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Every 11 years or so, the sun gets a little pissy. It breaks out in a rash of planet-sized sunspots that spew superhot gas, hurling clouds of electrons, protons, and heavier ions toward Earth at nearly the speed of light. These solar windstorms have been known to knock out power grids and TV broadcasts, and our growing reliance on space-based technology makes us more vulnerable than ever to their effects. On January 3, scientists discovered a reverse-polarity sunspot, signaling the start of a new cycle — and some are predicting that at its peak (in about four years) things are gonna get nasty.
By examining pots from prehistory to modern times, geologist John Shaw of the University of Liverpool in England has discovered just how dramatically the field has changed. "When we plot the results from the ceramics," he notes, "we see a rapid fall as we come toward the present day. The rate of change is higher over the last 300 years than it has been for any time in the past 5,000 years. It's going from a strong field down to a weak field, and it's doing so very quickly."
Originally posted by Indy
I'm sorry Jazzy. No offense to you but the wired story is just a horrible story. The last solar cycle was weaker than the previous and we went through those just fine. This next solar cycle whenever it starts is expected to be weaker than the previous two. I say whenever it starts because there was I believe only one reverse polarity sunspot and since then all the activity has been still tied to the old cycle. Solar activity has been pretty dead now for over a year. We should have been climbing out of this solar minimum 6 or 7 months ago but it hasn't happened.
The sun could snap out of it tomorrow or in 20 years. You never know when your next solar minimum is going to be another Dalton or even worse Maunder minimum. I wouldn't lose sleep over it. You could get the perfect solar storm even during a period of low solar activity. It only takes that one burst to fry our grid. You can guess how many times our grid was wiped out by a solar storm. Zero. For the most part the worst we'll ever get is some interference. No sense in stressing over something you can't control.
“Our growing dependence on highly sophisticated, space-based technologies means we are far more vulnerable to space weather today than in the past,” said Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Jr., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “NOAA’s space weather monitoring and forecasts are critical for the nation’s ability to function smoothly during solar disturbances.”