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Originally posted by AnarchysAngel
This week researchers announced that a storm is coming--the most intense solar maximum in fifty years. The prediction comes from a team led by Mausumi Dikpati of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). "The next sunspot cycle will be 30% to 50% stronger than the previous one," she says. If correct, the years ahead could produce a burst of solar activity second only to the historic Solar Max of 1958.
Dikpati's prediction is unprecedented. In nearly-two centuries since the 11-year sunspot cycle was discovered, scientists have struggled to predict the size of future maxima—and failed. Solar maxima can be intense, as in 1958, or barely detectable, as in 1805, obeying no obvious pattern.
Science admits that they have not had much luck at predicting solar activity.
Establishing the mechanisms by which the solar wind enters Earth's magnetosphere is one of the biggest goals of magnetospheric physics, as it forms the basis of space weather phenomena such as magnetic storms and aurorae.
This was/is so important because it would offer an explanation to whether or not solar activity can affect Earth weather. Well, we have a pretty good idea of how it happens now.
"We call them X-points or electron diffusion regions," explains plasma physicist Jack Scudder of the University of Iowa. "They're places where the magnetic field of Earth connects to the magnetic field of the Sun, creating an uninterrupted path leading from our own planet to the sun's atmosphere 93 million miles away."
Observations by NASA's THEMIS spacecraft and Europe's Cluster probes suggest that these magnetic portals open and close dozens of times each day. They're typically located a few tens of thousands of kilometers from Earth where the geomagnetic field meets the onrushing solar wind. Most portals are small and short-lived; others are yawning, vast, and sustained. Tons of energetic particles can flow through the openings, heating Earth's upper atmosphere, sparking geomagnetic storms, and igniting bright polar auroras.
These X-points or pathways offer a magnetic bridge to leach energetic material from the sun to the Earth's upper atmosphere, where energetic particles flow through on a regular basis. They enter our upper atmosphere, and then begins to circulate along our own magnetic field, allowing the planet to remain warm and hospitable. This is probably a requirement for life to evolve on any planet. The weather on Earth, is directly related to the "weather" on the sun. This is important because of the very active solar cycle we are experiencing right now.
My local weather station has a lightning strike counter they use to display it in realtime. I wonder if they know that the most important thing on my screen is the ever increasing lightning strikes?
We have something similar here on Earth—the Great Ocean Conveyor Belt, popularized in the sci-fi movie The Day After Tomorrow. It is a network of currents that carry water and heat from ocean to ocean--see the diagram below. In the movie, the Conveyor Belt stopped and threw the world's weather into chaos.
The sun's conveyor belt is a current, not of water, but of electrically-conducting gas. It flows in a loop from the sun's equator to the poles and back again. Just as the Great Ocean Conveyor Belt controls weather on Earth, this solar conveyor belt controls weather on the sun. Specifically, it controls the sunspot cycle.
Solar physicist David Hathaway of the National Space Science & Technology Center (NSSTC) explains: "First, remember what sunspots are--tangled knots of magnetism generated by the sun's inner dynamo. A typical sunspot exists for just a few weeks. Then it decays, leaving behind a 'corpse' of weak magnetic fields."
Enter the conveyor belt.
"The top of the conveyor belt skims the surface of the sun, sweeping up the magnetic fields of old, dead sunspots. The 'corpses' are dragged down at the poles to a depth of 200,000 km where the sun's magnetic dynamo can amplify them. Once the corpses (magnetic knots) are reincarnated (amplified), they become buoyant and float back to the surface." Presto—new sunspots!
Originally posted by kdog1982
Two barges ran aground in different parts of the Mississippi River system.
The result of that was the closing of traffic in those parts of the river.
This river is a vital part of the economy of the US.
(Reuters) - The Mississippi River was closed to traffic at two locations on Thursday as barge tows ran aground near Greenville, Arkansas, and La Crosse, Wisconsin, due to low water amid the worst U.S. drought in 56 years, private and government sources said. It was unclear when the key shipping waterway might be reopened to commercial traffic, they said. Low water has restricted barge drafts to a lighter-than-normal nine feet and limited barge tows to fewer barges on numerous sections of the Mississippi River. But even as vessels have lightened their cargo loads, numerous boats have run aground in recent weeks, forcing temporary river closures and snarling north- and southbound freight traffic. The river is a major shipping lane for grains, oilseeds, fertilizer, salt, coal, and other cargo.
The drought in the US is having more of an impact then just crops.
This is becoming really bad.