? With the Muslim invasion I’d say that Europe is in for some really bad times.

                    1. Well, I always wanted to BE Spock. In the end, all of the psych testing they did in the space program stuff indicated I was actually Kirk. (All of the main characters in TOS were Jungian archetypes, and I matched the one for Kirk.)

                      But years later I realized that Spock had probably been the reason I got all the multiple degrees in so many sciences. Subconsciously I guess I really was trying to fulfill the childhood desire to become Spock, or at least Spock-like.

                      Would have loved the opportunity to tell Mr. Nimoy before he shuffled off this mortal coil. Oh well.

                    2. Oh yeah. I definitely wanted to be as much like Spock as I could. Looking back though, it was less a crush than it was admiring one’s idol. If I could’ve had a poster on my wall, it wouldn’t have been some actor or musician, it’d have been Spock (followed, honestly, by McCoy.)

                      I remember the time we had Christmas after moving to Bonn (from East Berlin) and my dad wanted to give us a literal mountain of presents (complete with a real Tannenbaum, which I’d started when we were in Berlin.) It was probably the most magical Christmas of our childhood. My favorite present was one of those glow in the dark plastic dinosaur assembly kits – a diplodicus, I recall. Mom and Dad had marked it “From Mr. Spock.”

                    1. Housemate’s brother gave away his entire TOS collection of DVDs, because he bought Blu-Rays. I’ve been sadly either sick or RL busy. (I’ve been bedridden for the last week; I grab the laptop when I feel well enough to look a the screen, and fall asleep when tired.)

                  1. It is really an excellent episode. If memory serves, both the original story and the final shot version won awards.

                    Expect your guts to get wrenched out at the end, though.

                  2. City on the edge of forever.

                    As for Voyager… you can get away with watching the pilot… well, the two part episodes and you avoid the worst ones…

                  3. My Mom and I have been working our way through the original Star Trek. It’s been fun. Spock is my favorite but I also like McCoy, Scotty and Kirk.

                1. I was just reminiscing to myself about how, on a drive back up from Melbourne, I noticed the area we were driving through looked like they had large river boulders. But other than small streams, there were no signs of rivers.

                  It wasn’t until we stopped by a beach that I saw the sandstone and I realized that the hills we were driving through would’ve been part of the rivers complex, and the beach we were standing on would have been 30 meters underwater at some point, a geologic age or so ago…

                  Made me think and wonder if Australia back then would’ve been greater resembling the Daintree…further south.

                  1. Seriously gotta make it to Australia one of these days. Fascinating place, cool geology, and SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE SKIES!

                    Honkin’ big spiders, though. Not to mention snakes. But one o’ them big-@$$ spiders would probably do me in by just letting me see it.

        2. In the upper panhandle, probably October. Down around Houston and Galveston, when hell freezes over, and not a moment before.

            1. You’re asking for something I don’t have to give, dear. I’m a storm spotter, but not a weather forecaster, and certainly not a prognosticator of those levels or proportions.

              1. …Uncle Lar was pointing out that it will start to get cool in the northern regions come this autumn; it was a joke. Given that we are developing the science as we go, and as observations are capable of being made, we have no predictions to give.

                    1. I beg to differ. We have answers for all questions. Sometimes those answers are “We do not know” and at other times they might be “Answer hazy, ask again later” but we always have an answer.

                    2. I guess it depends on how you define “answer.” Your definition is a wee tad different than mine. To me, “I don’t know” equates to, “We don’t have an answer for that yet.”

                  1. No, thank you for providing the straight line for my poor attempt at a joke.
                    Steph and I both spend a fair amount of time in the Houston/Clear Lake area at the Johnson Space Center back in the day and I for one still recall the terribly oppressive heat and humidity of the area through most of the year.

                    1. Oh, geez, yes. I remember baking my noggin one day in July because I was stupid enough to try to walk all the way across the JSC campus without a hat. I thought I fried my brains.

                    2. I’ve been there a few times. The air violated the Clean Water Act.

                    3. What’s so bad about Houston and the surrounding environs? /sarc
                      Let it be known that when we got shut down in DFW, I was happier to move to MichiganWisconsin than perhaps to Port Arthur where they had a brand spanking new facility.
                      Res made a remark on the Quisling post “[D]o Texans enjoy an equivalent to the Great Dismal Swamp?” and I answered “Yes. It’s called Houston.”

                    4. I always loved swimming in the air I was breathing in summertime Houston….from April through November…..

              1. Hell already did, given the World Series result last year. (Still bitter I didn’t get to watch even a single inning of it. Stupid deployment. Stupid Huthis.)

  5. Certainly puts a different complexion on Glowball Warming, eh? Going to be many rusting windmills available for scrap soon. Get your cutting torches limbered up.

    1. It’s premature to envision the end of the Global Climate… um… Thing for two reasons.
      1) It isn’t science, it’s politics. Science alone isn’t going to end it because there is political power (and money) in controlling the “solution” (which, of course, would never really solve anything… why kill the goose that laid that golden climate egg?)
      2) For far too many, it has become a religion of sorts. People have bought in so hard that now it’s a matter of faith. Questioning the “Truth” of Global Climate Thing is unthinkable! Reference the enormous freakout of Trump pulling the US out of the Paris Climate “deal”.

      1. It was probably a religion from the beginning. The soviet’s echo chamber in the west has had religious elements from the beginning, and the environmentalists are probably just a subsect.

        1. I thought it was amazing how a “hypothesis” went from a “Theory” to the “Unquestionable Truth” in a few short years without ever giving a good answer to the various scientific objections that were raised along the way.

    2. well, hopefully, they are made of burnable wood because one mud core study from Canada (iirc) says we’re going to need it…. they say that the confluence of several long-term solar cycles that resulted in the warming trend that ended in 1998 may be followed by an equally fast drop and the paper’s point of concern was that if this was so, Canada was going to be unable to feed itself in 20-40 years

      1. Yea yea… Just like in the 70s when “Scientists” came to my grade school and told us all about how an ICE AGE was coming and pretty soon it would be winter all year and everyone was going to starve.

        I couldn’t sleep for a whole… well.. couple days at least. My father even asked me why I kept checking the big thermometer by the barn.

        Then I promptly got over it because kid, and I had playing to do. Worrying about freezing to death just wasn’t fun.

        I wonder if anyone ever tried telling the “boy who cried wolf” story to climate scientists?

        1. I remember that, and Firmi’s(?) helper (sorry, forget the lady’s name, but also a brilliant physicist) who came back with (paraphrased) “No, actually we are warming, but only until about the 90’s to 2000. Then we will start cooling a bit again.”

            1. yeah, but she helped build nukes used for both power and bombs so her works on environment must be ignored. She was an icky person. Why she even feels dropping her bomb was the right thing to do.

      2. In all seriousness, I sure hope not… because the “Global Warming… I mean… Climate Change” a-hole will just jump up and say “SEE! SEE! We were right all along!!!!” Never mind that they’ve been harping on WARMING all this time, and the exact opposite will have happened.

        1. Well, notice how it’s gone from Anthropogenic Global Warming, and now to Global Climate Change? Those goalposts won’t move themselves. OTOH, I remember that a lot of the “solutions” proposed for Global Freezing sound suspiciously like those for Gorebal Warming, ie. MOAR Government!

          In South Central Oregon, we’re seeing somewhat cooler summers over the dozen or so years we’ve been here. I’ve also noticed that the official weather station for Klamath Falls is both by the airport (lots of pavement), and gets lake effect moderation, so it runs about 10 degrees warmer in the winter than by us. Watt’s Up With That has occasional photographs of some interesting sites for weather data stations; fascinating if you can believe it’s an accident; infuriating if not.

      3. Keep in mind that solar cycles show an increasing trend after the Dalton Minimum ended, until sometime in the early 1950s, before becoming irregular in amplitude. Then in the last 3-4 cycles the amplitudes begin to drop off again. What this means is that the Sun has not been actually INCREASING in output since sometime before Sarah and I were born.

        1. “I will be surprised if, at some time in the next few cycles, we do not enter an extended minimum, even if only of moderate depth.”

          What is a cycle and how long is a “extended minimum”

          1. Solar cycle is typically on average 11 years long; the normal Solar Min lasts on order months.

            An “extended minimum” seems to be of indefinite duration, but typically lasts on order years, based on the historical (and prehistorical data) record.

        2. yep. not surprised. But the mid core and other studies i read say that there is a 48 year and a 200-ish year solar cycle on top of the familiar 24 year cycle, and they were pretty sure that there was a @1600 year cycle superimposed on that (this is stuff i have actually read…)

          1. Yes, the data appear to have multiple cycles, some of which are harmonics of shorter cycles. For instance, the 22-year cycle is really a harmonic of the 11-year cycle, because — and this is a legitimate instance — the polarity of the solar magnetic field actually flips during Solar Maximum, and it takes a second cycle for it to return to its original orientation.

            You may now go wild with jokes about reversing the polarity.

            1. …I’m disappointed. Hours later, and not one joke about reversing the polarity. Here I gave y’all the perfect lead-in, and ya dropped it.

              1. Many slept. Others were rather busy.
                But given this is solar physics, wouldn’t it reverse the polarity of the neutrino flow? }:o)

                “We found another one. Species managed to do life extension and learn how to do stellar modulation. Takes for bloody ever to send a message, but they have the time.. like everyone else of note. But the message…. primitive.”

                “Well, what IS it?”

                “Believe it or don’t, ‘This is Earth, broadcasting on 22 SolarCycles’…”

                “We need to think over if we care or dare any response.”


                1. Awright, WordPress, why did you choose to convert exactly half to emots, and leave the rest as text? More, you chose an uneven grouping of conversions to nonconversions. Go back to bed, WordPress.

    3. I’d like to point out there are geo-political reasons to pursue alternative energy sources; anything that drives down demand (and thus price) for oil and natural gas is a good thing. It deprives our “friends” in the Middle East and Russia from the financing they need for their shenanigans.

      I will, however, include frakking and extraction of heretofore unextractable sources as alternative energy sources.

      1. My take on solar is that’s it’s good for backup or if you need to be offgrid. Our medium sized backup system (1.6kW panels) isn’t justifiable as “just plain power”, but when the power goes out, I just have to rig a couple of extension cords for refrigeration and medical equipment. A nearby ranch has a traditional (mostly; multi colored blades) windmill that provides a little bit of power. I looked into it, but the kilowatt-hour/(cost+hassle) ratio was too unfavorable.

        1. Part of it is also where you live. Solar’s never going to be that useful in Seattle, but in Arizona it can provide a big chunk of energy. I average over 600kWH a day, and the bulk of my electric bill is various surcharges TEP throws on the bill.

                1. According to the Wikis, it’s Hall-Héroult. My cut-n-paste does horrible things to the Frenchman’s name, but searching on “hall aluminum process” will get the proper links.

                  I have a vague recollection that the Niagara Falls power station was used to power the smelter. OTOH, the Infogalactic article says Hall set up his first large scale plant in Pittsburgh.

          1. We get a lot of sunshine east of the Cascades. However, we’re far enough north to lose a lot of insolation in the winter, and that coincides with the rainy/snowy season. The house has electric heat as a primary source, so when the grid goes toes-up, we have to use the propane backup. Fortunately, that hasn’t happened for long periods, so far. (crosses fingers).

            We’re planning on a solar array for the pumphouse, and then using mains power for backup. (Our area is fed by a 115Kv line that goes out a bit too often; it’s not so much a grid as a loose net with lots of holes.)

        1. they also find that “dry” holes fill slowly over time and at times can be pumped out again, no fracking needed. There is much more oil than they think, and every time they revise the estimates of available stocks, it goes up.

      1. Venus is the standard they hold up as the boogeyman. Never mind that formative conditions were entirely different, and semi-major axis of orbit substantially shorter.

          1. I’m going to have to stick with *giggle* for this one. My hay fever is acting up horribly today, and my nose is much too congested for a *gigglesnort*.

      1. This was fascinating reading indeed.

        I love for how it was simplified without ‘talking down’ – which seems to have become popular in article writing, which I don’t think any of us here would do. I really appreciate it, and just wanted to appreciate the folks here, especially the author of this post. Thank you.

        1. Aw. Thank you. I never liked being talked down to — still don’t, though I’ve had physicians and such like try to — so I try hard not to do it to other people, either. At the same time I realize that in this, at least, I’m something of a subject matter expert, and I shouldn’t expect other people to be as up on some of it as I am. Some of y’all surely WILL, of course, because we have such an eclectic mix who comes here to read stuff. But I try to remember that at least half will NOT, and write it accordingly. I’ve been told I have something of a gift for teaching (though not the patience to do it in the classroom!), so I guess it all works out okay in the end.

          1. It was something I noticed while reading what you wrote. There was some (reasonable) expectation that the regulars here would’ve read your previous articles (which, for those who haven’t, is an excuse to go dive into the archives, whee!) but not require it for this particular post. Reading your article had an interestingly nostalgic feel that, when I was thinking about it, was because I was going “Oh wow, that’s fascinating,” and “Cool – pun unintended” or “Huh, come to think of it, that makes sense…” which reminded me of when I was reading /learning when I was much younger. I was fascinated.

            And I realized it was because when I pick up science magazines these days a lot of the time there’s an undercurrent to the writing. Sometimes it’s subtle and it takes several rereads before I see the agenda and just put it back – sometimes it’s a bit more blatant in it’s attempts to persuade that ‘this is correct.’

            I realized I was reading your article and getting the tone of “I’ve been studying this a while, and the things I’ve discovered are really interesting and I want to share it coz it’s neat!” It’s voice was inviting to share in a fascinating data result and the wonder of discovery, and letting us come to our own reactions.

            1. You just made me really happy. Because that’s exactly what I was trying to do. When I discuss science, it’s because I find it fascinating, not because I have an agenda. Science is just plain cool to me, and I love to share the coolness with others. I love to learn, I love to discover new stuff. I love to exercise my brain to see if I can take this data set and extrapolate a legitimate result from it.

              If there IS an agenda in it, it’s along the lines of, “Hey y’all, heads up; there’s somethin’ weird goin’ on in here!” (And as I typed that, I heard the voice of the teen babysitter from The Incredibles, for some reason…)

                  1. (I’m completely serious about that, folks. That’s the sort of thing that really does make me incredibly happy, if I can actually jumpstart someone’s wonder again, because of something I wrote — whether fiction or popularizing science.)

              1. “I can take this data set and extrapolate a legitimate result from it”
                Which is way different from:
                “I can take this data set and extrapolate the legitimate result from it”

                I’ll toss my kudos in here, too. Good stuff.

                1. You’re most welcome. I enjoy doing it, and just because I’m good at a couple things does not argue I’m good at everything. Frankly, I just like telling people, “Look! I found out this cool thing!” and such, and then seeing them (most of the time) respond, “Yeah! That IS a cool thing!”

    1. No problem, mate! Apparently G-D the Earth has just provided us access to a huge reservoir of Natural gas, just begging to be tapped:

      Huge underwater bubbles of methane are waiting to burst and unleash chaos
      A field of frozen domes has been spotted on the Arctic seabed – and they could be about to blow.

      These kinds of giant explosive bubbles might have caused craters in the ocean which stretch nearly a mile across.

      They are packed with methane which is waiting to burst out of the seabed and cause chaos under the sea.

      We jus’ need to harvest and burn them Earth Farts!

    2. Only if we concatenate several extended minima. Right now there is no compelling reason to think that will happen. I cannot say for certain it won’t, but I expect it’s unlikely. That said, an extended minimum can last for a couple of decades, so hey.

    3. Thanks to fracking technology we’re covered with natural gas for the next few centuries, and when that runs short i understand that there are a bunch a ton of these black rocks in the Earth that when extracted can be burned to either heat homes directly or fuel power plants to produce electricity,

  6. So we need to halt aerospace activity to minimize the radioactivity caused by cosmic rays?

    1. you forgot your brain again. Where were you last using it? It might still be there.
      You do know, thinking like that can make you a Democrat? 😛

      1. I’ve figured out how to talk to aerospace engineers about global graft excuses.

        I wonder how many people I can convince that we need to liquify the atmosphere so that it doesn’t turn cosmic radiation into gamma.

              1. Being as one of my degrees is in chemistry, the first time I encountered it, I about laughed myself silly. If memory serves, by the time I started to sober up, I had tears running down my face.

                1. Given that the first time I heard the term, “DiHydrogen Monoxide” was when I read a report on how some people had passed around a petition to ban it and gotten dozens of signatures, I just shook my head and groaned.

          1. Just remember, we’re dealing with people that Penn and Teller were able to fake out with LA tap water from a garden hose…..

    2. Oh piffle. And I was hoping I could license a fusion torch ship for tourism.

  7. Reminding me to reread Ringo’s “The Last Centurion”. Although we did apparently dodge a bullet last year so that it isn’t actually an accurate future nothing says it can’t turn out to be partially true.

    Everybody better like rye bread

    1. But, but, but… I LIKES my wheat bread.

      Although not really such an issue for me – in the event of the event, I plan to look up one of those retired farmers down here that bought a big chunk of land, and convince him that he really needs a family of field hands to take care of the heavy lifting. He contributes his 50 years of experience (more like 60 for many of them, considering when kids used to start working on the farm), we contribute the labor. Much of the land in Arizona is “plant seed, add water, stand back” – the only problem lies in the second part of that rule, which a deep cold cycle is expected to ameliorate.

      Well, I contribute to cooking food once raised – my Kansas farm raised, Depression surviving grandma taught me well. (Possibly too well; I am still figuring out how to feed people that don’t burn six or seven thousand calories a day.)

  8. “spotted variable star astronomy”
    My perverse mind makes me ask, “Are there red-tailed variable stars, and blue-crested variable stars? We already know there are dwarf stars of the red and white varieties…”.
    It just came across to me like a bird description.

    1. *snort*
      No, but there are red dwarf flare stars (Proxima Cen is one; so is Barnard’s Star, and many of our stellar neighbors), and the RS CVn eclipsing spotted variables are known to flare; those tend to be yellow or yellow-green Sun-like stars. Superflare stars also tend to be Sun-like. Then there are yellow hypergiants, SX Phoenicis variables, Alpha Cygni variables, pulsating white dwarfs, and many more…

      1. I’m a mere dabbler in astronomy. Mostly due to “world”-building for scifi RPG. (A bit of world-building, a lot of planetary-system-building, and some this-section-of-the-galaxy-building.*) I wish I had the time to delve into the true breadth of it, but it would make systematic whatever-building even more difficult, and I wouldn’t have time for my 800 other interests. (Oh, and work and family, too.)

        (* I have 50MB Excel files for producing a single 8×8 grid of star systems. Multiply that by 16 for a “sector”, then several of those sectors………. And that’s using a not-quite-simple system, but way below the level of real life variability.)

        1. Did a 4mb Excel file for grid mapping for an old PBeM game.
          90×90 grid by 90 pages to cover 3D. Different wingdings for star types and colors, link to text files for info on the individual systems to create pull-down menus for each in a ‘browser’ form, allow searches through the whole file, create lists, etc. Cuts down on the total file size you’re running at one time anyway. Easy to sort and did all the filing for me so I didn’t have to sit there and punch stuff in.

  9. More cosmic ray activity reaching the Earth? That should mean a large number of us will develop super powers based upon our personality profiles, right? (See: Fantastic Four, Issue #?) So I expect to soon develop the ability to stun or even kill with weaponized sarcasm or possibly tortuous puns.

    1. Do keep in mind the nature of mutation. Mass random changes with a few improvements and an enormous number of culls.

      1. Are you seriously questioning the accuracy of comic book biophysics? DENIER! HERETIC!

      1. I’m not very familiar with comic books from later than the 1960s. Was that the origin story for the Punisher?

    2. 12 December, 2021

      Dear Mr. RES:

      The Department of Homeland Security has reviewed your case to become a licensed super hero. We regret that we are unable to do so at this time. As extreme odor, volume, and flammability of flatulence are not subject to accurate control, your super power is hereby classified as a weapon of mass destruction and it’s use banned within the United States of America, as well as those countries that are signatory to the various Geneva Conventions.

      This however, does not negate your requirement to pay your Super Power Insurance tax of 5% of your gross annual income. Failure to do so will result in a fine of no less than 25% of your annual gross income, compounded quarterly.

      Thank you and have a nice day.

      Chelsea Victoria Clinton
      Secretary, Department of Homeland Security

      1. 19 December, 2021

        Dear Secretary Clinton,

        So nice to hear from you. How’s your Ma? Still in Chardonnay Detox?

        Not subject to accurate control? Are you kidding? I can stun a blue jay at 300 paces without disturbing the mockingbird on the branch alongside. I can whistle Dixie! Your refusal to license me is a clear abuse of your authority and constitutes discrimination based upon improper criteria. I shall not only sue your department I shall sue you in your personal capacity for abuse of powers of office.

        Expect me to hand deliver notification of my intent to sue as soon as I finish this triple garlic pizza and salad of kimchee.

        Respectfully yours,

        1. 21 December, 2021

          Dear Mr. RES:

          I certainly hope you are not actually using your super power to stun blue jays as they were placed on the endangered species list two years ago following the West Nile IV avian epidemic. However, I have forwarded your letter to the EPA for an immediate injunction against your super power use; and scheduling for a review in 2033.

          I must remind you that making any government official uncomfortable (staring, grimacing, body odor, threats of law suits, etc.) is a class B misdemeanor. While you are obviously guilty, I’ve kindly ruled that there is no case against you.

          As for you to be eating garlic or kimchee while within the borders of the United States of America, I find that to be impossible. Those substances were placed on the Class A narcotics list by the DEA 13 months ago, and all stockpiles in this country destroyed, the Korean-American demographic objections not withstanding.


          Chelsea Victoria Clinton
          Secretary, Department of Homeland Security

          1. 27 December, 2021

            Dear Secretary Clinton,

            It should go without saying that while I can stun a Blue Jay I would never do so, as that would require a Supervillain License, something which is well beyond my means.

            As an aspiring superhero it is a given that I would never do anything to make a government official more uncomfortable than they inherently are, so I am relieved that you have no intent of pursuing a frivolous legal action, the penalty for which, I might remind you, is death (or rather, recycling of useful organs and other body parts.) I am sure we both agree that judges’ time is too valuable for anybody to waste it by calling them away from their golf course. Be assured that the lamppost emblem emblazoned on my chest and the stout hemp rope attached to my utility belt are for noble purposes only.

            As for the garlic and kimchee, it should be obvious that I, as an aspiring superhero, would never violate our nation’s laws and that therefore that which I ate could only have been legal synthetic versions of those items. Having finished my repast that is my story and I am sticking to it.

            Respectfully yours,

            1. Late-breaking news from MSNBCNN: Licensed Supervillan Asteroid Man once again demonstrated the precision of his ability to call down random asteroids from the sky by successfully targeting and destroying Homeland Security Secretary Clinton’s limo while it was in motion on I-95. Luckily, the secretary was not in it at the time.

        2. Garlic? Pizza? Kimchi?!?
          But, but, that’s …. cultural appropriation!

                1. we used to keep soy milk in the house as “syrup of ipecac” because it induces immediate vomiting in both me and older son.
                  We found this out because a lot of “frozen deserts” for kids that restaurants have use soy and the restaurant wouldn’t tell us. After the second time, we demanded the package. (I knew the reaction in me, so it was easy to identify.)

            1. Oh wow. I used to do that with oatmeal as a kid when I hated oatmeal. No soy milk though, either reconstituted condensed, or dry milk powder with dihydrogen oxide added if the milk man hadn’t delivered that day. Ah, the joys of being lower middle class (or was that upper lower class?) in semi-rural upstate New York in the 1960s!

              Oddly, I like oatmeal nowadays.

              1. I got very fond of oatmeal as a kid in Germany. ‘The warm cereal’ breakfast starting autumn- it would be cooked on the stovetop and portioned out; milk, sugar and ovaltine mixed in and that was breakfast with a mug of warm nesquik. It warmed our insides, and was quick enough to eat that we didn’t have to bicycle like madmen to school.

                I rather missed it in the Philippines; too hot to eat it there most of the time. Am enjoying the ability to eat it here in Aus now.

              2. I have come to tolerate oatmeal. I didn’t take the claims about cholesterol seriously, but that’s the only change before my check-up and my cholesterol levels are significantly improved. Strictly anecdotal, but . . .

    3. Staying within the realm of comic mutation rules, you would likely gain a mental component to your sarcasm and pun usage, such that you could use them to influence the minds of others, beginning with induced laughter and/or possibly headaches. Only after continued usage, as your powers increased, would you gain the ability to fully charm, stun, or kill, though you may gain the capacity to to serious damage to artificially intelligent computers.

    4. Alas, too oft this seems to manifest as super-gullibility, super-stupidity, etc.
      Not exactly useful powers, save perhaps in some comedies of dubious quality.

  10. … I am compelled to mention that A Very UnCONventional Christmas, book three of the Division One series, will be available for pre-order on June 13 and sale on July 11.

    Yet again: O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay, I chortle in my joy.

    We expect to have print copies from a pre-production run available at Libertycon as well.

    Sigh, yet one more reason to wish I could go to Libertycon.

    1. The series is written so as to allow each book to stand alone, but they are better read in order.
      And Tour de Force, book 4, is done, and will be available as e-book second Tuesday in October with print two weeks later. May even have a very limited number of pre-production of that book at Liberty as well should the stars align and several things all come together correctly.
      The plan for the series roll out is a book every quarter both this year and next, though we will not release in April again, bad idea that.
      Book five, title tbd, is well under way, and 6-8 are at least sketched out.
      And as if that weren’t enough, Steph has a steampunk essentially done but for a bit of polish, the continuation of two current series in development, and at least four short stories in work.

      1. Yes, I have been busy.
        Somewhat unwell in the last couple of weeks (oral surgery followed by a bout of shingles before ever finishing the surgical protocols is NOT a plan, let alone the subsequent injuries, sinus infections, etc.), but still pretty danged busy. It feels good to have a high writing output again.

        1. …make that couple of MONTHS.

          Sorry. I was up until about 3:30am writing on Division One book 5 last night, not in bed until just before 4am, and was not quite awake yet when I wrote that.

          1. I’ve not experience shingles (so far so good…) but have had oral surgery. One near the other is bad enough, but a sinus infection as well? And then after that, up way late working? A bit of mind-hand-time confusion would seem a fairly minor effect of all that.

              1. Have managed to avoid that. However, I had the wonderful experience of getting a bit of salty food (bacon) into the socket — twice — and feeling like someone was repeatedly punching me in the jaw until I figured out what the problem was and used the syringe they provided to flush it out…

        2. Sorry about the shingles. I really hope they aren’t in your hair. That’s where my mother had hers and she had a time with them. Could barely stand to brush her hair, IIRC,

          1. No, the outbreak is closing on two months ago now. Problem is, I’m still having some neuropathies, and one of those appears to be the headache. Since shingles is the virus breaking out along the nervous system, I have it to understand that the intractable headaches are actually the infection IN THE BRAIN, which is kinda squicky. But the neuropathies can last a long time after the outbreak is over.

            I need to check and find out if I’m far enough out yet to take the vaccine. That will at least minimize future outbreaks and concomitant symptoms.

            1. …also the actual rash was along the side of my ribcage. I can’t imagine if it was on my head and face. It was bad enough where it was, especially with certain feminine undergarments on top.

              1. I had an an acquaintance who got shingles in the eye. It was close to a year before they were certain that she was going to keep the sight in that eye. (And it was her good eye, too.)

                  1. …this is something I guess I better watch out for, my own self. My case of chicken pox made the pediatric journals, partly because of a pox on the sclera of the eyeball, as well as several other unusual places. It stands to reason my shingles episodes would be nonstandard.

            2. I have been given to believe that the vaccine is not effective once shingles has struck, although it is possible that was simply sales pressure to “get it now.”

              I hope your insurance covers it as the price quoted to me was on the order of 400 to 600 dollars at Walmart.

              1. That’s not what I’ve been told. Was told that it would lessen the likelihood of future outbreaks, and make them less severe. (Uncle is an MD. Talked to him about it.)

                Insurance is still unlikely to pay for it, because I’m below the age that they mandate for it. Then again, my aunt is over that age, has had shingles also, and they still won’t pay for it.

                It doesn’t matter; hubby and I have scoped out a place where it looks to be under $200, and given what I went through, he’s already declared we’ll pay it out of pocket if the insurance balks.

            3. I hope it doesn’t last as long as my sister’s former coworker (he’s retired, it didn’t make him quit). Last I heard, it had been a little over a year for him.

              1. Oh holy cats, me too. As it is, I’m having to alternate extra-strength tylenol and extra-strength aspirin just to keep the headache down to tolerable levels.

              2. Day-yamn. Over a year… ooog.
                And I suddenly think of the comedienne who commented on how scary some pregnancy stories were: “In labor for 72 hours?! I don’t even want to do anything fun for 72 hours!”

                  1. Well, y’know, could be worse …

                    Woman’s headache turns out to be spider living in her ear
                    This is the disturbing moment a live spider crawls out of a woman’s ear.

                    It was filmed by startled doctors in India after the patient — named only as Lekshmi L. — complained of a headache and a tingling sensation inside her head.

                    She had fallen asleep on her veranda but woke up with a painful blockage in her right ear.

                    Medics examining her made the shocking discovery and tried to coax the critter out.

                    It can be seen following the light and slowly emerging from her inner ear.
                    [END EXCERPT]

                    Video at article — I do not recommend viewing it.

          1. [Insert callous remark about you probably prefer slate, turned metal or those awful Spanish tiles.]

            Having witnessed shingles, it brought back entirely too accurate childhood memories of encounters with poison ivy and I would ne’er wish that upon anybody (welllllll, what with HRC having taken up hiking in the woods … no, not even her … although I expect I would smile quietly if it was reported she’d had the unfortunate encounter.)

      2. Oh I have no trouble recommending starting at the beginning of the series and moving on from there… or stating that Stephanie Osborn writes excellent stories.

        Now I am really regretting that I will not be at Libertycon. Sigh.

  11. So we live on a tectonically active planet under a variable star. This tells me that trying to hold global mean temperature to some past ideal number is as foolish as King Canute trying to command the tides. But there’s nothing that social engineering can’t do, I guess.

    1. But King Canute, supposedly, was trying to make a pointed example about the limits of power.

      Would-be social engineers actually think that it’ll work.

      1. The Query “What is the optimal planetary temperature, and when in the planet’s history has it stayed there for more than a few decades?” is fun to ask your typical AlGore loving fooles. Talk about lock-up.

          1. if you do get coherence it is always about “Unprecedented” this or that, and “Never in human history” and then the BSoD after pointing out it has been warmer in human time, and carbon has been higher than now, and it was colder at many of those times. Also get spit and sputter when pointing out “How do you know warmer is worse for us?”
            Also I’ve gotten the falacy of “97%”. I never knew the full numbers on that till recently. So I have yet to play the “97? So 12,000 or so surveys answered by about 10,300 or so, and toss out all but 97, of which 95 are in agreement with your position . . .and this is somehow 97%?”
            One of our EHS guys at work is likely to be the recipient to that, but he’s unlikely to sputter. I think he doubts, but can’t be seen to be weak in his Faith. His job is more E than HS anyhow.

            1. I honestly don’t know why there isn’t more attention given to earth climate at specific temperatures and CO2 concentrations, particularly for the Cenozoic. Instead of estimating the effect at a certain temperature and concentration, you could simply look it up.

              1. **gasp** look it up? But His Saintliness AlGore, Bill Nye The Failed Engineer Guy, and Leo the Actor tell me all the facts I need to know. Heresy! You Blasphemer!
                /sarc (is that needed?)

  12. Thanks for the update. My research area was ionospheric physics back when I was active in research, before I drifted into teaching and mild admin. Good to refresh my interest.

    1. mild admin

      Reminds of the episode of Beverly Hillbillies in which the Clampetts took over the bank and Granny became Vice President. Upon looking up “vice” in the dictionary, they decided that wouldn’t do. They got out the gold paint and a little brush and modified the sign on her office door to read “Nice President”.

  13. Beautifully done. I track this stuff too, and when I say that we moved to Phoenix from Colorado last year because of expected global cooling, I was being only half silly.

    Throwing on my increasingly old and tattered publisher’s hat here, I’d like to suggest a short book in the general style of your space weather book, on the other factors that might affect climate that just don’t get the love that CO2 gets: Svensmark’s theory, Milankovich cycles, the double dynamo solar model, etc.

    I only know one other rocket scientist, and he’s currently too busy with rockets to write books on astrophysics. Madam, you’re good at this stuff. Please consider it.

    1. Thank you, thank you, and thank you some more.

      I make no claims to being expert on all of that, unfortunately. Spotted variable stars, I know, however, which is why I have the space weather book out there. I will give it all due consideration, though, I promise; the whole thing interests me, so once I get some of the story ideas down, I’ll look at doing that.

      That said, I have book 5 of the Division One series to finish, a steampunk novel to polish (first in an intended series, if it does well), the 4th Cresperian Saga book to write (on my own, this time), at least 3 more Division One novels, 3 or possibly 4 short stories for anthologies (a couple of which were invitational), and…

      Well, you get that picture.

        1. I also picked up a copy. 🙂 I’ve really enjoyed the solar weather posts you’ve done because it is an area I am *not* all that familiar with, but that is quite interesting, and you do an excellent job explaining things.

          1. Thank you so much! I appreciate it; these days I make my living writing, so when you purchase one of my books it helps me to help my husband pay the bills. Given he’s a heart patient of some seriousness (though he himself has a wacky sense of humor) and I love him dearly, that’s very important to me. I thank you from the bottom of MY heart.

    2. FWIW I’m also planning a series of guest articles for Sarah’s blog on the New Madrid fault system, its underlying geology, and the historic massive temblors that occurred in 1811-12.

      1. Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaah! New Madrid and the way it can cause the Eastern half of the US to ring like a bell is fascinating. I did a paper on it back in college for my really fun, lecture only geology class ( I was a physics major,I had enough labs already) Heh, they still have it in the catalog 20 years later. “GEOL *305. Natural Disasters. Introduction to earth systems processes involved in natural disasters, including volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunami, landslides, severe storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, wild fires, and extraterrestrial impacts.”

        Ive always wondered if the building code in Chicago takes into account liquefaction of all that landfill in the lake that downtown is build on if we get another major New Madrid earthquake or if th fault zone in the NW suburbs really let’s loose.

        1. If I’m recalling it right, no, Chicago hasn’t had much of a thought about the big shake.
          Just because it caused building damage in Boston.
          I mean how bad could it be? (no truer words to invite disaster, inveigle Coyote and Loki into looking your way . . . .)

            1. I think much of Memphis is burned out from it, much like people living on the edges of Tornado country. They hear about it so often and nothing ever happens, so they tune it out.
              Mom, Dad, Sis, Nephew, and his baby girl live in the Bartlett area of Memphis. After I moved to New Orleans, The family, minus my oldest sis moved to Memphis. My middle sis has since moved to Atlanta’s area.

                1. Exactly. But part of the problem is that the New Madrid is not generally publicized. If you ask the average American where there is a major fault line capable of producing devastating quakes, they will say, “California!” and be completely unaware of the one in the Mississippi River floodplain.

                  1. Alaska! 1964 2nd most powerful earthquake ever recorded in world history. Makes the great San Francisco earthquake (7.9) look like a piker by hitting 9.2

                    1. Not so, I’m afraid. The Great Chilean Earthquake, 22 May 1960, hit 9.5 and is the largest recorded earthquake to date. Epicentered just outside Lumico, Chile, but clobbered Valdivia. The principal tsunami devastated Hawaii, Japan, and the Philippines.

                      The 2004 Boxing Day quake that generated the massive Indian Ocean tsunami was at least the equivalent of the Alaskan quake and possibly it was stronger. Most estimates of Richter magnitude I’ve seen for it are around 9.3.

      2. I only recently learned that when Colorado was below water, most of Oklahoma was above water. No wonder Oklahoma has earthquakes.

              1. Used to go past the Crater of Diamonds State Park exit on the trip to visit the folks.

                as an aside, is there a law saying all town or cities named Nashville have a nearby town named Murfreesboro?

  14. I was doing some mission design for cislunar and Mars missions, and I had to take this in to account — cosmic radiation beyond the Earth’s magnetosphere is in a range never seen before in the space age, and climbing.

    1. While serving as the lead operations engineer for the Ares 5 Earth departure stage we took a week off site to study how well the Constellation flight system hardware fit with the NASA reference Mars mission. Long duration exposure to interplanetary radiation along with the effects of multi year zero G environment was just one of the enabling technical challenges we identified. Another was our inability with current tech to maintain cryogenic fuel systems for those very long missions.
      Of course the real driver was the lack of commitment from both government and public to devote the resources required. All else is just science and engineering problems.
      Case in point, shortly after our study the Constellation program was cancelled, everything reshuffled, and the SLS program came into being. Much like the Ares 5 heavy lift vehicle, but under new management, new contractors, and brand spanking new acronyms.
      Right about that time I decided I’d worked enough different programs and took retirement.

  15. Re the Terrestrial surface cosmic ray count:

    For a good view of sea-level cosmic ray count history, the Oulu Cosmic Ray Station observatory in Finland has data online going back to April 1964 at https://cosmicrays.oulu.fi – notice on the bottom plot on that page that the last count peak in 2010 was the highest count they’ve recorded since they started recording 1964. I expect the peak going forward to dwarf that 2010 max. This could play havoc with electronics around the world. It will also test the radiation hardening of the chips aboard satellites, though some rad hard-ness is better than none.

    If you poke around you can find data for other observatories around the world. Note that both elevation (i.e. being closer to the top of Earth’s atmosphere) and latitude (being closer to the poles, where the magnetic field lines are closer to the surface) both result in higher counts, so for example the Antarctica observatory will show higher counts than the one in Finland, and an observatory near the equator will show lower counts, but they all track up and down together.

    You can also read about a cool experimental series lofting cosmic ray trackers from California on helium balloons at SpaceWaether.com – the latest plot is at http://spaceweather.com/images2017/12may17/radplot.png . Note the trend.

      1. It depends on the resolution and the smoothing used.

        For a white paper I wrote at a prior job, I downloaded and plotted out the Oulu counts back to the start of their data in 1964 on an daily resolution, and on that the historic daily maximum rate was on May 13 1965 at 6,670 counts/min. That max stood for 42 years, only being surpassed on November 11 2007, and the new and current Oulu maximum was set on November 28 2009 at 6,883 counts/min.

        I just pulled the latest daily data and updated my spreadsheet, and that 6,883 counts/min maximum is still higher by a bit that the current rates, which are ranging between 6,600 and 6,700 (today’s was 6,628).

        It’s certainly possible that a spike in the minute- or hour-resolution Oulu data has popped above that, but the current rates are not consistently above the 2009 max yet.

          1. Yeah, we’re currently in that neighborhood, and more interestingly the trend line is pretty steeply upwards. My guesstimate based on where we are in this cycle is that the next neutron count maximum will be way way higher than the last cycle, and that we might be in for a plateauing of sorts at a very high level, kinda setting a new baseline until the Sun eventually wakes up.

            As to real world effects, at a minimum watch for handheld electronics (phones, smart watches, smart anything) to have much shorter lives over the coming years. Plus what got me started on all this in the first place were odd reliability problems in the big internet server and router racks – lots of sensitive silicon packed very tightly in those, and there’s really not any easy way to add any shielding from these energy levels of particles, so internet connections could be a lot less reliable than recently. Cloud redundancy and virtual servers like Amazon does via AWS help, but you still need a working connection.

            And for those in the Rocky Mountain states, your server and router racks are a mile closer to the top of the atmosphere already, so you will see even more glitches than thsoe of us closer to sea level.

              1. One more fun cosmic ray fact: Look at the % variance from the mean for total solar irradiance from SORCE (http://lasp.colorado.edu/home/sorce/) and you’ll note that there’s a low point in the total irradiance from the Sun reaching the Earth each year which happens to correspond with northern hemisphere summer (basically in July the Earth gets around 94% of the total irradiance that it gets in January). This is I think an orbital mechanics mechanism (deferring to those who do orbital mechanics for fun), so I’m sure eventually it would precess around to a different relationship, but for the foreseeable future we’re stable in that northern-hemisphere-summer/lower-total-irradiance relationship.

                The cosmic ray flux is just heading higher, so if we assume the Svensmark cloud-formation theories that say cosmic rays hitting the atmosphere contribute to heat-reflecting cloud formation are as significant as they could be, the already-lower-irradiance northern hemisphere summers could see a whole lot less total heat reaching the surface than in low cosmic-ray-count years. Less heating of the land is one thing, but less heating of the oceans could be seriously big juju.

                1. Oh that’s due to Earth reaching aphelion — since the orbit is an ellipse, it has a closest-approach (perihelion, in this instance) and a farthest-approach (aphelion) point relative to the object it’s orbiting (or, more strictly speaking, the center of mass it’s orbiting). As it turns out, Earth reaches aphelion in early July, and perihelion in January. The distance difference is about 3 million miles.

            1. Seems to me that hardware and firmware designers need to incorporate more error detection and correction strategies.

              One of the advantages humans have over AI, and probably will continue to have, that Elon Musk ignores, is our ability to self-repair (up to a point.) On the other hand, if we start building biologically based AI, that advantage may (probably) disappear.

              1. *gasp* And increase costs, thus decreasing profit, and make it less likely that the device will fail to reach its “estimated lifetime” necessitating a replacement purchase sooner?

            2. There’s actually a pretty easy way to shield against cosmic rays – a few inches of water or similar materials (metal is a bad idea).

              So a foot or so of snow and ice will be a great cosmic ray stopper. No problem!

              1. So, are you implying I need to get with the strengthening of my roof?
                Who, even in 1949, thought 2×4 actual size rough cut lumber on 24 inch centers was a good idea in this part of the planet? I think they depended on not having insulation to melt the snow. Really, I do, or the soot from coal burning (most of the older houses here have coal chute doors to the basements still installed) causing it to melt in the sun.

                1. Hmm . . . It would be interesting to check local climate records for that period. This was roughly in the era when my father bought a pickup without a heater because the winters had been that mild, and roughly along the time when we had a winter without a killing frost. When the next one hit, he happened to come in late, feel, the chill, and drained his radiator. The next morning there was ice, and several in the community had cracked engine blocks.

                  It was also roughly in the era of the Lupine Belt, when Southern farmers planted lupine as a cover crop. It performed much better than other cover crops, and broke down more quickly in the soil, meaning it didn’t drag on sweeps. But in the early 1950s there were back to back hard winters that practically wiped out the seed stock, and that, coinciding with cheaper chemical fertilizers, ended the use of lupine. Only the old farmers remember it.

                  My rambling point is that when your house was built, non-insulation combined with mild winters could have been a reason for the 2×4’s. I’ve seen rafters in older roofs on 24″ centers, but never 2×4’s. Or maybe the carpenter was just cutting corners.

                  1. likely a corner cut. not really many codes here’bouts back then. but winters just up the road were snowy at the time (according to Dad, I sure wasn’t here then) and a bit before, Grandpa built a place damned quick (house burned down in fall) and it was 2×4 at 24 throughout. Just had to be there for winter. Lasted long enough for it to be my first home, then Dad put a place next door when I was a bit over 1yr old. after I was 6 or so it was torn down before it fell down.
                    This portion does get a bit less snow than even a few miles away, but they always have gotten the odd ice storm.

              2. Note I mentioned portable devices – the server racks can try to shield (though that few inches of water is a bit trickier than it initially sounds – some of the polymer shielding concepts would work a little better, and a lot of particles will just sail through all the empty space in any matter-based shielding), but only being able to use a smartphone when it’s two inches under water would make it a much harder sell.

                1. I wonder why it is that your mention of server racks prompts in me a desire for a St. Pauli Girl beer?

      2. “the neutron flux already appears…”
        OK, NOW we can talk about reversing the polarity!

  16. Informative, interesting, and totally irrelevant to the political class. If the sun’s output dropped 10% tomorrow (yes I know that’s impossible) they’d still blame CO2 for any weather variations. Hell, they’ll be whining about global warming when the glaciers roll over Chicago and Seattle.

    1. About 25 or 30 years ago, I remember seeing a news report about a particularly cold winter in the Midwest. Some wag living in Chicago had a hand-written sign stuck in his window that was witty enough that the TV news put it in their nightly report. It read, “Chicago Supports Global Warming”.

      1. There’s a Facebook group, I am reliably told, called “Minnesotans For Global Warming.”

      2. “Minnesotans for Global Warming” has a couple music videos out. One is “Hide the Decline” and another is “If We Had Some Global Warming.”

    2. Remember that movie a few years ago where New York froze over because Global Warming caused a new Ice Age? In less than a year?

      1. Yeah, it was based on babbling a few years before that that Global Warming could do something that would cause a massive temperature inversion, bringing on a rapid ice age, and somehow this had happened to cause the previous ice age, with the “ice tornadoes” being there to explain how the mammoths had been frozen to death without any decay happening in the carcasses (which is still a giant question, because there should be no way to cool something that massive fast enough to prevent decay).

          1. * Ox recalls some old newsletter and once there was a humor column It Came From Outer Space – Postage Due and one item in it that ox recalls was:

            “Dear Earth,
            Sorry about that incident with the Hindenburg. I was cleaning my cathode-ray bazooka and…”

        1. And, of course, the characters’ response to the new Ice Age is, “We need to be careful about more carbon emissions,” not, “♫Throw another log on the fire…♫”

          1. And a long sermon on how our few survivors owe their lives to the generosity and humanity of the Third World countries who have taken us in, etc.

  17. If this means a cooling trend soon, what do y’all expect to see?

    A) The Climate Change nits stick to their guns until they are waaaay into absurdity.


    B) They dust off the “New Ice Age” predictions they were flogging in the 1970’s and grow convenient deaf whenever anyone mentions their prediction of “Global Warming”.

      1. They are already preparing the battlefield for this with their terminology change from “Global Warming” to “Climate Change” – anything they don;t like that happens in any direction is automatically anthropogenic.

    1. B. They are always ready to do a 180 at a second’s notice to regurgitate the party line.

    2. Whatever their response it will mean giving the government more control over the economy.

      Note the discussion of their fancy figgerin at the EPA:

      The linchpin of the Obama Administration’s so-called “Clean Power Plan” (CPP) is something called the “social cost of carbon,” which is a calculation of the net present value of future climate damages from greenhouse-gas caused global warming. The “official” figure the Obama EPA came up with in their regulatory analysis—about $40 a ton­—was necessary for the Clean Power Plan to pass a cost-benefit test.

      This calculation is tricky to do, and involved the crucial step of picking a discount rate against projected costs in the distant future. The scandal of the EPA’s calculation is that the conventional discount rates that the government (and private industry) typically uses for such forward-looking calculations all came in with climate cost numbers so low that the Clean Power Plan couldn’t be justified. So the EPA cheated, and used an artificially low discount rate far outside the range of standard practice. (The Trump EPA is currently reviewing the social cost of carbon mischief, and may well reverse it as part of their unraveling of the CPP.)

      But even if you accept both the catastrophic temperature predictions of the climatistas and their phony social cost of carbon estimate, there is still the question: what are the economic benefits of cheap fossil fuel energy use?

      Emphasis added.

  18. Can the social changes that have taken place over the last century survive a long cold period?

      1. So I want have to take in any sjw from the cold? Because they have a habit of turning on you.

        1. Depends. Under those conditions, you get to decide what you consider to be adequate compensation from them. And of course you’re right, like all rescued animals from the pound, you never know if or when they’ll turn on you.

    1. Sure. Food you don’t have to refrigerate.

      Ooooh, did I say that out loud? 😉

        1. If it’s still walking around, say… dusting your knick-knacks, then you don’t have to refrigerate it….

      1. Dangit, that was originally a reply to Craig’s comment about taking in SJWs. For some reason it went to the first comment, instead.

  19. I c4c’d earlier, so I’d get a chance to come back and read everything.

    I have minimal knowledge about this stuff (stopped taking science courses 50 years ago or so), so I really appreciate the clear way you have explained it. (Solar minima and maxima have been something I’ve tried to follow.)

    I also appreciate your responses to the various questions and comments.

    1. Thank you. I’m glad you enjoyed it, and that you got something out of it. And I’m always glad to answer questions and such like about it. It’s one reason why they keep putting me on science tracks at SF cons, I suppose. (I just got back a couple days ago from being Science Guest of Honor at ConCarolinas, which was a lot of fun. I guess it also means I was warmed up, lol.)

  20. Sunspot Questions:
    1. Does the 11 year cycle have anything to do with Jupiter’s 11 year orbital period?
    2. It seems like almost all the red dwarfs are crazy flare-stars; are any well-behaved?

      1. Flare stars would be photospherically active stars that generate superflares akin to the Carrington event (another reason why I suspect the Sun is a variable star). As for the effect, it would depend on several things, including whether or not the superflare generated a coronal mass ejection, and how far out in its orbit the exoplanet is. The radiation from a superflare still obeys 1/r^2, but the CME can hold together magnetically for a goodly distance out.

        That said, for a red dwarf, the Golidlocks zone is gonna be close in, because cool and dim. So probably it wouldn’t do ’em any favors.

        Proxima Centauri is a flare star and it has exoplanets, so…

        Other nearby flare stars include: Barnard’s Star, Wolf 359, TVLM513-46546, and 2MASS J1835A. This latter is actually a binary star. ALL of these, including both members of 2MASS J1835A, are red dwarfs, but only the primary in the binary system is a flare star; the other appears to be a quiescent red dwarf.

        1. There’s another problem here: The Goldilocks Zone is so close in for dimmer stars (including such perennial favorites as Tau Ceti and Epsilon Eridani) that any rocky planet in the zone would be tidally locked on the star. This would probably mean ice on the far face and desert on the near face. On the terminator, well, all bets are off. But such planets would not have an Earthlike ecosystem.

          1. This is also very true.

            But I do recall thinking, when it was announced that Proxima was a flare star, not long after the announcement that it had exoplanets:
            “Oh well. So much for THOSE planets!”

    1. 1) Extremely unlikely. We call it an 11-year cycle, but in fact that’s an average. Some cycles are longer, some shorter. And Jupiter’s year is actually very nearly 12 years, not 11.

      2) This is actually a very difficult question to answer. Red dwarf stars are far and away the most common type of star in our galaxy, but with a mass of at most half the Sun’s mass, photospheric temps under 4000K, and extremely low luminosities (<10% solar), they're actually darned hard to see unless they ARE flare stars.

      They're cool, though (not in the punny sense), because they're small enough that they are fully convective, so as hydrogen fusion goes on, helium does NOT collect at the core, but gets distributed throughout the star's volume. This means that they burn a much higher percentage of their hydrogen than a larger-mass star, and at a much slower rate. Consequently, their estimated lifespans are actually longer than the current age of the Universe, and we have never seen a red dwarf leave the Main Sequence.

      According to our stellar evolution models, if the red dwarf mass is only about 0.1 solar masses, then its estimated lifetime is on order TEN TRILLION YEARS. And when it finally does exhaust its fuel, it won't balloon up into a red giant; it'll get hotter, and become a blue dwarf, then finally collapse and fade into a white dwarf.

      Like I said, cool, huh?

          1. Southern gravy made with pork drippings, flour, milk, and usually bits of sausage. The bits make it look like there’s sawdust in the gravy.
            Now redeye gravy you make with country ham drippings and old coffee.
            Either way, part of a solid southern breakfast before a hard day’s work.

            1. This.
              Sorry, I couldn’t figure out the antecedent behind Orvan’s original comments. I’m afraid I assumed everybody would be familiar with sawmill gravy.

              You usually start out by making a roux in the same pan you cooked the sausage, with the drippings from the sausage. Then add milk (NOT water!) and season to taste with salt and pepper, cooking until thickened.

              You can make it relatively normal consistency for gravy, where when you pour it on the biscuit it runs off and puddles on the plate. But the best IMHO is to thicken it until it’s about the same viscosity as a good brick mortar (though it’s nice and smooth, not grainy like mortar). It should be so thick that when you spoon it on your biscuit, it forms a dollop almost like meringue, and doesn’t run off the biscuit.

              A dab of butter on the biscuit half before you put the hot gravy on it is the absolute best.

                1. The ultimate Southern breakfast (sometimes made for dinner):
                  Eggs, cooked to preference
                  Thick-sliced smoked bacon
                  Country smoked sausage
                  Grits (butter & salt optional; they should be seasoned like you like your popcorn)
                  Homemade biscuits
                  Sawmill gravy
                  Homemade grape jelly or strawberry jam or local honey
                  Extra butter available

                  Omnomnomnom *swallows tongue*

                    1. Well, they date from the times when folks went out into the fields for a long day of hot, hard work, so they’d need the fuel. This is also why such meals are now typically eaten for brunch or dinner, I guess. I do remember my grandfather — who worked big fields (corn, tobacco, etc.) and did not own a tractor — eating similar such meals.

                    2. I’m well aware, and when we lived semi-rural i could totally see the functionality of such meals.

              1. Even though I’ve eaten that many, many times, I’ve never heard it called “sawmill” gravy. Must be a regional thing. It’s always been just, “sausage” gravy.

                My mother would make it with half milk and half water, and I like mine about halfway between the two consistencies you describe. The best-tasting such gravy I have ever had was at Tee-Jay’s Country Place in Columbus, OH, oddly enough.

              2. One, I do not gravy. Yes, really. Family is baffled by this.

                Two, well, what would you expect out of a sawmill, besides lumber, that is?

                Also… “Clubhouse sandwich? A couple shingles, a few boards?” – Pa, once upon a time.

                Let’s just see we don’t look at the world with the default settings. Or, to quote an Animaniacs bit:

                Ned Flatt: Why are you acting this way?!
                Yakko: We’re not acting. We really are this way.
                Wakko: Aren’t we lucky?

                    1. Have a cousin who does this. Then again, he also drinks orange juice while eating pancakes and syrup*.

                      * In case anyone doesn’t see what’s wrong with this, once you have gotten the taste of syrup on your tongue, the acidity of orange juice is (at least for most people I know) turned into a horrific experience of extreme sourness.

  21. I would like to thank Sarah for the opportunity to guest-post in her blog again. I always enjoy my little electronic visits here, because the engagement with readers is so good! And I also want to thank you all for the book sales that you’ve made as a result of this post. I’ve seen considerable movement in a couple of my titles, and while I have a long way to go to get to Sarah’s level, every little bit helps! It means a lot to me to know that people can read what I write, enjoy it, and even occasionally learn or discover something new in it.

    I look forward to writing the sequence on the New Madrid fault system soon!

      1. Yeah! Fun and informative — not like the usual stuff what gets … huh? Me? I din’t say nuthin’.

          1. No way! I take care to always keep my Nuffins clean and dry, applying just a little moisturizer when appropriate. You know the old saying: Mind your Nuffins and won’t Nuffin bother you.

    1. You are more than welcome. Any time I have additional info that I think is worth throwing out there for y’all, I’ll ping Sarah with it, or if I’m snowed, pop it to Larry, and he’ll ping her — as my assistant/manager of sorts, he is kind enough to provide additional backup to a lot of my written stuff, in addition to my “in-house” backups, so he’d be seeing it anyhow — and voila! she’ll have a guest blog to use as needed.

  22. 1) I have read in the past that strong earthquakes seven and above can cause the earth to slightly change its axis. I know that I read that this did specifically occur with an earthquake in Chile some years back. I would think that enough of these would change where the poles are and the equator’s are to experience weather change. Is that the case?

    2) How will this mini ice age affect electronics? I would think extra preparations would be necessary to ensure connectivity. Green houses might be of benefit to ensure food resources. Whole home generator’s as well. What are your recommendations for preparations is what I am asking?

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