Solar minimum is the period of least solar activity in the 11 year solar cycle of the sun. During this time, sunspot and solar flare activity diminishes, and often does not occur for days at a time. BE CAREFUL WHEN PEOPLE TALK ABOUT GLOBAL WARMING
The sun erupted with two notable space weather events in 2015: the geomagnetic storms on June 22 and March 17. They lit up the northern skies with beautiful aurora, which in some places continued for days. But 2015 was also a relatively quiet year for space weather. To find out why, we need to look at the bigger picture for the answer.

The sun is a variable star. It changes in luminosity and production of sunspots on what’s called a solar cycle. Dark sunspots are indicators of very strong magnetic fields on the surface of the sun. These regions actually inhibit the motion of plasma and cause distinct areas to appear dark because they are relatively cool. Historically, sunspots have been observed and recorded by astronomers since 1611, and the sunspot cycle has been documented back to the mid-1700’s.

As they monitored the sun over the decades, astronomers discovered that sunspots come and go in a period of approximately 11 years, as the Sun’s magnetic field waxes and wanes in its intensity. Recent cycles have been quite strong, with Cycle 19 in the 1950’s being the largest in the 265-year record.

Long periods of solar minimum also became apparent, identified by E. Walter Maunder (the Maunder Minimum) and later John Dalton (the Dalton Minimum). These are prolonged intervals with little to no spots on the surface of the sun.
Below is a chart showing the sunspot numbers since 2000. The black, “saw-tooth” line denotes monthly data — an average of the sunspot activity for each month. The smooth blue line is a rolling average of sunspot numbers, and the red line is the predicted smoothed values for the next three years. The prediction is for decreased solar activity.
The sun is currently in solar cycle 24 — the 24th cycle since scientists began to document them in 1755. Cycle 24 began in early 2008, following an extended very low period at the end of Cycle 23. It reached maximum in April 2014. In terms of space weather impacts, solar cycle 24 produced a few events which prompted the FAA to tweak its air navigation system that relies on GPS technology. Other lesser impacts to systems and procedures were noted, but not on the scale seen in the previous solar cycle, which was much more intense than the current.

Sunspots are the observable sign of strong solar magnetic fields. Sometimes the fields are stable (quiet), and other times they are chaotic (eruptive). It’s the forecasters job to know which is which. But few spots means small reservoirs of magnetic energy to fuel flares, CMEs, radiation storms, and geomagnetic storms. And in fact, solar cycle 24 has produced many fewer eruptive events when compared to its predecessor.

It's the Sun!
This is a common myth. It sounds sort of logical if you don't understand the contexts involved. The fact is that we receive most of our heat energy from the sun and a little bit from the heat stored in the earths core. But does that mean this global warming event is caused by the sun? No. Here's why:
 It's the Sun!
The Solar Cycle

Sunspots have been observed since the time of Galileo. Since the Schwabe sunspot cycles average 11.1 years, we have limited data to see long term solar cycles clearly. But the short term Schwabe cycles are quite clear in the sunspot record.

These cycles range from 9 to 14 years in length, with an average length of 11.1 years. As of early 2009 we are experiencing an extended solar minimum, similar to the one noted around 1913. We are entering Solar Cycle 24 and you can monitor the entry to the new solar cycle with the links below.
Sunspot Cycles
The solar variance between solar maximum and solar minimum accounts of a change in total solar irradiance of around 0.2 W/m2. The current forcing above natural cycle is 1.6W/m2, all major forcings considered. This clearly illustrates that our current global warming event can not be attributed to solar forcing from the sunspot cycle.

There is also a slight irradiance increase in solar output that has been noticed by NASA, but that also does not provide nearly enough forcing to account for current forcing above natural cycle. The only attribution possible is industrial greenhouse gases which are easily calculated quantitatively and the amount of forcing this provides in the system matches the amount of climate forcing we are observing.

The National Academy of Sciences

National Research Council, Board on Atmospheric Science and Climate

From the NAS movie Climate Change: Lines of Evidence:

The 300/400 Year Cycle Myth?

This is an odd myth. We have good information on sunspot cycles since Galilleo's time confirming the Schwabe cycle. In order to see a 300 year, or 400 year cycle, we would need to have good data showing the cycle for at least (at minimum) between 600 to 800 years; and ideally such data should go out into thousands of years?
But this data does not exist. So where does the 300/400 year solar cycle myth come from? Since it does not exist in the science, it must have come from opinion and conjecture. We simply don't have enough data to see if a 300 or 400 year cycle exists. The idea that there is one, is at best a guess based on opinion. It may come from information taken out of context but there is no scientific foundation to the claim.
Earth is heating up lately, but so are Mars, Pluto and other worlds in our solar system, leading some scientists to speculate that a change in the sun’s activity is the common thread linking all these baking events.

Others argue that such claims are misleading and create the false impression that rapid global warming, as Earth is experiencing, is a natural phenomenon.

While evidence suggests fluctuations in solar activity can affect climate on Earth, and that it has done so in the past, the majority of climate scientists and astrophysicists agree that the sun is not to blame for the current and historically sudden uptick in global temperatures on Earth, which seems to be mostly a mess created by our own species. 

Wobbly Mars

Habibullo Abdussamatov, the head of space research at St. Petersburg's Pulkovo Astronomical Observatory in Russia, recently linked the attenuation of ice caps on Mars to fluctuations in the sun's output. Abdussamatov also blamed solar fluctuations for Earth’s current global warming trend. His initial comments were published online by National Geographic News.

“Man-made greenhouse warming has [made a] small contribution [to] the warming on Earth in recent years, but [it] cannot compete with the increase in solar irradiance,” Abdussamatov told LiveScience in an email interview last week. “The considerable heating and cooling on the Earth and on Mars always will be practically parallel."

But Abdussamatov’s critics say the Red Planet’s recent thawing is more likely due to natural variations in the planet’s orbit and tilt. On Earth, these wobbles, known as Milankovitch cycles, are thought to contribute to the onset and disappearance ice ages.

“It’s believed that what drives climate change on Mars are orbital variations,” said Jeffrey Plaut, a project scientist for NASA’s Mars Odyssey mission. “The Earth also goes through orbital variations similar to that of Mars.”

As for Abdussamatov’s claim that solar fluctuations are causing Earth’s current global warming, Charles Long, a climate physicist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratories in Washington, says the idea is nonsense.

“That’s nuts,” Long said in a telephone interview. “It doesn’t make physical sense that that’s the case.”

In 2005, Long’s team published a study in the journal Science showing that Earth experienced a period of “solar global dimming” from 1960 to 1990, during which time solar radiation hitting our planet’s surface decreased. Then from the mid-1990’s onward, the trend reversed and Earth experienced a “solar brightening.”

These changes were not likely driven by fluctuations in the output of the Sun, Long explained, but rather increases in atmospheric clouds or aerosols that reflected solar radiation back into space.

Other warming worlds

Others have pointed out anomalous warming on other worlds in our solar system.

Benny Peiser, a social anthropologist at Liverpool John Moores University who monitors studies and news reports of asteroids, global warming and other potentially apocalyptic topics, recently quoted in his daily electronic newsletter the following from a blog called Strata-Sphere:

“Global warming on Neptune's moon Triton as well as Jupiter and Pluto, and now Mars has some [scientists] scratching their heads over what could possibly be in common with the warming of all these planets … Could there be something in common with all the planets in our solar system that might cause them all to warm at the same time?”

Peiser included quotes from recent news articles that take up other aspects of the idea.

“I think it is an intriguing coincidence that warming trends have been observed on a number of very diverse planetary bodies in our solar system,” Peiser said in an email interview. “Perhaps this is just a fluke.”

In fact, scientists have alternative explanations for the anomalous warming on each of these other planetary bodies.

The warming on Triton, for example, could be the result of an extreme southern summer on the moon, a season that occurs every few hundred years, as well as possible changes in the makeup of surface ice that caused it to absorb more of the Sun’s heat.

Researchers credited Pluto’s warming to possible eruptive activity and a delayed thawing from its last close approach to the Sun in 1989.

And the recent storm activity on Jupiter is being blamed on a recurring climatic cycle that churns up material from the gas giant’s interior and lofts it to the surface, where it is heated by the Sun.

Sun does vary

The radiation output of the Sun does fluctuate over the course of its 11-year solar cycle. But the change is only about one-tenth of 1 percent—not substantial enough to affect Earth’s climate in dramatic ways, and certainly not enough to be the sole culprit of our planet’s current warming trend, scientists say.

“The small measured changes in solar output and variations from one decade to the next are only on the order of a fraction of a percent, and if you do the calculations not even large enough to really provide a detectable signal in the surface temperature record,” said Penn State meteorologist Michael Mann.

The link between solar activity and global warming is just another scapegoat for human-caused warming,  Mann told LiveScience.

“Solar activity continues to be one of the last bastions of contrarians,” Mann said. “People who don’t accept the existence of anthropogenic climate change still try to point to solar activity.”

The Maunder Minimum

This is not to say that solar fluctuations never influence Earth’s climate in substantial ways. During a 75-year period beginning in 1645, astronomers detected almost no sunspot activity on the Sun. Called the “Maunder Minimum,” this event coincided with the coldest part of the Little Ice Age, a 350-year cold spell that gripped much of Europe and North America.

Recent studies have cast doubt on this relationship, however. New estimates of the total change in the brightness of the Sun during the Maunder Minimum suggest it was only fractions of a percent, and perhaps not enough to create the global cooling commonly attributed to it.

“The situation is pretty ambiguous,” said David Rind, a senior climate researcher at NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, who has modeled the Maunder Minimum.

Based on current estimates, even if another Maunder Minimum were to occur, it might result in an average temperature decrease of about 2 degrees Fahrenheit, Rind said.

This would still not be enough to counteract warming of between 2 to 12 degrees Fahrenheit from greenhouse gases by 2100, as predicted by the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.


Solar forcing - RealClimate:

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