Over the past couple of years the Sun has been entering a minimum in the 11-year solar cycle, a period when few sunspots are observed. While this minimum was expected, the lingering absence of observed sunspots as each month passes increases speculation that we could be entering a period of prolonged solar inactivity. Such periods have occurred in the past, and their impacts on global climate were significant, as low sunspot periods tended to cause global temperatures to decrease.
As previously discussed by StormX
, the global map of temperature anomalies during periods of high and low sunspots reveals an interesting but not widely accepted observation; the tropical Pacific apparently favors La Niña during low sunspot periods and El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) Neutral or El Niño conditions during high sunspot periods. To further investigate this possibility, the Storm Exchange Science Center examined Niño 3.4 SST anomalies during December, January, and February of each year between 1948-2009, and grouped the anomalies into bins based on the solar cycle’s magnitude and slope (increasing or decreasing phase). Any months with Niño 3.4 SST anomalies less than -0.5°C were classified as La Niña, any months with anomalies greater than 0.5°C as El Niño, and any months with anomalies between -0.5°C and 0.5°C as ENSO Neutral. The solar cycle and its accompanying sunspot numbers were divided into 10 bins, composed of 5 equally probable bins on the upward sloping side of the cycle, and 5 equally probable bins on the downward sloping part of the cycle. For each sunspot range, the frequency of monthly La Niña, ENSO Neutral, and El Niño was then found. If this frequency distribution has any value, it presumably would indicate elevated probabilities of one of the phases of the ENSO cycle during different periods in the solar cycle.
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