June 10, 2021: Something big may be about to happen on the sun. “We call it the Termination Event,” says Scott McIntosh, a solar physicist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), “and it’s very, very close to happening.”
If you’ve never heard of the Termination Event, you’re not alone. Many researchers have never heard of it either. It’s a relatively new idea in solar physics championed by McIntosh and colleague Bob Leamon of the University of Maryland – Baltimore County. According to the two scientists, vast bands of magnetism are drifting across the surface of the sun. When oppositely-charged bands collide at the equator, they annihilate (or “terminate”). There’s no explosion; this is magnetism, not anti-matter. Nevertheless, the Termination Event is a big deal. It can kickstart the next solar cycle into a higher gear.
“If the Terminator Event happens soon, as we expect, new Solar Cycle 25 could have a magnitude that rivals the top few since record-keeping began,” says McIntosh.
This is, to say the least, controversial. Most solar physicists believe that Solar Cycle 25 will be weak, akin to the anemic Solar Cycle 24 which barely peaked back in 2012-2013. Orthodox models of the sun’s inner magnetic dynamo favor a weak cycle and do not even include the concept of “terminators.”
“What can I say?” laughs McIntosh. “We’re heretics!”
The researchers outlined their reasoning in a December 2020 paper in the research journal Solar Physics. Looking back over 270 years of sunspot data, they found that Terminator Events divide one solar cycle from the next, happening approximately every 11 years. Emphasis on approximately. The interval between terminators ranges from 10 to 15 years, and this is key to predicting the solar cycle.
“We found that the longer the time between terminators, the weaker the next cycle would be,” explains Leamon. “Conversely, the shorter the time between terminators, the stronger the next solar cycle would be.”
Example: Sunspot Cycle 4 began with a terminator in 1786 and ended with a terminator in 1801, an unprecedented 15 years later. The following cycle, 5, was incredibly weak with a peak amplitude of just 82 sunspots. That cycle would become known as the beginning of the “Dalton” Grand Minimum.
Solar Cycle 25 is shaping up to be the opposite. Instead of a long interval, it appears to be coming on the heels of a very short one, only 10 years since the Terminator Event that began Solar Cycle 24. Previous solar cycles with such short intervals have been among the strongest in recorded history.
These ideas may be controversial, but they have a virtue that all scientists can appreciate: They’re testable. If the Termination Event happens soon and Solar Cycle 25 skyrockets, the “heretics” may be on to something. Stay tuned for updates.
We are all aware of the environnmental crisis that humanity (and all life on Earth) faces, characterised by the term ‘climate change’. Much of the current thinking in the scientific community is promoting the idea that our planet is rapidly warming due to excess CO2 (carbon dioxide) gas produced by humans in the last few centuries, and the last 70 years in particular.
While there is a very strong and hard to deny case to suggest that human activity is the main cause of environmental destruction, the premise that it is due primarily to CO2 emissions is beginning to look somewhat flawed. I am well aware that the previous sentence is likely to draw a lot of negative attention and criticism, with accusations of ‘climate denier’ being thrown at me. However, the situation is not that simple as to be a case of ‘global warming’ being the main influence or no influence at all.
The reality of the situation is complex. In my opinion the main drivers of the environmental crisis are many, but put in simple terms – destruction of wild habitats, pollution due to industrialisation, over-use of soils, over-population, erosion of soils leading to desertification or barren, infertile landscapes, monoculture agriculture and climate fluctuations. Notice that I did not use the term ‘climate change’ which in the current scientific norm implies warming.
While the planet has undoubtedly warmed up, in part due to human activity and CO2 production, the current popular thinking completely ignores historical CO2 levels beyond the last millennium and also the primary input on temperatures on this planet and all eight of the planets in this solar system. That input, although largely ignored at the moment, is of course our sun, which on average generates 3.8 x 1026 Joules (energy) per second. Human energy usage per year is around 5 x 1020 Joules, which is about 1 million times less than the Sun produces during 1 second! In fact, in the whole of human history we have used less energy that the Sun produces in that 1 second.
So, given the above, it stand to reason that the energy of the Sun must have a significant effect on the energy available on this planet and the heat energy (temperature) that is captured by it, as it rotates around the Sun. If we look at the history of Earth, particularly through the use of ice-core samples, we can see that the temperatures on our planet follow a very distinct pattern. On a macro level this can be observed as a huge cycle of glacials (ice-ages) and interglacials, with the ice ages lasting many times longer than the interglacial (warm) periods. We are currently in an interglacial, which began approximately 11,500 years ago and it is estimated that it will end some time within the next 50,000 years.
On a micro level, the Sun undergoes cycles of around 11 years known as the solar magnetic activity cycle, which has been studied and recorded by humans for approximately 400 years. During each cycle the number of sunspots peaks and falls in a recognisable pattern. However, this pattern of approx. 11 years is itself part of a much longer solar pattern of solar minimums and solar maximums. For instance the Medieval maximum (grand solar maximum) lasted from 1100-1250 (warm period) and the famous Maunder Minimum (grand solar minimum) lasted from 1645-1715 (cold period). The later was known as a mini ice age due to the particularly drastic drop in global temperatures that affected crop-growth and led to bitter winters for a period of 70 years.
Scientists that study the sun are well aware of these periodic cycles both on the 11 year scale and on the larger scale of 70–100 years, known as the Gleissberg cycle. We have just finished a solar maximum cycle of around 70 years and are now heading into a both a new 11 year cycle and a new grand solar minimum cycle that will reach its lowest (coldest) point some time between 2030 and 2040. You don’t need to take my word for it – this has been confirmed by NASA and by the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA). NOAA predictions of sunspot and radio flux appears to show a ‘full-blown’ grand solar minimum (GSM) which will last from the late-2020s to at least the 2040s
This means that the coming solar minimum is going to be not only a grand solar minimum, but perhaps the worst one since the Maunder Minimum in the 1600s. One would expert this to have been front-page news, but outside of the scientific community this information is virtually unheard of and little understood. One must ask – why is this the case? The simple answer to this question is that the solar predictions destroy the current scientific and cultural narrative of ‘Climate Change’ in the form of warming.
There will indeed be climate change in the coming decades, but for the next 10 to 40 years it is going to get colder, not warmer! The same thing will happen on the 7 other planets in this solar system, because the main factor affecting planetary temperatures is the activity of the Sun. Given that so much time, effort and money has been invested in ‘global warming’ as a premise for change in how human society is run, it is very much an “inconvenient truth” that is beginning to arrive just at the time when we are beginning to take more affirmative action on environmental issues.
The controversial news that the Earth (and all 7 other planets) will cool down in the next 10-40 years is politically highly inconvenient and that is why it is being kept quiet. Getting rid of fossil fuels, caring for our environment, lowering industrial output, ending industrial farming and reducing livestock, plus a gradual reduction in the human population are all excellent goals. Unfortunately the rationale for doing this, that has been sold to the public, is most likely entirely misguided. The net effect of this false premise may well be that environmentalists and main-stream public scientists will look like fools by the end of this decade. The cooling of planet Earth may well be seen as justification to abandon environmental concerns and reform of our economic systems, which would be a terrible tragedy.
In order to avoid this highly likely total embarrassment, world governments and the scientific community need to admit that the coming dip in solar energy output is going to lead to the cooling of our planet for at least 2 decades, possibly 4 or 5 or even 7 decades! This is not conspiracy, this is not mis-information or propaganda – this is proven, verifiable fact which can be validated by current solar observation, previous observation of sun cycles for 400 years and ice-core samples stretching back millions of years.
As someone who has been involved in the environmental movement since I was 16, when I joined a conservation group at college, I am very concerned about how this plays out. If the public feels that they have been lied to it may lead to a backlash and a disinterest in environmental issues. The reasons I outlined at the beginning of this article are more than sufficient for humanity to change its modus operandi. One does not need to concoct highly improbable narratives about the world ‘burning up’ within decades to justify environmental activism. In fact the coming GSM is likely to produce similar negative effects to predicted ‘global warming’, such as habitat loss, loss of farming land, a drop in food availability, migration, social unrest and possibly other problems too.
It is time that the whole ‘climate change’ theory was re-assessed and the known solar activity cycle as observed by NOAA and NASA taken into account. To fail to do so is total folly and only creates another problem, that will come back to haunt us if the grand solar minimum is ignored. We do need to take better care of our world and learn to live far more harmoniously within it, but we need to base our actions on good science and not on misleading or inaccurate information.
March 22, 2012: A recent flurry of eruptions on the sun did more than spark pretty auroras around the poles. NASA-funded researchers say the solar storms of March 8th through 10th dumped enough energy in Earth’s upper atmosphere to power every residence in New York City for two years.
“This was the biggest dose of heat we’ve received from a solar storm since 2005,” says Martin Mlynczak of NASA Langley Research Center. “It was a big event, and shows how solar activity can directly affect our planet.”
Earth’s atmosphere lights up at infrared wavelengths during the solar storms of March 8-10, 2010. A ScienceCast video explains the physics of this phenomenon. Play it!
Mlynczak is the associate principal investigator for the SABER instrument onboard NASA’s TIMED satellite. SABER monitors infrared emissions from Earth’s upper atmosphere, in particular from carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitric oxide (NO), two substances that play a key role in the energy balance of air hundreds of km above our planet’s surface.
“Carbon dioxide and nitric oxide are natural thermostats,” explains James Russell of Hampton University, SABER’s principal investigator. “When the upper atmosphere (or ‘thermosphere’) heats up, these molecules try as hard as they can to shed that heat back into space.”
That’s what happened on March 8th when a coronal mass ejection (CME) propelled in our direction by an X5-class solar flare hit Earth’s magnetic field. (On the “Richter Scale of Solar Flares,” X-class flares are the most powerful kind.) Energetic particles rained down on the upper atmosphere, depositing their energy where they hit. The action produced spectacular auroras around the poles and significant1 upper atmospheric heating all around the globe.
“The thermosphere lit up like a Christmas tree,” says Russell. “It began to glow intensely at infrared wavelengths as the thermostat effect kicked in.”
For the three day period, March 8th through 10th, the thermosphere absorbed 26 billion kWh of energy. Infrared radiation from CO2 and NO, the two most efficient coolants in the thermosphere, re-radiated 95% of that total back into space.
A surge of infrared radiation from nitric oxide molecules on March 8-10, 2012, signals the biggest upper-atmospheric heating event in seven years. Credit: SABER/TIMED. See also the CO2 data.
In human terms, this is a lot of energy. According to the New York City mayor’s office, an average NY household consumes just under 4700 kWh annually. This means the geomagnetic storm dumped enough energy into the atmosphere to power every home in the Big Apple for two years.
“Unfortunately, there’s no practical way to harness this kind of energy,” says Mlynczak. “It’s so diffuse and out of reach high above Earth’s surface. Plus, the majority of it has been sent back into space by the action of CO2 and NO.”
During the heating impulse, the thermosphere puffed up like a marshmallow held over a campfire, temporarily increasing the drag on low-orbiting satellites. This is both good and bad. On the one hand, extra drag helps clear space junk out of Earth orbit. On the other hand, it decreases the lifetime of useful satellites by bringing them closer to the day of re-entry.
The storm is over now, but Russell and Mlynczak expect more to come.
“We’re just emerging from a deep solar minimum,” says Russell. “The solar cycle is gaining strength with a maximum expected in 2013.”
More sunspots flinging more CMEs toward Earth adds up to more opportunities for SABER to study the heating effect of solar storms.
“This is a new frontier in the sun-Earth connection,” says Mlynczak, and the data we’re collecting are unprecedented.”