super solar activity stump scientists
Defying predictions, the sun continues to ignore its established 11-year solar cycle. It has remained extremely active long past what should have been the beginning of the solar minimum, and now another group of enormous sunspots has appeared on the far side and is rotating in our direction.
Eight coronal mass ejections (CMEs) have exploded away from the sun since July 22nd. This high level of activity is not producing auroras on Earth, however, because none of the CMEs is heading our way. All of the blasts have been on the farside of the sun.
That's about to change, though, according to solar observers, because the active area is rotating in earth's direction.
Last year, the sun may have signalled a period of unrest when the solar magentic pole shift, which takes place every 11 years, failed to complete. The sun's magnetic field is now in a more-or-less horizontal position, because the shift between north and south poles did not complete.
Whether or not this has anything to do with high levels of solar activity is unknown.
Normally, not even the most violent solar explosions have a significant effect on earth, beyound disrupting radio and satellite communications and, in extremely rare cases, affecting power grids that are improperly shielded against solar energy.
However, sufficiently strong coronal mass ejections also bring heat with them, and this can cause ground temperatures to soar over the short term, especially in dry areas. Given the large number of dry forests on earth at this time, should such a CME head toward the planet, further heating and drying can be expected, and, in some cases, there is the possibility of spontaneous combustion, especially of plants rich in volatile oils. (SOHO image)
Super Solar Activity
Published: July 30, 2005, 7:17 pm