Solar activity remained extremely low and fierce winterweather continued to stalk the Northern Hemisphere as awinter storm dumped a record-breaking 20 plus inches of snowon central Ohio, and caused heavy winter weather fromFlorida to the maritime provinces of Canada. At least tendeaths have been attributed to the wild weather.

The storm’s appearance was in line with the explanationoffered for 2007-2008’s extraordinary winter weather in thenew UnknowncountryQuickwatch bulletin.

Solar output has a profound but little understoodeffect on earth’s weather, and it is known that the amountof heat reaching earth from the star diminishes duringperiod of ultra-low solar activity, such as happened duringthe “Little Ice Age” that lasted from the middle ages toaround 1740.

Sunspots were first recorded by English astronomer ThomasHarrington in 1610, but it wasn’t until the late eighteenthcentury that large numbers of them began to appear.

The current “solar max” officially began on January 4, 2008,when a reverse-polarity sunspot was observed. In the past,the appearance of such a spot has always marked thebeginning of a new solar cycle, and as recently as lastyear, NASA was predicting, based on indirect observations ofthe rotation of the sun’s core, that the current solar maxwould be among the largest on record, which would result inpowerful heating of earth’s surface, intensifying globalwarming.

So far, though, the sun remains strikingly free of spots,and frigid weather continues on earth.

The extraordinary heating of the last few summers, however,has resulted in many bodies of water, such as the Gulf ofMexico and the Great Lakes, retaining unusual heat, despitecurrent cooling. For example, the Great Lakes are notsolidly frozen despite the cold winter.

The reason that so many powerful storms are striking thecentral US is that this winter’s extreme cold fronts aresucking warm, humid air up from the Gulf as they cross thegreat plains, resulting in an unusually powerful clash ofcold, dry air and warm, humid air.

It is likely that equally explosive spring storms willfollow, and will last into midsummer.

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