In 800 BC, the Chinese Book of Changes noted dark spots on the Sun.
Around 300 BC, Greek scholar Theophrastus also wrote about these mysterious dark spots.
By 28 BC, Chinese astronomers were keeping records of the spots, with drawings following in 1128 by an English monk named John of Worcester.
English astronomer Thomas first saw them through a telescope in 1610, with descriptions published in 1611.
We now know these sunspots, as they have come to be known, are relatively cooler patches on the otherwise hotter Sun.
The spots may last a few days or perhaps a month or two.
They move across the Sun and eventually disappear.
Over the years, careful observation shows that sunspots occur in cycles of about 11 years.
One year, there may be many and about 11 years later, few or none.
These are called solar maximums and solar minimums.
In total, this makes a complete solar cycle about 22 years.
Most climatologists agree that these cycles influence Earth’s weather.
I agree. Think of it. Many of the farmers I have known while growing up attest to the fact that weather runs in cycles.
During a solar maximum, Earth’s magnetic field is energized and cosmic radiation is deflected.
A high sunspot count has been linked to drought. Conversely, during a solar minimum, Earth’s magnetic field is weakened and more cosmic radiation streams in.
Studies have shown that more cosmic radiation can lead to increased cloud formation and lower temperatures on Earth.
From 1645-1715, a period known as the “Little Ice Age” occurred.
Around the middle of this time, sunspots vanished from the surface of the Sun.
Temperatures were well below average, although volcanic activity is also linked to this period of colder weather.
Currently, our Sun in a solar minimum. There were 224 days in 2019 without sunspots and so far this year there have been 113 days without sunspots.
Some solar scientists have called this “the blankest Sun in modern history”.
How will this affect us here on Earth? If the past is any indication, we may be in for a period of lower than average temperatures.
That doesn’t mean we won’t have hot days, but overall, a cooler summer may be in store.