Solar Activity at a Minimum
Over the past week the sun reached a milestone. Over the past week the sun has reached the lowest point of activity in a century. For 2019 the sun has been spotless (no sunspot activity) for 270 days or 77% of the time, this surpasses 2008, 2009 and 1913 for the least number of sunspots.
The graph below shows the number of sunspots observed over the past few centuries. With 15 days left in December, there is a chance to break the year of 1878 for the least amount of sunspots.
You may be asking the question on why the number of sunspots may or may not be important regarding our weather patterns and climate trends. Research that started in the late 90s and early 2000s began to look at the increase or decrease in the number of cosmic rays (high energy particles from space impacting the Earth). When the number of sunspots on the sun is high, the magnetic field around the Earth is stronger which in turn deflect the number of cosmic rays from hitting the Earth. The reverse is true when there is a low number of spots or none. The magnetic field weakens, and more cosmic rays reach the Earth.
When there are more cosmic rays, there are more low clouds that form over the world’s oceans (perhaps as much as 2% more clouds) which reflect sun energy back into space and can lead to some cooling of the ocean basins. Cosmic rays play a role in natural cloud formation.
The opposite happens when sunspot numbers are higher (during solar maximums). There are less clouds and temperatures may rise slightly.
The back and forth of solar maximums and minimums need to be studied more but the recent research is compelling that we need to pay more attention to our star as well as other astronomical influences on our weather and climate.