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Sunspot update: The deep minimum continues

Last week NOAA updated its graph for tracking the monthly activity of sunspots on the Sun’s visible hemisphere. Below is that updated graph, annotated by me to show the past and new solar cycle predictions.

April 2020 sunspot activity

The graph above has been modified to show the predictions of the solar science community for both the previous and upcoming solar maximums. 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.

Because of the design of this graph, revamped by NOAA in April, it is difficult at this scale — which for context shows both the past cycle and the predicted future cycle — to see the addition of the April sunspot total, when compared to last month’s graph. Trust me, it is there. In April sunspot activity went up, but trivially so, with only four sunspots during the month, three of which had a magnetic polarity assigning them to the next solar maximum.

The solar minimum remains very deep, deeper than the very deep previous minimum, and possibly the least active in two hundred years. The presence however of more sunspots for the new cycle strengthens the expectation that we will not be entering a grand minimum, with no sunspots for decades. It just appears that, as predicted, the next solar maximum will be a very weak one.

How this weak activity will effect the climate remains an unknown. In the past, such as the weak maximum that just ended as well as during past weak maximums at the beginning of the 1800s and the 1900s, the Earth’s climate cooled. It also cooled during the Little Ice Age in the 1600s, during the last grand minimum.

Whether the same will happen in the next decade remains unknown. Global warming activists will claim impossible, we are all going to die from overheating. The data for the past decade proves them wrong, though in the coming years they might be vindicated.

All we can do is wait, pay attention to the data, and make our conclusions from that.

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


  • Andrew_W

    Whether the same will happen in the next decade remains unknown. Global warming activists will claim impossible, we are all going to die from overheating. The data for the past decade proves them wrong, though in the coming years they might be vindicated.

    What a strange paragraph. On the loonie fringe there are probably people claiming “we are all going to die”, but that’s not a claim made by the vast majority of “Global warming activists”, then you go on to say that they’ve been “proven wrong” but in the coming years they could be “vindicated”. How can someone possibly be “proven wrong” and then “vindicated” (in science, not in law)? And since you refer to the loonie fringe claim that “we’re all going to die” who you say have since been proven wrong, but might be vindicated, does that mean you think the vindication will come in the form of us all dying?

    Let me reassure you, the loonie fringe is not going to be vindicated, AGW is not going to lead to human extinction in the coming years. What’ll happen is a continuation of the warming trend seen over the last century, which may lead to disruptive changes but not extinction.

  • Phill O

    Thanks Bob for the update! Have been waiting with anticipation. The 2019 crop is almost of the fields in Alberta (west side). I have never seen such a late harvest since moved here in 1973. If it were just one year, I would not worry. However, this is the third year in a row where harvest has been late. 2018 not as late as 2019. The extra cloud for the past 10+ years certainly has screwed amateur astronomy in Alberta, and this past winter, also in NM, AZ.

    With the two prediction for cycle 24, there was one group that got the prediction close. I wonder what their prediction is for cycle 25: Was it a fluke or did they have some great rational?

    Note also that the rate of recession of the Athabasca glacier has slowed in the past century. If the warming trend had of continued, the recession rate would have increased, IMHO. This is not the first time I have pointed this out!

  • Phill O: Neither group in the previous cycle got their predictions very close, though the group that predicted a weak minimum was closer. They however also over-estimated the strength. The actual maximum was less.

    As for the new prediction, please reread the next to last paragraph in my post here. Check out the links as well.

  • Phill O

    The penultimate paragraph “There is evidence of some disagreement within the entire community about this prediction.”

    The link to NOAA 2007 does not say who were the two groups. Knowing that and their current predictions would be interesting, but, I am afraid, never going to happen.

  • Richard Martin

    My local news station on Long Island just stated that sun was at a grand minimum. The last time this happened we had the little ice age. BUT now because of climate change we will not.
    I would like to see some additional articles explaining how this statement is untrue or not? My guess it is untrue.

  • Richard Martin: Your local news station is wrong, something that does not surprise me. They know nothing.

    You should do a search on BtB for sunspots, and read my many sunspot updates. While it had looked like we might be at the beginning of a grand minimum, the recent evidence now says no. The Sun is very inactive, experiencing two consecutive very deep minimums with a weak maximum in between. And the next maximum should be weak as well.

    This however is not a grand minimum.

    Whether solar inactivity will cause the climate to cool remains unproven, though all the circumstantial evidence suggests that it does.

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