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Sunspot update: The Sun in January acted like solar maximum is here

In my monthly sunspot update at the start of January, I asked in the headline “Are we now in the next solar maximum?”

The Sun’s sunspot activity in January since then has apparently answered that question. NOAA this week posted its monthly update of its graph showing solar sunspot activity on the Sun’s Earth-facing hemisphere, and as I do every month since 2011, I have posted that graph below, with annotations to provide a larger context.

January 2024 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.

In January sunspot activity showed an increase, continuing the rise in activity that began in November. As with the previous two months, the rise was not large, though the accumulated increase in these three months places the activity in January now outside the margin of error of the April 2020 NOAA prediction (as indicated by the grey area surrounding the red curve in the graph).

It certainly looks like we are now in the midst of solar maximum, though of course there are no guarantees. Since maximum was not supposed to arrive until 2025, a year hence, the present curve suggests that this maximum will last a long time, and will likely end up being a double-peaked maximum, as seen in the prevous weak maximum in 2013. It also appears it will be stronger than the prediction of NOAA’s panel of scientists, as well as weaker than the dissenting group of scientists who prognosticated a strong maximum in 2020.

If we are now in maximum, sunspot activity throughout the rest of 2024 should fluctuate at the level it is right now, with it suddenly rising again near the end of the year for a period lasting through the first half of 2025. After that it should begin its ramp down to solar minimum.

I am making a guess however, though my guess really is no better than the guesses of the solar science community. Their predictions have all been wrong since 2007, though they try to fool everyone by revising the predictions repeatedly as the solar cycle proceeds until the revised predictions match what actually happens. The scientists then declare victory, and most of the press (generally ignorant) goes along, proclaiming these scientists as the new seers of science.

We don’t know what is going to happen, because we do not understand the fundamental processes in the Sun’s magnetic field that cause this eleven-year sunspot cycle. For example, for most of the previous 24 documented solar cycles, a short cycle meant a strong maximum. The previous cycle however was short but weak. The present ongoing cycle appears to be repeating this.

Why? Are these patterns caused by some internal cycles in the Sun we are unaware of, or are they simply random fluctuations? No one knows, and anyone who says they do is lying.

This ignorance also illustrates the ignorance in the overall climate field. The Sun’s behavior is of critical importance in predicting trends in the climate. If you can’t predict what the Sun will do, you cannot predict what the climate will do. Thus, all climate models have been wrong, and will continue to be wrong because they really have no idea what factors they must include to make their predictions.

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  • Allan

    Sunspot activity forecasting seems comparable to weather forecasts. All the meteorologists are very sure of is it will get cold in winter and hot in summer, like the eleven-year solar cycle. Back to the weather, the 10 day forecast can be dismissed as useless, 5 days only a little better then, with continuous revisions, the 3 day, 2 day, and 24 our forecast become better. Finally, the best clue as to what is really going to happen is to look at the live radar.

    Just as we do not understand the fundamental processes in the Sun’s magnetic field and there may be internal cycles, or random fluctuations inside the Sun, Earth’s atmosphere contains too many complexities and there may be unknown forces and random fluctuations which are not being incorporated, or impossible to incorporate, into weather prediction computer models.

    Is it a coincidence the two scientific disciplines, meteorology and solar science, are connected but produce equally poor predictions?

  • pawn

    Both are observational and involve large systems. You can’t run any controlled experiments in either domain.

    So speculation rules!

  • Icepilot

    A third observational, large system discipline – Oceanography.

  • We may not be at the peak. Looking at the longer historical data in the graph above, the cycle following a low cycle often has a higher peak. The graph does show the Dalton Minimum at the beginning of the 19th Century as two consecutive low cycles.

  • sippin_bourbon

    As the magnetic poles re-arrange, we have far more instrumentation watching.
    Highly interested in what they see.

  • Brendan

    Dust as the cause of the end of ice ages… and our current Chinese dust problem….

  • David

    Allan, skill scores have improved over the last few decades where American meteorologists and forecasts of weather are concerned. You may consider forecast quality to be poor and that’s your right. The improvements in forecasting short term (0-60 hours) are appreciable, mid term (days 3-7) have also improved, though skill measurement lags short term. Days 8-15 are a work in progress. Forecasting in many of the more focused areas of meteorology such severe weather, tropical systems, precipitation amounts, etc have also seen very meaningful improvement compared to 20, 30, 40+ years ago.

    I’d wager that most meteorologists would tell you almost nobody in the field is content. Meteorology and its sister field Climatology are fields where most have and maintain true desire to pursue an ever increasing understanding of this world’s systems and improving forecasts to help make a positive difference.

    In my opinion, people like Mr. Zimmerman only show at best an incomplete understanding of these two fields and at worst something far more unfortunate. As always, I encourage people do their own research. If you’re relying on Mr. Zimmerman to give you a complete and objective assessment (particularly where climate research is concerned), you are going to do yourself a disservice.

    Regarding Mr. Zimmerman’s repeat inaccurate myopic comments about climate change models and his supporting link to his prior commentary about the report that Dr. Roy Spencer has recently produced at the behest of the Heritage Foundation, I suggest a visit to the RealClimate site and to read the article Spencer’s Shenanigans (which was updated a few days ago to address even more of the errors and fallacies in Dr. Spencer’s latest product).

  • David

    One further comment…

    If Mr. Zimmerman is a true skeptic about climate change, why does he seemingly only offer a singular prospective where this subject is concerned? It is one thing to bring to light information that occasionally comes out from the usual suspects he chooses to follow. Not a darn thing wrong with that! The fact that too often much of this is put forth by individuals not willing to make a submittal that requires peer review is something he chooses to ignore and that’s fine too.

    No, what is telling is that every month there are dozens of studies, reports, research, etc. by folks all over this world attempting to increase our understanding of the planet’s climate and the amazingly complex web of processes, both physical and biological, that are involved yet nary a comment seemingly ever appears here unless it fits his stated position (models are wrong and climate science is populated by the ignorant). Why is that? Because the field of studying the sun is not as evolved as he thinks it should be? Based on what? His monthly sunspot chart?

    Mr. Zimmerman claims to be a skeptic in the true sense of the word and he says he continues to stay abreast of the field. Yet he never reads anything that would suggest a contradiction to his stated beliefs worthy of putting forth to his readers? And I’m not just talking about the sun and our climate, but the whole amazing field of study! If it happens, it must be a rare event, for I can’t recall one the times I come to visit. Even where the sun is concerned, his comments continue to suggest a limited understanding.

    There are many reasons to recommend this place as worthy of one’s time. His assessment of climate science is not one of them except to demonstrate the thinking of far too many of my fellow conservatives.

  • “If Mr. Zimmerman is a true skeptic about climate change”

    1. By using the term “Climate Change” you immerse yourself in a chosen and shaped generalized term that has a history of evolution pushed and promoted by politicians, governments and organization that seek control over everyone. The climate has changed every year for the past 3.5 billion years or so. “Climate Change” is a tool of the radical Left.

    Be more specific. And since you do not realize this fact you appear to be “One of them”.

    2. *The General Rule* to always default on is: The government and most all politicians (and international organizations) ARE NOT IN THE BUSINESS OF TRUTH. Not their job, their job after becoming transformed by being politically empowered is to control power and to govern.

    3. “No, what is telling is that every month there are dozens of studies, reports, research, etc. by folks all over this world “.

    SEE: *The General Rule* about government, politicians and international organizations.

    Q: Who pays these scientists for their research / opinion regarding the changing nature of the atmosphere and the either warming or cooling of the globe? Something to always take into consideration. And how many of them do you think would dare go against the very clearly and vociferously stated position of the government, those compliant politicians and international organizations who seek to control the population of the world?


    A “progressive” recently said to me: “The math math’s”. Meaning that the science is settled, and the numbers are in, and we must do what we must do as directed to do by “the experts” essentially. And that ain’t leadership. Lemmings follow, leaders lead.

    And that is called a suicide pact in the long run in my opinion. In that logic the Constitution and America for that matter, can be argued against and made but a symbol of its former intent. And that when all of this is sorted through and boiled down is what this is all about. Again, in my opinion.

    To my point:

    And the number ONE thing that the WEF and the U.N. propose? Eliminating America as structured by the Constitution and making it not dominant in the world.

    They tell you what it is all about if you take the time to understand the words and terms that they carefully choose, like “Climate Change”.

    Are you paying attention, David? If you are truly a Conservative then you must recognize and understand these what are strategic themes and memes being used in order to manifest what is not in your and your country’s interests.

  • PS: An unexpected and unforeseen effect of the “Climate Change” agenda.

    Hybrid battery destroys business:

    Which is not to say that electric autos should not be a choice for the public if they so choose, and that through advancing technology these issues cannot in time be solved.

    Are you sleeping easy with your electric auto parked and charging in your garage over night?

    DC house fire the result of EV in garage:

    I would not sleep at all.

  • David


    Yes, I should use the term anthropogenic climate impact above. I normally do. Quite aware that the Earth has experienced changes in climate. Why it is so difficult for so many to grasp that humans can impact the climate continues to baffle and disappoint me. And I’d be remiss if I did not also express my disappointment with many on the other side of the discussion who are all doom and whatever word you choose that’s more expressive than gloom. Over the last 20+ years, I’ve spent far too much time trying to explain why you can’t just stop the use of hydrocarbons for many reasons beyond the “energy” part of things to many of the same well meaning, but who are ultimately just as poorly informed as many of the supposed skeptics. That and the fact that climate change is not apocalypse.

    I drew my first weather map attempting to do a forecast more than 50 years ago as a kid attempting to work out if it was going to snow the next day. I do know a thing or two about the subject of meteorology and and maybe a 1/2 to one thing about climatology.

    You imply (insist?) that somehow anyone who works for NOAA, or receives government money for research, or does studies at a U.S. college is not capable of doing honest research is extremely insulting and shows a profound ignorance of your fellow Americans.

    And I guess not only Americans are incapable of conducting honest climate research (or does meteorological research also fail in your eyes?), but an entire world of scientists and researchers.

    You are wrong Cotour. I hope one day you will use your ample abilities to discover that.

    P.S. I don’t visit here very often anymore as I continue to deal with heartbreaking personal matters, so please don’t be surprised if I miss any comments you or anyone would make.

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