A weak maximum now expected

Please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar to the right. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.

The solar scientists at the Marshall Space Flight Center significantly downgraded their prediction today for the upcoming solar maximum.

Unfortunately, the Marshall scientists don’t archive their previous predictions, merely changing the text of their webpage periodically. However, I have archived most of these predictions as they have changed. Here they are:

  • In January 2011, they predicted a maximum sunspot number of 59 occurring in July 2013.
  • In September 2011, they raised their prediction to 70, moving it forward to May 2013.
  • In October 2011, they upped it again, to 77, moving forward to April 2013.
  • In November 2011, they upped it again, to 89, moving it back to May 2013.
  • In December 2011, they upped it again, to 99, moving it forward to February 2013.
  • In January 2012, they revised it down slightly, to 96, still for February 2013.
  • In early February, they kept the number at 96, but moved the maximum back to late 2013.

The new prediction calls for a maximum sunspot number of only 63, now in early 2013. This would make it the weakest maximum in a hundred years. This also means that the maximum has only about a year to go before the Sun begins ramping down again and we say goodbye to sunspots, maybe for a long time.

You can see that today’s prediction is almost the same as their earliest prediction from last year. Since this science group at Marshall was the group that originally predicted this upcoming maximum would be the strongest in decades, I wonder if there is a bit of bias on their part, a desire to see a bigger maximum because that is what their theories originally predicted.

Nonetheless, they are good scientists. As we get closer to the maximum it becomes easier to make a prediction, and they have honestly assessed the data and revised their numbers appropriately.

The upcoming solar maximum will be very weak. What happens next is now the big question.



  • B.E. Kennedy

    Am I to reason that the lower sunspot activity level will result in a ‘cooling’ of the earth’s climate?

    What will reduced sunspot activity mean for ocean temperatures and storm activity?

    Will the reduced sunspot activty impact the amount of light reflected back into space by air bourn aerosols.

    Has anyone mentioned this news to the UN – IPCC drones?

    Now if only we could get a major volcanic eruption to occur so that the eruption event occurs during the [anticipated] cooling trend. Snow shoes for everyone.

  • Yes I think it’s reasonable to say that reduced sunspot activity may result in a cooling of the earths climate and initially we may get increased storm activity and greater variations in ocean temperature around the globe aswell. However the sunspots are simply an indicator of other factors that may collectively affect our climate, such as reduced UV radiation, increased cosmic rays entering our atmosphere, a slight decrease in the suns irradiance. For example UV rays are necessary for the production of ozone. Ozone helps to moderate exchanges of energy (heat energy) between our troposhere and the stratosphere. The processs of ozone production liberates heat into the stratosphere. However the ozone layer is also and insulator, limiting the heat energy that can escape, effectively into space.

    During the cooling of the earth, events such as sudden stratospheric warming in arctic regions may become more common place for a time, forcing cold air out of the arctic over more southerly latitudes. We have seen this already in North Western Europe during the winters of 2010, 2011. Interestingly enough Ireland and Britain had the coldest weather since 1962/1963, but there was nothing unusual about the cold on continental Europe. Our cold conditions were caused by an unusual North Atlantic blocking regime, which is really quite rare. This meant that the core of the cold was MUCH more north and west of the continent than usual. Last winter in Ireland minus 6 degrees celcius by mid-afternoon occured on many days. This was extremely unusual.

    Keep your eyes on http://www.spaceweather.com and keep a record of data there. I think this maximum of solar cycle 24 will be the lowest we’ve seen possibly in 100 years. The sunspot activity is the one to watch and the speed at which those spots move accross the sun. This indicates the speed of the suns great heat conveyors under the surface, which at the moment is fairly weak. Pay attention to the solar flux aswell. A weakened solar flux can allow more cosmic radiation into our solar system. NASA recorded a hugh spike in cosmic radiation sometime in 2010 when the protective shield of the sun heliosphere was weaker. Have a look at that.

    By the way, most of the heat absorbed by the oceans is transferred from the air, much like your cold water tank absorbs heat in the attic on a hot day. Land surfaces on the other hand are much more efficient absorbers of heat directly from the sun. Less absorbed heat from the sun by land, means less heating of the air and the movement of less warm air over the oceans, hence less heating of the oceans. One great collector of heat is the Sahara desert. The heat is then distributed simply by the movement off air such as by the trade winds, blowing over the canary islands and out over the open ocean etc.

    There is probably exceptions to this. Take the dark waters of the arctic ocean where there isn’t much heat from the air to be absorbed, even during the summer. Here a lot of the heat is transferred by ocean currents such as the North Atlantic drift and a greater proportion of the heating can be attributed to direct heating from the sun. During the winter any heat left in the ocean tends to disipate very quickly, hence the ocean freezes. Now if there is a surplus of heat in arctic waters like we have seen recently, it will tend to raise the temperature of the arctic troposphere more than normal. This increases the volume of air in the arctic, forcing some of it into more temperate regions. Now if we think of how an area of high pressure forms with air rising from one area and spilling literally down over another area…this can be equated to how this arctic mechanism works. During the dark arctic winter, upper levels of the troposhere end up warmer than normal. Why warmer? Because we have to consider the albedo affect also:) This cold/warm air spills down over the north atlantic creating areas of high pressure. Cold warm because it is cold air but is abnormally warm for actic regions. Relative to air at the surface in temperate regions it is very cold air. RELATIVE. Study that word, because when it comes to every situation, everything is relative.

    I have gone off on a tangent….ooops. Enjoy reading:)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *