AFP via Yahoo:
Cycle 24 has also diverged from the norm in another surprising way.NASA video explains the Suns cycles.
Typically, around the end of each 11-year sunspot cycle, the sun's magnetic fields switch direction. The northern and southern hemispheres change polarity, usually simultaneously.
During the swap, the strength of the magnetic fields drops to near zero and reappears when the polarity is reversed, scientists explain.
But this time, something different seems to be happening. The north pole already reversed its polarity several months ago -- and so it's now the same polarity as the south pole.
According to the most recent satellite measurements, "the south hemisphere should flip on the near future," said Todd Hoeksema, director of the Wilcox Solar Observatory at Stanford University.
He didn't seem concerned about the phenomenon.
But scientists are watching the sun carefully to see whether cycle 24 is going to be an aberration -- or if this solar calmness is going to stretch through the next cycle as well.
"We won't know that for another good three or four years," said Biesecker.
Some researchers speculate this could be the start of a prolonged period of weak solar activity.
The last time that happened, during the so-called "Maunder Minimum" between 1650 and 1715, almost no sunspots were observed. During the same period, temperatures dropped sharply on Earth, sparking what is called the "Little Ice Age" in Europe and North America.
As the sunspot numbers continue to stay low, it's possible the Earth's climate is being affected again.