I write this, newly inspired amidst shoveling infernally deep, drifted, but thankfully dry, fresh snow. A neighbor informed me that this latest blanket sets the record for the highest amount of January snowfall in Connecticut, ever.
Now as it happens, even more at the ready on my back porch than our pair of shovels, sits my blessed Maksutov telescope. While nighttime viewing is the norm, I also have a filter for direct study of our nearest star, the sun. Yet, in contrast to our sidewalk clearing implements, the daytime use of my telescope has dramatically lessened these last several years. This is because sunspot activity has trickled down to being entirely dormant, rebounding only to a sputtering activity, well within a time frame when a dramatic upsurge would have been normal.
Typically, as measured for hundreds of years, the sun runs through an 11 year peak and valley cycle, with surface activity reflecting inner turbulence. Frequent and large sunspot activity is symptomatic of enormous prominences and bursts of earthbound radiation that affect things like satellites, radios, power lines, and yes, the climate.
While it is true that, since Katrina, certain scientists predicted enormous and increasing North American hurricane activity, our seasons since 2005 have been comparatively mild. And while some experts claimed that snow in our nation’s capitol and Europe were to increasingly be relegated to the past, actual experience across the Northern Hemisphere has profoundly proved otherwise. Alas, just a few weeks ago, the poor people of England were so hopelessly socked in, and the country was so unusually inundated, that the government suggested postponing the celebration of Christmas.
NASA predicts that our Sun will soon wake up from its extended nap, and indeed, it probably will. It usually does. But not always. At least not right away.
If we continue to observe a relative Solarian Slumber, and we are witness to another Maunder Minimum type event, then you may wish to build up your muscles and stock up on shovels and sand. You see, during the original Maunder Minimum, when sunspot activity was really low, Europe and North America experienced what François E. Matthes referred to as The Little Ice Age. This lasted from the 16th into the 19th centuries, and included such highlights as the Great Frost of 1709, the coldest European moment recorded over 500 years, giving rise to paintings of Venice, wherein the local citizenry are shown walking on frozen canals.
This was all in marked contrast to the earlier Medieval Warm Period, lasting hundreds of years, when Norsemen settled Greenland and vineyards were cultivated in England.
With the Maunder Minimum and SolarMax’s in mind, we cannot say precisely if and when known correlation and actual causation cross paths. What we do know is that somehow, by the will of God, every unique expression of climactic difficulty also gives rise to unpredictable and incredible grace.
Case in point, some believe that the previous lengthy cold snap, slowing the growth of trees, directly resulted in a denser wood, prized in the Stradivarius. Heaven knows, I’m probably a bit stronger this month than last, and if this keeps up, perhaps I will be able to don skis for work, instead of having to wait for February vacation!
Even so, in all times, and in every season, apart from the instigation, we have an Incarnation. Whatever the weather, God is present in our world. Our challenges are abundant, but so are the opportunities to be the people alive in Jesus Christ.