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Sunspot update: Sunspot activity continues to outpace predictions

It is the first of the month, and NOAA has once again updated its monthly graph showing the long term trends in the Sun’s sunspot activity. As I do every month, I post it below, annotated with additional data to provide some context.

In March the Sun continued its unexpected high activity since the end of the solar minimum in 2020. The number of sunspots once again rose steeply, while also exceeding the predicted count for the month. The actual sunspot count for March was 78.5, not 34.1 as predicted. The last time the count was that high for any month was September 2015, when the Sun was just beginning its ramp down from solar maximum.

March 2022 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 for the previous maximum, with half the scientists predicting a very strong maximum and half predicting a weak one. The blue curve is their revised May 2009 prediction. The red curve is the new prediction, first posted by NOAA in April 2020.

The very steady and very steep rise in sunspot activity since 2020 strongly suggests the next maximum will not only occur early, but will be much higher than the 2020 prediction of NOAA’s panel of solar scientists. This pattern also continues to suggest that the outlier prediction of a handful of solar scientists that this maximum will be a very strong one will be the correct one.

Not that this successful prediction would count for much. Both predictions were merely based on the past cyclical but superficial behavior of the Sun. Neither was based on an actual understanding of the fundamental processes that cause sunspots or these cycles. At the moment, scientists really do not know why the Sun’s magnetic field flips its polarity every eleven years, causing a rise and fall of sunspot activity as it does so. All they really know is that the Sun’s magnetic dynamo and field cause the spots.

Nor do scientists yet know if these cycles influence the Earth’s climate. Circumstantial evidence strongly suggests that they do. When the Sun is inactive, the Earth’s global temperature appears to cool. When the Sun is active, that global temperature appears to rise. How the two are linked however is not really understood. Though the Sun varies in total radiance in lock step with the sunspot cycle, the variation in optical wavelengthes doesn’t appear to be enough to matter. How much it varies in other wavelengthes is not yet fully known, and even in optical there is great uncertainty. Furthermore, there are other factors, such as cosmic rays, that vary in lock step as well, and could impact the Earth’s climate also.

The 2011 presentation below by scientist Jasper Kirkby is still entirely relevant, and provides a very complete and accurate summary of this science. It also outlines one proposed theory for explaining the link between the sunspot cycle and climate.

Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!


From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.


“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.


All editions are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors, with the ebook priced at $5.99 before discount. The ebook can also be purchased direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from me (hardback $24.95; paperback $14.95; Shipping cost for either: $5.00). Just email me at zimmerman @ nasw dot org.


  • Phill O

    The influence of the magnetic (earth’s) on cosmic rays is measurable. The influence of cosmic rays penetrating to lower levels is the atmosphere is, as yet, to be debated. That being said, the cloud formation over the southern (west) USA has since 2009, been increasing, the worst (for amateur astronomers) has been the last 3-4 years. With a stronger solar cycle, we will see if these clouds dissipate. The same increase in cloud cover is also evident in Alberta, but goes back starting in 2009.

    It may be noted that photographers will be happy with the cloud cover as their presence enhance pictures of mountains and other natural wonders!

  • BLSinSC

    I do know ONE thing about CONTROLLING the CLIMATE – in MY HOME!! When I turn up the thermostat that sends a signal to my GAS POWERED Furnace to “turn up the flame”! And, when I hear a “whoosh” as the furnace turns up the VOLUME of GAS, I shortly thereafter feel WARM AIR being blown into the room from the ductwork. When I turn a GAS BURNER on the range higher I can feel MORE HEAT! There should be no doubt that increased sun spot activity causes increased HEAT or radiation being directed at Our Earth! I just can’t wrap my head around the reluctance to associate the sun spot activity with changes in our temperatures. When it’s cloudy and the sun’s rays aren’t getting to you it’s cooler and then the clouds move and the sunlight hits you it’s warmer so we ARE directly affected by the SUN and the HOTTER or more RADIANT the SUN, the WARMER the Earth! But then , that’s just my theory!

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