The next sunspot cycle begins in 2011 and is expected to beamong the most powerful in recent memory, but after that,the sun is going to sleep. Should it remain quiescent, thiscould mean that, by 2015, we’ll be heading for anotherperiod similar to the ‘Maunder Minimum,’ or Little Ice Age,that affected the world from roughly 1550 to 1850. Futuresolar activity on the surface is measured by indirectobservation of the Great Conveyor Belt, a fiery circulationdeep inside the sun. This circulation normally moves atthree feet per second, but has dropped recently to under oneand a half feet per second. The faster the movement, themore energetic the surface of the sun in about 20 years.Solar scientists have never seen it as slow as it is now. What does this mean for global warming? It could be aGod-given chance to fix our broken atmosphere before it’stoo late. But it also means that the jet streams will beslowing down, as they are driven in part by solar energy.The lack of air circulation on earth could have severeconsequences for many of the world’s heavily polluted cities.

Art credit: NASA

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