Jeff Duntemann's Contrapositive Diary Rotating Header Image

August 20th, 2009:

Out, Damned Spots! Out, I Say!

Just my luck: I get a decent dipole strung in the attic, and the sun gets even quieter than it was earlier this summer, when a flurry of tiny sunspots (and one lonely one I might promote from “tiny” to “small”) led everyone to shout that the solar minimum was over. Not so. A few weeks ago, 2009 pushed into the top ten years of sunspot-less days since 1900. Spaceweather tells me that we’ve now seen 182 spotless days this year so far, pushing past 1996 into position #8 on the No-Spot Parade. (See the graph covering complete years here.) At 40 in a row, we’re in very rarefied statistical territory, even at solar minima. And if we make it to the end of August without any spots, we could see a full spotless calendar month, which is even rarer.

The next milestone comes after 18 more spotless days, when 2009 hits 200 and pushes past tied years 1911 and 1923 into spot (as it were) #6. We need 59 more spotless days this year to surpass 1954 and reach #4. We may just possibly do that, but I’m predicting that that’s as far as 2009 will get, since there are, after all, only 133 days left this year. But yikes! This is shaping up to be a minimum like nothing seen since 1911-1913.

It’s been a cool, wet summer in Colorado Springs and, in fact, a cool, wet summer in a lot of places north of poor Texas. Maybe it’s a coincidence and maybe it isn’t. A quiet Sun is a cooler Sun, and we know far, far less about its effect on climate than we’re willing to admit. In the meantime, well, sure, I’d like to work Tuvalu on three watts into a hairpin too–but 70 degree summer days and full reservoirs are not shabby compensation.