The Dark Side of the Sunspot

Surely by now you’ve heard that Ron Johnson, the not-self-made-man who’s running for the U.S. Senate, believes that global warming is caused not by a human-caused overload of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. No, no, it’s sunspots. Those black dots on the surface of the sun are causing Earth’s atmosphere to heat up, causing Russia to burn, and one-fifth of land-locked Pakistan to be underwater. Or the two 100-year-floods we had within two days of each other back in 2008, or the 700-year-flood we had two weeks ago.

My astronomy instructor at UWM said the same thing two years ago.

As I recall it, my dear instructor was of the conservative bent. He could be loud-mouthed at times, but used it well for chewing out people whose cell phones rang loudly during lecture.

A rare less-than-shining moments came when he told us he thought global warming was happening due to—yes!—sunspots. Or maybe shifts int he Earth’s magnetic field.

Funny thing is, solar activity has been decreasing, and there have been very few sunspots on the surface of the Sun in recent years. Even if sunspots do or do not cause more energy to be released form the sun, their correspondence to temperatures on the surface of the Earth falls apart. There isn’t one. Solar activity has been dropping for the past decade, while the atmospheric temperatures here on Earth has been rising the whole time.

I doubt very many people in our class bought it when he said that sunspots were causing global warming. At least he didn’t deny that it was happening.

Author: Jason Haas

Jason is an elected member of the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors, occasionally moonlights as an amateur gardener, and is a proud father of two, or three, depending on how you do the math.

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