We are moving into one of the biggest scientific experiments of all time.
Since the invention of the telescope, the Sun’s activity has been recorded by counting the number of sunspots on its surface.
According to these records, the number of sunspots rises and falls in an eleven year cycle.
But scientists have detected a change in the most recent cycle.
There have been fewer sunspots.
This suggests that a change is happening inside the Sun, causing a new solar minimum in which the Sun’s output is reduced.
This has not been seen since the seventeen-hundreds and could mean a slight cooling here on Earth.
It could also help scientists answer questions arising from competing scientific ideas about what is driving climate change.
If global temperatures don’t rise as predicted, or if they stagnate or fall, it may mean that scientists have underestimated the Sun’s contribution to global warming.
Changes in the Sun may also shed light on the idea that global warming has been influenced by cosmic rays.
According to this idea, a more active Sun causes fewer cosmic rays to enter the Earth’s atmosphere.
These rays help clouds to form, which reflect heat out to Space.
A weaker Sun means more clouds and more cooling.
But not all scientists agree that solar activity plays any significant role in global warming.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the global average temperature is on course to rise by 0.5 degrees Celsius by 2030.
This experiment is a great opportunity for science.
The next twenty years of data will decide which hypothesis wins the world’s biggest scientific experiment.
The bad news is that we will have to wait for the results.
To find out more, download the new solar cycle report from the Global Warming Policy Foundation website.