Just like the human beings during coronavirus pandemic, the sun is also enjoying a lockdown of its own. The world is about to enter a period, which is known as the year without summer. During this time the solar activity is minimum on the surface of the sun, which is called solar minima. The highest solar activity is known as solar maxima.
Last time, this phenomenon occurred during 1790 – 1830 (Dalton Minimum) which caused a deep sunshine recession. Mount Tambora in Indonesia erupted which spewed massive smoke and ash into the Earth’s atmosphere. The weather became so bad that snow was recorded in July in the regions of America and Europe. Now, many would believe that the Earth is entering that period once again due to low solar activity.
The Impact of Solar Minima On Climate
The sun is a giant ball of fire and plasma that supports life on Earth in many ways. It is alarming that the number of images released by NASA suggests that solar minima is underway. It means that the sun is not swirling any fire vortices and creating nuclear fusions as it is expected, instead it is oddly quiet. NASA continues to discover new threats and opportunities like it discovered a new solar system a while back.
According to the records, the next solar minima would be the deepest because the sun has been less active for the total of 107 days in 2020. The magnetic field lines around the sun are becoming weaker, allowing additional and potentially harmful cosmic rays into the Earth’s atmosphere. The result could be freezing weather, volcanic eruptions, Earthquakes, and famine that may eventually lead to drought. Another effect of solar minima is that there are very few sightings of aurora borealis aka northern lights that are such a delight to watch. Here are few regions where auroras are magnificent.
The Surface Of The Sun
The solar cycle of the sun takes 11-years and scientists believe that sunspots and solar flare activity is diminishing in the current cycle. Sunspots are dark areas that are relatively cooler than other parts of the surface. The tension in the magnetic field lines near the sunspots causes a sudden explosion of energy called solar flare.
According to scientists, the current low amount of sunspots suggest that the next one could be a grand solar minima instead of a normal one. This may lead more cosmic rays to reach the Earth. The excess of cosmic rays are a health hazard to astronauts and many aircrafts travelling across icecap climatic regions (Greenland and Antarctica). It affects the electro-chemistry in the upper atmosphere of Earth that triggers lightning and thunderstorms.
Difference Between Solar Minima And Solar Maxima
Alternatively, if there are a lot of sunspots on the surface of the sun then it is called solar maxima. At this point, the sun hurls billions of tons of electrified gases into space. Space monitors are responsible for analysing such phenomena to protect spacecrafts and astronauts. NASA launched a probe into the sun in 2018 to find out what drives the pJarticles to burst outwards.
Both solar minima and solar maxima have their own impacts on Earth’s weather and atmosphere.
Are We Approaching the Ice Age?
There are concerns for an impending ice age due to the mini ice age situation during the Maunder Minimum (1645 -1715). NASA confirms that the output of the sun’s energy is expected to decrease considerably in the next several decades. Last time it was devastating for the Earth’s food production as temperatures went as low as 2℃ for over 2 decades. So far, there have been zero sunspots this year according to the SpaceWeather. Instead of getting worried, experts believe that the next grand solar minima can help humans push the climate into a certain direction.
According to them, there are fewer chances of adverse effects, rather it will only eliminate the years of global warming caused by human activity on Earth. The greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels are many times greater than the cooling effects of grand solar minima. Even if the phenomenon lasts for over 100 years, the global temperature will continue to get warmer.