When journalists read scientific reports, they usually try to find a theme, in plain language. That what The Economist Magazine (June 18-26), “Sun Down” and Popular Science magazine (July 11), “Sun Stroke,” did. The problem, their reading of the science reached totally solar opposite conclusions.

The Economist concluded that: “Several lines of evidence suggest the sun is about to go quiet.” They predict that something called “solar minimums,” in which the regular cycles of the sun slow down, with fewer sun spots and more reliable communications on Earth, not interrupted so much by solar activity. The cooling effect of such historical slowdowns could even counteract or offset some of the warming effects of greenhouse gases, somewhat canceling out global warming, or giving us some breathing space to deal with it.

Then there’s Popular Science, blaring that, “A catastrophic solar storm isn’t a question of when — and it looks like soon.” A charged cloud of particles, called a coronal mass ejection, or CME could hit the earth. Such an eruption could fry computers and power transformers across the globe, shut down nuclear power plants and transportation — in other words, put the Earth on hold. Such a massive solar storm is a low probability event, just as is a 100-year storm, says Popular Science, but the question they ask is: what are we doing to prepare?

At this time of the summer solstice, when we are all celebrating the onset of a hopefully nice summer, after a winter of devastating storms, let’s hope the sun stays on an even keel, and that the journalists take a second look into science’s crystal ball and see if there is some consensus we can trust.

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