The sun's activity is in free fall, according to a leading space physicist. "Solar activity is declining very fast at the moment," Mike Lockwood, a professor of space environmental physics at Britain's Reading University, said, "we estimate faster than at any time in the last 9,300 years." Lockwood and colleagues are assessing the chances of this decline becoming the first grand solar minimum in four centuries. During a grand minimum, the normal 11-year solar cycle is suppressed and the sun has virtually no sunspots for several decades. This summer should have seen an increase in the number of sunspots, but it didn't happen. The last grand minimum was in the late-17th-century. It coincided with severely cold European winters.
-- Washington Post-Bloomberg