Feeds

Tree rings show calendar of sun spot activity

Spottiest for 8,000 years

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

The next step in data security

Sunspot activity is more intense now than at any point in the last 8,000 years, according to researchers at the Max Planck Institute in Germany. The solar scientists have constructed an 11,000 years record of solar activity based on tree ring data, and discovered that the last 70 years have been particularly spot-filled.

However, the results should not cause alarm, the scientists say, because 8,000 years ago there was a period of similar intensity, suggesting that the sun naturally cycles through more and less busy times. Sami Solanki, the scientist who led the research, says the sun will probably calm down again in the next few decades.

To track solar activity using trees, the researchers had to go looking for the presence of particular isotopes, like carbon14 and beryllium-10, that are formed in the atmosphere when cosmic rays – radiation from deep space – impact the planet. The sun deflects much of the cosmic radiation that would otherwise smash into the planet, but when solar activity is more intense, it deflects even more.

As trees grow, they absorb the carbon in the atmosphere and preserve a record of that particular year’s level of Carbon-14, among other things. So, by measuring the amount of the isotopes in each year of tree growth, or each tree ring, the researchers could identify periods of greater or lesser solar activity.

Sun spots and exactly how they affect the Earth’s climate is the subject of considerable scientific investigation. Our understanding of exactly what causes them is incomplete, to say the least. What is known is that they are caused by fluctuations in the sun’s magnetic field, which in turn is created by the ionised gas inside the sun acting like a dynamo.

Whether or not the spots affect our climate is a more contentious issue, and researchers hope this record could help settle the debate. ®

Related stories

Cassini gives Iapetus a wide berth
Missing galaxies puzzle scientists
Stunt choppers to retrieve Genesis probe

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
SCREW YOU, Russia! NASA lobs $6.8bn at Boeing AND SpaceX to run space station taxis
Musk charging nearly half as much as Boeing for crew trips
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Thought that last dinosaur was BIG? This one's bloody ENORMOUS
Weighed several adult elephants, contend boffins
Edge Research Lab to tackle chilly LOHAN's final test flight
Our US allies to probe potential Vulture 2 servo freeze
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
India's MOM Mars mission makes final course correction
Mangalyaan probe will feel the burn of orbital insertion on September 24th
Cracked it - Vulture 2 power podule fires servos for 4 HOURS
Pixhawk avionics juice issue sorted, onwards to Spaceport America
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.