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As the sun gets successively more blank with each day, due to lack of sunspots, it is also dimming. According to data from NASA’s Spaceweather, so far in 2017, 96 days (27%) of the days observing the sun have been without sunspots. Here is the view today from the NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory satellite:
In other news, as the magnetic activity of the sun decreases, influx of Galactic Cosmic Rays (GCR’s) increase as has been observed by balloon measurements over California:
H/t reader kevin a.
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ATMOSPHERIC RADIATION IS INCREASING: Since the spring of 2015, Spaceweather.com and the students of Earth to Sky Calculus have been flying balloons to the stratosphere over California to measure cosmic rays. Soon after our monitoring program began, we quickly realized that radiation levels are increasing. Why? The main reason is the solar cycle. In recent years, sunspot counts have plummeted as the sun’s magnetic field weakens. This has allowed more cosmic rays from deep space to penetrate the solar system. As 2017 winds down, our latest measurements show the radiation increase continuing apace–with an interesting exception, circled in yellow:
In Sept. 2017, the quiet sun surprised space weather forecasters with a sudden outburst of explosive activity. On Sept. 3rd, a huge sunspot appeared. In the week that followed, it unleashed the strongest solar flare in more than a decade (X9-class), hurled a powerful CME toward Earth, and sparked a severe geomagnetic storm (G4-class) with Northern Lights appearing as far south as Arkansas. During the storm we quickened the pace of balloon launches and found radiation dropping to levels we hadn’t seen since 2015. The flurry of solar flares and CMEs actually pushed some cosmic rays away from Earth.
Interestingly, after the sun’s outburst, radiation levels in the stratosphere took more than 2 months to fully rebound. Now they are back on track, increasing steadily as the quiet sun resumes its progress toward Solar Minimum. The solar cycle is not expected to hit rock bottom until 2019 or 2020, so cosmic rays should continue to increase, significantly, in the months and years ahead. Stay tuned for updates as our balloons continue to fly.
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As we’ve pointed out, the supervolcano phenomenon is hardly unique to Yellowstone National Park, where a long dormant volcano with the potential to cause a devastating eruption has been rumbling since mid-summer, making some scientists uneasy.
Surprisingly active supervolcanos have been documented in Italy, North Korea and, now, Antarctica after scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) have found new evidence to support a theory that the breakup of Antarctic ice may be caused in part by a massive geothermal heat source, with output close to the scale of Yellowstone National Park.
Of course, if accurate, this theory would help rebut the notion that man-made climate change is in part responsible for the melting ice, Russia Today reports.
A geothermal heat source called a mantle plume, a hot stream of subterranean molten rock that rises through the Earth’s crust, may explain the breathing effect visible on Antarctica’s Marie Byrd Land and elsewhere along the massive ice sheet.
While the mantle plume is not a new discovery, the recent research indicates it may explain why the ice sheet collapsed in a previous era of rapid climate change 11,000 years ago, and why the sheet is breaking up so quickly now.
“I thought it was crazy. I didn’t see how we could have that amount of heat and still have ice on top of it,” said Hélène Seroussi of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
Seroussi and Erik Ivins of JPL used the Ice Sheet System Model (ISSM), a mathematical depiction of the physics of ice sheets developed by scientists at JPL and the University of California, Irvine. Seroussi then tweaked the ISSM to hunt for natural heat sources as well as meltwater deposits.
Could signal a descent into Maunder Minimum-like conditions.
“The recent prolonged solar minimum and subsequent weak solar cycle 24 have led to suggestions that the grand solar maximum may be at an end,” says this study on nature.com.
The study, published in 2015, looked at past variations of solar activity. In 2010, the study found, scientists estimated a mere 8% chance of a return to Maunder Minimum-like conditions within the next 40 years.
However, “the decline in solar activity has continued, to the time of writing, and is faster than any other such decline in 9,300 years.” (Italics added)