Tag Archives: Grand Minimum

Decline in sunspots continues

Late Sunday NOAA posted its monthly update of the solar cycle, covering sunspot activity for October. As I do every month, I am posting it here with annotations to give it context.

October 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.

The sunspot decline continued in October, dropping the sunspot number for the month to below the 2007 low prediction. Though the decline continues to track that low prediction, the sunspot count for November has been even lower, suggesting that the ramp down to solar minimum will continue to under perform that prediction and will arrive at minimum sooner than expected. As I noted last month, this fast decline will also mean that the ending solar cycle will be a both a weak and a short cycle, two phenomenon that in the past never went together. In the past, a short cycle meant the maximum was strong, while a long cycle would correspond with a weak maximum.

The Sun continues to behave in a manner that is unprecedented, and suggests the possibility that a Grand Minimum might be coming.

Computer simulation models Sun’s magnetic field during grand minimum

The uncertainty of science: A computer simulation, run for six months on a supercomputer, suggests that during grand minimums in the Sun’s solar cycle, when there are no sunspots for decades, its magnetic field remains strong but descends into the star’s interior.

I think this statement by the leader of the science team is most informative:

‘The Sun as such is impossible to replicate on present-day computers – or those of the near future – due to its strong turbulence. And indeed we are not claiming that this modelling would really be the Sun. Instead, it is a 3D construction of various solar phenomena by means of which the star that runs our space climate can be better understood,’ Käpylä explains.

Sunspot activity crashes

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

April 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.

After four months of steady decline matched exactly with the low prediction from 2007 (the lower green line curve), in April sunspot activity plummeted to the lowest level seen since January 2011.

This decline shouldn’t surprise anyone. The now ending solar maximum has been the weakest in a century and, as noted here, it is now more than a year since the last X-class solar flare, the most powerful kind, with this solar maximum seeing only 45 X-class events, compared to 126 during the previous solar maximum.

As I have noted repeatedly, the big question now is what will happen during the next solar cycle. Will we get another weak solar cycle or will the sun’s sunspot activity recover? Or will sunspots vanish and will the sun enter a grand minimum, with no sunspots for decades? At the moment no one knows, though some solar scientists favor the latter.

Sunspot decline continues

NOAA’s monthly update of the solar cycle, showing the Sun’s sunspot activity in December, was posted earlier this week, and I am posting it here, as I do every month, with annotations to give it context.

The decline in sunspots continues, tracking closely the rate of decline predicted by the 2007 and 2009 predictions (the lower green curve and the red curve) but the overall solar maximum has been far shorter and less powerful than predicted.
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Sunspots continue predicted decline

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

Though sunspot activity in November was just slightly higher than in October, the increase was so small that it is insignificant. Essentially, the overall decline in sunspot count continues, matching almost perfectly the ramp down predicted by the 2007 low prediction. Solar activity continues to be far weaker then anything seen in a century. Whether this suggests a coming Grand Minimum, however, is not known. Solar activity could continue to decline as we move into the next solar cycle, or it could recover. Our understanding of what causes the sunspot cycle remains somewhat fuzzy, which means our ability to predict what will happen next is as fuzzy..

November 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.

Decline to solar minimum continues

It’s that time again buckos! On Monday NOAA posted its monthly update of the solar cycle, showing the Sun’s sunspot activity in October. As I have done every month since 2010, I am posting it here, with annotations to give it context.

The decline in sunspot continue steadily, matching the red prediction curve except that, as it has for this entire solar maximum, the number of sunspots continues to be less than expected. Not only did the ramp up start later and not quite reach the levels predicted, the ramp down started early. Overall, this now ending solar maximum is the weakest in a century. The big question remains: Is the Sun about to head into its first Grand Minimum since the 1600s, or is this weak maximum a one-time event to be followed by stronger activity in later cycles.

No matter what anyone tells you, no one knows.

October 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.

Solar scientists admit they at this point have no idea what the Sun will do after it completes is present solar maximum.

The uncertainty of science: Solar scientists admit they at this point have no idea what the Sun will do after it completes is present solar maximum.

I’ve only been say this now for six years. I’m glad the scientists have finally come around to admitting it strongly and in public.

The sun goes boom!

It is always best to admit when you are wrong as soon as you find out. Last month, in reporting NOAA’s monthly update of the solar cycle, I unequivocally stated that

My interpretation of this data tells me that almost certainly the solar maximum has ended. We might see some later fluctuations whereby the sunspot number jumps, but the Sun is clearly beginning its ramp down to solar minimum.

Well, I spoke too soon. Last night NOAA posted the newest update of the solar cycle, and it shows that in October the Sun was more active then it has been in two years. In fact, for only the second time this entire solar cycle the Sun’s sunspot activity actually came close to matching the predictions of scientists. This month’s graph is posted below the fold, with annotations.
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The Sun has a maximum and no one notices

On July 8 NOAA released its monthly update of the Sun’s sunspot cycle, covering the period of June 2013. As I do every month, this graph is posted below, with annotations to give it context.

After a brief period of renewed but weak activity during the last three months, the Sun’s sunspot production has once again plunged, dropping back to the levels generally seen for most of 2012.

As predicted by some solar scientists, the Sun seems to have produced a double-peaked maximum, though the second peak appears at this time to have been remarkably wimpy and brief. It is still possible, however, that this second peak is not over and that we might see another burst of renewed activity in the next month or so, based on the Sun’s past behavior during the ending stages of the previous solar maximum in 2001 and 2002. Nonetheless, from all appearances it looks like the Sun has shot its load and is in the process of winding down from a solar maximum peak that occurred back late 2011.

What is especially fascinating about this is that when that peak occurred in 2011, no one noticed!
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The solar maximum continues to fizzle

As it does every month, NOAA today posted its monthly update of the ongoing sunspot cycle of the Sun. This latest graph, covering the month of September, is posted below the fold.

Not only is the Sun’s sunspot production continuing to fizzle, it is fizzling even more than before.
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The solar maximum has already occurred in the Sun’s northern hemisphere, according to new observations.

The solar maximum has already occurred in the Sun’s northern hemisphere, according to one scientist’s research.

Moreover, the data also suggests that the maximum in the Sun’s southern hemisphere will not occur until early in 2014. This asymmetry between the hemispheres also suggests the strong possibility of a Grand Minimum to follow.

The Sun continues to fizzle

Yesterday NOAA posted its monthly update of the ongoing sunspot cycle of the Sun. You can see this latest graph, covering the month of July, below the fold.

As we have seen now for almost four years, the Sun continues to under-perform the predictions of solar scientists when it comes to the number of sunspots it is producing. In fact, that the sunspot number did not rise in July is surprising, as July had appeared to be a very active month for sunspots, with some of the strongest solar flares and coronal mass ejections seen in years. Instead, the number declined ever so slightly.
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The link between sunspots and climate

In a preprint paper published today on the Los Alamos astro-ph website and accepted for publication in the Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics, Norwegian scientists have found a strong correlation between the length of the solar sunspot cycle and the Earth’s temperature during the following cycle. From the abstract:

Relations between the length of a sunspot cycle and the average temperature in the same and the next cycle are calculated for a number of meteorological stations in Norway and in the North Atlantic region. No significant trend is found between the length of a cycle and the average temperature in the same cycle, but a significant negative trend is found between the length of a cycle and the temperature in the next cycle. This provides a tool to predict an average temperature decrease of at least 1.0 ◦ C from solar cycle 23 to 24 for the stations and areas analyzed. We find for the Norwegian local stations investigated that 25–56% of the temperature increase the last 150 years may be attributed to the Sun. For 3 North Atlantic stations we get 63–72% solar contribution. [emphasis mine]

You can download a copy of the paper here [pdf].

Their paper finds that if a particular sunspot cycle is longer with less activity, the climate will show significant cooling during the next cycle.

The paper makes several important points:
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Two climate papers of interest

When I appear on radio and am talking about climate change, I often get the same questions over and over.

  • Is the climate warming?
  • If so, is human behavior an important factor for causing that warming?
  • How much does the sun influence climate change?
  • Is the ozone hole linked to climate change?

The truth is that, right now, no one can really answer any of these questions with any certainty. While a large majority of climate scientists might be convinced the Earth is warming and that human activity is causing this warming, the public has great doubts about these claims, partly because of the untrustworthy behavior of many of these climate scientists and partly because the science itself is often confusing.

We simply don’t yet have enough data. Worse, much of the data we do have is tainted, unreliable because of the misconduct and political activism of the very climate scientists who are trying to prove the case for man-made global warming.

Two new papers, published today in Geophysical Research Letters, add some interesting but small data points to this whole subject.
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