The sunspot decline continues

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NOAA’s monthly update of the solar cycle was released today, showing the Sun’s sunspot activity in March. It is annotated and posted below.

March 2016 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.

For the fourth month in a row the change in the graph is so small you almost need a magnifying glass to see it. Despite this, the decline remains remarkably steady, tracking precisely the decline predicted by the low prediction of the 2007 predictions (indicated by the smaller green line curve).

Recently the number of sunspots has dropped enough that I suspect we are not far the moment when we will once again begin to see days where the Sun is blank of sunspots, a situation last seen in 2010 near the end of the previous solar minimum. When that happens, it will herald the beginning of the next solar minimum.


  • Wayne

    Can someone enlighten me— is there a relationship between the Solar Minimum/Maximum, and the extent of the Aurora??

  • BSJ

    More sunspots = more aurora. Usually…

  • The aurora is caused by the energy of the Sun’s magnetic field, carried by the solar wind, as it hits the Earth’s magnetic field. When it does so, the energy follows the Earth’s magnetic field lines down onto the north and south poles to create the aurora. If the sun is active, with lots of sunspots, the Sun produces a lot of geomagnetic storms, which energize the Sun’s magnetic field. This energy also follows the field lines, and produces more prominent auroras.

  • Edward

    It is when there is a solar flare (coronal mass ejection) that heads in the direction of Earth that we get the most noticeable auroras. When these flares are especially large, the auroras extend farther south (or farther north, for the southern aurora australis).
    “Auroras are occasionally seen in latitudes below the auroral zone, when a geomagnetic storm temporarily enlarges the auroral oval. Large geomagnetic storms are most common during the peak of the eleven-year sunspot cycle or during the three years after the peak.”

  • Wayne

    Thank you!

  • Rocco

    Well I guess we are all in for cooler and colder years for next 30+. The possibility of an ice sheet down to the Ohio Valley if things get worst in the no Sun spot predictions. Well there goes my tomatoes.

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