Summary: The January 2018 solar cycle sunspot number is updated by NOAA/SWPC (Fig. 1). The observed data identifies a persistent decline in activity and indicates entrance into the solar minima which on average occurs every 11 years. The entrance to solar minima is 1 year ahead of forecast. Implied is another potentially unusually lengthy solar minima as observed in 2008-2010.
Fig. 1: NOAA/SWPC sunspot number progression updated through January 2018 indicates entrance into solar minima.
The unusually lengthy solar minima occurring in 2008-2010 followed by a choppy solar maxima late in 2011 and spiking again in early 2014 but at values at roughly 60% of that observed over the past 100 years brought rise to the notion that the sun may be entering a relative inactive period. The more rapid than expected decline in solar activity to the next solar minima and the potential implication that another lengthy minima may occur increases the notion to a potential (climate) alert.
Fig. 2: Historical sunspot activity to compare with the current lowering of solar activity.
The effects of solar inactivity are poorly defined. One cannot automatically assume the earth’s atmosphere will cool. However, a significant cooling did occur during the 1800-1830 Dalton Minimum when solar inactivity was lower than the current potential inactive period. The NOAA/SWPC web site states that “an extended solar minimum increases cosmic rays which lead to above normal cloudiness therefore cooler climate in earth’s atmosphere”.
Climate Impact Company agrees with research that has concluded that global climate has become more extreme due to the warming of the polar caps which has lowered thermal gradient in the upper atmosphere between the tropics and polar region weakening jet stream speeds. The weaker jet streams are more susceptible to bending into upper troughs which produce stronger storms or amplifying to strong ridge patterns which cause anomalous heat and drought. What will the lowering solar activity do to this new climate pattern?