Sunspots are returning, just as predicted. But they’re not acting as they were expected to. Is this a good thing for global warming?On January 24, a reverse polarity sunspot appeared in the sun’s northern hemisphere. Such a sunspot usually marks the beginning of a new solar max. But the new spot was followed by a period of solar silence?no sunspots until last week. But these aren’t spots of the type that should be associated with the new solar cycle. Instead, they’re of the type associated with cycle 23, the last one. So, what’s going on?

Nobody is really sure. There remain indications that cycle 24 is going to be extremely intense leading into 2011 and 2012, but so far, the cycle has gotten off to an unusual start. At the same time, solar output has diminished slightly, which, along with a persistent La Nina in the Pacific Ocean, has led to one of the harshest northern hemisphere winters in memory.

But the Austral summer hasn’t exactly been cool. Instead, it has been harshly hot. Adelaide, Australia just experienced a once in 3,000 year heat wave. Does the appearance of new sunspots mean that more solar energy will be reaching earth? Quite possible, and it couldn’t come at a worse time for the northern hemisphere, because it could cause rapid atmospheric heating in the spring, leading to ultra-violent spring storms.

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