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National Geographic reports that noticeable changes in climate may be explained by "staring" at the sun, as the latest lull in solar flares has some scientists worried that this might be the next "Little Ice Age." And by "little" we mean seas impassable due to too much ice and glaciers "engulfing" whole villages, which may not be such a bad thing, as we seem to be losing a glacier a day and could use a few more. Currently astrophysicists are noting that this is the "slow" period in solar flares and storms in decades and that the last time this happened coincided with the coldest part of the Little Ice Age from 1645 to 1715. Currently the sun is also the "dimmest" it has been in 100 years, and no that's not just because we're experiencing winter/spring here in North America.
So what might this parallel with past sun activity mean for life on earth? Well, according to the article,
"access to Greenland was largely cut off by ice and canals in Holland routinely froze solid. Glaciers in the Alps engulfed whole villages and sea ice increased so much that no open water flowed around Iceland in the year 1695."Yikes. But don't panic and start stocking up on fur-lined parkas just yet. Climate scientists say that the man-made CO2 in the atmosphere is 50-60 percent higher than normal (or than what it was during the last Little Ice Age), while the brightness of the sun is down just a few hundredths of one percent.
Scientists monitor sun activity in 11-year cycles. According to this pattern, 2008 was supposed to be lowest in the cycle with 2009 starting to show an increase in solar flares and other activity. Unfortunately, 79 of the first 90 days were free of activity. One upside: it seems that pretty much only the northern hemisphere will be affected by this cool trend, which is good because it seems that most of the southern hemisphere already has their hands full by handling the majority of natural disasters from global warming. Take that.
Another potential change is the influence of the sun on weather. Solar UV light is not "bottoming out" the way it normally does, and while this only affects the upper layers of the atmosphere, some scientists think that it might begin to affect lower layers and thus have an impact on changing weather patterns. Though the jury (and data) is still out on this and how much impact the sun may have on changing climate.
So for now, keep an eye on the skies, and consider buying a few extra layers if you live in the northern hemisphere. You might just need them.:National Geographic
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