by Lynn Hayes
Thanks to Astrococktail for this link to a NASA article
on the Solar Minimum, the expected period of low sunspot activity. The Solar Minimum came right on schedule back in 2006, as I reported in this earlier article. But this Solar Minimum is setting all kinds of records. In 2008 the Sun was completely blank of sunspots 73% of the time, the lowest activity since 1913. As of March 31, according to the NASA article, the Sun has been free of sunspots 87% of the time in 2009. This is a particularly deep solar minimum that follows a 50-year period of heightened sunspot activity.
The Solar Minimum could create cooler than usual weather conditions, just as the Maunder Minimum did between 1645-1715, coinciding what was called the "Little Ice Age." There is also a speculated connection between the Solar Minimum periods and increased earthquake activity. USGS statistics that indicate that earthquake activity seems to have peaked in 2003-2006, so there appears to be some correlation since the Solar Minimum appears to have begun in 2004.