Astronomers Forecast Spotless Sun—A New Little Ice Age to Come?

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Bye bye sunspots, hello ice age?

Yesterday, at the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society, researchers released three new studies strongly suggesting that solar sunspot activity will abate considerably for the foreseeable future. As Space.com reports:

"The solar cycle may be going into a hiatus," Frank Hill, associate director of the National Solar Observatory's Solar Synoptic Network, said in a news briefing today (June 14).

The studies looked at a missing jet stream in the solar interior, fading sunspots on the sun's visible surface, and changes in the corona and near the poles.

"This is highly unusual and unexpected," Hill said. "But the fact that three completely different views of the sun point in the same direction is a powerful indicator that the sunspot cycle may be going into hibernation." …

"If we are right, this could be the last solar maximum we'll see for a few decades," Hill said. "That would affect everything from space exploration to Earth's climate."

Ah, the vexed question of the effect of solar variations on Earth's climate. One widely accepted explanation for the advent of the Little Ice Age is the reduction of solar activity (fewer sunspots) that occurred during the Maunder Minimum between 1645 and 1715. As the Cosmic Log over at MSNBC reports:

Storms from the sun are expected to build to a peak in 2013 or so, but after that, the long-range indicators are pointing to an extended period of low activity — or even hibernation.

"This is important because the solar cycle causes space weather … and may contribute to climate change," Frank Hill, associate director of the National Solar Observatory's Solar Synoptic Network, told journalists today.

In the past, such periods have coincided with lower-than-expected temperatures on Earth. The most famous example is the Maunder Minimum, a 70-year period with virtually no sunspots from 1645 to 1715. Average temperatures in Europe sank so low during that period that it came to be known as "the Little Ice Age."

The linkage between solar activity and climate change is still a matter of scientific debate. And even if there is a link, it's not clear how solar-caused global cooling might interact with industrial global warming due to greenhouse-gas emissions. Climate scientists say the swings in solar activity that they've studied so far have had little or no impact on temperatures or other climate indicators — and they don't expect to see a big impact even if the sun goes quiet for a decade or longer. …

Hill and two other solar physicists involved in formulating the forecast, NSO researcher Matt Penn and Richard Altrock of the U.S. Air Force's coronal research program, said there was not yet enough data to firm up a climate connection to solar activity. But they and other scientists have noted that historic lulls in sunspots, such as the Maunder Minimum and another solar minimum between 1790 and 1830, coincided with cooler temperatures.

Goddard Space Institute climatologist and fierce global warming proponent Gavin Schmidt tells MSNBC:

…the effects of solar activity on climate over the past 30 years have been "at the margin of what we can detect."

"They are detectable in the high atmosphere, but when you get down to the surface, there is so much other stuff going on that it's been really hard to get a clean signal."

Well, if the sunspot forecast turns out to be accurate, then climatologists and solar physicists will have a great opportunity to figure out just how much variations in solar activity really do affect the Earth's climate. Stay tuned.

NEXT: Why Ask a Libertarian? And Why Now? #1

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  1. I stopped using hairspray for this?

  2. when you get down to the surface, there is so much other stuff going on that it’s been really hard to get a clean signal

    Oh, the irony. It doesn’t get much better than this.

    1. THE SCIENCE IS SETTLED.

      1. …the effects of solar activity on climate over the past 30 years have been “at the margin of what we can detect.”

        And the effects of human activity have been beyond marginal?

        1. The computer models do not give “correct” results when solar activity is accounted for.
          Therefor it must be ignored.

    2. Solar activity has been flat for nearly six decades. Of course there would be virtually no detectable solar signal.

      1. You’re gonna have to cite that. Cause it sounds like 2 tons of bullshit in a bag.

  3. “Fierce global warming proponent Gavin Schmidt” sounds like one of those “denialists” there. Talking about how we only have 30 years of data, the signal can be detected in one part of the atmosphere better than another, that there’s “so much other stuff going on” that it’s hard to separate the effects out of this one thing, etc.

    But applying the same sort of skepticism to other effects is evil, naturally.

    1. Except, you know, we’ve been regularly observing the sun and spots since Galileo. I guess it’s the warmists’ turn to be the Pope, eh?

    2. Yahoo had a blurb about this topic today. http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20…..usspacesun I roared when reading the following quote in the article:

      “A new Maunder-type solar activity minimum cannot offset the global warming caused by human greenhouse gas emissions,” wrote authors Georg Feulner and Stefan Rahmstorf, noting that forecasts by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have found a range of 3.7 Celsius to 4.5 Celsius rise by this century’s end compared to the latter half of the 20th century.
      “Moreover, any offset of global warming due to a grand minimum of solar activity would be merely a temporary effect, since the distinct solar minima during the last millennium typically lasted for only several decades or a century at most.”

      Oh, it only lasted several decades. Well, that’s all right then… I also like how the 1.5-2.0 C rise by 2100 (which I actually don’t doubt, at the low end.), magically morphed into a 3.7-4.5 C rise. They’re just shameless. Absolutely shameless. At this point, it’s looking more like a cult than science.

      1. At this point? It’s been a cult for a long time.

      2. The temperature range didn’t magically morph. It’s been the projection for some time.

        The Little Ice Age was a cooling event of only 1 degree celcius, so even if such an event were replicated, it wouldn’t come close to cancelling out warming over the 21st century. Not sure why that makes you so angry.

        1. Wow, always interesting to see how effective the propaganda is.
          Why can’t I be a believer of anything, everything would be so easy to understand. I am jealous of these people I must admit

  4. Thank god we blanketed our atmosphere in a warm coziness of greenhouse gases. How’s that for pre-planning.

  5. “Manmade global warming inadvertently saves planet from ravaging effects of new Ice Age, news at 11!”

    1. That sounds like something out of science fiction…

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fallen_Angels_(science_fiction_novel)

  6. Oh wow, OK should be very interesting to see how that all works out.

    complete-privacy.no.tc

  7. Climate scientists say the swings in solar activity that they’ve studied so far have had little or no impact on temperatures or other climate indicators….

    Perhaps these scientists might want to investigate the reduced solar input event known as “Winter.”

    1. Winter is a local anomally, not a global trend.

      1. One entire hemisphere doesn’t count?

          1. damn tags

            /sarc

      2. I don’t think something that occurs cyclically and is entirely predictable counts as an “anomaly.”

        1. But a tenth of a degree Celsius difference in temperature, now that’s an “anomaly”.

          1. Ah, NOW I get it… Sorry; I’m a little slow this morning.

          2. A tenth of a degree over several decades across the entire planet is a tremendous amount of energy. A swing of thirty degrees in a day or season is just a transfer of energy from part of the planet to another.

    2. It just beggars belief that variations in the heat input to a system are apparently irrelevant to the temperature of the system.

      If the climate scientists can’t account for this variable in their models, then their models are truly shit.

      1. It is accounted for. But solar activity has been flat for sixty years, that’s why it has had no detectable effect on climate.

        1. Cite or get off the pot.

  8. Why can’t these assholes – any of them, on any side of this insipid “debate” – just say “We don’t really know, so we’re not going to make any predictions whatsoever.”

    1. “Gentlemen, our phony baloney jobs are at risk”

      1. Harumph!

    2. Because you don’t make yourself look like a Very Important Person who is superior to everyone else that way.

    3. Notice how actual scientists, like Dr. Hill above, make careful, factual statements while the Al Gore crowd make guarantees of events that will never happen?

      1. “If they don’t close these [nuclear] reactors down, we’ll have civil war in five years.” –Ralph Nader, 1977

      2. Just out of curiosity, what was it Al Gore got wrong?

    4. Why would they say they don’t know when temperatures continue to track with projections?

      1. Have you been asleep for the last decade?

  9. Obviously, the increased use of direct solar power has affected the sun’s climate.

  10. Read Niven & Pournelle’s “Fallen Angels” if you are curious on how the left will react.

    1. And FA’s free, at the Baen Online Library.

      That is, of course, the scariest option: that this isn’t merely a minor hiccup in the Solar Cycle, or a Maunder Minimum-type event, but rather the end of the interglacial. Which is overdue to end.

      1. Link to FA at Free Library: http://www.webscription.net/p-…..ngels.aspx

      2. Interglacials and Ice Ages are begun and ended by Milankovich Cycles, changes in the earth’s orbit and tilt toward the sun. The current interglacial is expected to last a few more tens of thousands of years.

  11. Global warming is much preferable to an Ice Age. You can’t grow crops on a mile-high glacier. But the skiing will be awesome.

    “Fallen Angels” by Larry Niven is a cool SF novel about an Ice Age in the wake of the New Age nutbars taking over.

    1. Yep. I’ve taken to asking apocolyptics “would you rather live on a warming planet with greater agricultural output and more habitable land or a cooling planet with lower agricultural output and less habitable land?”

      1. I wonder if some of them might not actually pick the latter; aren’t they the same ones for the most part who regard human beings (well, except for enlightened lefties, of course) as a cancer on Mother Gaia?

        1. The answer is no, but I suspect that won’t stop you from repeating the slander.

      2. What makes you think it’s an either/or choice?

        Why not simply preserve the mild climate we’ve had throughout the history of civilization?

        1. So you not only believe we can effect it, you believe that we can perfectly balance the effects?

    2. You can’t grow crops on a mile-high glacier.

      I dunno, with nuclear power to provide heat, and some very robust greenhouse construction….it’d be possible. It’d suck for the survivors, but could be done.

    3. You get your science from an sf author.

      I see.

  12. Better alt text: “This is to scale.”

  13. blast!
    *waves tiny fist at Old Soldier”

  14. Basic Physics:

    Input + Generation = Retention + Output

    Building models that only varies one of these in a complex manner, and either holds constant or varies in a simple manner the others is bound to fail. This is just as true for the solarists as the warmists. However, my engineer gut tells me that solar energy has to have the more profound effect IF the solar cycles are long enough for the effects to completely propagate. A double low cycle lasting 20-50 years instead of 6 might be long enough. It will certainly be interesting.

    1. What’s your basis for believing that global climate models “only varies one of these in a complex manner, and either holds constant or varies in a simple manner the others”?

      1. Every one I’ve investigated so far. All of the GHG based ones have very simplified solar input and cloud formation variation. All of the cloud formation assume fairly simple input/retention variations. Solar input is the same. Its mostly a function of computer-time and programmer interest. If you’re a cloud formation guy, you spend your time on how clouds form, not getting the latest bleeding edge set of parameter and equations on the other things. Especially if it will take your simulation a couple orders of magnitude longer to run. I was more observing a fact of scientific life than complaining.

        1. Gotcha. I’ve been out of the game for eight years now, but when I was in grad school the reason cloud formation variables were so simple is because we didn’t understand them very well, and my guess is we still don’t. That’s always been my biggest problem with GCM’s… If we’re not even sure whether cloud feedback is positive or negative then it’s pretty hard to be confident in long-term forecasts.

    2. “However, my engineer gut tells me . . .”

      This is not a scientific argument. Your “gut” has absolutely no value in empirical enquiry. Furthermore, you appear to be labelling under the false impression that AGW theory is entirely dependent upon models.

      It isn’t.

  15. The long summer is ending, and winter is coming.

    Yes, I’m sort of addicted.

    (I’m sorry, I think I’ve gone past the point of addiction)

    1. I too am addicted, but the withdrawal while waiting for season 2 will be tolerable since we will have book 5 to keep us busy. Although the faster readers on here will have to keep their big mouths shut (SugarFree, I’m looking at you).

      1. Assuming book 5 is tolerable and not that mess that was book 4. Seriously, at some point the narrative arc needs to get narrower.

        1. Yeah. I understand the criticisms, but I still enjoyed book 4. That said, I’m rereading the first book now and contrasting it with book 4, it’s a world of difference in terms of pacing and plot development.

        2. I’m halfway through Song of Swords, and the desire to see why all the hate for book 4 is almost as compelling as the actual story.

        3. Yeah, I’m pretty sure I’m done with the series. In addition to the problem that I don’t really like any of the remaining characters, I’d have to reread the first four books to recall what’s going on.

        4. Book 4 was worth it for the Gregor Clegane fight scene.

          I am disappoint that they didn’t show any of the battles in the last episode.

          1. That fight was in Storm of Swords.

          2. Remember the Rome series? Battles just aren’t in the budget. We’re seeing all the good parts of the series that are affordable to film.

    2. Oh, my sweet summer child! What do you know about fear? Fear is for the winter, when the snows fall a hundred feet deep; fear is for the Long Night, when the sun hides for years and children are born and live and die all in darkness. That is the time for fear, my little Lord.

      1. Bleh.

        What do fictional characters in a fictional land know about winter?

        The German 6th Armny and ther Soviet counterparts at the Battle of Stalingrad knew all about REAL winter.

        And a real war.

        1. Wow, I guess you sure told those fictional characters a thing or two, eh, comrade?

          1. Just poking a little fun at you “Throne” groupies.

            I’ve watched the HBO series and it’s entertaining enough but nothing all that special. Not any more so than seeing what new supernatural class of characters is going to be trotted out in every new season of “True Blood”.

            The best series HBO has ever done was “Band of Brothers” and “The Pacific”.

  16. Fun fact: The Year Without A Summer (1816), which occurred during a sunspot minimum, led to Mary Shelley penning Frankenstein.

  17. COLD WAR UPDATE!!!!

    COLD WAR STAND DOWN TIME- Or face an automated Nuclear Winter.

    [World Class [21st] Century Naval Power]

    The stated mission of the Chinese armed forces is not only to be prepared to fight wars, but also to deter or prevent their outbreak, prompt response to any threats within the changing political winds and landscape, of the [21st] Century, and is therefore, committing China to the investment into the development of [ASBM] Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile Systems to be deployed upon, vessels that would establish its military [Sphere of Influence] with a [PDRC] Peoples Democratic Republic of China, Carrier Group to include support craft such as it’s advanced Type [051C] destroyers, which are fitted with cutting-edge air defense missile systems, and backed up by both Fast Attack and Boomer Submarines one area in which China has made the greatest advances part of what is now the largest fleet of naval vessels in Asia having deployed at least one of a new type of nuclear-powered ballistic-missile submarine called the Jin class which gives China’s navy a credible second-strike nuclear capability; its missiles have a range of [6436] Kilometers. In October [2006], one of [63] Chinese Song-class diesel-powered attack submarine not only shadowed the forward based [USS Kitty Hawk] aircraft carrier know as the [Shitty Kitty] and its Battle Group, but penetrated, carrier battle group and surfaced undetected [6.436] Kilometers from the [USS Kitty Hawk]. The goal is to established military dormancy within its own Asian Sphere of Influence, pushing past the islands that ring China’s coasts, into The South China Sea [Hainan], Fujian [ The Straight of Taiwan], Jiangsu [Shanghai], Zhejiang [Nanjing], The Yellow Sea [Dalian or Qinghai], the Sea of Japan [Rajin [ROK] Republic of Korea]. Then pushing past these islands that ring China’s coastal water and the its regional [Sphere of Global Influence], with one Carrier Task Group on constant global tour, to assert it role within it’s Costal Waters but upon the Global High Sea with a [21st] Century Blue Water Navy, and member of the [BRIC] Brazil, Russian Federation, India, and [PDRC], Spheres of Influence of the [21st] Century.

    [Air Superiority in the [21st] Century]

    The [PDRC] is has also committed itself to the investment into the development of a [21st] Century air force capable of a unique combination of offensive and defensive operations, establishing air superiority within its [Sphere of Influence] starting with [BRIC] member [R] Russian Federation, manufactured Salyut and Chernyshev factories jet engines, the [ISRAELI] developed [J-10] and [FC-1] Attack Fighter, [Su-35] fighter, [J-11B] Interceptors, [H6K ? JH7K] Carrier based aircraft, the Carrier based [Z-9] helicopters the workhorses for the Chinese Naval Expeditionary of the [21st] Century, providing easier operations between a new fleet of replenishment ships, with anti-submarine surface to sub-surface ability, while providing the Peoples Army with Air Calvary Units support capabilities, for the first of many [21st] Century Chinese aircraft carriers now in production. Along with [IL-476] military transport aircraft, with heavy lift capacity of [40+] Kilo Tons capacity payload, providing long range potential by the [IL-478] air refueling tanker.

    [Cutting edge Ballistic Missile Technology]

    The gifted scientist of China’s cutting edge ballistic missile technology Qian Xuesen, provided along with so many other gifted scientist of the [PDRC] has given the [PRRC] both a nuclear and conventional striking power made it better than world class, impressing all those in other nations working in the field. On [Jan. 11, 2007], a Chinese missile traveling at more than [6.436] Kilo-meters per second hit a satellite in orbit with [1M] with a one meter square area. China within the last few years has placed into orbit [11] eleven Yaogan military-only satellites to track targets for its unmatched [21st] Century capabilities. China’s has topped all other nations having developed the only know effective [ASBM] Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile, an [aircraft-carrier killer weapon] using the short range [DF-21], transforming it into the [Dong Feng 21D] with the ability as a ship takes evasive maneuvers upon its detection by satellite to make in flight corrective actions allowing it to seek out and destroy its intended target;

    China Closer on ‘Carrier Killer’ Missile

    December 28, 2010
    Associated Press

    BEIJING — China is moving closer to deploying a ballistic missile designed to sink an aircraft carrier, the commander of the U.S. Pacific Command said in newspaper interview published Tuesday.

    Adm. Robert Willard told Japan’s Asahi Shimbun newspaper that he believed the Chinese anti-ship ballistic missile program had achieved “initial operational capability,” meaning that a workable design had been settled on and was being further developed.

    Known among defense analysts as a “carrier killer,” the Dong Feng 21D missile would be a game-changer in the Asian security environment, where U.S. Navy aircraft carrier battle groups have ruled the waves since the end of World War II.

    The DF 21D’s uniqueness is in its ability to hit a powerfully defended moving target with pinpoint precision — a capability U.S. naval planners are scrambling to deal with.

    The system’s component parts have likely been designed and tested, but U.S. sources have not detected an over-water test to see how well it can target a moving ship, Willard said.
    Years of tests are probably still needed before the missile can be fully deployed, he said. The system requires state-of-the-art guidance systems, and some experts believe it will take China a decade or so to field a reliable threat.

    The missile is considered a key component of China’s strategy of denying U.S. planes and ships access to waters off its coast. The strategy includes overlapping layers of air defense systems, naval assets such as submarines, and advanced ballistic missile systems — all woven together with a network of satellites.
    At its most capable, the DF 21D could be launched from land with enough accuracy to penetrate the defenses of even the most advanced moving aircraft carrier at a distance of more than 900 miles (1,500 kilometers).

    That could seriously weaken Washington’s ability to intervene in any potential conflict over Taiwan or North Korea, as well as deny U.S. ships safe access to international waters near China’s 11,200-mile-long coastline.

    Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu on Tuesday referred questions about Willard’s comments to military departments, but reiterated China’s insistence that its expanding military threatens no one.

    “I can say that China pursues a defensive national policy. … We pose no threat to other countries. We will always be a force in safeguarding regional peace and stability,” Jiang told reporters at a regularly scheduled news conference.
    While China’s Defense Ministry never comments on new weapons before they become operational, the DF 21D — which would travel at 10 times the speed of sound and carry conventional payloads — has been much discussed by military buffs online.
    and yet the [PDRC] has not forgotten its duty in missile defense investing in the [S-400] air defense system, cutting edge technology. All made possible by just one of;

    [Obama’s seven headaches]

    By KEVIN RAFFERTY

    Special to The Japan Times

    * China’s new Tianhe-1A (Milky Way) supercomputer, capable of performing more than 2.5 petaflops (a petaflop is 1,000 trillion calculations a second), or almost 50 percent as fast as its closed U.S. rival, is symbolic of the advances that China is making in science and technology, leaving America trailing. *

    [BRIC] as [21st] Century Military

    [Spheres of Influence]

    The message is a clear one with the [C] of the [BRIC] just representing one member of the [21st] Century Spheres of Influence, that they do not like the game of militarism, but that does not mean that they can’t play the game. If just one Chinese Song-class diesel-powered attack submarine can penetrate a protective forward based Aircraft Carrier Battle Group undetected within [6.436] Kilometers what city along any coast line would be safe from pre-emptive attack from unprotected international waters of millions of square kilometers on any given day, what Carrier Battle Group and carrier would be safe from Aircraft-Carrier Killer, [ASBM] Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile Systems? The question to the only country in the world that seeks to continue Super-Power dominion upon the nations of the world, thru continued Cold-War tactics, if it is worth a Nuclear Winter as automated systems as shown in the movie [War Games] begin to take over the Game, or is it better to stand down, and work within the new [21st] Century Spheres of Influence non Cold War, peaceful social order?

    HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN

    1. *blinks*

      Hell, I’m convinced!

    2. Thank God! I was getting so tired of those short, pithy comments.

    3. What else will the Herc predict that will only turn out to be true? Only time can tell.

    4. Sounds like all the wars will be cold ones pretty soon.

    5. HERC 2012!!!

    6. In space, all warriors are cold warriors.

  18. I’m forecasting that the climate will stay in an acceptable range for the rest of my life. So lets just concentrate on getting me laid, OK.

    1. Well, at least Al Gore agrees with you on the last part.

    2. I’m afraid we can only do the improbable, not the impossible.

  19. Climate scientists priests say the swings in solar activity that they’ve studied prayed about so far have had little or no impact on temperatures or other climate indicators ? and they don’t expect to see a big impact even if the sun goes quiet for a decade or longer. …

    Fixed.

    1. But they have lab coats. That means they’re beyond questioning. Only those who are anti-science question the lab coats.

      1. I genuinely would like to see a study of how many “scientists” actually wear lab coats day in and day out. Exclude all medical proffesionals please. I am talking the hard earth scientists etc. Geologists (beards required), Physists, Chemists, Biologists. To please the elitist MNG filter for PHDs too. I wanna KNOW DAMNIT!

      2. But they have lab coats.

        You’ll know science has finished becoming a religion when they start wearing silly Lab Hats too. Maybe with the top scientist also carrying some sort of Lab Stick of Office.

        1. The top scientist should also have the tallest lab hat. Something epically phallic.

  20. The lack of sunspots and the new ice age are clearly due to global warming brought about by excessive carbon emissions. /algore

  21. This calls for Mashell law and a suspension of elections.

    1. I concur

  22. OK, I’m convinced. I’m bracing for the onslaught of the Bailey minimum. Safely ensconced in my Song-class diesel-powered attack submarine, I won’t have to give a damn about the rest of you. And if you give me any shit, I will totally penetrate your protective forward based Aircraft Carrier Battle Group. And laugh.

    1. Your’re spelling Anal’s name wrong you know.

    2. Strictly speaking, the next minimum should be call Eddy Minimum, after the John A. Eddy, the man who found Maunder Minimum.

  23. Hey Bailey, what’s this do to your brilliant AGW theory???

    1. You missed the memo. We don’t call it global warming any more. It’s climate change. Any change up or down is caused by human activity.

      1. The first use of the term “climate change” dates from 1956. The proof is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sdALFnlwV_o

        Also, in 1997 Frank Luntz, a Republican strategist, issued a memo that when discussing global warming, Republicans should used the term “climate change” instead, because he found during focus group testing that people weren’t as frightened by it. So if “climate change” upsets you, you should probably go scream at James Inhofe, or something.

        1. So the AGW proponents adopted it because a Republican said it? I wasn’t aware that they held republican strategists in such high regard.

        2. So the AGW proponents adopted it because a Republican said it? I wasn’t aware that they held republican strategists in such high regard.

    2. Realist: As always I continue to weigh the evidence. Let’s just see how this pans out before we start lacing our skates to try the ice on the Potomac.

  24. Rush Limbaugh told us that global warming is a hoax. We believe him. That settles it.

    1. I believe you’re lost troll.

  25. Who has more of a reason to lie or suffer from confirmation bias here? The solar scientists who don’t get AGW grants and whose careers and access to money will continue even if they are wrong or the climatologists who have used AGW to turn a backwater scientific dicipline into the one of the most glamorous and profitable ones?

    1. is this a trick question?

    2. Do you have a cite for classifying different fields of scientific inquiry as “backwaters”? It sure seems like you’re offerring an opinion as objective fact.

      Also, I fear you are correct about greedy scientists. Not satisfied with their multi-million dollar salaries earned from the incredibly lucrative borehole field, they have systematically looted the country by diverting 95% of their budgets to satellites and other equipment. The other 5% has no doubt gone into their own pockets, selfishly used to redo closets or something.

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