NEWS9 reports scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) are watching the sun for something they call the “Terminator.” It’s an event that signals the end of a solar cycle. The sun is currently at the bottom of its roughly 11-year-long energy cycle, a point called solar minimum and is expected switch back into an active phase sometime in the next 9 months, kicking off the next solar cycle. The exact moment of transition may be visible in a signal called a terminator:
“We’ll actually see the progression of this terminator event as it ripples around the circumference of the sun. The terminator event is really the signature, the flipping of the switch.” –Scott McIntosh, director of NCAR’s High Altitude Observatory
The sun will then start creating lots of sunspots, something there have been very little of, if any, in the 12 months leading up to the terminator event:
“Years in which sun spot production are very low typically produce very erratic weather.”
Erratic refers mainly to ocean oscillations and jet stream behavior. This could produce unpredictable weather with extremely warm and dry periods, followed closely by extreme cold and wet periods.
The Farmer’s Almanac winter forecast is one of the few long-term weather outlooks that uses solar activity in their equation. The byline for this year’s edition is“Ride the Polar Coaster” and could influenced by the erratic weather caused by sunspots. There was also low sunspot activity last winter, but that forecast was easier to predict due to the presence of an El Nino, which is not expected to form this winter.