Cool Picture BusySun_slifer_960

It seems to me that some pictures deserve to be passed around the web. This picture by Doyle Slifer is one of them.

Three objects are eclipsing the the sun. First is the small airplane. Second is the streams of clouds. Third is the moon. (There is a fourth thing you can’t see; namely, specks of dirt on my computer screen.)

Above and to the left of the small plane is a group of sunspots on the surface of the sun itself.  As the sun rotated, these large sunspots swung around and pointed right at the Earth, in some ways like the barrel of a gun. There is always the possibility the spot will shoot a solar flare right at us, which can mess up our electronics in various ways.  A flare measuring “X-17” knocked out the electricity in Sweden in 2003. So far the largest this family of spots has produced is an “X-1”, and I think the nervous will exhale in relief as this swings away from us and vanishes around the backside of the sun. By the time the sun rotates around again the spots will likely be gone, or greatly reduced.

This group of spots are the largest of the current cycle, and demonstrate that even a “Quiet Sun” can occasionally make a big group. In some ways this is annoying, for once you get back in history our only records of sunspots are those that can be seen with the naked eye.

In the pre-telescope-era records from China, (the records somehow preserved from the zeal of the Red Guard, during Mao’s insane attempt to erase the past with the “Cultural Revolution”,) there are records of sunspots so large they were clearly seen when the sun was a low, orange disc, partially obscured by dust. Some assumed these historical events hinted at very active sunspot cycles,  but now we see they can occur during quiet times.



One of the first things I checked when I got back from my trip was the snow-cover in Siberia. I got a bit of a shock.  It usually doesn’t expand this quickly.

What Siberia does, once the nights are longer than the days, is to lose heat. This process is enhanced by snow, which increases the amount of radiational cooling. As this cold builds it sinks, creating high pressure which becomes a semi-permanent feature over Siberia, especially over the east.

Siberia tends to export cold air in all directions, but one needs to pay attention to the weather patterns, and attend to the direction the largest amount of air is exported to.  China suffers when the air pours south, and Europe suffers when the air is shunted west. When the air rushes east it fuels huge north Pacific gales, However when it spills north out over the Arctic Ocean I worry, for then North America is at risk.

Air pours north every year, which is why the Laptev Sea is the largest “contributor” of sea-ice. Ice forms, and then is blown away from shore and out into the Arctic Basin. The amount can vary greatly. Some years produce four times as much ice as other years. It all depends on the outflow from the Siberian High .

Last year a cross-polar-flow developed and took the long route across the center of the Pole.. This actually allows the air to “warm” as it crosses the sea, from minus 70 to minus 30.However as the air starts moving over Canadian tundra it again starts losing heat.

The worst-case-scenario involves the Siberian air taking a shorter route, crossing less ocean by moving from Siberia to Alaska just north of the Bering Strait. This occurred during the very cold winter of 1976-1977, and is what I fear may happen this year.

(I should add that during the summer before 1976-1977, There were Pacific hurricanes that came up the west coast of Mexico and gave Arizona rain, as has happened this year.)


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(Pictures from


It has been a hot summer in China. Even today (August 17) it got up to 97 degrees Fahrenheit in Beijing. (36 Celsius.) Therefore, when a vigorous cold front hit the north, and someone posted pictures of the snow, the pictures went viral:

How soon we forget.  People were grumbling when it snowed in China on June 21.

It reminds me of the old ryhme:

When it is hot
We wish it were not
But when it is not
We wish it were hot.