The Maunder Minimum
By Jack Kinsella
The “Maunder Minimum” is the name given to the period of solar inactivity that occurred between 1645 and 1710. Some of the first telescopic observations of the sun had already been made by Galileo in 1611; by 1645 astronomers were well acquainted with the phenomenon they called ‘sunspots’.
Today we know that the number of sunspots rises and falls roughly every eleven years into “minimum” and “maximum” solar phases, but that wasn’t discovered until almost two hundred years after Galileo by a German astronomer, Henrich Schwabe in 1843.
Part of the reason for the lag is the “Maunder Minimum.” For 70 years, sunspot activity was almost non-existent. During one thirty-year period within the Maunder Minimum, astronomers observed roughly fifty sunspots, compared with 40,000 – 50,000 sunspots during a typical thirty year solar cycle.
In 1640 not a single sunspot was observed; in 1650, 3; 1670, 0; 1680, 1. The coldest winter in 500 years occurred in 1709, right in the middle of the Maunder Minimum.
Anecdotal stories about the Winter of 1709 sound more like something lifted from the legend of Paul Bunyan than historical fact. It was said to be so cold that year that sailors froze to death aboard ships.
Trees exploded from the cold. Fish froze solid in rivers while major bodies of water like the Baltic Sea froze solid. Bread froze so hard it took an axe to cut it.
Words froze in mid-air; when the spring thaw came, people were deafened by all the noise. (Ok, that one really was lifted from the Legend of Paul Bunyan.)
The Maunder Minimum coincided with the coldest part of the Little Ice Age that began in the middle of the 15th century and lasted until well into the 19th. NASA notes three particularly cold intervals; one beginning around 1650, a second around 1770 and the last around 1850.
The Year 1816 was known across Europe as the Year Without A Summer. Science has long noted the relationship between solar activity and periods of warming or cooling. During the 20th century the sun was unusually active, peaking in the 1950s and the late 1980s.
Dean Pensell of NASA, says that, “since the Space Age began in the 1950s, solar activity has been generally high. Five of the ten most intense solar cycles on record have occurred in the last 50 years.”
Interestingly, the coldest winter on record occurred during the Maunder Minimum — in the middle of a “Little Ice Age” which also corresponded with a period of low solar activity. And the warmest winter on record occurred during a period of intense solar activity.
When the sun comes out, it warms the earth. When it hides behind a thick cloud cover, or when it is on the other side of the earth (here, we call that ‘night’) it gets colder.
But global warming True Believers deny any relationship between an overheating climate and the sun. Why do you think that is?
This photo shows a solar eruption – a sun spot – the earth is superimposed to give a sense proportion. If global warming is the sun’s fault, then there isn’t much we can do here on earth to fix it.
That’s why the True Believers totally discount the sun as a cause of global warming – to them, it is an issue of faith.
Since the turn of the 20th century, sunspot activity had all but disappeared, together with evidence of global warming.
But Hillary Clinton said in a speech in 2009: “The science is unambiguous, and the logic that flows from it is inescapable: climate change is a clear and present danger to our world that demands immediate attention.”
Global warming has morphed from a debate into a cause and from a cause into a kind of religion dividing ‘true believers’ from ‘heretics.’
“And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.” (Luke 21:25-26)
Solar activity dropped to zero in 2007, just about the same time that Al Gore learned just how inconvenient the truth can be.
When the sun is active, the solar system (including Earth) gets warmer. When the sun is inactive, it gets cooler. An inconvenient truth.
Although the preponderance of evidence suggests that the sun is responsible for global warming, the preponderance of evidence also suggests that marriage was intended for a man and a woman.
It might be obvious, but that won’t make any difference. People will believe what they want to believe, not necessarily what is true.
According to a report dated June 14, 2011 at Space.com although we are now in an unusually active and powerful solar maximum period;
“unusual solar readings, including fading sunspots and weakening magnetic activity near the poles, could be indications that our sun is preparing to be less active in the coming years.
The results of three separate studies seem to show that even as the current sunspot cycle swells toward the solar maximum, the sun could be heading into a more-dormant period, with activity during the next 11-year sunspot cycle greatly reduced or even eliminated.”
Frank Hill, associate director of the National Solar Observatory’s Solar Synoptic Network told a news briefing yesterday that “the solar cycle may be going into a hiatius.”
“The studies looked at a missing jet stream in the solar interior, fading sunspots on the sun’s visible surface, and changes in the corona and near the poles.”
Right now, the sun is in the middle of Cycle 24, and is due to reach a maximum in 2013. The next cycle would be expected to start in around 2020. Instead, we may be heading into a ‘grand minimum’ similar to the Maunder period.
The National Solar Observatory (NSO) says that, based on 13 years of observations, sunspots are weakening. There have been fewer during the present cycle – and, if the trend continues, there may be none at all in the next.
Meanwhile, NSO observations of the jet streams circling the sun, whose strength tends to correlate with solar activity, has shown that activity is near-non-existent. Were the next solar cycle to proceed as usual, they would have appeared two or three years ago.
Finally, the sun’s corona, or upper atmosphere, is also failing to show changes associated with the usual solar cycles. Normally, scientists would expect to see magnetic features in the corona moving north and south in a phenomenon known as ‘the rush to the poles’.
“This is highly unusual and unexpected,” Hill said. “But the fact that three completely different views of the sun point in the same direction is a powerful indicator that the sunspot cycle may be going into hibernation.”
According to NASA’s astro-forecasts, the current solar maximum is likely to unleash a series of massive solar storms, peaking sometime in late 2012 or early 2013, after which, solar inactivity is expected to collapse completely, bringing on another period of global cooling.
A storm last week (June 7) was so powerful that had it hit earth head on, it could well have fried the global electrical grid. A powerful enough solar flare hitting the earth head-on would mimic the effect of an EMP pulse on our electrical grid.
Forecasters say that the worst is yet to come. In a worst-case scenario, the world would be instantly plunged into technological darkness that could cause a global blackout that could take years to repair.
In summary, then, the earth is due for a massive strike from a solar flare sometime in the next two years, followed by a collapse of solar activity that portends a period of intense global cooling. So just about the time we’ll need heat the most, we’ll be back to burning whatever we can find to heat our homes.
Until we run out of things to burn.
Isn’t the timing of all this interesting? First, we’re not really sure global warming was either global, or actually warmer. (Warmer than what?)
Second, the cooling trend corresponded with the last solar minimum, now about to expire.
Third, NASA predicts that the current solar maximum will peak sometime around 2012 with what could be a massive burst of solar radiation that could plunge us into darkness, just in time for us to enter a little Ice Age.
The world’s scientists are so confused that the consensus opinion on global warming and solar activity that there is no consensus opinion, but they are so alarmed that they insist on doing something, even if we don’t know what effect that “something” might have.
All they know for sure is that things are getting pretty scary out there in outer space– and that it is coming our way.
“Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken,” the Lord said.
These are exactly the conditions forecast 2000 years ago for a single generation, somewhere in time. The generation of whom the Lord was speaking when He said;
“And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh…This generation shall not pass until all these things be fulfilled.” (Luke 21:28,32)
Meanwhile I’d keep some sunblock stored away in the pocket of your parka. Just in case.
Originally published: June 15, 2011.