Back in 2011, the sun was so quiet that researchers were speculating that it might be entering a long term period of lowered output. Now that the current solar max has reached its climactic months and is proving to be the quietest in a century, that speculation is being renewed. If this is happening, global warming models could be derailed as Earth ends up facing another mini ice age similar to the one that began in the 1350s and did not end until the 1890s. This would have a profound effect on Earth’s weather and could indeed save us from runaway global warming. The sun was similarly quiet in the years preceding the Carrington Event of 1959, the largest solar event ever recorded, which came without warning after a period of four years of record low solar activity. If solar energy on that scale were to strike Earth today, it would cause catastrophic damage to electronics, satellites and electrical grids.
However, solar scientists tell us that there is no reason to expect such a dramatic solar explosion, and it appears far more likely that the sun is moving into a much quieter period than normal. If so, it could easily last for hundreds of years, in which case the future history of Earth’s climate will prove to be entirely different from what climate models now predict. We will likely see much more intense winters and violent seasons of change, with shorter, hotter summers than in the past, interspersed with some summers when there is little heating.
If carbon dioxide levels continue to rise during this period, heating will increase suddenly and dramatically when the sun becomes active again. As matters stand, CO2 levels are now at approximately the same density as they were 3 million years ago. During that time, the mid-Pliocene, the planet was so much warmer that parts of Antarctica were forested. Sea levels were two hundred feet higher than today. Average temperatures were roughly 10 degree Fahrenheit than they are now.
Despite the quieting of the sun, as of today, there is a possibility of M and X class flares, but no evidence that they would be the sort of record breakers normally associated with a solar max. The present solar max has emitted only 30% the overall number of flares that are normal during the max cycle.
Want to learn more about the sun and our need to protect our electronic infrastructure? Read Whitley’ Strieber’s Solar Flares.