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Cold Sun – Cold Earth: 2008 Now #3 Most Sunspotless Days in the Last 100 Years – Could We Reach #2?

By Joe D'Aleo
Monday, December 15, 2008


As of December 7, we have had 245 spotless days in 2008, enough to put us 3rd place ahead of 1954 this past century. It extended the latest string of sunspotless days to 20 days, 7 this month. If we match November’s 16 spotless days in December, we will move into second place ahead of 1912 (253 spotless days) behind just 1913 (311 days).

Notice how 2007 and 2008 are both in the top 10.  So far for the minimum of cycle 23, we have had 485 days, the most since cycles 14-16, in the early 1900s.  Note in cycle 14, three years came in the top 10 for spotless days, 1911, 1912, 1913.  This is the second year in this cycle in the top 10. 1912 was the second high spotless year after cycle 14.




Case in point the Maunder Minimum during the little ice age, virtually spotless for decades in the 17th century.



Thames River during the Little Ice Age in the Maunder Minimum. Ice parties were common on the Thames each winter.




The early 1800s known as the Dalton Minimum was a mini ice age. Cold returned in the late 1800s and early 1900s with an again declining sun. Temperatures rose in the 20th century during what was called the Grand Maximum.


See this story in the Toronto Star by Adam Mayers (February 2007). It talks about 1911/12 winter, the worst winter of the century.

It may seem cold this week, but it is nothing, nothing, compared with the winter of 1912, a year that remains in the record books as the worst winter of the past 100 years.

By mid-January, it was so cold Toronto harbour was frozen solid. By early February, the near-shore lake ice was a metre thick, and you could skate from Toronto to Hamilton if you had the time. By the middle of the month, everyone was taking bets on whether the lake was frozen over. By month-end, it was.

It was the rumour that the lake ice was finally solid from Toronto to Rochester that brought a huge crowd to Sunnyside Park on the afternoon of Feb. 11, 1912. They wanted to witness what the Star called a once-in-a-lifetime experience, "a spectacle they had never seen before and may never witness again."



The shore from Sunnyside to Humber Bay was packed with people, and by 3 p.m. there were hundreds of people spilling out onto the ice. About 50 kept going until the paper estimated they were three miles out and from shore looked like "so many flies on a gigantic plate." When they were mere specks, they turned around – not because the ice was thin, as they later told the reporter, but because they feared getting lost. All around was grey in the fading light.

The lake did freeze over by the end of the month, the only time in the past century that it has. Superior did too. Although Michigan, Huron and shallow Erie have frozen in many winters since, Superior and Ontario are so deep and wide it is rarely cold enough to do the trick. But the winter of 1912 was the coldest January-March period of the 20th century and the second-coldest ever recorded.  See the temperatures that winter here:



The following winter was a very different story. It was a neutral ENSO (biased slightly towards El Nino), with a slightly positive PDO, and negative AMO.  Yet, the pattern in 1912/13 looks like a La Nina with coldest weather biased west.



In general, low solar activity, is associated with colder temperatures for the United States and globe. See the USHCN annual below. Note the drop in temperatures during the quiet sun of the early 1910s followed by rapid warming into the 1930s as the solar activity returned with shorter and more intense solar cycles.



Invariably, quiet cycles are longer cycles (more than 11 years) while very active cycles tend to be short (often 9 -10 years).


There is even more similarity to the late 1700s and early 1800s (cycles 2-4) with the behavior of the last several cycles (21-23). The next two cycles form the minimum of the 213 and 106 year cycles, suggesting a similar Dalton like minimum.



This is a plot of sunspot length and sunspot max value for cycles 1 through 23. There is similarity to the late 1700s and early 1800s (cycles 2-4) with the behavior of the last several cycles (21-23). The next two cycles form the minimum of the 213 and 106 year cycles, suggesting a similar Dalton like minimum in the early 1800s more than the early 1900s.



Archibald has projected this for global temperatures should another Dalton Minimum take place.



Note: Everyone acknowledges the ultra long term variances of the orbital parameters of the sun (precession (time sun is closest to earth - now January), obliquity (wobble on its axis of rotation) and eccentricity (how elliptical or circular the orbit)) and their effect on ice ages and interglacials (which repeat regularly every 100,000 years).



Don’t let them tell you the sun is a constant and not a climate factor on the decadal to century scale. The solar factors in climate include the measured changes in brightness or irradiance which produces more energy input into our atmosphere (small). Because this is small, it is assumed solar variability can’t cause climate changes short term. However, this direct brightness change effect is magnified by the indirect factors. Accompanying a more active sun is a much larger change in ultraviolet radiation which causes high atmospheric heating through ozone chemistry in low and middle latitudes, geomagnetic activity which causes ionization warming in higher latitudes and increased diffusion of galactic cosmic rays which act to enhance low clouds through ion mediated nucleation.

When the sun is more active all these factors act to produce warming and when quiet, cooling. See more details here.