Deep Solar Minimum on the Verge of a Historic Milestone

Guest post by Paul Dorian

clip_image002Daily observations of the number of sunspots since 1 January 1900 according to Solar Influences Data Analysis Center (SIDC). The thin blue line indicates the daily sunspot number, while the dark blue line indicates the running annual average. The recent low sunspot activity is clearly reflected in the recent low values for the total solar irradiance. Data source: WDC-SILSO, Royal Observatory of Belgium, Brussels. Last day shown: 31 October 2019. Last diagram update: 1 November 2019. [Courtesy climate4you.com]

*Deep solar minimum on the verge of an historic milestone*

Overview

The sun is currently in the midst of a deep solar minimum and it is about to reach an historic milestone. So far this year the sun has been blank (i.e., no visible sunspots) for 266 days and, barring any major surprises, it’ll reach 269 days early next week which will be the quietest year in terms of sunspots since 1913 when the sun was spotless for 311 days. In fact, the current stretch of consecutive spotless days has reached 29 and for the year the sun has been blank 77% of the time. The current record-holder in the satellite era for spotless days in a given year is 2008 when the sun was blank for 268 days making the 2008-2009 solar minimum the deepest since 1913.

Solar minimum is a normal part of the 11-year sunspot cycle, but the last one and the current one have been far deeper than most. One of the consequences of a solar minimum is a reduction of solar storms and another is the intensification of cosmic rays. The just ended solar cycle 24 turned out to be one of the weakest in more than a century – continuing a weakening trend that began in the 1980’s – and, if the latest forecasts are correct, the next solar cycle will be the weakest in more than 200 years.

clip_image004The sun remains spotless today and has been so 77% of the time in 2019; image courtesy NASA SDO/HMI, spaceweather.com

Solar minimum and the intensification of cosmic rays

One of the natural impacts of decreasing solar activity is the weakening of the ambient solar wind and its magnetic field which, in turn, allows more and more cosmic rays to penetrate the solar system. Galactic cosmic rays are high-energy particles originating from outside the solar system that can impact the Earth’s atmosphere. Our first line of defense from cosmic rays comes from the sun as its magnetic field and the solar wind combine to create a ‘shield’ that fends off cosmic rays attempting to enter the solar system. The shielding action of the sun is strongest during solar maximum and weakest during solar minimum with the weakening magnetic field and solar wind.  The intensity of cosmic rays varies globally by about 15% over a solar cycle because of changes in the strength of the solar wind, which carries a weak magnetic field into the heliosphere, partially shielding Earth from low-energy galactic charged particles.

clip_image006Cosmic rays have been intensifying for more than 4 years. On Dec. 5th and 6th they surged within a percentage point of the Space Age record, according to data from neutron counters at the University of Oulu’s Cosmic Ray Station in Finland. Courtesy spaceweather.com.

High-altitude balloons have been launched on a periodic basis in recent years to monitor stratospheric radiation associated with the influx of cosmic rays and they have shown a steady increase since 2015 (campaign sponsored by spaceweather.com). In this set of measurements, cosmic rays have increased by about 13% during the past four years over the central part of California. At another location, the neutron monitor at the University of Oulu’s cosmic ray station in Finland recorded levels earlier this month that were within a percentage point of the satellite era record.

clip_image008Cosmic rays in the stratosphere are intensifying for the 4th year in a row. This finding comes from a campaign of almost weekly high-altitude balloon launches conducted by the students of Earth to Sky Calculus. Since March 2015, there has been a ~13% increase in X-rays and gamma-rays over central California, where the students have launched hundreds of balloons. The grey points in the graph are Earth to Sky balloon data. Overlaid on that time series is a record of neutron monitor data from the Sodankyla Geophysical Observatoryin Oulu, Finland. The correlation between the two data sets is impressive, especially considering their wide geographic separation and differing methodologies. Neutron monitors have long been considered a “gold standard” for monitoring cosmic rays on Earth. This shows that our student-built balloons are gathering data of similar quality.

Cosmic rays are of interest to anyone who flies on airplanes. According to spaceweather.com, the International Commission on Radiological Protection has classified pilots as occupational radiation workers because of cosmic ray doses they receive while flying. A recent study by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health shows that flight attendants face an elevated risk of cancer compared to members of the general population. They listed cosmic rays as one of several risk factors. There are also some studies that suggest cosmic rays promote the formation of clouds in the atmosphere; if so, increasing cosmic rays could affect weather and climate.

clip_image010400 years of sunspot observations; courtesy Wikipedia

Solar cycle 25

The solar cycle is like a pendulum, swinging back and forth between periods of high and low sunspot number every 11 years or so. Researchers have been tracking solar cycles since they were discovered in the 19th century. The just ended solar cycle, #24, was the weakest with the fewest sunspots since solar cycle 14 peaked in February 1906. Solar cycle 24 continued a recent trend of weakening solar cycles which began with solar cycle 21 that peaked around 1980. The very latest forecast for the next solar cycle (#25) says it will be weaker than the just ended SC24 and perhaps the weakest of the last 200 years. To be fair, some earlier forecasts had the next solar cycle being in similar magnitude to SC24.  However, research now underway has apparently found a more reliable method to predict space weather. The maximum of this next cycle – measured in terms of sunspot numbers, could be 30 to 50% lower than the most recent one – solar cycle 24 according to the latest forecast. The results of this new forecasting technique show that the next solar cycle will start in 2020 and reach its maximum in 2025.

The new forecast is the work of a team led by Irina Kitiashvili of the Bay Area Environmental Research Institute at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, California. Using data collected since 1976 from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory and the Solar Dynamics Observatory space missions, the researchers were able to come up with a prediction by directly observing the solar magnetic field rather than simply counting sunspots, which provides only a rough gauge of activity inside the Sun. Because this is a relatively new approach, there is only data from four complete cycles, but by combining three sources of solar observations with estimates of the Sun’s interior activity, the team was able to produce a prediction in 2008 that matched the activity that was observed over the past 11 years.

One challenge for researchers working to predict the Sun’s activities is that scientists do not yet completely understand the inner workings of our star. Some factors that play out deep inside the Sun cannot be measured directly. They have to be estimated from measurements of related phenomena on the solar surface like sunspots, coronal holes and filaments. Kitiashvili’s method differs from other prediction tools in terms of the raw material for its forecast. Previously, researchers used the number of sunspots to represent indirectly the activity of the solar magnetic field. The new approach takes advantage of direct observations of magnetic fields emerging on the surface of the Sun.

clip_image011Temperature recordings at the Greenland Ranch weather station in Death Valley, California during the intense heat wave of July 1913. This excerpt about the record-breaking heat wave comes from an article posted during January 1922 in the meteorological journal Monthly Weather Review which is still in publication today. Courtesy NOAA

Extreme weather of 1913

One final note of interest, the year 1913 cited earlier for its lack of sunspots on the order of 311 days was a year filled with wild weather extremes including the hottest temperature ever recorded on Earth in Death Valley, CA. For more on the extreme weather of 1913 click here.

Meteorologist Paul Dorian
Perspecta, Inc.
perspectaweather.com

Some Serious Space Weather at Play.

View at Medium.com

Popular Science has the details:

That Time a Bunch of Underwater Mines Exploded and the Sun Was the Only Suspect

Explosives going off without warning is bad news for… well, for everybody. So imagine the U.S. military’s alarm when, on August 4, 1972, it witnessed about two dozen or so spontaneous explosions in the waters off Hon La in North Vietnam. America’s Operation Pocket Money had dropped underwater mines there many weeks before to deter trade ships from venturing to North Vietnam ports. But the mines were only supposed to detonate when ships were around, and Americans surveilling the water from overhead were only seeing clear blue when the bombs went off.

Initially, the explosions were inexplicable. What could have possibly set the mines off? Big marine animals? Equipment malfunctions? Were the North Vietnamese using a secret strategy to blow up the mines remotely?

Over four-and-a-half decades later, we now know the culprit was the sun. According to findings recently published in the journal Space Weather, a powerful solar storm likely triggered the mines’ magnetic sensors and caused them to explode.

“It was a storm of magnificent proportions,” says Delores Knipp, a space weather researcher at the University of Colorado, Boulder and the lead author of the new paper. “It was a big story back in the day, and continues to be a big story.” The storm occurred in between Apollo missions 16 and 17, but it’s generally accepted that the radiation dose would have incapacitated (if not outright killed) astronauts traveling to and from the moon. In addition, other studies on the solar storm found the resulting geomagnetic current created many different power fluctuations in North America. “It’s been a storm that has been known for different effects in different communities.”

Continue reading HERE.

The article concludes:

But Knipp says a general estimation, based on current knowledge, is that these sorts of solar storms hit Earth about once every 70 years — “often enough that we need to be thinking about what types of technologies are subject to harm in these kinds of environments.” The question isn’t really if a storm powerful enough to knock out the power grid and wreck our technological equipment will hit us — but when it will happen, and whether we’ll be ready in time to prepare and safeguard our infrastructure.

I follow space weather on YouTube daily on the Suspicious Observer channel and weekly on space physicist Tamitha Skov’s channel. We should all pay close attention to our unstable star.

View at Medium.com

Cold October (and now November) in perspective

Reblogged from Icecap.us

See references to Maunder and Dalton Minimums.

By Joseph D’Aleo, CCM

Starting in January 2019, unusual and at times record cold has been locked in over the north central states.

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Though there was heat in late summer in the southeast and eastern Gulf to the Mid-Atlantic, the cold held in the north central. After a very cold spring with late snows, which significantly delayed or prevented grain planting, a cool summer followed and gave way to a very early cold shot in late September that brought early deep freezes and even record snows in the north central leading to significant crop losses.

There have been 90 all-time record lows versus just 44 all-time record highs this year. That included the all time state record low of -38F in Mount Carroll in Illinois on January 31st.

The cold central deepened in October and pushed to the east bringing very early snow into the Midwest. October saw 3680 record daily lows, 32 all time record lows for the month and no all time record monthly highs (NOAA NCEI).

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After bringing heavy snows to the Rockies and high plains the cold rolled south with temperatures 30 to 50 degrees below normal.

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Temperatures dropped to a record of -35F at Logan County Sink in Utah and -46F in Peter’s sink, record coldest for the U.S. for the month of October.

The temperatures the first 9 months have tracked the last 120 years well with multidecadal cycles in the ocean.

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The cold also follows the solar activity. We are currently in a century or more quiet sun.  In the period in and following the last 11 year cycle low (2007-2011), we had brutal cold and snow here in the U.S. and Europe.

December in 2010, the Central England Temperature (longest continuous record going back to 1659), was the second coldest December.  Snow, which was forecast to be a thing of the past, instead buried the UK for long periods reminiscent of the Dalton solar Minimum of the early 1800s as evidenced by Dicken’s novels.

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In the US, record cold and snow in the Snowmageddon Mid-Atlantic winter of 2009/10, was eclipsed with the record winters of 2013/14 and 2014/15. Which brought the coldest and snowiest winter and modern day peaks of Great Lake ice.

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The snow in the hemisphere is increasing very rapidly and is above normal, which should expand and enhance the cold. Note how the fall record for snow extent was at record levels last fall.

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Given the projection by Russian scientists and many in the west including some at NASA, we could be heading into a deep and long solar minimum like the Maunder Minimum with a major cooling. Whether it is a several decade Dalton like period or a Maunder, this is no time to abandon cheap, available energy.

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Even in the warmer interlude we have enjoyed, cold weather kills 20 times as many people as hot weather, according to an international study analyzing over 74 million deaths in 384 locations across 13 countries.

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Link

A New Run of the CLOUD Experiment Examines the Direct Effect of Cosmic Rays on Clouds

“Direct effects of cosmic-ray ionisation on the formation of fair-weather clouds are highly speculative and almost completely unexplored experimentally,” says Kirkby. “So this run could be the most boring we’ve ever done—or the most exciting! We won’t know until we try, but by the end of the CLOUD experiment, we want to be able to answer definitively whether cosmic rays affect clouds and the climate, and not leave any stone unturned.”

The full Phys.org article is HERE

Stay Tuned, November is going to be an interesting month, though it may be months before the report is published.

Do you think cosmic rays impact the earth’s climate?  Please answer in the comments.

Potential role of low solar activity this winter as solar minimum deepens and the wide-ranging impacts of increasing cosmic rays

Reblogged from Watts Up With That

Guest post by Paul Dorian

*Potential role of low solar activity this winter as solar minimum deepens and the wide-ranging impacts of increasing cosmic rays*

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The sun is blank again today and for the 200th day in 2019 as the solar minimum deepens; image courtesy NASA

Overview
The sun continues to be very quiet and it has been without sunspots on 200 days during 2019 or 72% of the time which is the highest percentage since 2009. We have entered into a solar minimum phase of the solar cycle and sunspot counts suggest this could turn out to be the deepest of the past century. Low solar activity has been well correlated with an atmospheric phenomenon known as “high-latitude blocking” and this could play an important role in the upcoming winter season; especially, across the eastern US. In addition, one of the natural impacts of decreasing solar activity is the weakening of the ambient solar wind and its magnetic field which, in turn, allows more cosmic rays to penetrate the solar system. The intensification of cosmic rays can have important consequences on such things as Earth’s cloud cover and climate, the safety of air travelers, and as a possible trigger mechanism for lightning.

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Daily observations of the number of sunspots since 1 January 1900 according to Solar Influences Data Analysis Center (SIDC). The thin blue line indicates the daily sunspot number, while the dark blue line indicates the running annual average. The recent low sunspot activity is clearly reflected in the recent low values for the total solar irradiance. Data source: WDC-SILSO, Royal Observatory of Belgium, Brussels. Last day shown: 30 September 2019. Plot courtesy “climate4you.com”.

Background

Solar cycle 24 was the weakest sunspot cycle with the fewest sunspots since cycle 14 peaked in February 1906. Solar cycle 24 continued a recent trend of weakening solar cycles which began with solar cycle 21 that peaked around 1980. The sun is blank again today for the 200th day this year and the last time the sun was this spotless in a given year on a percentage basis was 2009 during the last solar minimum when 71% of the days were without visible sunspots.  That last solar minimum actually reached a nadir in 2008 when an astounding 73% of the year featured a spotless sun – the most spotless days in a given year since 1913 – and this year has a chance to match or exceed that quietest of years in more than a century.

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Low solar activity years are well correlated with abnormally high geopotential height anomalies at 500 millibars over high-latitude regions such as Greenland and Iceland (shown in red, orange, yellow); data courtesy NOAA/NCAR

Low solar activity and “high-latitude blocking”

As any snow lover and weather enthusiast knows living in the I-95 corridor, it takes many ingredients to fall into place for a snowstorm to actually take place; especially, in the urban areas of DC, Philly, New York City and Boston. One requirement for accumulating snow is, of course, cold air near or below freezing, but it can be a little more complicated than that. It is one thing to have cold air around at the beginning of a potential storm, but the best chance for significant snow comes when there is sustained cold air; otherwise, you could end up with a snow-changing-to-rain type of event; especially, in the big cities and areas closer to the coast. One of the ways to sustain a cold air mass in the Mid-Atlantic/NE US is to have “high-latitude blocking” and that type of weather phenomenon is well correlated with low solar activity.

“High-latitude blocking” during the winter season is characterized by persistent high pressure in northern latitude areas such as Greenland, northeastern Canada, and Iceland. If you look back at years with low solar activity, the upper-level geopotential height anomaly pattern is dominated by high pressure over these high-latitude regions during the winter season (December-to-February). Without this type of blocking pattern in the upper atmosphere, it is more difficult to get sustained cold air masses in the eastern US during the winter season.

In addition to the increased chance of sustained cold air during low solar activity years, “high-latitude blocking” in the upper atmosphere tends to slow down the movement and departure of storms along the Mid-Atlantic/NE US coastlines and this too increases the chances for significant snowfall as long as there is entrenched cold air. In fact, some of the greatest snowstorms in the Mid-Atlantic/NE US regions took place in low solar activity winters including, for example, those in February 2010, December 2009, and January 1996. There are, of course, other important factors in addition to solar activity to consider in the prediction of accumulating snow along the I-95 corridor including sea surface temperatures in the western Atlantic and the positioning of polar and sub-tropical jet streaks. The 2019-2020 “Winter Outlook” by Perspecta Weather will be released shortly and low solar activity will certainly be one key factor among several.

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Data source: The Sodankyla Geophysical Observatory in Oulu, Finland. Plot courtesy Spaceweather.com

Low solar activity and cosmic rays
Galactic cosmic rays are high-energy particles originating from outside the solar system that can impact the Earth’s atmosphere. Our first line of defense from cosmic rays comes from the sun as its magnetic field and the solar wind combine to create a ‘shield’ that fends off cosmic rays attempting to enter the solar system. The shielding action of the sun is strongest during Solar Maximum and weakest during Solar Minimum with the weakening magnetic field and solar wind.  The intensity of cosmic rays varies naturally during the typical 11-year solar cycle with about a 15% variation because of the changes in the strength of the solar wind.

Evidence of an increase in stratospheric radiation
One way to monitor cosmic ray penetration into the Earth’s upper atmosphere is to measure stratospheric radiation over an extended period of time.  “Spaceweather.com” has led an effort for nearly four years to monitor radiation levels in the stratosphere over California with frequent high-altitude helium balloon flights.  These balloons contain sensors which detect X-rays and gamma-rays in the energy range 10 keV to 20 MeV and are produced by the crash of primary cosmic rays into Earth’s atmosphere. These energies span the range of medical X-ray machines and airport security scanners.  The findings confirm the notion that indeed cosmic rays have been steadily increasing over California as we climb into the solar minimum.

During the last solar minimum in 2009, radiation peppering Earth from deep space reached a 50-year high at levels never before seen during the satellite era – and we’re getting very close to those same levels and a new record is certainly on the table in the near future. Ground-based neutron monitors and high-altitude cosmic ray balloons are registering the increase in cosmic rays. Neutron monitors at the Sodankyla Geophysical Observatory in Oulu, Finland show that cosmic rays are just percentages away from a new record in the satellite era which was set in 2009. Data has been measured at this observatory in Finland since 1964. When cosmic rays hit Earth’s atmosphere, they produce a spray of secondary particles that rain down on Earth’s surface. Among these particles are neutrons and the detectors at the observatory in Oulu count them as a proxy for cosmic rays.

Consequences of increasing cosmic rays

1) Cloud cover/climate
The correlation between cosmic rays and cloud cover over a solar cycle was first reported by Svensmark and Friis-Christensen in 1997. A more recent study by Svensmark published in the August 2016 issue of Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics continues to support the idea of an important connection between cosmic rays and clouds.

In this publication, the authors found that “the observed variation of 3–4% of the global cloud cover during the recent solar cycle is strongly correlated with the cosmic ray flux. This, in turn, is inversely correlated with the solar activity. The effect is larger at higher latitudes in agreement with the shielding effect of the Earth’s magnetic field on high-energy charged particles. The above relation between cosmic ray flux and cloud cover should also be of importance in an explanation of the correlation between solar cycle length and global temperature that has been found”.

2) Threat to air travelers
Not only can an increase of cosmic rays have an impact on Earth’s cloud cover and climate, it is of special interest to air travelers.  Cosmic radiation at aviation altitudes is typically 50 times that of natural sources at sea level. Cosmic rays cause “air showers” of secondary particles when they hit Earth’s atmosphere. Indeed, this is what neutron monitors and cosmic ray balloons are measuring–the secondary spray of cosmic rays that rains down on Earth. Secondary cosmic rays penetrate the hulls of commercial aircraft, dosing passengers with the whole body equivalent of a dental X-ray even on ordinary mid-latitude flights across the USA. International travelers receive even greater doses (source). The International Commission on Radiological Protection has classified pilots as occupational radiation workers because of accumulated cosmic ray doses they receive while flying. Moreover, a recent study by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health shows that flight attendants face an elevated risk of cancer compared to members of the general population. They listed cosmic rays as one of several risk factors.

3) Possible lightning trigger
Finally, there has been some research suggesting there is a connection between cosmic rays and lightning (paper 1paper 2).  When cosmic rays smash into molecules in our atmosphere, the collisions create showers of subatomic particles, including electrons, positrons, and other electrically charged particles. This shower of electrons would collide into still more air molecules, generating more electrons. All in all, cosmic rays could each set off an avalanche of electrons and trigger lightning.

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Circled areas on plot indicate locations that experienced the northern lights during the Carrington Event of 1859.

Final Thoughts
While the frequency of solar storm activity generally lessens during periods of low solar activity (e.g., during solar minimum phases), there is actually some evidence that suggests the severity does not diminish.  In fact, the most famous solar storm of all now known as The Carrington Event took place in 1859 during an overall weak solar cycle (#10).  In addition, other solar activity, such as coronal holes that unleash streams of solar material out into space, can amplify the auroras at Earth’s poles.  The bottom line, a lack of sunspots does not mean the sun’s activity stops altogether and it needs to be constantly monitored – even during periods of a blank sun.

Meteorologist Paul Dorian
Perspecta, Inc.
perspectaweather.com

Galactic Cosmic-Rays Research Rains On Man-Made Climate Change Parade

A pair of new international studies which punched holes in the absoluteness of man-made climate change have gotten little-to-no attention in the corporate media.

Researchers from Kobe University in Japan found that high-energy particles from space known as galactic cosmic rays affect the Earth’s climate by increasing cloud cover, causing an “umbrella effect.”

A second study, a paper published by researchers from the University of Turku in Finland, concluded that even though observed changes in the climate are real, the effects of human activity on these changes are insignificant. Such findings create cognitive dissonance for celebrity and media actors committed to the narrative that human behavior is killing the planet.

“We have to recognize that the anthropogenic climate change does not exist in practice,” the study concluded.

Professor Masayuki Hyodo, who led the research team at Kobe University, said: “The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has discussed the impact of cloud cover on climate in their evaluations, but this phenomenon has never been considered in climate predictions due to the insufficient physical understanding of it.”

Professor Hyodo continued: “This study provides an opportunity to rethink the impact of clouds on climate. When galactic cosmic rays increase, so do low clouds, and when cosmic rays decrease clouds do as well, so climate warming may be caused by an opposite-umbrella effect. The umbrella effect caused by galactic cosmic rays is important when thinking about current global warming as well as the warm period of the medieval era.”

Continue reading HERE.

During a Grand Minimum, there are fewer sunspots and more cosmic rays increasing cloud cover, reducing temperatures by 1-2 degrees C. This temperature reduction shortens the growing season by 10 days for every 1/2 a degree according to some estimates.  On the other hand, fewer cosmic rays would increase warmth and extend growing seasons allowing agricuture at higher latitude, expanding the global food supply.  This is why we monitor sunspots and cosmic rays at the Next Grand Minimum.

The strongest summer jet stream ever observed over the Pacific Northwest.

Reposted from the  Cliff Mass Weather and Climate Blog

An extraordinary weather event has been occurring above our heads during the past 24-hour.   A record that was not only broken, but shattered to little pieces.

The strongest summer jet stream ever observed over the Pacific Northwest.  

The jet stream is a narrow current of strong winds in the upper troposphere (roughly 25,000 ft to 35,000 ft above sea level).   It is often the conduit for storms and is associated with a large temperature gradient (change in temperature with horizontal distance) in the middle and lower troposphere.   Winds in the jet stream are westerly (from the west) and aircraft like to fly in the jet stream going east, while avoiding it going west.   You are now Jet Steam certified!

The ECMWF 12-h forecast for 5 AM this morning for the wind speed at the 250 hPa pressure level (about 35,000 ft) clearly shows the jet stream, with the orange/red colors being the strongest winds.

This is a HUGE and very zonal (east-west oriented) jet stream…as shown by the next map at the same time.  This looks like January, not July.

But now I will really impress you. 

The wind this morning at the radiosonde site at Quillayute (UIL) was 140 knots (161 mph) at the 250 hPa level (again around 35,000 ft).   This is amazingly fast for this time of the year.

The plot below shows the climatology of the winds at this level throughout the year at this location, with the red lines being the all-time record for each date (the black lines are average winds for the date, blue lines, the record low winds).   Vertical soundings at Quillayute go back to the late 1960s…so we are talking about a half-century of observations.   The previous record was around 110 knots…so the 140 knots observed today absolutely shattered the record.     In fact, the wind over us right now is greater then the records for any date from April 1 to mid-October.

Record, but lesser winds, are being observed at the next upper air station to the south:  Salem, Oregon (see below)

A truly unusual event.   And one that should not be pinned on global warming.  In fact, several of the global warming jet stream papers (e.g., by Jennifer Francis and others) suggest that global warming will bring a weak and wavy jet stream.  This is just the opposite.

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Reading climate history during Grand Minimums, there is a plethora of stories, journal entries and letters written about unusual climate activity.  This could just another example.  We just have better detection tools today, than the speed of the clouds moving over head.

Cosmic Ray Update: New Results from the Moon

By Dr Tony Phillips

July 16, 2019: Note to astronauts: 2019 is not a good year to fly into deep space. In fact, it’s shaping up to be one of the worst of the Space Age.

The reason is, the solar cycle. One of the deepest Solar Minima of the past century is underway now. As the sun’s magnetic field weakens, cosmic rays from deep space are flooding into the solar system, posing potential health risks to astronauts.

NASA is monitoring the situation with a radiation sensor in lunar orbit. The Cosmic Ray Telescope for the Effects of Radiation (CRaTER) has been circling the Moon on NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft since 2009. Researchers have just published a paper in the journal Space Weather describing CRaTER’s latest findings.

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“The overall decrease in solar activity in this period has led to an increased flux of energetic particles, to levels that are approaching those observed during the previous solar minimum in 2009/2010, which was the deepest minimum of the Space Age,” write the authors, led by Cary Zeitlin of NASA’s Johnson Space Flight Center. “The data have implications for human exploration of deep space.”

This always happens during Solar Minimum. As solar activity goes down, cosmic rays go up. The last two Solar Minima have been unusually deep, leading to high cosmic ray fluxes in 2008-2010 and again in 2018-2019. These are the worst years since humans first left Earth in the 1960s.

“It’s a bit counterintuitive,” says one of the authors, Nathan Schwadron, a space physicist at the University of New Hampshire. “Solar Minimum may actually be more dangerous than Solar Maximum.”

In their paper, Zeitlin, Schwadron and co-authors describe an interesting experiment by NASA that highlights the relative peril of solar flares vs. cosmic rays. In 2011, NASA launched the Curiosity rover to Mars. Inside its spacecraft, the rover was protected by about as much shielding (20 gm/cm^2) as a human astronaut would have. A radiation sensor tucked inside kept track of Curiosity’s exposure.

The results were surprising. During the 9-month journey to Mars, radiation from solar flares (including the strongest flare of the previous solar cycle) accounted for only about 5% of Curiosity’s total dose. The remaining 95% came from cosmic rays.

Why the imbalance? “Solar flares of the size we’ve seen during the Space Age can be largely mitigated by achievable depths of spacecraft shielding(1),” explains Zeitlin. “We can’t stop the highest energy cosmic rays, however. They penetrate the walls of any spacecraft.”

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Solar flares are still a concern. If an astronaut were caught outside on EVA during an intense, unexpected flare, acute effects could include vomiting, fatigue, and low blood counts. A quick return to Earth might be required for medical care. Cosmic rays are more insidious, acting slowly, with maladies such as cancer or heart disease showing up years after the exposure.

As 2019 unfolds, Solar Minimum appears to still be deepening. Cosmic rays haven’t quite broken the Space Age record set in 2009-2010, but they’re getting close, only percentage points from the highest values CRaTER has ever recorded.

“No one can predict what will happen next,” says Schwadron. “However, the situation speaks for itself: We are experiencing a period of unusually weak solar cycles. We have to be prepared for strong cosmic rays.”

END NOTES:

(1) According to Zeitlin, “achievable” shielding depths will be at least 20 to 30 gm/cm^2. “Vehicles carrying humans into deep space will likely have storm shelters that will provide this much shielding or more, and that would indeed be sufficient – even for an event like the great solar flare of August 1972 during the Apollo program – to keep the accumulated dose below the 30-day limit.”

REFERENCE:

“Update on Galactic Cosmic Ray Integral Flux Measurements in Lunar Orbit With CRaTER”, by C. Zeitlin, N. A. Schwadron, H. E. Spence, A. P. Jordan, M. D. Looper, J. Wilson, J. E. Mazur, L. W. Townsend. https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/2019SW002223

Link to the original post is HERE

 

Grand Solar Minimum at work – Colorado snowpack more than eight times normal in places

And still rising !!!

After a historically snowy spring, Colorado’s snowpack currently stands at 473% of normal (almost 5 times normal), with highs peaking at 846% (more than 8 times normal!) in the San Juan Mountains, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Continues reading HERE
Gee and we thought the Sierra at 200% was special.  The melt, which is a month late should fill Boulder Dam.

Current Solar Cycle Among Weakest On Record. Potentially Cloud-Seeding Cosmic Radiation Near Highest Level Since 1950s

The Sun in April 2019

 

This is reblogged from the No Tricks Zone. The original is HERE  Comments included.