Sun going quiet: Sunspots may disappear for years

By SETH BORENSTEIN | June 14, 2011 | 1:14 PM EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) — Scientists are predicting that the sun is heading into an unusual and extended super quiet mode. Around 2020, sunspots may disappear for years, maybe decades.

But scientists say it is nothing to worry about. The effects from a calmer sun are mostly good. There'd be fewer disruptions of satellites and power systems. And it might mean a little less increase in global warming.

It's happened before, but not for a couple centuries.

Scientists at a solar physics conference in New Mexico unveiled their prediction based on sunspot activity, magnetic field strength and a disappearing solar jet stream.

The prediction is specifically aimed at the solar cycle starting in 2020, but experts say the sun has already been unusually quiet for about four years.