Because the sun is putting out less energy than normal, we could be hit with some very big heating bills this winter. But, other factors may save you money.
There are a couple of ways that sun watchers keep track of the amount of energy arriving at planet earth from the sun. One method is to track the number of sunspots. The sunspots are an indicator of how active the sun is.
The more sunspots there are the more energy is being set our way. Currently we are in the pits of a deep solar minimum. The sun has an eleven-year sunspot cycle. Right now, we are experiencing the fewest number of sunspots in about a century.
As of September 20, 2009, there have been 723 days without sunspots during this solar minimum. Typically, that number is more like 485 days without sunspots.
There is some indication that the sun is starting up sun spot production again. But, there is no way for us humans to forecast what will happen with the sun.
The other measure of the energy reaching us from the sun is solar irradiance. Solar irradiance is a measure of the amount of energy radiated from the sun that hits the earth.
The trend of solar irradiance over the last few years is downward. Now, we are at a low in solar irradiance as part of being at the bottom of the sun cycle.
If we were to ignore other factors and focus only on the amount of energy arriving here from the sun, we could expect to experience “Global Cooling.” Maybe a new ice age is starting. Some scientists think so.
Other factors influence our weather too
Fortunately, other factors influence how cold our winter weather will be. The temperature here on the surface of the earth is controlled by:
- The amount of energy escaping from the earth’s core (yes the planet earth is still cooling)
- The amount of energy arriving from the sun
- How much of the energy is held within our atmosphere
Number three gets a lot of attention these days
The amount of volcano activity is one of the factors that influence our climate and weather. They are important, not because of the core heat that they let out, but for holding heat in our atmosphere. The more smoke and ash they spew in to the air the more they block the sunshine. On the other hand, the more green house gases that get erupted into the atmosphere the more heat energy is held inside our atmosphere. Sometimes they balance out.
The volcano factor has been stable during the last few years. Volcanologists predict that there will be some big eruptions at some time in our future, so that my change.
Wildfires are another big influence of weather and climate. Wildfires convert plant material into smoke, ash, water vapor, and carbon dioxide in the air. The wildfires that raged this summer may help keep us warmer this winter. Again, the green house gases and water vapor help hold heat in the atmosphere
Many other factors also influence the climate and weather in North America. Winds from the Pacific Ocean, how far the jet stream wanders south, plankton growth, and insect activity are all involved. Human activity is also on the list.
Global Warming to the Rescue
At the present, we have enough “global warming” from water vapor and green house gases that things are pretty well in balance. By that, I mean that the warming factors are counter balancing the reduced energy from the sun.
The result is we can expect a near “normal” winter. For folks in the part of the country where I live, it will be cold and we will have snow. It is not likely to be a heating budget breaker but snowy and cold enough to call it a real winter.
The 2010 Old Farmer's Almanac says, “The prolonged low level of sunspot and space weather activity in the early stage of Solar Cycle 24 reinforces our belief that we are at the beginning of a period of significant change. Over the coming years gradual cooling of the atmosphere will occur, offset by warming caused by increased green house gasses.”
It never ceases to amaze me how nature works to maintain a balance.
My advice is to ignore global whining and get on with the job of holding heat inside your home to save money on your energy bills this winter.
Click here for a free money saving report written by the Energy Boomer titled HOW SAVE MONEY ON YOUR NEXT HEATING BILL