Solar realignment could spell decades of cooler temperatures on Earth

Illustration for article titled Solar realignment could spell decades of cooler temperatures on Earth

Looks like the Sun is up to some more crazy stunts. The website Asahi Shimbun reports that the Sun may soon have four poles, according to research by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan and the Riken Research Foundation. This, in turn, could lead to much colder temperatures on Earth... starting as soon as May 2012.


Writes Asahi Shimbun:

The researchers...found signs of unusual magnetic changes in the sun. Normally, the sun's magnetic field flips about once every 11 years. In 2001, the sun's magnetic north pole, which was in the northern hemisphere, flipped to the south.

While scientists had predicted that the next flip would begin from May 2013, the solar observation satellite Hinode found that the north pole of the sun had started flipping about a year earlier than expected. There was no noticeable change in the south pole.

If that trend continues, say researchers, the north pole could complete its flip in May 2012 but create a four-pole magnetic structure in the sun, with two new poles created in the vicinity of the equator of our closest star.


They also speculate that the sun may be entering a period of reduced activity, that could result in lower temperatures on Earth. The current activity of sunspots resemble an 80-year period in the 17th century, when London's Thames river froze over and cherry blossoms bloomed later than usual in Kyoto. This era, known as the Maunder Minimum, experienced temperatures 2.5 degrees lower than in the second half of the 20th century.

Via The Asahi Shimbun. Image James Thew/Shutterstock.

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Chip Overclock®

Global cooling? Now you're just playing with us.

On a related note: I somehow managed to get on a VIP tour of the Boulder labs of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) last Friday, led by the executive director. (They have public tours too, generally on Tuesdays.) Saw lots of cool stuff, like the regional National Weather Service (NWS) center, and where they watch the Sun in real-time for coronal mass ejections. But the thing that really stuck with me is this: the Earth's magnetic field reverses at random intervals, the last one was 780,000 years ago, and the magnetic poles have been wandering around, the northern pole by as much as 40 klicks a year. WTF is that all about? How can something that is surely based on stuff deep in the earth that runs on geologic time change that quickly?