(20. Dezember 2009)
The Sun’s polar fields are currently ∼40% weaker than they were during the previous three sunspot minima. This weakening has been accompanied by a corresponding decrease in the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) strength, by a ∼20% shrinkage in the polar coronal-hole areas, and by a reduction in the solar-wind mass flux over the poles. It has also been reflected in coronal streamer structure and the heliospheric current sheet, which only showed the expected flattening into the equatorial plane after sunspot numbers fell to unusually low values in mid-2008. From latitude–time plots of the photospheric field, it has long been apparent that the polar fields are formed through the transport of trailing-polarity flux from the sunspot latitudes to the poles.