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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Sunspots and climate

From Cashin's comments:

The primary reason to monitor sunspots (unless you are a ham radio operator) is their possible link to the weather here on earth. Proponents claim that low sunspot numbers are often followed by cold weather on earth. They cite something called the "Maunder Minimum". This was a period of low sunspot activity observed about 75 years after Galileo's introduction of the telescope. Proponents claim it was followed by the Little Ice Age that is said to have occurred over the next 150 years.

If there is a relationship, and the sunspot activity remains remarkably low, this could be a very cold winter season. That might be particularly painful with heating oil and natural gas threatening record highs. Some of us think there may also be a solar cycle that relates to the stock market. But, that's a story for another day.

For well over a year now sunspots have been virtually non-existent. And, at least from our vantage point, the weather has been wetter and colder than normal. In fact our friend, Dennis Gartman has written that colder weather may be inhibiting, somewhat, the growing of grains this year in the northern U.S. and southern Canada.

Sunspots tend to come in cycles of approximately 11 years. The period between the cycles tend to be the minima. Old cycle spots grow fewer and fewer, spots from the new cycle appear slowly and infrequently. The good news in the data we reported yesterday is that the spot that was sighted looks like it's from the new cycle, "Cycle 24." If spots are from the new cycle, it raises hope that the number of spots will increase as the cycle progresses.

How do we know which cycle a spot belongs to? Part of it has to do with their magnetic makeup. The easier part is their location relative to the sun's equator. The spots of the older, dying, cycle tend to be closer to the sun's equator while the new cycle spots occur further away.

Now that you understand why we follow sunspots – don't tell Al Gore. It'll put a chill on his day. P.S. They actually called out the snowplows in parts of New Jersey yesterday.

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