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A delayed but higher prediction for the solar maximum?

The uncertainty of science: The solar scientists at the Marshall Spaceflight Center today revised upward their prediction for the upcoming peak of the solar maximum, from a sunspot number of 60 to 76, while simultaneously delaying the arrival of their predicted peak from the spring to the fall of 2013.

Since Marshall does not archive its predictions, I am required to keep track of the revisions they make and note them here. Previously I had outlined the changes in this prediction since January 2011. Here is an updated listing:

  • 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 2012, they kept the number at 96, but moved the maximum back to late 2013.
  • In mid February 2012 they revised the number down to 63, with the peak set for early 2013.
  • In March they revised the number down to 60, predicting the peak to arrive in the spring of 2013

That is where their prediction has rested, until today.

Why they should suddenly raise the prediction number to 76, but delay the peak until the fall of 2013, leaves me baffled. As they note, “Predicting the behavior of a sunspot cycle is fairly reliable once the cycle is well underway.” You would think that by now they would have faith in their prediction. Moreover, considering the lack of sunspots the Sun continues to produce, it is even more puzzling that they should raise their prediction now.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News

One comment

  • jwing

    Since when did scientists start behaving like economists? Hard scinece was never so wishy-washy as the social sciences, but then again this is progressive science.

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