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Thread: Solar Cycle 24 -- Predictions of severity

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    Default Solar Cycle 24 -- Predictions of severity

    Scientists grapple over sunspot cycle
    <small>AP on Yahoo ^ | 12/12/06 | Alicia Chang - ap</small>

    SAN FRANCISCO - Scientists are deadlocked over the severity of the next sunspot cycle, which could produce powerful solar storms that can disrupt communication systems on Earth.


    A panel of space weather forecasters has been sifting through about three dozen predictions from 15 nations that differ widely in how intense the next solar cycle will be. The group, run by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and funded by NASA, aims to make an official prediction in spring 2007.


    While scientists have observed sunspots — dark, cool blemishes — on the sun's surface since the days of Galileo, they've been unable to accurately forecast the severity of the eruptions associated with the spots. Sunspots are best known for triggering solar flares.


    The debate over the next cycle, known as solar cycle 24, has been "passionate," said Douglas Biesecker, a physicist at NOAA's Space Environment Center who heads the panel.


    No clear prediction has emerged yet from the various computer models that simulate the sun's activity, Biesecker said Tuesday during a meeting of the American Geophysical Union.


    Forecasts vary so wildly that predictions for the peak sunspot number range from 42 to 185.


    "You have scientists who each have their own idea of what the cycle is going to be and everybody believes they're right," Biesecker said.


    Governments and companies increasingly rely on space weather forecasts to guard against possible failures of power grids and radio communications when solar storms explode with massive bursts of magnetic energy and radiation that barrel toward Earth at millions of miles per hour.


    Solar activity occurs when the sun's magnetic field lines twist and turn as it rotates. The process spews out millions of tons of superheated charged particles into space.


    Scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research made headlines earlier this year when they predicted that solar cycle 24 will be between 30 percent and 50 percent stronger than the current one and will begin a year later. The researchers based their forecast on a sophisticated computer model that others contend has not yet been proven reliable.


    The intensity of the next sunspot cycle could have consequences for the aging Hubble Space Telescope, which has beamed back stunning images of star births and galaxies, said Dean Pesnell, a project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center who predicts a weak solar cycle.


    A weak cycle would mean that Hubble would experience less atmospheric drag and stay in orbit longer while a strong cycle could force NASA to boost the telescope so that it stays in place, Pesnell said.


    David Hathaway, a researcher at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center who predicts a strong sunspot cycle, said the biggest hurdle is trying to forecast how the sun will act with little data to work with.


    "It's like listening to a freight train in the distance to estimate the size of the train," Hathaway said.
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    Default Re: Solar Cycle 24 -- Predictions of severity

    Scientists Issue Unprecedented Forecast of Next Sunspot Cycle

    March 6, 2006
    BOULDER—The next sunspot cycle will be 30-50% stronger than the last one and begin as much as a year late, according to a breakthrough forecast using a computer model of solar dynamics developed by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). Predicting the Sun's cycles accurately, years in advance, will help societies plan for active bouts of solar storms, which can slow satellite orbits, disrupt communications, and bring down power systems.


    The scientists have confidence in the forecast because, in a series of test runs, the newly developed model simulated the strength of the past eight solar cycles with more than 98% accuracy. The forecasts are generated, in part, by tracking the subsurface movements of the sunspot remnants of the previous two solar cycles. The team is publishing its forecast in the current issue of Geophysical Research Letters.

    "Our model has demonstrated the necessary skill to be used as a forecasting tool," says NCAR scientist Mausumi Dikpati, the leader of the forecast team at NCAR's High Altitude Observatory that also includes Peter Gilman and Giuliana de Toma.


    Understanding the cycles
    The Sun goes through approximately 11-year cycles, from peak storm activity to quiet and back again. Solar scientists have tracked them for some time without being able to predict their relative intensity or timing.
    <table align="left" border="0" cellpadding="8" cellspacing="0" width="366"> <tbody><tr> <td class="caption" valign="top">
    NCAR scientists Mausumi Dikpati (left), Peter Gilman, and Giuliana de Toma examine results from a new computer model of solar dynamics. (Photo by Carlye Calvin, UCAR)</td> </tr> </tbody></table> Forecasting the cycle may help society anticipate solar storms, which can disrupt communications and power systems and affect the orbits of satellites. The storms are linked to twisted magnetic fields in the Sun that suddenly snap and release tremendous amounts of energy. They tend to occur near dark regions of concentrated magnetic fields, known as sunspots.
    The NCAR team's computer model, known as the Predictive Flux-transport Dynamo Model, draws on research by NCAR scientists indicating that the evolution of sunspots is caused by a current of plasma, or electrified gas, that circulates between the Sun's equator and its poles over a period of 17 to 22 years. This current acts like a conveyor belt of sunspots.


    The sunspot process begins with tightly concentrated magnetic field lines in the solar convection zone (the outermost layer of the Sun's interior). The field lines rise to the surface at low latitudes and form bipolar sunspots, which are regions of concentrated magnetic fields. When these sunspots decay, they imprint the moving plasma with a type of magnetic signature. As the plasma nears the poles, it sinks about 200,000 kilometers (124,000 miles) back into the convection zone and starts returning toward the equator at a speed of about one meter (three feet) per second or slower. The increasingly concentrated fields become stretched and twisted by the internal rotation of the Sun as they near the equator, gradually becoming less stable than the surrounding plasma. This eventually causes coiled-up magnetic field lines to rise up, tear through the Sun's surface, and create new sunspots.


    The subsurface plasma flow used in the model has been verified with the relatively new technique of helioseismology, based on observations from both NSF– and NASA–supported instruments. This technique tracks sound waves reverberating inside the Sun to reveal details about the interior, much as a doctor might use an ultrasound to see inside a patient.


    <table align="center" border="0" cellpadding="8" cellspacing="0" width="550"> <tbody><tr> <td class="caption">

    NCAR scientists have succeeded in simulating the intensity of the sunspot cycle by developing a new computer model of solar processes. This figure compares observations of the past 12 cycles (above) with model results that closely match the sunspot peaks (below). The intensity level is based on the amount of the Sun's visible hemisphere with sunspot activity. The NCAR team predicts the next cycle will be 30-50% more intense than the current cycle. (Figure by Mausumi Dikpati, Peter Gilman, and Giuliana de Toma, NCAR.)</td> </tr> </tbody></table>
    Predicting Cycles 24 and 25
    The Predictive Flux-transport Dynamo Model is enabling NCAR scientists to predict that the next solar cycle, known as Cycle 24, will produce sunspots across an area slightly larger than 2.5% of the visible surface of the Sun. The scientists expect the cycle to begin in late 2007 or early 2008, which is about 6 to 12 months later than a cycle would normally start. Cycle 24 is likely to reach its peak about 2012.


    By analyzing recent solar cycles, the scientists also hope to forecast sunspot activity two solar cycles, or 22 years, into the future. The NCAR team is planning in the next year to issue a forecast of Cycle 25, which will peak in the early 2020s.


    "This is a significant breakthrough with important applications, especially for satellite-dependent sectors of society," explains NCAR scientist Peter Gilman.


    The NCAR team received funding from the National Science Foundation and NASA’s Living with a Star program.

    Related sites on the World Wide Web

    NCAR's High Altitude Observatory

    Geophysical Research Letters
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    Default Re: Solar Cycle 24 -- Predictions of severity

    Here's a graphical representation of the sun spot cycle from the 1700s til now

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    Default Re: Solar Cycle 24 -- Predictions of severity

    I'll say this, given the graphics, I dont think we're looking at anything big on the next cycle, but the 2020 cycle will be pretty big, if the current evidence holds.

    I remember the 1962-3 peak. It shut down televisions, and caused other stations to come in from hundreds of miles away over the local stations, causing interference. I remember as a child they talked about extra solar radiation causing skin cancer and things like that. I also remember mom making me wear a hat outside in those days.
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    Default Re: Solar Cycle 24 -- Predictions of severity

    Here's a old report giving predictions for the 1990s... prior to Y2K

    <table align="right" border="0"> <tbody><tr> <td valign="top">
    </td> </tr> <tr> <td valign="top">Defense Technical Information Center</td> </tr> </tbody></table> Accession Number : ADA226870
    Title : Solar Cycle Effects on the Near-Earth Plasmas and Space Systems.
    Descriptive Note : Technical rept.,
    Corporate Author : AEROSPACE CORP EL SEGUNDO CA SPACE SCIENCES LAB
    Personal Author(s) : Gorney, David J.
    Report Date : 06 AUG 1990
    Pagination or Media Count : 43
    Abstract : Solar physicists have predicted that the upcoming maximum of solar activity, scheduled to occur near 1990, might be the most extreme ever recorded. Based on the observed rate of increase in solar activity starting with the most recent minimum in 1986 the upcoming solar maximum will be the most severe of those which have occurred during the space age. Correlations between solar activity and disturbances in the near-earth magnetospheric and ionospheric plasmas which adversely affect communications and space systems are well documented. The implementation of larger, more complex (and perhaps more susceptible) space systems over the last decade, has led to concern and speculation about the expected performance and survivability of these space systems over the next decade. Unfortunately, because of the complex and sometimes indirect interactions between the sun and the plasma environment in near-earth space, very few firm quantitative predictions can be made regarding the expected effects of an extreme solar maximum on the near-earth environment or on the complex systems operating in that environment. A number of qualitative predictions can be made with high confidence. Satellite communications links in the VHF/UHF range will suffer signal fades more often and with greater severity. Short wave and airline communications will be sporadically disrupted. Satellites will experience electrical charging of their surface and internal dielectric components, resulting in disruptive electrostatic discharges and micro-electronic devices on satellites will experience upsets more often. (jhd)
    Descriptors : *SATELLITE COMMUNICATIONS, *SOLAR ACTIVITY, *IONOSPHERIC DISTURBANCES, *RADIO INTERFERENCE, ARTIFICIAL SATELLITES, COMMERCIAL AVIATION, CONFIDENCE LEVEL, DATA LINKS, DIELECTRICS, EARTH(PLANET), ELECTRIC CHARGE, ELECTROSTATICS, ELECTROMAGNETIC ENVIRONMENTS, HIGH RATE, INTERACTIONS, IONOSPHERE, MAGNETOSPHERE, MICROELECTRONICS, PLASMAS(PHYSICS), PREDICTIONS, RADIO RANGES, RADIO WAVES, SOLAR CYCLE, SPACE SYSTEMS, SURVIVABILITY, ULTRAHIGH FREQUENCY, VERY HIGH FREQUENCY.
    Subject Categories : ATMOSPHERIC PHYSICS
    ASTROPHYSICS
    RADIOFREQUENCY WAVE PROPAGATION
    Distribution Statement : APPROVED FOR PUBLIC RELEASE


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    Default Re: Solar Cycle 24 -- Predictions of severity

    A Primer on Space Weather

    Versión en Español Our Star, the Sun

    We all know that the Sun is overwhelmingly important to life on Earth, but few of us have been given a good description of our star and its variations. The Sun is an average star, similar to millions of others in the Universe. It is a prodigious energy machine, manufacturing about 3.8 x 10<sup>23</sup> kiloWatts (or kiloJoules/sec). In other words, if the total output of the Sun was gathered for one second it would provide the U.S. with enough energy, at its current usage rate, for the next 9,000,000 years. The basic energy source for the Sun is nuclear fusion, which uses the high temperatures and densities within the core to fuse hydrogen, producing energy and creating helium as a byproduct. The core is so dense and the size of the Sun so great that energy released at the center of the Sun takes about 50,000,000 years to make its way to the surface, undergoing countless absorptions and re-emissions in the process. If the Sun were to stop producing energy today, it would take 50,000,000 years for significant effects to be felt at Earth!
    The Sun has been producing its radiant and thermal energies for the past four or five billion years. It has enough hydrogen to continue producing for another hundred billion years. However, in about ten to twenty billion years the surface of the Sun will begin to expand, enveloping the inner planets (including Earth). At that time, our Sun will be known as a red giant star. If the Sun were more massive, it would collapse and re-ignite as a helium-burning star. Due to its average size, however, the Sun is expected to merely contract into a relatively small, cool star known as a white dwarf.
    It has long been known that the Sun is neither featureless nor steady. (Theophrastus first identified sunspots in the year 325 B.C.) Some of the more important solar features are explained in the following sections.
    Sunspots

    (MPEG movie 24 kbytes, 38 frames, 300x300 pixels) Sunspots, dark areas on the solar surface, contain transient, concentrated magnetic fields. They are the most prominent visible features on the Sun; a moderate-sized sunspot is about as large as Earth. Sunspots form and dissipate over periods of days or weeks. They occur when strong magnetic fields emerge through the solar surface and allow the area to cool slightly, from a background value of 6000 degrees C down to about 4200 degrees C; this area appears as a dark spot in contrast with the Sun. The darkest area at the center of a sunspot is called the umbra; it is here that the magnetic field strengths are the highest. The less-dark, striated area around the umbra is called the penumbra. Sunspots rotate with the solar surface, taking about 27 days to make a complete rotation as seen from Earth. Sunspots near the Sun's equator rotate at a faster rate than those near the solar poles. Groups of sunspots, especially those with complex magnetic field configurations, are often the sites of flares.
    Over the last 300 years, the average number of sunspots has regularly waxed and waned in an 11-year sunspot cycle. The Sun, like Earth, has its seasons but its year equals 11 of ours.
    Coronal Holes

    Coronal holes are variable solar features that can last for months to years. They are seen as large, dark holes when the Sun is viewed in x-ray wavelengths. These holes are rooted in large cells of unipolar magnetic fields on the Sun's surface; their field lines extend far out into the solar system. These open field lines allow a continuous outflow of high-velocity solar wind. Coronal holes have a long-term cycle, but it doesn't correspond exactly to the sunspot cycle; they holes tend to be most numerous in the years following sunspot maximum. At some stages of the solar cycle, these holes are continuously visible at the solar north and south poles.
    Prominences

    Solar prominences (seen as dark filaments on the disk) are usually quiescent clouds of solar material held above the solar surface by magnetic fields. Most prominences erupt at some point in their lifetime, releasing large amounts of solar material into space.
    Flares


    Solar flares are intense, temporary releases of energy. They are seen at ground-based observatories as bright areas on the Sun in optical wavelengths and as bursts of noise at radio wavelengths; they can last from minutes to hours. Flares are our solar system's largest explosive events which can be equivalent to approximately 40 billion Hiroshima-size atomic bombs. The primary energy source for flares appears to be the tearing and reconnection of strong magnetic fields. They radiate throughout the electromagnetic spectrum, from gamma rays to x-rays, through visible light out to kilometer-long radio waves.
    Coronal Mass Ejections

    The outer solar atmosphere, the corona, is structured by strong magnetic fields. Where these fields are closed, often above sunspot groups, the confined solar atmosphere can suddenly and violently release bubbles or tongues of gas and magnetic fields called coronal mass ejections. A large CME can contain 10.0E16 grams (a billion tons) of matter that can be accelerated to several million miles per hour in a spectacular explosion. Solar material streaks out through the interplanetary medium, impacting any planets or spacecraft in its path. CMEs are sometimes associated with flares but usually occur independently. Between Sun and Earth

    The region between the Sun and the planets has been termed the interplanetary medium. Although once considered a perfect vacuum, this is actually a turbulent region dominated by the solar wind, which flows at velocities of approximately 250-1000 km/s (about 600,000 to 2,000,000 miles per hour). Other characteristics of the solar wind (density, composition, and magnetic field strength, among others) vary with changing conditions on the Sun. The effect of the solar wind can be seen in the tails of comets which always point away from the Sun.
    The solar wind flows around obstacles such as planets, but those planets with their own magnetic fields respond in specific ways. Earth's magnetic field is very similar to the pattern formed when iron filings align around a bar magnet. Under the influence of the solar wind, these magnetic field lines are compressed in the Sunward direction and stretched out in the downwind direction. This creates the magnetosphere, a complex, teardrop-shaped cavity around Earth. The Van Allen radiation belts are within this cavity, as is the ionosphere, a layer of Earth's upper atmosphere where photo ionization by solar x-rays and extreme ultraviolet rays creates free electrons. Earth's magnetic field senses the solar wind its speed, density, and magnetic field. Because the solar wind varies over time scales as short as seconds, the interface that separates interplanetary space from the magnetosphere is very dynamic. Normally this interface called the magnetopause lies at a distance equivalent to about 10 Earth radii in the direction of the Sun. However, during episodes of elevated solar wind density or velocity, the magnetopause can be pushed inward to within 6.6 Earth radii (the altitude of geosynchronous satellites). As the magnetosphere extracts energy from the solar wind, internal processes produce geomagnetic storms.
    Solar Effects at Earth

    Some major terrestrial results of solar variations are the aurora, proton events, and geomagnetic storms. Aurora

    The aurora is a dynamic and visually delicate manifestation of solar-induced geomagnetic storms. The solar wind energizes electrons and ions in the magnetosphere. These particles usually enter Earth's upper atmosphere near the polar regions. When the particles strike the molecules and atoms of the thin, high atmosphere, some of them start to glow in different colors.
    Aurorae begin between 60 and 80 degrees latitude. As a storm intensifies, the aurorae spread toward the equator. During an unusually large storm in 1909, an aurora was visible at Singapore, on the geomagnetic equator. The aurorae provide pretty displays, but they are just a visible sign of atmospheric changes that may wreak havoc on technological systems.
    Aurora in El Paso County, Texas, August 12, 2000.
    Courtesy of Christopher Grohusko.
    Proton Events

    Energetic protons can reach Earth within 30 minutes of a major flare's peak. During such an event, Earth is showered energetic solar particles (primarily protons) released from the flare site. Some of these particles spiral down Earth's magnetic field lines, penetrating the upper layers of our atmosphere where they produce additional ionization and may produce a significant increase in the radiation environment.
    Geomagnetic Storms

    One to four days after a flare or eruptive prominence occurs, a slower cloud of solar material and magnetic fields reaches Earth, buffeting the magnetosphere and resulting in a geomagnetic storm. These storms are extraordinary variations in Earth's surface magnetic field. During a geomagnetic storm, portions of the solar wind's energy is transferred to the magnetosphere, causing Earth's magnetic field to change rapidly in direction and intensity and energize the particle populations within it.
    Disrupted Systems

    <dl><dt>Communications </dt><dd> Many communication systems utilize the ionosphere to reflect radio signals over long distances. Ionospheric storms can affect radio communication at all latitudes. Some radio frequencies are absorbed and others are reflected, leading to rapidly fluctuating signals and unexpected propagation paths. TV and commercial radio stations are little affected by solar activity, but ground-to-air, ship-to-shore, Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, and amateur radio are frequently disrupted. Radio operators using high frequencies rely upon solar and geomagnetic alerts<f0> to keep their communication circuits up and running. </f0> Some military detection or early-warning systems are also affected by solar activity. The Over-the-Horizon Radar bounces signals off the ionosphere in order to monitor the launch of aircraft and missiles from long distances. During geomagnetic storms, this system can be severely hampered by radio clutter. Some submarine detection systems use the magnetic signatures of submarines as one input to their locating schemes. Geomagnetic storms can mask and distort these signals.
    The Federal Aviation Administration routinely receives alerts of solar radio bursts so that they can recognize communication problems and forego unnecessary maintenance. When an aircraft and a ground station are aligned with the Sun, jamming of air-control radio frequencies can occur. This can also happen when an Earth station, a satellite, and the Sun are in alignment.

    </dd><dt>Navigation Systems </dt><dd> Systems such as LORAN and OMEGA are adversely affected when solar activity disrupts their signal propagation. The OMEGA system consists of eight transmitters located through out the world. Airplanes and ships use the very low frequency signals from these transmitters to determine their positions. During solar events and geomagnetic storms, the system can give navigators information that is inaccurate by as much as several miles. If navigators are alerted that a proton event or geomagnetic storm is in progress, they can switch to a backup system. GPS signals are affected when solar activity causes sudden variations in the density of the ionosphere.

    </dd><dt>Satellites </dt><dd> Geomagnetic storms and increased solar ultraviolet emission heat Earth's upper atmosphere, causing it to expand. The heated air rises, and the density at the orbit of satellites up to about 1000 km increases significantly. This results in increased drag on satellites in space, causing them to slow and change orbit slightly. Unless low-Earth-orbit satellites are routinely boosted to higher orbits, they slowly fall, and eventually burn up in Earth's atmosphere.
    Skylab is an example of a spacecraft re-entering Earth's atmosphere prematurely as a result of higher-than-expected solar activity. During the great geomagnetic storm of March 1989, four of the Navy's navigational satellites had to be taken out of service for up to a week.
    As technology has allowed spacecraft components to become smaller, their miniaturized systems have become increasingly vulnerable to the more energetic solar particles. These particles can cause physical damage to microchips and can change software commands in satellite- borne computers.
    Differential Charging. Another problem for satellite operators is differential charging. During geomagnetic storms, the number and energy of electrons and ions increase. When a satellite travels through this energized environment, the charged particles striking the spacecraft cause different portions of the spacecraft to be differentially charged. Eventually, electrical discharges can arc across spacecraft components, harming and possibly disabling them. Bulk Charging. <bo>Bulk charging</bo> (also called deep charging) occurs when energetic particles, primarily electrons, penetrate the outer covering of a satellite and deposit their charge in its internal parts. If sufficient charge accumulates in any one component, it may attempt to neutralize by discharging to other components. This discharge is potentially hazardous to the satellite's electronic systems.

    </dd><dt>Radiation Hazards to Humans </dt><dd> Intense solar flares release very-high-energy particles that can be as injurious to humans as the low-energy radiation from nuclear blasts. Earth's atmosphere and magnetosphere allow adequate protection for us on the ground, but astronauts in space are subject to potentially lethal dosages of radiation. The penetration of high-energy particles into living cells, measured as radiation dose, leads to chromosome damage and, potentially, cancer. Large doses can be fatal immediately. Solar protons with energies greater than 30 MeV are particularly hazardous. In October 1989, the Sun produced enough energetic particles that an astronaut on the Moon, wearing only a space suit and caught out in the brunt of the storm, would probably have died. (Astronauts who had time to gain safety in a shelter beneath moon soil would have absorbed only slight amounts of radiation.)
    Solar proton events can also produce elevated radiation aboard aircraft flying at high altitudes. Although these risks are small, monitoring of solar proton events by satellite instrumentation allows the occassional exposure to be monitored and evaluated.

    </dd><dt>Geologic Exploration </dt><dd> Earth's magnetic field is used by geologists to determine subterranean rock structures. For the most part, these geodetic surveyors are searching for oil, gas, or mineral deposits. They can accomplish this only when Earth's field is quiet, so that true magnetic signatures can be detected. Other surveyors prefer to work during geomagnetic storms, when the variations to Earth's normal subsurface electric currents help them to see subsurface oil or mineral structures. For these reasons, many surveyors use geomagnetic alerts and predictions to schedule their mapping activities.
    </dd><dt>Electric Power </dt><dd> When magnetic fields move about in the vicinity of a conductor such as a wire, an electric current is induced into the conductor. This happens on a grand scale during geomagnetic storms. Power companies transmit alternating current to their customers via long transmission lines. The nearly direct currents induced in these lines from geomagnetic storms are harmful to electrical transmission equipment. On March 13, 1989, in Montreal, Quebec, 6 million people were without commercial electric power for 9 hours as a result of a huge geomagnetic storm. Some areas in the northeastern U.S. and in Sweden also lost power. By receiving geomagnetic storm alerts and warnings, power companies can minimize damage and power outages.

    </dd><dt>Pipelines </dt><dd> Rapidly fluctuating geomagnetic fields can induce currents into pipelines. During these times, several problems can arise for pipeline engineers. Flow meters in the pipeline can transmit erroneous flow information, and the corrosion rate of the pipeline is dramatically increased. If engineers unwittingly attempt to balance the current during a geomagnetic storm, corrosion rates may increase even more. Pipeline managers routinely receive alerts and warnings to help them provide an efficient and long-lived system.

    </dd><dt>Climate </dt><dd> The Sun is the heat engine that drives the circulation of our atmosphere. Although it has long been assumed to be a constant source of energy, recent measurements of this solar constant have shown that the base output of the Sun can vary by up to two tenths of a percent over the 11-year solar cycle. Temporary decreases of up to one-half percent have been observed. Atmospheric scientists say that this variation is significant and that it can modify climate over time. Plant growth has been shown to vary over the 11-year sunspot and 22-year magnetic cycles of the Sun, as evidenced in tree-ring records. While the solar cycle has been nearly regular during the last 300 years, there was a period of 70 years during the 17th and 18th centuries when very few sunspots were seen (even though telescopes were widely used). This drop in sunspot number coincided with the timing of the little ice age in Europe, implying a Sun- to-climate connection. Recently, a more direct link between climate and solar variability has been speculated. Stratospheric winds near the equator blow in different directions, depending on the time in the solar cycle. Studies are under way to determine how this wind reversal affects global circulation patterns and weather.
    During proton events, many more energetic particles reach Earth's middle atmosphere. There they cause molecular ionization, creating chemicals that destroy atmospheric ozone and allow increased amounts of harmful solar ultraviolet radiation to reach Earth's surface. A solar proton event in 1982 resulted in a temporary 70% decrease in ozone densities.

    </dd><dt>Biology </dt><dd> There is a growing body of evidence that changes in the geomagnetic field affect biological systems. Studies indicate that physically stressed human biological systems may respond to fluctuations in the geomagnetic field. Interest and concern in this subject have led the Union of Radio Science International to create a new commission entitled Electromagnetics in Biology and Medicine. Possibly the most closely studied of the variable Sun's biological effects has been the degradation of homing pigeons' navigational abilities during geomagnetic storms. Pigeons and other migratory animals, such as dolphins and whales, have internal biological compasses composed of the mineral magnetite wrapped in bundles of nerve cells. While this probably is not their primarily method of navigation, there have been many pigeon race smashes, a term used when only a small percentage of birds return home from a release site. Because these losses have occurred during geomagnetic storms, pigeon handlers have learned to ask for geomagnetic alerts and warnings as an aid to scheduling races.
    </dd></dl>
    Conclusion

    It has been realized and appreciated only in the last few decades that solar flares, CMEs, and magnetic storms affect people and their activities. The list of consequences grows in proportion to our dependence on technological systems. The subtleties of the interactions between Sun and Earth, and between solar particles and delicate instruments, have become factors that affect our well being. Thus there will be continued and intensified need for space environment services to address health, safety, and commercial needs.
    Suggested Reading

    <dl><dt> Davies, K., 1990, Ionospheric Radio. Peter Peregrinus, London. </dt><dt> Eather, R. H., 1980, Majestic Lights. AGU, Washington, D.C. </dt><dt> Garrett, H. B., and C. P. Pike, eds., 1980, Space Systems and Their Interactions with Earth's Space Environment. New York: American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. </dt><dt> Gauthreaux, S., Jr., 1980, Animal Migration: Orientation and Navigation., Chapter 5. Academic Press, New York. </dt><dt> Harding, R., 1989, Survival in Space. Routledge, New York. </dt><dt> Joselyn, J.A., 1992, The impact of solar flares and magnetic storms on humans. EOS, 73(7): 81, 84-85. </dt><dt> Johnson, N. L., and D. S. McKnight, 1987, Artificial Space Debris. Orbit Book Co., Malabar, Florida. </dt><dt> Lanzerotti, L. J., 1979, Impacts of ionospheric / magnetospheric process on terrestrial science and technology. In Solar System Plasma Physics, III, L. J. Lanzerotti, C. F. Kennel, and E.N. Parker, eds. North Holland Publishing Co., New York. </dt><dt>Campbell, W.H., 2001, Earth Magnetism: A Guided Tour Through Magnetic Fields, Harcourt Sci. and Tech. Co., New York</dt></dl>
    Photo Credits

    <dl>H-alpha image of the Sun courtesy U.S. Air Force Solar Optical Observing Network.
    White light image of the sun from Japanese Yohkoh satellite, courtesy Hiraiso Observatory.
    X-ray image of the sun from Japanese Yohkoh satellite, courtesy Hiraiso Observatory.
    Coronal mass ejection from Holloman Airforce Base, SOON system.
    All other images courtesy the Space Environment Center, NOAA.
    </dl>
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    Default Re: Solar Cycle 24 -- Predictions of severity

    I was in Fairbanks Alaska roughly Nov. 2001 on a business trip. Finishing up shop talk with a client, he being a native, told me to make sure I stepped outside that night and get away from the hotel parking lot lights to check out the northern lights. A large solar flare was due to hit that day and he said if the clouds held off, it should be quite a show.

    The clouds did hold off and I didn't even have to step away from the parking lot. The Arora Borealis that far north has to be seen to be believed. Pictures just don't due it justice. It was so bright the landscape around me was lit up like you'ld expect from a full moon.

    Living in Seattle I've gotten glimpses of it before, just rarely, just at the horizon. But being just 100-125 miles south of the artic circle, the whole freakin sky lit up in a major solar storm... take-your-breath-away-amazing.

    The upshot of a solar storm. it's like nature's own lava lamp.

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    Default Re: Solar Cycle 24 -- Predictions of severity

    they are awesome, huh?
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    Default Re: Solar Cycle 24 -- Predictions of severity

    Definately. I know they can wreck Hell on power grids and communications, but man, pop a brew, take a lawn chair out to the backyard, and just stare up into the night sky. Mesmerizing like a campfire in slo-mo.

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    Default Re: Solar Cycle 24 -- Predictions of severity

    Mostly it's not actually the Aurora that causes problems. It's the massive magnetic fields associated with them, and the disruption of our own magnetic field that can cause problems.

    In reality, if a coronal mass ejection hits the earth, (a CME) it can destroy an entire grid.

    A CME is basically a huge cloud of plasma held together in a very strong magnetic ring that breaks off from the suns magnetic field.

    if you take a magnetic field and make the lines of force cut across a wire, you induce current. If you take a MASSIVE field and it cuts across a LOT of wire, you induce MASSIVE pulses, which can burn out transformers, blast equipment on any end of the circuit (including motors, radios etc).

    It is like getting hit with an EMP. In fact, thats precisely what it is, but it is created by the sun, rather than a nuclear bomb.
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    Default Re: Solar Cycle 24 -- Predictions of severity

    Wow.....

    MIDDLE LATITUDE AURORAL ACTIVITY WARNING (Northern California to North Carolina)


    <small>Solar Terrestrial Dispatch ^ | December 13, 2006</small>

    <small></small>

    Updated: 06:15 UTC on 13 December 2006 Solar Terrestrial Dispatch www.spacew.com


    VALID BEGINNING AT: 00:00 UTC ON 14 DECEMBER VALID UNTIL: 23:00 UTC (5 pm EDT) ON 15 DECEMBER


    HIGH RISK PERIOD: 14 DECEMBER (UTC DAYS) MODERATE RISK PERIOD: 14 - 15 DECEMBER


    PREDICTED ACTIVITY INDICES: 15, 70, 30, 15 (13 - 16 DECEMBER)
    POTENTIAL MAGNITUDE OF MIDDLE LATITUDE AURORAL ACTIVITY: HIGH
    POTENTIAL DURATION OF THIS ACTIVITY: MAIN BELT = 12 HOURS MINOR BELT = 12-24 HOURS


    ESTIMATED OPTIMUM OBSERVING CONDITIONS: NEAR AND AFTER LOCAL MIDNIGHT


    EXPECTED LUNAR INTERFERENCE: MODERATE AFTER LOCAL MIDNIGHT
    OVERALL OPPORTUNITY FOR OBSERVATIONS FROM MIDDLE LATITUDES: GOOD TO VERY GOOD


    AURORAL ACTIVITY *MAY* BE OBSERVED APPROXIMATELY NORTH OF A LINE FROM... (THIS LINE IS VALID *ONLY* IF FAVORABLE STORM CONDITIONS OCCUR)


    NORTHERN CALIFORNIA TO NORTHERN NEVADA TO COLORADO TO KANSAS TO SOUTHERN MISSOURI TO TENNESSEE TO NORTH CAROLINA.


    ACTIVITY *MAY* ALSO BE OBSERVED APPROXIMATELY NORTH OF A LINE FROM... (THIS LINE IS VALID *ONLY* IF FAVORABLE STORM CONDITIONS OCCUR)


    FRANCE TO NORTHERN ITALY TO AUSTRIA TO SOUTHERN POLAND TO CENTRAL RUSSIA.


    NEW ZELAND AND SOUTHERN AUSTRALIA MAY ALSO SPOT PERIODS OF ACTIVITY MODERATE TO STRONG ACTIVITY.
    SYNOPSIS...


    A powerful and well-directed solar flare from active solar Region 930 was observed early on 13 December. This event has the potential to produce periods of moderate to strong (possibly even intense) auroral storm activity on 14 December, possibly lingering into 15 December. The most intense phase of activity is likely to occur some hours after the initial impact, which is currently expected near 07:00 UTC on 14 December (2 am EST on 14 December). The moon will begin to impinge on observations after it rises sometime after local midnight, so the best observations (if possible) will occur prior to and near local midnight when the moon is still below the horizon.


    This warning will remain valid through 24:00 UTC (5 pm EST) on 15 December. It will be updated or allowed to expire at that time. For updated information, visit: http://www.spacew.com/aurora/forum.html. For real-time plots of current activity, visit: http://www.spacew.com/plots.html
    PLEASE REPORT VALID OBSERVATIONS OF AURORAL ACTIVITY TO: http://www.spacew.com/submitsighting.html
    ** End of Warning **
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    Default Re: Solar Cycle 24 -- Predictions of severity

    THAR SHE BLOWS!!!!!


    Odd coincidence, considering our conversation.

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    Default Re: Solar Cycle 24 -- Predictions of severity

    Still not quite sure how to translate UTC time to Central time zone. I am pretty sure there is some type of cosmic conspiracy preventing me form enjoying this type of event, always cloudy on nights of meteor showers, wonder if should contact Alex Jones?
    "Still waitin on the Judgement Day"

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    Default Re: Solar Cycle 24 -- Predictions of severity

    Luke,
    If you notice they hide in there what optimal viewing time will be:
    The most intense phase of activity is likely to occur some hours after the initial impact, which is currently expected near 07:00 UTC on 14 December (2 am EST on 14 December). The moon will begin to impinge on observations after it rises sometime after local midnight, so the best observations (if possible) will occur prior to and near local midnight when the moon is still below the horizon.
    So, central time might be around 1:00am. But before midnight local when the moon will rise.

    I'll be out looking tonight!

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    Default Re: Solar Cycle 24 -- Predictions of severity

    Thanks Ryan, I guess I need to read a little slower, I will also be watching, through the fog and hopefully no cloud cover. I have never witnessed the auroa, perhaps tonight will be the night. With my luck as of late I will probably get moonburned!
    "Still waitin on the Judgement Day"

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    Default Re: Solar Cycle 24 -- Predictions of severity

    Kept an eye out for auroral activity at the recommended times and later but didn't see anything.

    Though, I was treated to a pretty spectacular meteor shower. It just so happens that the Geminids shower was last night! Must have seen about 2-3 a minute!

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    Default Re: Solar Cycle 24 -- Predictions of severity

    Still not quite sure how to translate UTC time to Central time zone. I am pretty sure there is some type of cosmic conspiracy preventing me form enjoying this type of event, always cloudy on nights of meteor showers, wonder if should contact Alex Jones?
    Luke.....


    UTC is coordinated universal time. It is also known as Greenwich Mean Time or GMT. It is the time that it happens to be on the Prime Meridian (the 0 degreen Longitude line that runs through Greenwich England).

    CURRENTLY.... I am on Mountain time. And it is six hours difference from UTC. So as I write this at 0816 hours MT, it is 1416 UTC. You are one hour ahead of me, so as I write this.... it is 0916 there, and you are -5 hours from UTC. Thus, it is still 1416 hours UTC. lol

    Hope that helps.

    Just in case.. here's a little Java applet thingy I found that you might be able to use.

    http://www.k3dn.org/java/java%20clock/clock.htm
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    Default Re: Solar Cycle 24 -- Predictions of severity

    Thanks for the info, as always. I was just preparing to lookup Greenwich England, as I suspected it related to UTC. Now going to research how time zones relate to earths rotation and history of time zones. Beats watching TV today.
    "Still waitin on the Judgement Day"

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