back to article Flippin' tosser: Sun's magnetic field poised to SWIVEL on it - NASA

The solar magnetic field will completely "flip" within the next three or four months, according to NASA. The dramatic-sounding event happens every 11 years. The Sun's magnetic activity follows a cycle, and as it reaches a maximum the poles weaken, reversing polarity. In June last year, the Sun's northern polar field became …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Don Jefe

    Artists Impressions

    I think the artists impressions serve a rather important purpose. They give people something to latch onto and see where all the money goes. The artists impressions are to Congresspeople what pie charts are to dim bulb management.

    They also give the younger generations something to see. Convincing kids to embark on a science career is hard enough without letting on too early that their career will be spent looking at spreadsheets. That's one of the unpleasant truths that kids should be spared from, for a while anyway.

    Just my two cents worth. I support artists impressions of 'space stuff'.

    1. Wzrd1

      Re: Artists Impressions

      True enough, one of the most cool images I saw was a rendering of the heliospheric current sheath of the solar system, with all of its spiral goodness.

    2. nice spam database '); drop table users; --

      Artists Imagination vs. one's own

      So they give a rather fake/childish image of science but when people get closer to it and see the real thing they are scared and run away of its complexity.

      People tend to think of science as mad scientist's stuff, and it's not. Science is everywhere, all around us.

      Not only children, but the "masses" should be presented with realistic representations of science. That way people would get familiar with it, and they would get a real chance of understanding what is really going on. What about presenting both an informative chart, and a decorative illustration?

  2. Paul Dx


    Voyager is perfectly placed to see what happens at the edge of the solar system.

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Re: Voyager

      Assuming Voyager's RTG holds out enough to power the sensors several months (or years?) from now when the particle storm hits...

  3. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

    Call me when the Earth's magnetic fields decides to flip. Until then, I'll be snoozing.

    1. MondoMan

      Wake up - it's here!

      The strength of the terrestrial magnetic field has been declining dramatically over the last hundred years, so many geophysicists do, indeed, think we are on the verge of a terrestrial magnetic field polarity reversal.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: Wake up - it's here!

        [Citation Needed]

        At present, the overall geomagnetic field is becoming weaker; the present strong deterioration corresponds to a 10–15% decline over the last 150 years and has accelerated in the past several years; geomagnetic intensity has declined almost continuously from a maximum 35% above the modern value achieved approximately 2,000 years ago. The rate of decrease and the current strength are within the normal range of variation, as shown by the record of past magnetic fields recorded in rocks (figure on right).

        The nature of Earth's magnetic field is one of heteroscedastic fluctuation. An instantaneous measurement of it, or several measurements of it across the span of decades or centuries, are not sufficient to extrapolate an overall trend in the field strength. It has gone up and down in the past for no apparent reason. Also, noting the local intensity of the dipole field (or its fluctuation) is insufficient to characterize Earth's magnetic field as a whole, as it is not strictly a dipole field. The dipole component of Earth's field can diminish even while the total magnetic field remains the same or increases.

        The Earth's magnetic north pole is drifting from northern Canada towards Siberia with a presently accelerating rate—10 km per year at the beginning of the 20th century, up to 40 km per year in 2003,[33] and since then has only accelerated.[34]

      2. Wzrd1

        Re: Wake up - it's here!

        " many geophysicists do, indeed, think we are on the verge of a terrestrial magnetic field polarity reversal."

        Which will take many thousands of years before it begins in earnest.

        Our observed magnetic field is actually the result of a number of tangles in the core magnetic field, which eventually snap and re-orient, which results in a magnetic field reversal (or occasionally, not).

        Paleomagnetic data shows this happens over many thousands of years.

        Of course, once it does, the mapmakers will have a field day selling new maps oriented to the new magnetic north (our current magnetic north drifts quite slowly).

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow!

    As Jon Pertwee used to say.

    1. somewhere in cyberspace

      Re: Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow!


  5. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

    I'm sorry, I can't come to work today, my current sheet has gone wavy.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Low activity

    Wasn't that what caused the Little Ice Age a couple centuries ago? Maybe this CO2 won't be so bad for the next few decades, if the prediction about low solar activity comes to pass.

    1. Dries Marais

      Re: Low activity

      A "little ice age" every 11 years?

      1. Tom 13

        Re: Low activity

        The Mauder Minimum corresponds to a period of sustained low sunspot activity. As in, it crosses several full sunspot cycles (which are 22 year, not 11). I know doing real science is a strain on Warmists, but do try to keep up.

    2. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Re: Low activity

      Actually, you have a point. We are currently nearing a solar minimum; not just as part of the 11-year cycle, but as part of a larger cycle (41Kr). There is significant evidence pointing to a gradually decreasing amount of solar radiation received by earth over the past 50 years. This lines up well with the overall pre-1900s climactic trends which have shown Earth on the path towards a new ice age. Had humans not dramatically altered the climate, Earth would likely have well and truly begun the next ice age approximately 1000 years from now.

      That isn't to say the amount of CO2 we've dumped into the atmosphere is magically a "good thing." The change is so sudden that most ecosystems wills struggle to cope, we're already seeing an unprecedented extinction rate and the slowly altering climate is driving more extreme weather events which cost billions to cope with. In addition to this the climate is slowly changing rainfall patterns over entire continents; this will lead to further issues for many species, including ours.

      Earth is by no means doomed, but a significant number of her species are; we've triggered the most rapid extinction event since the Yucatan impactor/Siberian Traps double-whammy wiped out the non-avian dinosaurs and almost half the marine ecosphere. That will take millions of years to climb back from. Even if we dropped everything and put our backs into mitigation, we'll still see some pretty outrageous effects manifest over the course of the next 500 years.

      Small variations in axial tilt can cause events like the little ice age (indeed, it's one theory for the event) as can longer solar cycles than the standard 11-year cycle. Which we may be currently in the midst of, as part of that measured 50-year decrease insolation. Indeed, this has to be combined with the fact that high amounts of particulates in the air - first by the west in the early-mid 1900s and now by China and India - have kept the surface temperatures artificially low for something like 75 years.

      Right now we're largely insulated from the effects of the amount of CO2 in our atmosphere. As we climb out of the current solar cycle to see increased insolation of the Earth (again, a separate item from the 11-year cycle discussed int eh article) we'll really begin to feel it. In a much shorter time frame China and India's switch away from coal (in an attempt to make their air breathable once more) will see the particulate levels of our atmosphere drop precipitously; this will lead to dramatic increases in global average temperature (likely on the order of 2 degrees C) within our lifetimes.

      So while the 11-year solar cycle is not responsible for a notable decrease in insolation, we are indeed at the lower end of a larger cycle, though not quite at the bottom of certain even larger cycles (such as the Milankovitch cycles which dictate changes in our orbit over time.) Clear as mud? Good.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Low activity

        Appreciate the detailed reply Trevor. One point I'd like to make in reply though. Even if it is true that human induced changes cause a bunch of extinctions, how can those extinctions be worse than what an ice age causes? All the time we read about some little wetland that is protected because there is some unique species of frog that lives there or whatever. How exactly do those guys not go extinct when their wetland FREEZES? An ice age has to cause a huge amount of extinctions - maybe not so much in the oceans, but certainly on land as it changes the climate massively over the bulk of the earth's surface. Perhaps not overnight, but while some animals may be able to slowly move south and survive, plants cannot.

        1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

          Re: Low activity


          The short answer to your question? Timeframe. You have to realise that Ice Ages are not generally mass extinction events. Ice ages unfold over millenia; species have thousands of years to adapt. They evolve, they speciate...and their lineage survives in the descendant species that carry on.

          The problem with the holocene extinction event AKA "humans fucking up the planet") is that we are demanding changes of species in the span of 150-200 years that under almost any other circumstance they would have thousands of years to adapt to.

          I should also point out that homo sapiens sapiens has never before lived during an era where the climate had shifted so dramatically. 4 degrees C warmer on a global scale and we're deep into uncharted territory. We have no idea if we can survive that, or if we do, how many of us can. Water availability - if nothing else - will change so drastically in the next 150 years that I believe strongly that full-blown water wars will start within our lifetime.

          I don't think anyone except the most bizarre and esoteric of eco-nutter believes that the rare and endangered spotted horny stripy frog native only to southern Florida's Swamp #891247 is going to survive for the next 10,000 years. What most are hoping, however, is that it will evolve, give birth to descendant species and the diversity of their genome will be preserved.

          We have only begun the era of genetics. The possibilities of life - from pharmaceuticals of plant life to genes for gene therapy from animal life - are endless. I think that it is remarkably shortsighted to attempt to make mass extinction into a moral item and then wash your hands of it by saying "well, those species might have gone extinct anyways (several thousand years from now), so who cares?"

          We care. Your children care. Their grandchildren will certainly care. Ever species we wipe out is potentially dozens of diseases cured or new transhuman augmentations we will never have. Even if a person lacks the ability to appreciate the diversity of life as an end unto itself, even if they are the most sociopathic, self-centered, small minded individual in our history...they should be capable of understanding that to callously destroy the bounty of nature is to limit what that same diversity can do for us.

  7. MondoMan

    north/south, plus/minus

    AO - regarding "...the Sun's northern polar field became more positively charged than the southern polar field...", I had thought that *magnetic* field polarity was distinguished as north vs south rather than positive vs. negative.

    1. Wzrd1

      Re: north/south, plus/minus

      Well, to be technical, you are correct. However, there is the left hand rule of magnetism and the right hand rule of electromagnetism.

      That said, the sun gets weird enough to through all of that into a cocked hat due to the intense currents and magnetic fields tangled up and multiple dynamos created by plasma rivers deep under the surface.

      It's complex enough to make every clustered Cray go tits up trying to compute it in its entirety.

      1. Roj Blake

        Re: north/south, plus/minus

        Also, the Sun's magnetic field has six poles rather than the more familiar two

  8. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    should be very interesting to see its effect on Earths weather

    Which give the effect on cloud seeding events by incoming cosmic rays could be severe.

    Thumbs up for learning more about the nearest star to our planet.

    1. Wzrd1

      Re: should be very interesting to see its effect on Earths weather

      Sounds like a prime time to *not* go to Mars on a manned mission.

  9. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    For those in need of their daily dose of anxiety :


    This was an announcement from the Daily Mail Dept of Science. You're welcome.

    1. Armando 123

      Re: For those in need of their daily dose of anxiety :

      Odd, sounds a lot like the current US administration. Except for not denouncing corporations and raising taxes.

      Sorry, carry on. And pay no attention to the drone behind the curtain.

  10. PeterM42

    WE ARE ALL DOOMED.......

    On NO, apparently we are not, but that won't stop the "Global Warming/Climate Change" scammers from trying to screw even more money out of gullible governments and the public.

    All this solar and atmospheric change has been going on for BILLIONS OF YEARS and, at last look, we are still all here. The only obvious result seems to be a SIGNIFICANT INCREASE in the population!

  11. Tom 13

    Re: A wavy current sheet, in turn, affects cosmic rays...

    Well then. It must be about time for Reed, Sue, Ben, and Johnny to make that trip into space.

This topic is closed for new posts.

Other stories you might like

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022