The sunspot crash continues


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On Sunday NOAA posted its monthly update of the solar cycle, showing the Sun’s sunspot activity in March. I am posting it here, with annotations to give it context, as I have done since 2010.

March 2015 Solar Cycle graph

The graph above has been modified to show the predictions of the solar science community. The green curves show the community’s two original predictions from April 2007, with half the scientists predicting a very strong maximum and half predicting a weak one. The red curve is their revised May 2009 prediction.

In February the Sun’s sunspot activity plunged, dropping way below the prediction of the solar science community. In March that plunge continued. Even though activity had seemed to track that prediction through most of 2014, the overall levels were always less than the prediction. The sunspot numbers for the past two months have simply made this fact obvious once again, dropping to levels almost as low as those last seen in 2011, before the onset of the solar maximum.

That the ramp down at this time is so precipitous is especially intriguing, as historically the ramp down from previous solar maximums has been slow and steady. It is once again evidence that the Sun is doing things that solar scientists have never yet had the opportunity to observe.

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5 comments

  • Kevin Oakes

    Definitely due to fossil fuels.

  • PeterF

    Just a “stream of consciousness question. Could the sun’s magnetic poles be about to shift? If the sun’s poles reverse, could that be what causes the Earth’s polarity shifts?

  • Phil Berardelli

    Solar scientists have been watching this phenomenon closely for a decade, and some think the current trend in solar magnetic energy presages a new quiet phase whose antecedent would be the Medieval period called the Maunder Minimum. If so, Earth could be in for another mini ice age, lasting for the better part of a century and overwhelming any impact of anthropomorphically caused CO2 emissions.

    I wrote about this nearly five years ago for ScienceNOW: http://news.sciencemag.org/physics/2010/09/say-goodbye-sunspots

  • Uh, I don’t know how to say this but the whole solar cycle occurs precisely because the Sun’s magnetic field polarity flips every 11 years or so. This polarity flip has already occurred 24 or so times since the sunspot cycle was first tracked beginning in the late 1600s. As far as solar science is concerned, these polarity flips are the norm.

    As for the Earth’s magnetic field, it also flips, but this occurs about once every 100,000 years or so, not every 11 years. There is evidence now, a slight but definite decline in the strength of the field over the past 100 years, that another flip is building, but it is a slow process that takes several thousand years.

    Based on this information, there is really no connection between the two.

  • W B

    I’m sure Al and company have a plan B.

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