Skip to comments.Stronger Solar Storms Predicted [50% increase!]Blackouts May Result
Posted on 03/07/2006 11:22:02 AM PST by gobucks
The next 11-year solar storm cycle should be significantly stronger than the current one, which may mean big problems for power grids and GPS systems and other satellite-enabled technology, scientists announced today.
The stronger solar storms could start as early as this year or as late as 2008 and should peak around 2012.
"We predict the next solar cycle will be 30 to 50 percent stronger than the last cycle," said Mausumi Dikpati, a solar scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, yesterday in a telephone briefing with reporters.
The last cycle peaked in 2001.
A new technique enabled the scientists to better predict the severity of the next cycle. The technique, called helioseismology, allows researchers to "see" inside the sun by tracing sound waves reverberating inside the suncreating a picture of the interior like ultrasound creates a picture of an unborn baby.
"For the first time we can predict the strength of the 11-year solar activity cycle using computer simulations of the sun's physics," Dikpati said.
(See solar-storm images.)
Storms in the Sun
Solar storms are linked to twisted magnetic fields in the sun that suddenly snap and release tremendous amounts of energy. The storms can disrupt satellite communications, cause power outages, and expose astronauts to high amounts of radiation.
Predicting space weather is becoming more important as more people rely on technology that solar storms can disrupt, according to Richard Behnke, director of upper atmosphere research with the National Science Foundation in Arlington, Virginia.
"This prediction of an active solar cycle suggests we are potentially looking at more communication and navigation disruptions, more satellite failures, possible disruption of electric grids and blackouts, more dangerous conditions for astronautsall these things," Behnke said during the briefing.
Solar storms tend to occur near sunspots, cool regions on the sun's surface that appear as dark blotches. Scientists believe the spots result from concentrated magnetic fields inside the sun.
The number and intensity of sunspots fluctuates over time, reaching a peak about every 11 years. This 11-year pattern is known as the solar cycle.
Joseph Kunches, chief of the forecast and analysis branch of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Space Environment Center in Boulder, equated the space weather forecast to the annual hurricane forecast.
"The kinds of questions that are posed to hurricane forecasters also come to us in terms of space weather," he told reporters.
"When is the next cycle going to start? How strong will it be? When will it quiet down? And compared to, say, the last [cycle in] recent memory, what are the effects going to be?"
The new forecast draws on new understanding of how plasma currents in the sun's interior generate sunspots and the related solar storms. These plasma flows transport, concentrate, and help spread out solar magnetic fields.
Two major plasma flows govern the cycle, the researchers said.
The first, known as the meridional flow pattern, circulates between the sun's equator and its poles over a period of 17 to 22 years and acts like a conveyor belt of sunspots. The flow transports imprints of sunspots that occurred over the previous two sunspot cycles.
This imprint is carried into the interior, where scientists believe the sunspot-producing magnetic fields are generated. New sunspots form based on the imprints created during the most recent cycle.
The second flow results from the sun rotating faster at the equator than it does near the poles. This periodically concentrates the solar magnetic field at the equator, leading to peaks in solar storm activity, the researchers said.
The team expects the next cycle to begin in late 2007 or early 2008, which is about 6 to 12 months later than the cycle would normally start. The researchers' model shows the plasma circulation has slowed down during the current cycle.
David Hathaway, a solar astronomer with NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, said that models used by him and his colleagues to predict the next solar cycle agree with the greater activity predicted by Dikpati's model.
But Hathaway differs on the timing.
According to Hathaway's team's analysis of past solar cycles, intense cycles are preceded by shorter cycles. This would suggest that the next cycle will start by the end of this year or early next year.
"At this point, we are anxiously awaiting the appearance of those first spots from the new cycle," Hathaway said at the briefing.
Behnke failed to comment upon the implications of 50 percent stronger solar storms on Global Warming, which large numbers of Democratic voting scientists agree, is indisputable scientific fact, sort of like gravity, and evolution.
He also failed to comment upon who may be at fault for the stronger storms.
Solar Warming - Bush's fault
Obviously, Halliburton is controlling the sun and Bush is behind it all.
More evidence of global warming.
Lets save the whining....give me my $2,000 FEMA debit card now.
obviously, this increase in solar activity is the result of capitalist imperialist oil-baron economics...
< /donkthink >
We're gonna die!!!!!...George Bush's fault </sarcasm
Solar cycle ping
How does the aforementioned article jibe with this one?.......
Actually it is a 22 year cycle. It's fairly interesting how it works. The interior of the Sun rotates at a different rate than the exterior so magnetic field lines get twisted in a helix over time and sunspots (magnetic field penetrations on the surface) get forced from the equator to the poles. At the end of a half cycle the magnetic field reverses suddenly and all of the sunspots disappear. Then it starts all over again with the magnetic poles reversed.
Huh? Solar output peaks about every 11 years..... I can get to 22 years if you're placing the solar minima right in the middle, and successive peaks correspond to opposite polarity -- is that about it?
Yup. I suppose you could say that the observational sunspot cycle is 11 years but that the physics behind it runs on a 22 year cycle.
Most Dims will blame the solar activity on global warming, not the other way around.
Yep, I saw finally saw two strong auroral displays in Maryland with the last cycle; hopefully more people will be attuned to them and have the opportunity to see them in the next cycle.
One of the most beautiful things I've ever seen.
Whoops. The rotation rate is dependent on latitude not depth. Odd, but the sun is a big ball of gas so it doesn't have the structural integrity to force all parts to rotate at the same rate.
A question was asked, What will be the sign of the end and the answer was, There will be signs in the sun, moon, and the stars. Then the end will come.