News Stories

Superstorm on Another Planet

Not all films are about vampires: In the film The Day After Tomorrow, made from the book "The Coming Global Superstorm, Whitley postulates the idea that climate change could lead to a gigantic superstorm. It turns out this is ALREADY happening on an Earth-like planet orbiting a distant star.

Unlike the Earth, this planet has a hot side, which is always facing its sun, and a cool side, which is always facing away, and CO2 from the hot side is drawn to the cool side at high speed, setting up huge storms.

In BBC News, Paul Rincon quotes researcher Simon Albrecht as saying, "On Earth, big temperature differences inevitably lead to fierce winds, and as our new measurements reveal, the situation is no different on [this planet]."

Closer to us, there are superstorms on our Sun, which come and go in 11-year cycles, but for the past 2 years, they have been almost nonexistent. (NOTE: Subscribers will be able to chat with David Sereda soon!) This mysterious absence of sunspots makes scientists wonder if they're seeing a calm before a storm of energy.

In the Washington Post, Stuart Clark quotes NASA's David Hathaway as saying, "This is solar behavior we haven't seen in living memory." The first sign that something strange was going on came in 2008, when the sun was calmer than predicted because it was sunspot free 73% of the time. This was an extreme dip even for a solar minimum.

In the next year, 2009, astronomers expected sunspot activity to return, but nothing happened until the end of the year, when the largest group of sunspots to emerge in several years suddenly appeared. Has something fundamental changed inside the sun?

Sunspot activity can lead to gigantic solar storms that unleash a billion times more energy than an atomic bomb, causing problems for satellite communications and Earth electronics. Clark quotes NASA's Bernhard Fleck as saying that when NASA and the European Space Agency launched the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory almost 15 years ago, "understanding the solar cycle was not one of its scientific objectives. Now it is one of the key questions."

It's a long path to wisdom and to figuring out how to solve the climate change problem, but we're making progress. Now if only we could solve the problem of how FEW of the readers and Dreamland listeners who claim to love us so much are willing to support us. It costs about $4 a month (less than a single latte) to give us the help we need so subscribe today. And please click on the "donate" tab on our homepage too!

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