The "Maunder Minimum" 

A SECOND COMING?


 

The "Maunder Minimum" is the name given to the period from 1650 to 1700 when the number of sunspots became almost zero. The period is named after the solar astonomer Edward Walter Maunder (1851 - 1928) who while working at The Royal Observatory, Greenwich discovered the dearth of sunspots during the 1650-1700 period.  During one 30 year period within the Maunder Minimum there were only about 50 sunspots compared with a more typical 40,000 to 50,000. Maunder was a driving force in the foundation of the British Astonomical Assocation, and was a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society.

 

Solar activity fluctuates on an 11 year cycle with 1996 - 2007 period being the last cycle. So far this cycle, the sun has been very quiet. This  lack of activity may signal the begining of a period of minimum sunspots, and some sources (see for example "Ray of hope: Can the sun save us from global warming?" in "The Independent" science report of December 5, 2007 . http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/ray-of-hope-can-the-sun-save-us-from-global-warming-762878.html.) suggest that if the sun remains quiet for another year or two , it may indicate a return to a period of dramatic cooling of the Earth, similar to that which ocurred during the last Maunder Minimum.  For additional information as of July 2008 sourced to a  NASA solar physicist Dave Hathway see: http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2008/11jul_solarcycleupdate.htm?friend

Dr David Whithouse who is the author of the the book "The Sun: A Biography" published by Wiley, has an informative article in the "Independent" of April 27, 2009. The article is headed "The missing sunspots: Is this the big chill? For details see http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/the-missing-sunspots-is-this-the-big-chill-1674630.html  The following paragraph from this article by David White is significant.

"There are some clues as to what’s going on. Although at solar maxima there are more sunspots on the Sun’s surface, their dimming effect is more than offset by the appearance of bright patches on the Sun’s disc called faculae – Italian for “little torches”. Overall, during an 11-year solar cycle the Sun’s output changes by only 0.1 per cent, an amount considered by many to be too small a variation to change much on earth. But there is another way of looking it. While this 0.1 per cent variation is small as a percentage, in terms of absolute energy levels it is enormous, amounting to a highly significant 1.3 Watts of energy per square metre at the Earth. This means that during the solar cycle’s rising phase from solar minima to maxima, the Sun’s increasing brightness has the same climate-forcing effect as that from increasing atmospheric greenhouse gasses. There is recent research suggesting that solar variability can have a very strong regional climatic influence on Earth – in fact stronger than any man-made greenhouse effect across vast swathes of the Earth. And that could rewrite the rules."

For  graphical information on the current sunspot index, the Maunder "butterfly" diagram, and other solar matters from the Royal Observatory of Belgium, see http://sidc.oma.be/sunspot-index-graphics/sidc_graphics.php

  •  For sunspot data from the US National Geophysical Data Center see http://www.ngdc.noaa.gov/stp/SOLAR/ftpsunspotnumber.html
  • Detailed information on the solarcycle, including the Joint USAF/NOAA Report of Solar and Geophysical Activity, is available at http://www.solarcycle24.com/
  • The NASA web site relating to solar physics, which includes information on "'The Big Questions" including the great difficulties involved in producing a model that would allow us to predict future sunspot numbers using basic physical principles, see http://solarscience.msfc.nasa.gov/SunspotCycle.shtml 
  • For current information on sunspots from a variety of sources see http://wattsupwiththat.wordpress.com
  • The web site http://www.spaceweather.com gives news and information about the Sun-Earth environment and is upated daily. As of October 10, 2009, there have been 731 "spotless days" in the current solar minmium compared with an average number of 485 days in a solar minimum.As of Octber 11, 2009 ,78% of the days this year have been spotless. 

 

  • NOTE: The information given on this web page is provided by Dr W.John Maunder,  President of the Commission for Climatology of the World Meteorological Organization from 1989 to 1997, who over the last 50 years has been involved in the "weather business" in various countries, including New Zealand, Australia, Canada, US, Ireland, Switzerland, and the UK , through activities in national weather services, universities  and international oraganizations, and publications including four books : "The Value of the Weather" (1970), "The Uncertainty Business - Risks and Opportunties in Weather and Climate" (1986), "The Human Impact of Climate Uncertainty - Weather Information, Economic Planning, and Business Management " (1989), and the "Dictionary of Global Climate Change" (1994). The information is prepared so as to provide a "need to know" background on climate change, and global warming with the aim to promote a better understanding of this complex matter.
  •  There are a variety of viewpoints on this subject (covering the full range from those who consider that we ARE the weather makers, to those who consider that we are NOT the weather makers and that  climate change is mainly a natural event).  I have provided web links to a selection of what I consider to be relevant sites.For further information please contact Dr John Maunder at climate@ihug.co.nz
  • For my web page on "Global Cooling, Global Warming, Climate Change..." see http://climatescience.googlepages.com
  • Last updated on  12 October  2009