“As sure as the sun rises in the east…” You may have heard this phrase before in reference to something that is exceedingly consistent. The metaphor calls to mind an image that every inhabitant of Earth sees and understands: the sun.
But this phrase is a bit misleading, because the sun is not as much of a stalwart of constancy as people think. The star of our solar system is actually subject to a great deal of variability; not in terms of its ability to rise and set, but regarding its power and output. In fact, some sun-watchers have been noticing a substantial lack of solar activity in recent years, prompting questions about our weather patterns in the near future.
Today’s Solar Lull
A few scientists are concerned about what they are calling a solar lull. They’ve observed that the level of activity they see on the sun – such as sunspots, flares, and coronal mass ejections of large clouds of charged particles – is the lowest it has been in some three decades.
But what makes this fact even more baffling is that these scientists had previously predicted that the sun should be at what they refer to as its solar maximum; or the point in an 11-year cycle when the star should be at its peak of activity. In fact, one expert says that the current solar lull is the deepest in a century, and that an ice-core analysis suggests that the Earth has not seen this rate of solar activity decline in ten thousand years!
It should be noted that this low solar activity is not unprecedented. Historians point to a similar timeframe in the mid-17th century they call the Maunder Minimum, during which no sunspots or flares were perceived. This period was also marked by unusually cold weathers across Europe (during which England’s Thames River froze over to the point where people walked on it).
What’s Going To Happen?
There’s no consensus on the ramifications of these recent observations. But based on climate events from centuries past, some believe that the short-term effects of this solar lull may mean colder winters across much of the planet. Scientists don’t raise the possibility of unsurvivable conditions, but instead opine that winters over the coming years may be more like the current season rather than what we see as “normal.” In fact, one scientist in Britain estimates that is a nearly 20% chance that over the next four decades, solar conditions will resemble what was seen during the Maunder Minimum.
Should You Be Worried?
So what can the average homeowner take from this information?
Drastic, sudden changes probably aren’t warranted. But if you are considering taking steps to further “winterize” your home, this may be one more reason to start budgeting for these projects. Small fixes like replacing windows and improving insulation are always a good idea. But you may also want to make plans to upgrade your furnace, or to install a generator for use during winter power outages. And of course, gutter protection like Gutter Helmet and Helmet Heat can protect your home from moisture-related damage caused by ice dams and clogged gutters.
A solar lull shouldn’t spawn emergency measures in preparation for Armageddon-like conditions. But because of the present solar lull, you also shouldn’t assume that bitter cold winters are a thing of the past.
Written by Del Thebaud