Almost every country on Earth is on lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus. And some say that the Sun is also having a lockdown of its own called 'solar minimum.' But what effect does this have on the environment?
The Sun has recently been observed to be in a period of "solar minimum," which means that solar activity has dropped significantly. This year, the Sun has no recorded activity 76 percent of the time.
Last year, the Sun was blank 77 percent of the time, a rate that had been unprecedented in the Space Age. These two consecutive periods of record-setting spotlessness adds up to a deeper solar minimum.
As Astronomer Dr. Tony Philipps puts it, "Solar Minimum is underway, and it is a deep one." Phillips further explained the changes in sunspot count over the past century.
Should we be alarmed?
In previous claims, it was theorized that low solar activity could lead to extremely cold weather, crop loss, famine, and volcanic eruptions. However, experts disagree with the said theory.
According to the Norwegian Meteorological Institute senior scientist, Rasmus Benestad, the original release only discussed "space weather," which pertains to the effect of solar conditions on the upper atmosphere and not mainly on the Earth's weather.
In a report from NASA, it is stated that "the current scientific consensus is that long and short-term variations in solar activity play only a very small role in Earth's climate. Warming from increased levels of human-produced greenhouse gases is actually many times stronger than any effects due to recent variations in solar activity."
Previous claims stated that low solar activity has also been related to famine, crop loss, and powerful volcanic eruptions. This was thought to be associated with a big volcanic eruption in Indonesia that happened in 1815. And while it is true that during that year, there was an observed drop in temperature and noticeable poor crop yield, it is completely unrelated to solar activity.
In another report, the USGS explained that there is no relationship between solar minimums and the occurrence of earthquakes. They clarified that the Sun does have a variable cycle, but this has nothing to do with earthquakes, adding that earthquakes are a result of activities in the Earth's interior:
"It has never been demonstrated that there is a causal relationship between space weather and earthquakes. Indeed, over the course of the Sun's 11-year variable cycle, the occurrence of flares and magnetic storms waxes and wanes, but earthquakes occur without any such 11-year variability. Since earthquakes are driven by processes in the Earth's interior, they would occur even if solar flares and magnetic storms were to somehow cease occurring."
In a previous version of this article, claims stated that the occurrence of a solar minimum may be linked to extremely cold weather, crop loss, famine, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions. However, field experts have disagreed with and clarified these claims. This article has been amended for clarification.
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