In the 1350s, a solar minimum began that lasted five hundredyears, and at present the sun is unexpectedly quiet, and hasbeen for much longer than anticipated. Does this mean thatglobal warming is no longer a matter for concern? If the sunremains quiet, we could be in for a warming reprieve, butthis will not stop greenhouse gas emissions, and when thesun becomes active again, higher than ever concentrationswill mean sudden and disastrous warming.

According to NASA, the sun is at the deepest solar minimum in 100 years. In 2008, there were no sunspots observed almost 75% of the time. Too find an earlier time when the sun has been this calm, you have to go all the way back to 1913. And so far in 2009, the sunspots are EVEN LESS. Solar physicist Dean Presnell says, “We’re experiencing a very deep solar minimum,” and sunspot expert David Hathaway agrees: “This is the quietest sun we’ve seen in almost a century.”

Quiet suns come along every 11 years or so, as a natural part of the sunspot cycle. For the 200 years that astronomers have been viewing the sun, peaks of solar activity have always been followed by periods of relative calm. The current solar minimum is part of that pattern, but it?s not supposed to be THIS QUIET.

Right now, Pesnell thinks sunspot counts will pick up again soon, “possibly by the end of the year,” to be followed by a solar maximum of below-average intensity in 2012 or 2013.

While we have this reprieve, let’s be glad and celebrate!

Art credit: NASA

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