Summer fun food and drink – vacation from sunspots

I am starting a 3 week vacation today and we are pretty much playing it by ear. We are, quite literally, in the dark about what we are doing… where we are going exactly.

I would tell you if I knew. But I don’t. So I cannot.

What did cross my mind today (am I am talking quite extemporaneously now…) was that people who do things at the last minute are the bane of security hawks very existence. What do I mean by that you ask?
Well. Did you know that there are cruises line in the U.S. that (choose to) report every single guest they are going to have on their cruise to the F.B.I. and/or homeland security. Not every cruise line does this. It means that before you hit the lido deck on Day one of your Caribbean cruise, the men in black are aware of your location – right down to the GPS location of the ship.

Not me though. And it got me thinking again: What if I dropped into or and picked up a flight… for say… tomorrow morning? I mean, there have to be empty seats on planes all over the place. Or what if I decide to fly to London, England… like… tomorrow? Would that not upset some security suit somewhere. I mean, that whole not knowing where I am at any given moment can quite literally drive someone out there… mad. Mad I tell you… Mad.

Next item. Sun spots. No, not age spots. Sun spots.
Solar Cycle 24 Sunspots where for art thou?I have been a radio guy since 1971… when I was young. Very young. I will keep it simple and say Ham radio – which for the purposes of this entry is the suitable term. Most people know what Ham radio is… so I can skip the long definition.

Anyway. I have been observing all the neat science things that are needed to make this hobby work… for 38 years. And the primary thing that makes Ham radio work… and the ability to talk to and listen to radio signals from around the globe (without the internet folks!) are sunspots. Sunspots. Not age spots. Sun spots.

Sun spots come and go. They generate some of the forms of solar radiation that energize the Earth’s ionosphere – that allow radio signals to bounce around – like at night time when you listen to San Francisco from your cabin in Anchorage Alaska. Most people have noticed that AM radio signals carry a lot further at night then it does during the day. Conversely, FM radio rarely skips. It does more often than people realize… but that is another medium.

Photo abovea recent picture of the Sun which should be festooned with at least one big Sun spot. Instead, nothing.

Long story short: Sun spots go through cycles of intensity that last 11 years. And these Cycles have been going on without interruption for hundreds and hundreds of years… thousands of years… since the beginning.

Uhm. With some exceptions. Like the 17th and 18th century. When there were, how can I put this… mini ice-ages. Doldrums. Periods when there were no Sun spots for several decades at a time. Triggering brief global Ice-ages. Albeit Small ones. It effected the whole planet. Normally moderate climates like the one they have in London, England — In the 1700’s, the Thames River would freeze up solid 3 weeks of the year… year after year… for about 20 years.

Like I said: I have been observing solar cycles for 38 years. And something is amiss. But there is no immediate cause for alarm… like not in the next week or so anyway.
To a geophysicist or a radio science guy like me, being told that a Solar cycle is not starting is kind of like being 21 again and having your girlfriend tell you she’s late.
If you get my drift. It is a scenario that has long term consequences. That are almost immediate – once it’s confirmed.

We have just concluded Solar Cycle 23 and Solar Cycle 24 was supposed to start… a year ago.
So listen up. The term Solar Cycle 24 could very well become a household phrase over the next 6 months. In some ways, it could be coming at a good time… and at a very bad time.

Do yourself: Google Solar Cycle 24 right now. And strap yourself in for an interesting ride. More scholarly reading here