July 1, 2014

THIS SOLAR MAXIMUM: Underwhelming, but not in Maunder Minimum territory.

In 2006, at the end of the previous solar cycle, Mausumi Dikpati, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., undertook an ambitious endeavor — a computer model using the basic physics of the sun to forecast what would happen next. Her model made two main predictions: The cycle would start slowly, and it would be a big one, one-third to one-half stronger than the last one.

Her first prediction came to pass. The lull stretched for four more years, leading to some speculation that the sun was on the cusp of another Maunder Minimum, the sunspotless era of the 1600s.

(Although the Maunder Minimum coincided with the Little Ice Age, it is not known whether the intensity of a sunspot cycle could influence the earth’s climate. The difference in the amount of the earth-warming radiation coming from the sun between solar minimum and solar maximum is minuscule.)

But her second prediction was wrong.

In part, that was because the model did not capture the sun’s split personality this time around.

Science, not settled. Plus:

“We’re getting better, and we argue,” he said. “That’s how we do science.”

Well, except climate science, where the models are already perfect, and anyone who argues is a Denier.