Sunrise and sunset on the solstice.
To the east, the sun breaks a new day above the sharp peaks of the young Alps.
To the west, the day comes to its end as the sun sets behind the gentle slopes of the ancient Jura range.
Besides being the sole source of warmth here on the third planet in its orbit, the Sun displays surface activity that is beautiful as well as relevant. These images from NASAs Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) were taken and processed with a number of techniques that highlight sunspot phases.
Sunspots are temporary areas of high magnetic activity that appear as dark spots on the surface of the sun.
A low frequency of sunspots can lead to lower temperatures here on Earth; a high sunspot frequency can support higher temperatures.
The current phase of sunspots, known as Sunspot Cycle 24, has seen the lowest number of sunspots since the space age began, and all the way back to 1906.
There are those who continue to argue that the current upwards trend in the temperature of our climate is largely due to solar activity rather than to any man-made influences.
For those who insist that the mitigation of global climate change doesn’t require weaning the world energy supply from fossil fuels, the lack of a sharper rise in atmospheric warming during Sunspot Cycle 24 might be just the window of opportunity needed to support the ongoing expansion and exploitation of fossil fuels.
The overwhelming scientific consensus, however, holds that while Sunspot Cycle 24 might mean that temperatures will rise at a slower level than they would during a period of higher sunspot activity, they will continue rise due to anthropogenic influence unless major changes are made in human activity and behavior.
From this perspective, a slow sunspot phase might offer a bit more time to adapt, to cooperate, to develop new solutions for a warming world. A window of opportunity to be seized.
All things considered, I’m hoping this slow sunspot phase will be a long one.
A note on the Solar Dynamics Observatory from the SDO website: “The SDO is a sun-pointing semi-autonomous spacecraft that will allow nearly continuous observations of the Sun,” and is “the first mission to be launched for NASA’s Living With a Star (LWS) Program, a program designed to understand the causes of solar variability and its impacts on Earth.”