I am not sure what to make of the following report that the Earth will be experiencing a mini-Ice Age 'within ten years' due to a rare drop in sunspot activity.
A decrease in global warming might result in the years after 2020, the approximate time when sunspots are expected to disappear for years, maybe even decades. While the effects of a calmer sun are mostly good - there'd be fewer disruptions of satellites and power systems - it could see a sharp turnaround in global warming. An absence of sunspots is not an unprecedented situation. It has happened before, but not since the early 18th century. Lead researcher Frank Hill, of the National Solar Observatory, said: 'The solar cycle is maybe going into hiatus, sort of like a summertime TV show.' While scientists don't know why the sun is going quiet, all the signs are that it will. Dr Hill and his team have based their prediction on three changes in the sun spotted by scientific teams - weakening sunspots; fewer streams spewing from the poles of the sun's corona; and a disappearing solar jet stream.
Dr Richard Altrock, the study's co-author and an astrophysicist at the Air Force Research Laboratory, said these three cues show that 'there's a good possibility that the sun could be going into some sort of state from which it takes a long time to recover'. Their prediction is specifically aimed at the solar cycle starting in 2020. Experts say the sun has already been unusually quiet for about four years with few sunspots - higher magnetic areas that appear as dark spots. The enormous magnetic field of the sun dictates the solar cycle, which includes sunspots, solar wind and ejection of fast-moving particles that sometimes hit Earth. Every 22 years, the sun's magnetic field switches north and south, creating an 11-year sunspot cycle. At peak times, like 2001, there are sunspots every day and more frequent solar flares and storms that could disrupt satellites. Earlier this month, David Hathaway, NASA's top solar storm scientist, predicted that the current cycle, which started around 2009, will be the weakest in a century. Mr Altrock also thinks the current cycle won't have much solar activity, after tracking streamers from the solar corona, the sun's outer atmosphere seen during eclipses. The streamers normally become busy around the sun's poles a few years before peak solar storm activity. That 'rush to the poles' would have happened by now, but it hasn't and there's no sign of it yet. That also means the cycle after that is uncertain, he said. - Daily Mail.