Solar cycles may help predict future floods and droughts

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Washington, Dec 11 (ANI): A new research has suggested that solar cycles can help predict extreme climatic events like floods and droughts on Earth decades ahead of time.

Solar cycles are 11-year phases during which the sun's activity ebbs and flows, accompanied by an increase in sunspots on the sun's surface.

The cycles, which are driven by the sun's magnetic turbulence, may influence weather systems on Earth, particularly the El Nino-Southern Oscillation, a periodic climatic system associated with floods and droughts mostly in the Southern Hemisphere.

"The sun is the engine of our climate," said lead study author Robert Baker, of the University of New England in Australia. "It's like a vibrating string-its past vibrations can be used to predict future vibrations," he told National Geographic News.

Those vibrations are the cyclical "twisting and untwisting" of magnetic fields that cause the sun's poles to flip at the start of each new cycle.

Longer magnetic cycles of about 90 years and 400 years are also found in astronomy records.

The Southern Oscillation Index, which measures the El Nino-Southern Oscillation system, seems to correspond with a 90-year sun cycle, Baker found.

For instance, the current index reading closely follows a trend observed in the 1920s.

If the current index continues to mimic the 1920s cycle, then 2009 is set to be another cool year relative to the 1990s, according to the research.

Periods of greater solar disturbances are associated with rainy periods, whereas a calmer sun dovetailed with times of drought in Australia, according to Baker.

According to Baker, data from the 1940s, coupled with astrophysicists' calculations of future solar cycles, could predict droughts and floods as far off as 2030.

"We can look into the future based on the past to make predictions 10 to 20 years ahead," he said.

El Nino and La Nina, which creates opposite climatic effects from El Nino, also affect North America.

"That means long-range forecasting is possible for water availability in Mexico and the western United States, where droughts are often severe," Baker said. (ANI)

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