What does the latest NASA sunspot projection mean for Massachusetts?

Perhaps you have heard about NASA's major announcement regarding the sunspot cycle.    The press release from National Geographic is here.  A detailed scientific explanation courtesy of NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab and Anthony Watt's climate blog Watts Up With That? can be found here.  Keep in mind this research is preliminary, but it is peer-reviewed and there are three major signals that are leading scientists at NASA to believe that our Sun will be going into a hibernation that could last decades.   The sun (and this was first understood by scientists in the early 1600's) often features dark spots that are known as sunspots.  These sunspots vary over time but most all follow a 11 year cycle.  These sunspots start at the sun's north pole and make their way to the south pole which takes 11 years.  It takes 22 years for the cycle to be fully complete.  Physically sunspots are area's of cool (relative to surrounding Sun) dark matter on the sun's surface that have an intense magnetic field.  So how do these affect the Earth?

As it turns out, no one really knows for sure.  Several space weather experts, climatologists, and space physic scientists believe the Sun is the driver of the Earth's climate and is most responsible for changes in climate.  The theory is that the top layer of the earth's atmosphere (there are 4, we live in the lowest layer called the troposphere) is the key to cloud formation.  When there are more clouds, more of the sun's energy is reflected to space.  When the sun's magnetic energy is low, which is what happens when sunspots are not active, more "cosmic radiation" is able to energize the top of Earth's atmosphere and generate more clouds and thus enable cooling.  This has been proposed by Svensmark (Svensmark and Calder, 2007; Svensmark and Friis-Christensen, 1997; Svensmark et al., 2007).

The last time something like this happened was either 1790-1815, or in the worst case scenario, 1645-1715.  The 1790-1815 was known as the "Dalton" solar minimum and is characterized by some of the snowiest winter's the British Isles have ever seen.  Glacier's advanced rapidly taking over several villages.  However the 1645-1715 cooling, the height of the Little Ice Age, and also known as the Maunder Minimum devastated Europe as agriculture could not handle the shortened growing season.  European's had grown use to cereal grains as a primary source of food.  The cold, long snowy winters and cool rainy summers left roughly 33% of Europe dead.  The European's were use to the warmer climates from the Medieval Warming Period from 900-1300 or so.  The Viking's settled Greenland around 900 but they were forced to abandon their colonies when they were unable to grow food anymore.

There are 2 other cooling episodes possible, cooling similar to the cooling from 1946-1977 and cooling from 1880-1915.  Each of those two periods featured cold, snowy winters in the Northeast.  A blizzard in 1888 dropped between 40-50 inches of snow in Massachusetts along with Hurricane force winds. A Hurricane in October 1804 from the Dalton Minimum was transitioning from a warm tropical core to a more winter like cold extratropical core and it dragged cold air into the storm so along with the high winds, storm surge, and flooding one normally sees from a major hurricane, 2-3 feet of snow fell in area's of New England as well.  The Hudson River regularly froze over in New York and American's should be thankful for that; it allowed George Washington to evade capture during the American Revolution.

Despite the media attention to the theory of Global Warming, a cooling world is a much worse scenario, judging off what has happened in the past.  With the Earth's population the size that is, food shortages, energy shortages, and poverty will increase.  Third world countries will feel this first, but the whole world will experience a drop in living.  This upcoming winter, though I'm still researching it, will likely be colder than last winter.  Heating bills will be sky high again and dare I say worse than 2010-11.  Will there be 4 blizzards again?  I don't know, but I do expect a more constant snow threat.  We may not receive as much snow as the historic 2010-11 winter, but I think there will be more storms of 4 inches, 5 inches, 12 inches, 6 inches etc.  All it may take next winter is one or two blockbuster storm's and the back to back winters of 2010-11 2011-12 may be remembered for a long time.  Expert long range forecaster Joe Bastardi has been on board with this theory for over a year and he nailed the 2010-11 forecast.

Again if interested in Don Easterbrook's full explanation please read here.
To see a rebuttal of Easterbrook's explaination please read here.

These are just projections of the future based off what we know now, not definite just a possibility.  It's merely something to keep in mind as we move forward.  This research is new and although it seems to fit into the climate puzzle it may be wrong.  Forecasting cooling in 2030 is great, but it's no real use to our lives at this point.  If more data continues to support this then it will be revisited.


D’Aleo, J., Easterbrook, D.J., 2010. Multidecadal tendencies in Enso and global temperatures related to multidecadal oscillations: Energy & Environment, vol. 21 (5), p. 436–460.
Easterbrook, D.J., 2000, Cyclical oscillations of Mt. Baker glaciers in response to climatic changes and their correlation with periodic oceanographic changes in the Northeast Pacific Ocean: Geological Society of America, Abstracts with Programs, vol. 32, p.17.
Easterbrook, D.J., 2001, The next 25 years; global warming or global cooling? Geologic and oceanographic evidence for cyclical climatic oscillations: Geological Society of America, Abstracts with Programs, vol. 33, p.253.

Svensmark, H. and Calder, N., 2007, The chilling stars: A new theory of climate change: Icon Books, Allen and Unwin Pty Ltd, 246 p.
Svensmark, H. and Friis-Christensen, E., 1997, Variation of cosmic ray flux and global cloud coverda missing link in solar–climate relationships: Journal of Atmospheric and SolareTerrestrial Physics, vol. 59, p. 1125–1132.
Svensmark, H., Pedersen, J.O., Marsh, N.D., Enghoff, M.B., and Uggerhøj, U.I., 2007,Experimental evidence for the role of ions in particle nucleation under atmospheric conditions: Proceedings of the Royal Society, vol. 463, p. 385–396.


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