Rain? What’s that?

I come from a part of the UK that is currently VERY dry. Since April, we’ve had about 6mm of rain, during that time we would normally have had 60mm of rain, so the ground is dry, plants are staring to suffer, and, in the sky we see lots of cloud, but nothing falling from them.

Many places had storms just 2 weeks ago, we didn’t, and according to the excellent Netweather, we are unlikely to get huge amounts over the coming week, although, if we are really lucky we may get some heavy showers Thursday and Friday, I will keep you informed.

the Fax chart for Friday currently looks like this

Friday (I Hope)

Which gives me some hope at least

We shall see

Sunspots, Up, then Down, where next

Around February of this year (2011) it finally looked as though the current Sunspot Cycle was taking off, with multiple complex sunspots producing Coronal Mass Ejections (CME) and the sun looking fairly peppered with spots. Four months later, we’ve had a relapse, going by the Laymans Sunspot Count we are falling back into the trough of a quiet sun.

The Quiet Sun

Of particular concern to Radio Amateurs like myself is the fall off in the 10.7 flux associated with sunspots, throughout the last couple of months, it got over 100, now, it’s back in the mid 80’s, a level normally associated with a Solar Minimum, not half way up the ramp to a maximum. So what maximum should we expect? The NASA scientists, led by Hathaway have consistently revised downwards the expected maximum, now it’s around 50, and that’s in 2 years time.

Also the majority of spots seem to be Unipolar, as distinct from complex spots more likely to create CME’s.  As you can see above, just a single spot rotating over the face at the moment

Perhaps someone should tell the sun

Sunspots, how accurate is the count?

I’ve come across a very good site here.  In it, there is some serious discussion regarding the calculation of the Sunspot Number, and it’s deviation from the original Wolf number.  If you have the opportunity have a look, a fascinating site, well presented.

One very nicely organised piece is on the “Layman’s Sunspot Count”, trying to correct the two counts taken as being the official view, and  correcting them by removing specks that, in previous times, would not have been seen even with telescopes

Sense? Or Nonsense?

MP’s, accused of having their noses in the trough are forced to repay £1,100,000, making them pay for their excesses, retrospecively since 2004. No breakdown on how that money is split by year, but probably 5 years worth so approx £200,000 per year Good, great work make them earn their money.

Due to the MP’s, a new commission is set up, to make sure they don’t do it again, cost has been estimated at £6.3 Million. almost 6 times the total amount recouped, and a massive 30 times the average amount recouped.

Why? We already had a system in place that only needed strengthening, instead we have a totally new quango, which is still, although supposedly “Independent” appointed by MP’s which costs a damn sight more than the original sin. Great example of how Governments, and how our Government in particular, works.

Sunpots starting in earnest??

It looks as though the sun is finally waking, since the start of 2010 (this is written on Feb 11th), we have had a grand total of 2 days without a spot being recorded on the face of the sun, this is a distinct improvement on 2009 where there were 76% of days throughout the year without any spots at all.

Of more interest however is the sunspot number, this is still consistantly below the number forecasted by NASA. In fact Solar Cycle 24 is still shaping up to be one of the quietest cycles of modern times, and that’s if you take the definition of modern back 100 years. Cysle 23 was one of the longest recorded, as 13.4 years, while cycle 24 looks as though it’s going to be a low powered cycle that may also be a long cycle. Many radio amateurs will be hoping for a bit more than what we’ve seen so far, as the 10M band has, as far as I’m aware, not been open since the end of cycle 23

Sunspots, or lack of them

We may, if we are lucky see a rare thing in the next few days, it is just possible that a sunspot may appear as the sun rotates round, the SOHO Behind satellite seems to be recording activity at high latitude, which should indicate a cycle 24 spot.  We are now at day 13 of the current spotless run, we had a brief 4 day spotted run before this current spell, but before that we had a full 52 days without any spots at all.

This year to date we have had 206 spotless days, that’s 80% of the days this year (not that the sun knows what one of our years is), with a total of 717 spotless days since 2004. The average number of spotless days since records began is 485 days, so we are climbing the listings for quiet cycles.

There have been various comments about the strength of this cycle with much criticism of Hathaway at NASA.  What has happened is that his forecast is early, as he had forecasted a much quieter cycle 25 rather than 24.  The last 3 cycles, 21, 22 and 23 were strong and short, although 23 was weaker than 22 and 22 was weaker than the big 21, but now the sun has switched off, at least as far as sunspots are concerned.  There was a period earlier in the year where it looked as though this cycle was starting to take off, but that lasted just over 2 months and the slumber resumed.

What does this do to the climate? Records show that during the Dalton minimum and the earlier Maunder Minimum parts of Western Europe had shorter growing seasons and much colder winters. Parts of the Northern American Plains In the US and Canada were also substantially cooler.  This year, many US Mid West States were substantially cooler than the norm.  Parts of the UK have had a washout of a summer, with a jetstream that has been consistently further south than is normal for the time of year.   Viewing the way the climate has behaved in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres this year, it seems that the warmer weather from sub tropical zones seems to be drawn closer to the equator, with the colder polar zones expanding, from the poles, giving a small net cooling of the whole planet, but with large regional variations.

Contingency Reserve

Much has happened since my last post, but this one is concerned mostly with British Politics and the Economics thereof.  According to World Statesmen.org , we have a GDP of $2.31 Trillion (approx £1.6 Trillion) for the year 2008.  We have Government Spending again for the same year, 2008, 0f £575 Billion (Source, UK Public Spending).  This figure is expected to rise rapidly as can be seen here

UK Government Debt
UK Government Debt

Now much of that is central Government spending, in fact, from the same source, UK Public Spending, 76% of this total is Central Government spending, as defined by the Budget.

Now, first, let me say I’m not an accountant, but I have been involved in drawing up Budgets in companies and I know of two points that I believe need expanding, the first is the idea of a “Reserve”, a portion of the budget that is not allocated when the figures are drawn up, the other point is around the use of the Budget granted, “Spend it of we will not get the same next year”.

Reserve first.  Of the £575Billion in the 2008 Budget, what was the contingency set aside to cover emergencies?  I can remember in the past that the Thatcher Government raided the Contingency Reserve on more than one occasion and that our original incursion into Iraq was, supposedly, paid for out of the Reserve.  So how big is it?  Figures seem to be very hard to come by, but the overall Reserve seems to be close to 10%, so on 2008 figures, if it is 10% the country has a reserve of around £57Billion, which in my book is a huge amount of money.

Now the thorny subject of “I have to spend my Budget”.  In all the business’ I’ve worked in that draw up Budgets for the various departments, one thing more than anything else has attracted my attention.

  • Firstly, the current year’s Budget is ALWAYS based on the previous year’s budget, with an additional sum that usually is added to cover inflation
  • Secondly, ALL managers I’ve dealt with ensure that they spend their allocated budget, even if a portion, sometimes a substantial portion is effectively wasted by buying equipment or services that are not needed.  The old saying “What I want is not what I need” often applies, things are bought and paid for out of the Budget, they can usually be justified, but they are not necessarily needed to run the business, just they are wanted to make sure the budget is fully allocated and used.

So, the question is, are your Government Ministries any different? Have we had any Ministries come in under budget in the last ten years? I’m sure an FOI request would find out, but I think I can probably guess the answer without going to the expense.  Let’s, as a country, ask the Ministries to half their contingency reserves and hit their budgeted spending by spending money on what they need, not what they want.

As a further point, if anyone has details of how the budgets at the various Ministries are drawn up, I’d be very interested

Leadership? Pull the Other One

Today’s U Turn, agree to let the Gurkhas come and stay in a country that they risked their lives for. Amazingly it was originally refused on the grounds of COST to the economy. No thought of these people having risked and sometimes laid down their lives to keep us safe. Ignore any that say they are mercenaries, they have shown a devotion to this country that should shame many of the people that call themselves British.

Yesterday’s verbal U Turn. One comment saying that Hazel Blears had accepted that what she did was wrong. Another comment later in the day saying that the PM had “Full Confidence” in Hazel Blears. What passes for full confidence from “Our Illustrious Leader” must seem like a death sentence.

Which really brings me to the point of this post.

Where is the leadership within the country today? As I see it Cameron has played it reasonably well, with various MP’s being told “Go or face de-selection”. Where is the Executives response? Who has resigned from Labour? Who has resigned from the Government? And WHY would an election cause chaos?