Sunspots are planet-sized pockets of magnetism with much greater energy output and matter expulsion, some of which strikes the Earth’s atmosphere as extra energy from the sun. Scientifically sunspot numbers have been recorded for over 400 years.
Sunspot activity has been linked with climatological swings in global temperatures. When sunspot activity has peaked we often have the warmest years and when it is reduced we get cooler years.
There have been instances during this 400 years when there were no sunspots for extended periods of time, including the long Maunder Minimum when almost no sunspots were observed and the less severe Dalton Minimum.
The causes for these variations are not well understood, but because sunspots affect the brightness of the sun, solar luminosity is lower during periods of low sunspot activity. Some meteorologists think that reduced sunspot activity correlates with colder winters. Less sunspots equates to less heat hitting the earth and less cosmic rays.
The current sunspot cycle is very low, almost non existent. The last time there was this little activity was between 1645 and 1712; called the Maunder Minimum, corresponding to the ‘little ice age’. It is widely believed that the low solar activity during the Maunder Minimum and earlier periods may be among the principal causes of the Little Ice Age.
It seems that continental locations are more prone to the affects of sunspot activity where coastal areas are less affected.
Many weather watchers predict a period of extreme cold and snow for this winter; predicting an early start with frosts in September and possible isolated snow events in October. Some are predicting snow in November that stays for the winter and severe cold by New Years.
There are many other factors influencing the weather as well. This year we add a potential La Nina in the Pacific which is notorious for cold spells in the Eastern US. All these trends forecast winter temperatures 2 degrees Fahrenheit below normal for continental US and above normal snowfall potential for Upstate NY.