Cosmic rays are continuously getting stronger and that could mean Earth should brace itself for a deep solar minimum, scientists have warned.
A decade ago, scientists noticed an all-time high in cosmic rays – rays which originate from deep space, not to be confused with solar rays which come from the Sun. Now, scientists have noticed cosmic rays are back on the up as the Sun goes deeper into a solar minimum.
The Sun follows 11 year cycles where it reaches a solar maximum and then a solar minimum. During a solar maximum, the Sun gives off more heat and is littered with sunspots. Less heat in a solar minimum is due to a decrease in magnetic waves.
The Sun entered the current solar minimum roughly a year or so ago when magnetic waves from our host star began to lessen.
With less magnetic waves coming from the Sun, cosmic rays find it easier to penetrate Earth’s atmosphere and are more noticeable to scientists.
While cosmic rays have little effect on our planet, one of the reasons scientists monitor them is to see when the Sun has entered a solar minimum.
Now, with cosmic rays almost reaching that all time high again, scientists know the Sun is about to enter a prolonged cooling period.
The last time a prolonged solar minimum was in effect was the Maunder minimum, which saw seven decades of freezing weather, began in 1645 and lasted through to 1715, and happened when sunspots were exceedingly rare.
During this period, temperatures dropped globally by 1.3 degrees celsius leading to shorter seasons and ultimately food shortages in what was called a “mini Ice Age”.
Cosmic forecasting site Space Weather said that the solar minimum gets deeper as the year progresses.
It reads: “As 2019 unfolds, Solar Minimum appears to still be deepening. Cosmic rays haven’t quite broken the Space Age record set in 2009-2010, but they’re getting close.”
Nathan Schwadron, a space physicist at the University of New Hampshire, said: “No one can predict what will happen next.
“However, the situation speaks for itself: We are experiencing a period of unusually weak solar cycles.”
see also: GWPF coverage of solar activity research