Sunspot update Nov 2019: The longest flatline in centuries


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The Sun is now in what appears to be the longest stretch ever recorded, since the 11-year solar sunspot cycle reactivated in the 1700s after the last grand minimum, of sunspot inactivity. This record-setting dearth of practically no sunspots has now stretched to six months in a row.

On December 8 NOAA released its November update of its graph showing the long term sunspot activity of the Sun. As I have done now every month since this webpage began in 2011, I have posted it below, with annotations:

November 2019 sunspot activity
The graph above has been modified to show the predictions of the solar science community for the previous solar maximum. 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, extended in November 2018 four years into the future.

In November the Sun saw two official sunspots (here and here) and one active area that never received an official sunspot number, with two of these three weak events having a polarity linking them to the next solar maximum.

Comparison of the last and present sunspot minimums

The image to the right illustrates just how unprecedented this present stretch of inactivity is. It zooms in on the previous solar minimum from 2007 to 2010 and compares this with a close-up of the present on-going minimum. Even though the last minimum was the deepest and longest in a century, it had far more sunspot activity than what we are seeing now. At no time during the last minimum were there ever six months of almost no sunspots.

This fact is further reinforced by the overall lack of sunspots this entire year. As of today the visible hemisphere of the Sun has been blank 262 days, or 76% of the time. During the past minimum the Sun set a record of blankness in 2008, being blank 73% of the time, with a total number of blank days of 268. As of today the Sun has already been blank 262 days, making it very likely that by the end of the year it will have easily beaten that 2008 record.

Furthermore, the few sunspots we have been seeing have been very weak and short-lived. Though a number have had a polarity assigning them to the next solar maximum, there is solid evidence that many of them would not have been detected during the grand minimum of the 1600s, dubbed the Maunder Minimum. During that grand minimum, which lasted almost a century, there was no recorded 11-year sunspot cycle, and astronomers observed almost no sunspots, using the technology available at the time. Many of the sunspots that have occurred in the last six months have been so weak that it is quite possible they would not have been detected by those 17th century astronomers.

Are we therefore entering a new grand minimum? No one yet knows, and we probably will not know until this upcoming solar maximum unfolds in the next four years. If it is merely weak, it means a grand minimum has not yet begun. If it is so weak however that we only see a scattering of very short-lived feeble sunspots that a 17th century astronomer would have not seen, then a new grand minimum will be upon us.

And as I have noted repeatedly in the past decade in these monthly sunspot updates, the arrival of a new grand minimum, the first since the 1600s, could have important consequences for our climate. Past grand minimums have been accompanied by a cooling climate. In the 1600s they called it the Little Ice Age, with failed crops and some years with no summers at all.

At the moment we do not know the link between these two events (a grand minimum and a cooling climate). There is evidence that lack of activity allows more cosmic rays to hit the upper atmosphere, which produces more cloud cover which repels sunlight, thus causing the climate to cool. This theory has not been confirmed however. A new grand minimum will allow scientists to find out, however.

If we find that a lack of sunspot activity does cool the climate, then every climate model predicting a coming age of global warming will turn out to be very wrong. And those models have not been very right so far.

So stay tuned. We could be in for some very cold times, during which it will become difficult to grow crops, resulting in some famines. If so, we might all be wishing fervently for some global warming.

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20 comments

  • wodun

    Insert your Chinese proverb of choice here ______________.

  • Andrew_W

    哑巴吃饺子,心里有数。

  • David M. Cook

    We need to get away from the sun. I‘m heading for Saturn.

  • Phil Berardelli

    The reappearance of a grand minimum would be valuable in two ways.

    First, it would provide a trove of new data on the relationship between solar activity and climate. If a grand minimum causes earthbound temperatures to cool, then we could measure the proportion that solar activity contributes to those temperatures — something which many climate scientists insist is not the dominant factor. At least, that’s what I had drummed into me over a decade ago at an intensive workshop at NCAR. Then the challenge would be to determine how much the CO2 forcing over the past century or so has prevented temperatures from receding even further.

    Second, if a grand minimum emerges, and if as expected it leads to a new little ice age, it could provide a mild taste of what the planet, and humanity, would experience when full-blown glaciation begins — for the 21st time in the past 2-million years.

    All-in-all, as difficult as a little ice age could be to weather, it could become a blessing in disguise.

  • wayne

    Andrew_W:
    Clue me in on what that means.
    (Microsoft Translate says: “Dumb eat dumplings, have a number in mind.”)

  • Phill O

    “At the moment we do not know the link between these two events (a grand minimum and a cooling climate). There is evidence that lack of activity allows more cosmic rays to hit the upper atmosphere, which produces more cloud cover which repels sunlight, thus causing the climate to cool.”

    “Furthermore, the few sunspots we have been seeing have been very weak and short-lived. Though a number have had a polarity assigning them to the next solar maximum, there is solid evidence that many of them would not have been detected during the grand minimum of the 1600s, dubbed the Maunder Minimum. During that grand minimum, which lasted almost a century, there was no recorded 11-year sunspot cycle, and astronomers observed almost no sunspots, using the technology available at the time. Many of the sunspots that have occurred in the last six months have been so weak that it is quite possible they would not have been detected by those 17th century astronomers.”

    These two comments have distilled nicely the scientific thought that is growing.

    This is an exciting time!!!!!

    If I were to predict, it would be that the next solar cycle (25) will be significantly lower than last maximum (24) and the entrance in to the heart of the next grande minimum would not be until cycle 26. This is based solely upon the large buffering capacity of the earth’s various systems; oceans, ice caps, land mass and biota.

    We do know for certain that the skies (for astronomers) have been deteriorating over the last 10 years or more when one looks at moisture in the atmosphere (causing a milkyness near the horizon) as well as more cloud cover. Should these conditions continue for 10 years or more, this would be climate change rather than weather changes.

    I will continue watching the glaciers of Alberta which, it may be considered) might be the best indicators, as they are closer to the transition phase. Crops in Alberta closer to the Rockies have definitely seen reduced yields for the last two years related to a shorter growing season. Such marginal areas can be indicative of change. The Wisconsin area and midwest USA are also seeing an affect this year. We will see if this continues.

    Raikoke volcano (Kurile Islands) 21-22 June 2019, will be having a significant effect and differentiating affects may be difficult.

  • Andi

    wayne,

    Found this: (“dumb” means “cannot speak”)

    yă ba chī jiăo zi – xīn lĭ yŏu shù
    哑巴吃饺子 – 心里有数
    A dumb person eats dumplings. – (literally) He knows the number in his mind, although he cannot say it. Figuratively, it means somebody has a clear idea of the situation.

  • wayne

    Andi–
    Thanks.

    pivoting hopelessly tangential to Japanese—

    Alan Watts –
    “It Takes Two⚡️🌊 ”
    Akira the Don Meaningwave
    https://youtu.be/HVcSXKCXoHo
    6:37

    “The Buddhists in Japan call it jiji muge (事事无碍). Ji ji mu ge: “Between event and event, there is no block.” And they represent this, imagistically, as a network. Imagine a multidimensional spiderweb covered in dew in the morning, and every single drop of dew on this web contains in it the reflections of all the other drops of dew. And, of course, in turn, in every drop of dew that one drop reflects, there is the reflection of all the others again. And they use this image to represent the interdependence of everything in the world.”

    Referencing the current lack of sun-spots— Congress will just pass a law.
    I’m reminded of the Candle-makers petitioning the French parliament to regulate the Sun.

  • wayne

    Phill–
    Good stuff.

    David–

    Pink Floyd –
    “Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun”
    with Mars-Direct animation
    https://youtu.be/a9ntxCcjVjE
    9:47

  • wayne

    That should have been, Phil and Phill, good stuff.

  • Andrew_W

    哑巴吃饺子,心里有数。 (Yǎba chī jiǎozi, xīnlǐ yǒushù. ‘mute eats dumplings, heart inside has number’) — When a mute eats dumplings, he knows how many he has eaten.

    This is used to point out that someone knows the situation quite well, yet says nothing… as is common in Chinese culture. Chinese tend to keep their thoughts to themselves…
    https://www.chinahighlights.com/travelguide/learning-chinese/chinese-sayings.htm

  • Andi

    Thanks, Andrew. Much clearer than the one I found!

  • Edward

    Phill O wrote: “If I were to predict, it would be that the next solar cycle (25) will be significantly lower than last maximum (24) and the entrance in to the heart of the next grande minimum would not be until cycle 26. This is based solely upon the large buffering capacity of the earth’s various systems; oceans, ice caps, land mass and biota.

    It was possibly this same buffering capacity that caused the recovery from the Little Ice Age to take two centuries, and the recovery was not yet complete. Ironically, the anthropogenic global warming crowd misinterpreted this long recovery as being a man-caused warming of the planet (“the planet has a fever”).

    Can you imagine what the past two generations would think if the climatologists and politicians suddenly started claiming that the Earth was cooling and that the cooling was the existential problem for us to overcome? Wouldn’t these two generations be skeptical, due to the global warming or climate change meme having been drummed so thoroughly into their heads that they believe today’s skeptics to be climate heretics?

    This is exactly what happened to my generation and the Greatest Generation. In the late 1960s and the 1970s we had been convinced by the climatologists and the politicians that the next Ice Age (the glacial one, not another little one) was on its way and that only careful applications of laws and behavior changes would save us all from doom. Professor Paul R. Ehrlich warned us that a “population bomb would cause famines by the 1980s.

    Suddenly, we were told in the 1980s (a booming population still fed) that it was not a coming Ice Age but global warming that was going to doom us — and by the year 2000, to boot.

    Two decades after second demise, we are now operating under the assumption that global warming has an existential tipping point at the end of 2030. By then, we may have another existential tipping point for the coming Ice Age (little or grand glacial) by 2040 or so.

    No wonder we all have to move to Mars; the climatologists, professors, and politicians think that the Earth’s natural climate is just too unstable for us to survive as a species. It is a good thing that they are smarter than the rest of us and caught the problem in time for us to escape.

  • Andi

    Instead of us moving to Mars, how about we send those climatologists, professors, and politicians!

  • Phill O

    Thanks Edward! You interpreted what I was saying though I missed writing part of the thought process. Things happen progressively so the ramp down to the grande minimum I do not expect until cycle 26. The resulting cooling of the climate will lag behind the grande minimum as will the warming to follow. You are correct that we never recovered the warmth of the period the Vikings inhabited Greenland and Newfoundland.

  • Raymond A Brooks

    Today (Dec 6) I was searching the bowels of the Space Weather Prediction Center for NOAA in Boulder, CO.

    I found a graph of their sunspot prediction out to Dec 2022 which is about 3 years distant.
    Look at
    “https://www.swpc.noaa.gov/products/solar-cycle-progression”

    The red line are predicted values declining to zero for all of 2022.
    That is staggering. It would exceed the Dalton Minimum numbers by a mile. It would easily rival some Maunder years.

    This would be a monumental departure from their brethrens at NASA.

    I thought perhaps it might be an incidental graphing error but I pursued it.
    See
    https://www.swpc.noaa.gov/products/predicted-sunspot-number-and-radio-flux

    It is not a graphing error. Their prediction is zero to 0.2 in Dec 2022 (last entry at bottom)
    This tabulation was made Nov 4, 2019, 0100 UTC.
    It shows their prediction for the next 4 weeks (November 2019) would be 2.4
    The official number for Nov was 0.5. The actual then was 79% lower than predicted.

    I will keep an eye on this.

    In the next three days we could beat years 1856 and 2009 for total spotless days. (postnote Dec 10 – we have)

    I made a note back in March of this year that the second year of a minimum within a Grand Minimum has more spotless streaks than the first.

    Based on that I felt 2019 would be more spot free than 2018. 2019 already has 38 more spot free days than 2018.
    I also said, “Maybe this minimum extends into 2020.”

    Curious.

    What I most value on this site and similar sites is the questioning attitude. That is science – incessant questioning.
    Science is NOT “I am right – you are a denier!”

    Ray Brooks

  • Raymond A Brooks: I have been posting this graph here at Behind the Black now monthly for the past ten years. I also commented at length about the extended minimum shown in this graph back in December 2018:

    When NOAA issued this graph last month, it finally extended it out beyond the end of 2019 to the end of 2022. In doing so, it also extended out the 2009 prediction of the solar science community, as indicated by the red curve. I hadn’t commented on this last month, but if you look at that curve it drops to zero and then flatlines for the entire year of 2022.

    If this is what the solar science community now expects for this upcoming minimum, it means that community is now expecting a record-breaking minimum, lasting far longer than any previous minimum, two to three years at least. It also means that they have not dismissed the possibility that the Sun is about to enter a Grand Minimum, where no significant sunspot activity is seen for literally decades.

    I commented further on this long suggested minimum in my March 2019 monthly update, Sunspot update March 2019: An upcoming Grand Minimum?

    The extension to the red curve above however reveals a great deal about the overall sense of that solar science community. While they do not yet wish to make a public splash announcing a new prediction, the bulk of that community appears to favor a very very long and weak minimum. That red curve predicts a minimum that is at least twice as long as any previously recorded minimum, with no indication when that minimum will end.

    In other words, solar scientists are now seriously considering the possibility that we are at the start of a Grand Minimum.

  • Phill O

    There are many that have not read Bob’s articles in detail and also, it might be useful to have a feature where all articles can be arranged in an orderly manner to access.

    Alternately, a summary of all Bob knows (on this matter) in a concise paper would be very informative. Sky and Telescope would be a good magazine for such an article: a feature article. Edward would have good input and referencing the loss of polar ice cap on Mars also informative.

  • sound awake

    the sun represents 99.86 percent of the mass of the entire solar system
    it converts 600 million tons of hydrogen into helium every second
    and it will do that for billions of years
    could it possibly be that the sun
    -and not coal plants
    -or the internal combustion engine
    -or cow farts
    is the number 1 driver of temperature on the planet
    the sun is billions of years old
    weve really only been studying it scientifically for about 200 of that
    can we give it a little more study before we radically change the way we live in a negative way and engage in the biggest wealth transfer in human history
    please

  • Phil Carson

    Agenda 21 science is settled you bad thinker
    Everything causes globohomobullshat colding
    The sunspots are in their safe places
    Trump colluded with the sun
    Trump is a pawn of the sun
    The sun is racist
    Sunspots because lies of toxic white fascists
    Articles of Impeachment for the sun
    Punch fascist sunspots in the face
    The sun isn’t inclusive enough
    Lack of sunspots is a rightwing conspiracy to deny hillary clinton her presidency
    Solar minimum move along nothing to see here
    The Sun is flat
    Sunspots don’t make Prince Andrew sweat while raping teenage sex slaves
    Jeffery Epstein didn’t kill himself

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