Que Ball Sun Looking More Like the Dalton Minimum

Anthony Watts has an update on the progress of Solar Cycle 24 HERE:


According to the data Cycle 24 the lowest in 200 years which harkens back to the time of the Dalton Minimum and Solar Cycle 5

solar-cycle24-comparisonAnthony writes:

As you can see from the plots in Figure 1, the current level of activity of solar cycle 24 seems close to that of solar cycle number 5, which occurred beginning in May 1798 and ending in December 1810 (thus falling within the Dalton Minimum). The maximum smoothed sunspot number (monthly number of sunspots averaged over a twelve-month period) observed during the solar cycle was 49.2, in February 1805 (the second lowest of any cycle to date, as a result of being part of the Dalton Minimum), and the minimum was zero.(ref: Wikipedia)

The Dalton Minimum coincided with a period of lower-than-average global temperatures. During that period, there was only a  temperature variation of about 1 °C. However, was the lower number of sunspots the cause of the lower-than-average temperatures during this period, or was it related to some other phenomenon not well understood. Scientists have  suggested that a rise in volcanism was responsible for the cooling trend.

The Year Without a Summer in 1816 occurred during the Dalton Minimum. The prime reason for cooler temperatures that summer was the explosive eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia according to many scientists. Mount Tambora  was one of two largest eruptions in the past 2000 years.

The question in my mind is how to verify that volcanism increases during solar minimums? If you look at the chart below, it appears that major volcanos erupted during the cold periods. But, were those eruptions triggered by declining sun spots or some other phenomenon.

According  to the Smithsonian Institution’s Global Volcanism Program database of eruptions, a count of all the eruptions that started in each year, from 1945 to 2015. it shows about 35 new eruptions per year, with a lot of variation from about 25 to 50 per year. The trend over the full period is basically flat, and while there was a slight increase on average from about 1997 to 2008. There were 26 eruptions in 2015 and 37 in 2014. There is no noticeable increase during the solar cycle 24 decline. Smithsonian Institution’s Global Volcanism database has a lot to explore, more in a future post.

Your thoughts?


Author: Russ Steele

Freelance writer and climate change blogger. Russ spent twenty years in the Air Force as a navigator specializing in electronics warfare and digital systems. After his service he was employed for sixteen years as concept developer for TRW, an aerospace and automotive company, and then was CEO of a non-profit Internet provider for 18 months. Russ's articles have appeared in Comstock's Business, Capitol Journal, Trailer Life, Monitoring Times, and Idaho Magazine.

19 thoughts on “Que Ball Sun Looking More Like the Dalton Minimum”

  1. Russ, At that point in time, when the Dalton minimum happened, the world was not drilling for crude oil re-leaving the pressure in the ground. Keep in mind when drilling for crude oil, they drill miles into the ground. And also fracking for natural gas and oil. Could this be why we have more sinkholes today instead of volcanic eruptions? That is something that really needs to be studied and researched. But it sounds like there maybe a connection here.

  2. There are some conflicts in the relationship between pure sunspot numbers and climate, although sunspot activity is a good broad general indicator of overall solar activity and therefore potential climactic tendencies. One of the biggest short term influences on the atmospheric profile – and therefore weather patterns – is the result of CME impacts and similar incoming energy surges. Clearly, while high level sunspot activity is present, CME impacts are likely to be more numerous and potentially stronger; however the existence of a sunspot does not imply the existence of a CME, nor – more importantly – a terrestrial impact. In addition to this, terrestrial impact from non-spot related activity can also have an influence.
    The relationship between solar activity, terrestrial magnetic fields and geo-thermal / volcanic activity is an interesting concept but it requires a great deal more study to prove any real link.
    An interesting parallel seems to exist between other measures of solar induced geomagnetic activity, such as the Planetary AP index (q.v.) and observed climactic behaviour. This particular chart is somewhat out of step with the sunspot chart but does seem to follow climactic variation more closely.

  3. I thought that with added satellites in heliocentric orbits we had a pretty good measure of CMEs distributions (size and ejected direction). From the Atmosphere Guy’s 351am it sounds as if that is not true. Thoughts?

    BTW, I think our author meant to use the ‘cue ball’ metaphor in his title 😉 Many of us use the efficient spelling ‘que’ when referring to the waiting lines formerly tortured out as a ‘queue’.

  4. Hi gjrebane, We do have reasonable measurements – now – but this is very recent and it is therefore difficult, perhaps impossible, to create any kind of serious historical context. One interesting spin off is our developing understanding of how the atmosphere swells under CME bombardment and at times of higher levels of solar activity; this being from the way low orbit satellites are affected (including the ISS!), suddenly running into far denser air mass and being slowed by it. Obviously as the atmosphere swells upwards it also swells sideways altering thermal and pressure gradient profiles – and therefore the jet stream path – and with it surface level weather patterns. But, as with any natural phenomenon nothing is simple, so any individual reaction is difficult to assess, much less predict!
    Modern analytical charts of the upper atmosphere do give us a better understanding of behaviour, however we don’t have too many weather stations at 20,000ft and above, so accuracy can be a problem. Our existing charts don’t go back any further than 1985 and accuracy declines as we go so historical analysis is a guess. We do have computer ‘guesstimations’ going back into the 1880’s but these are ‘re-analysis’ – and very much ‘pinch of salt’ – but useful.

  5. Thank you Mr Atmosphere Guy. If extra-orbital plane CME data (time, magnitude, lat/long) is already available, then there is a very good chance that Bayesian analysis will reveal the real probability rate functions per steradian over the sun’s 4pi steradian surface. As more data becomes available, the rate function over the sun’s surface can be refined. This then can be used to compute the quantitative risk numbers for earth impacting CMEs. Can you point us to the current CME data repository? Thank you.

  6. Hi again gjrebane, and thanks for a very interesting reply and concept.
    The primary source of real time data I use is the NOAA data (ref. for info: http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/ ) whether a longer term historical repository exists is uncertain. Relating this data to the available present and historical meteorological data gives the working platform.
    Analysing atmospheric behaviour by any means is seriously handicapped by the data we have available, even our understanding of how each piece interacts with each other piece is compromised – this whole area is still very much in its infancy; as can be seen by the level of debate.
    If we take TSI as the base line, add in sunspot variability, modify this by CME impacts, add in non-spot related energy impacts and environment, adjust to taste by the interactions between each energy form – including gamma – and with pre-existing conditions and we are beginning to see a shape emerging through the fog – if a very indistinct shape. How, if, when and how much of each teaspoon of ‘solar spice’ is added to the very complex recipe and how it is served, will greatly vary the flavour of the final climatic dish.
    As an interesting parallel, we have the debate on the possibility of solar influence on earthly volcanic activity – and its climatic consequences. If we take for consideration the rotating internal structure of the sun, whether you use single or dual dynamo theories is for personal preference, consider then the resulting solar magnetic fields: Consider then the interaction between solar and terrestrial fields and assess any influence that may have on the physical rotating internal terrestrial structure (generator versus electric motor with interacting fields is a useful simile) then we have the basis for considering if, whether and how much tectonic movement may be influenced. Move that forward to influence on the atmosphere, throw in the effects of sub-sea impacts on chemistry, currents and temperatures and we have yet more interesting ingredients for the climatic recipe.

  7. Some time ago maybe 4.5 billion years earth was born,a little ball in cold space, about this time it should be frozen solid. Instead it is volcanically active with a molten core, fumeroles, various vents and eruptions.The curious among us wonder how this is, perhaps science has not caught up reality.

    Something more than TSI comes from our sun to warm the cockles of our heart.

  8. @Wayne Job:

    A very large inventory of U, Th, K40, etc undergoing nuclear decay and fission.

    Our planet has a nuclear reactor core, thus the He comming up in natural gas…

    FWIW, it ought to start running down “soon” (millions years?) then the Earth goes Mars like and solidifies, loses water, and the atmosphere goes away. Mars went fist sice being smaller, had less inventory of fuel…


    Sink holes happen in carbonate rocks from water flow. Petroluem pumping causes general subsidence (I.e. your altitude drops a foot or three). AFAIK, sink hole rates have not changed, but news coverage has increased. Fracking doesn’t change either sink hole or subsidence rates, it just lets you do the pumping. The fractured rock is still there supporting load.

    Humans pumping ground water out of underground holes can let the pressure drop and roof collapse into a sinkhole. This has been observed in Florida during drought in high ground water extraction locations.

  9. There is an interesting phenomenon in progress; the current ‘solar decline’ is well documented, there would appear to be an increase in reports of earthquake activity, although this may be little more than ‘media amplification’, however we are now seeing reports of an ‘earthquake swarm’ associated with Mount St Helens. Is this just coincidence ?

  10. A recommended area for research is present changes in the earths magnetic field. Whether there are connections with solar behaviour or tectonic movement is pure speculation but the possibilities are fascinating !

    1. I spend a lot of quiet time thinking about this issue, some of our coldest periods have lot of volcanic activity, but it is not the cause, the volcanic activity increase comes after the cold starts. My line of thinking is that changes in the magnetosphere, due to a quiet sun, changes of torque on the crust, resulting in more volcanic activity. I have been looking for ideas on how to test that concept. Your thoughts?

  11. How Earth’s magnetic field is changing

    Data from a trio of satellites show rapid local changes in Earth’s magnetic field. The cause is likely accelerations in the flow of liquid iron near Earth’s core.

    Earth’s continuously changing magnetic field is thought to be largely generated by superheated, swirling liquid iron in Earth’s outer core. Other sources of earthly magnetism include minerals in our world’s mantle and crust. Earth’s ionosphere, magnetosphere and oceans also play a role. The European Space Agency (ESA) now has two years of data from a trio of satellites in Earth-orbit, designed to measure magnetism from these various sources. The mission is called Swarm. At last week’s Living Planet Symposium held in Prague in the Czech Republic (May 9-13, 2016), scientists presented new results from the Swarm satellite trio and provided some recent insights about how Earth’s magnetic field is changing at this time.

    Among other things, they said that the field has weakened by about 3.5% at high latitudes over North America, while it has grown about 2% stronger over Asia. The region where the field is at its weakest field – the South Atlantic Anomaly – has moved steadily westward and further weakened by about 2%.

    Meanwhile, the magnetic north pole has been wandering east, towards Asia.


    The question is do any of these changes have an impact on the climate? If so, how?

  12. Just as an observation, one of the effects of cooling should be a decrease in length of day (faster spin).

    The LOD change is normally positive. This should put the polar regions in tension and the equator in compression. A pause in LOD relieves some of the tension and compression. A negative length of day change would reverse the effect and accentuate the equatorial bulge.

      1. Because a warmer earth spins slower…

        Ok. The coefficient of expansion (which mostly affects the ocean) puffs the ocean up (sea level rise). The moment of inertia is computed as the mass times the squared distance from the spin axis. If you move mass toward the equator or thermally expand the earth, it slows down. This is because the rotational momentum (a conserved quantity) is equal to the moment of inertia times the angular velocity. When the MOI goes up the angular velocity goes down..

        This also means that you can determine if there is net ice mass loss since Antarctica is on the axis and Greenland is close to it. If you model the ice mass loss as a thin spherical shell of water most of the water is now at the equator which has an R- squared of roughly 3.6E13 vs an R-squared mass multiplier for something even 500 km off axis of 2.5E11. R isn’t the distance from the pole – it is the distance from the spin axis.

        The actual Length of Day (LOD) as computed by the Naval Observatory has to increase if there is sea level rise and ice mass loss.

        A cooler earth with lower sea level and more polar ice will spin faster.

        There is a background lunar/solar drag that slows the earth about 17 milliseconds/century. So on average the LOD should be getting slowly longer.

      2. Thanks for explaining, I learned something today I did not know. I once visited a Navy observatory monitoring pulsars to calculate the rotation speed of the earth, but never asked about what make the earth speed up or slow down. Important to know the speed of rotation if you plan to lob an intercontinental missile and have it come down any where close to the target.

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