Sun Spots

Sun spots can have a powerful effect on the Earth.

Sun spots create magnetic storms that can threaten the grid. See A Carrington Catastrophe, January 2013.

A solar storm equivalent to the 1862 Carrington event could destroy power transformers across the northern reaches of the United States and Europe.

Sun spots can affect temperatures on Earth, as occurred during the Maunder Minimum.

Sun spots occur in 11-year cycles, starting at a low level, increasing to a peak, and then declining.

Sun Spot chart from NASA
Sun Spot chart from NASA


It is well understood that the lack of sun spots during the Maunder Minimum created the Little Ice Age. The Dalton Minimum is the period during the first two cycles beginning around 1800.

The question has been raised whether we are about to experience another minimum with a corresponding decline in temperatures.

Chart of sun spot cycle 24 from NASA
Chart of sun spot cycle 24 from NASA


This chart from NASA shows the status of the current sun spot cycle, which is the smallest since cycle 14 that reached its peak around 1912.

While there have been previous dips in solar activity, such as cycle 14, that have rebounded to normal, some forecasters say the next cycle will have less solar activity than cycle 24.

Two scientists, William Livingston and Matt Penn, of the National Solar Observatory in Tucson, have predicted we are entering a prolonged period of low solar activity. Their prediction for solar cycle 25 is for a peak of fewer than 20 sunspots1.

No one knows for certain whether the solar forecast by Livingston and Penn will be accurate … and no one knows whether new low levels of solar activity will be as severe as the Maunder Minimum, or less severe, such as the Dalton minimum.

While not as brutally cold as during the Maunder Minimum, the Dalton Minimum still exhibited very low temperatures, with New York Harbor freezing over. Though there was some warming during the 1800s, New York’s East River continued to freeze over as late as the 1870s.

While it’s not possible to accurately predict the future, it’s worth noting that the recent 15-year history of temperatures showed no increase … with temperatures remaining steady.

While ancient civilizations worshiped the sun, we might at least want to pay attention to what’s happening on the sun.


  1. Livingston – Penn paper, Sun Spots May Vanish by 2015, is at


*  *  *  *  *  *


To find earlier articles, click on the name of the preceding month below the calendar to display a list of articles published in that month. Continue clicking on the name of the preceding month to display articles published in prior months.

© Power For USA, 2010 – 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author, Donn Dears, LLC, is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Power For USA with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.



Please follow and like us: