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Sunspot update: The Sun roars on, making the scientists wrong

The May update of NOAA’s monthly graph is now available, once again showing the Sun’s sunspot activity during this ramp up to solar maximum far exceeding the predictions. That graph is below, annotated by me with additional data to provide some context.

April 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 continuing high activity is somewhat startling, when compared to the prediction. The NOAA panel of solar scientists had predicted that the sunspot number for April 2022 would be 37.1. Instead, the actual number was 84.1, more than twice as high. Nor is this an outlier. Last month for example the prediction had been 34.1 but the actual sunspot count had been 78.5. Thus, while the March number had been 44.5 higher than predicted, in April the number was 47 higher. The excess above the prediction had increased.

This has been the consistent pattern since the end of the solar minimum and the start of increased sunspot activity in 2020.

The very steep rise in sunspots since the start of ’21 continues to suggest that the next maximum will both come early and be far more powerful than predicted by NOAA’s panel of solar scientists. This pattern also suggests now strongly that the outlier prediction of a handful of solar scientists that this maximum will be a very strong one will be the correct one.

If the solar maximum does end up as powerful as presently indicated, it will mean that for the second solar cycle in a row the consensus predictions of the solar scientist community were wrong. This is not a criticism of these scientists, since they are all somewhat guessing as they do not yet fully understand the processes in the Sun’s dynamo that produce the solar cycle.

Instead, these failed predictions prove clearly the foolishness of relying on any consensus in science. Scientific results are not determined by democracy, by who gets the most votes. They are instead determined solely by who gets it right, even if only one person does so and everyone else disagrees.

Copernicus proved that. So did Galileo. As physicist Richard Feynmann once explained,

It doesn’t make a difference how beautiful your guess is, it doesn’t make a difference how smart you are, who made the guess, or what his name is. If it disagrees with experiment, it’s wrong.

Watch this full clip from his lecture. It is definitely worth it.

The Sun has now for more than two decades shown how little the community of solar scientists know about it. What is fascinating to me is that the solar scientists know this. When I have interviewed them about the Sun’s unexpected behavior they have almost all been routinely humble about their understanding. They recognize that they are “guessing,” as Feynman puts it.

It has instead been the general public and reporters who assume these scientists know, and that their predictions are certain to be right. Modern society now treats scientists almost like as if they are witch doctors: What they say must be true. If Anthony Fauci says we must wear one mask, we must. If the next day he says we must wear two or three, then we must. If a week later he says masks won’t help and we should not use them, then we must stop using them.

It no longer matters that no research of any kind justified any of Fauci’s statements. He said it, he is a scientist, and therefore he must be right!

The entire Wuhan debacle resulted from this blind faith in scientists. It gave them a power over society they did not warrant. Worse, too many of them, like Fauci, abused that power.

It is time we stopped worshiping these human beings and begin treating them with the normal skepticism a healthy rational society affords everyone.

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


  • David Eastman

    It really is astonishing the respect our society demands we give to the “experts”, notably including scientists, even when the facts prove them wrong. People actually prefer to doubt the facts rather than the experts at this point. I have an acquaintance who is a very high level biomedicine researcher, who will dutifully follow and proclaim the “science” of the latest Fauci/CDC proclamation, even when it is pointed out that there obviously can’t have been any effective research done in the week between one gospel from on high and it’s opposite pronouncement a week later, or the next reversal later on. She just believes as a matter of faith that such research MUST have been done, even though nothing can be pointed to, there are no publications, etc.

  • Joe

    Feynman is right. The scientific process is what we should be following. We have stopped really listening and learning. Not sure that is taught anymore. In the case of climate modeling we really should be getting more data into the systems and then correcting the models to match reality – not the other way around.

  • David: She just believes as a matter of faith that such research MUST have been done, even though nothing can be pointed to, there are no publications, etc.

    A basic tenet of our social technocracy is that “non-profit” entities – where these alleged experts reside, in government and academia – are inherently of higher virtue and worthy of greater trust, because that they do not (admit that they) seek to profit. Their profit takes other forms … professional advancement, tenure, larger government grants, bureaucratic empires … that aren’t as obvious as a stock price or what’s on the quarterly report.

    And we are, from our very first day in school, led to put such trust in authority figures, starting with the teacher. This trust leads us to sell our own, adult insights short … when we are in a far better position, and are far more affected by the consequences, to make the decisions affecting our lives than any “expert”. Instead of putting them on pedestals, we need to treat them as advisers, and retain the actual decision-making authority for ourselves … but that is perceived as inevitably shouldering more personal risk, which many people turn from in fear.

    Almost forty years of engineering has made the limits of my expertise quite clear. But i work in the private sector, and they expect results, as the fictional Ray Stanz made clear not too long after I started my career. OTOH, in government and academia, you often pay no real price for being wrong (except politically), eroding actual justification for trusting them.

  • Alex Andrite

    Fabulous fun ! Great video.
    “… the slight motion of Mercury ….” … “The dentist …”

    And all the while the “DYNAMO” smiled and continued on spinning…

    Thanks Mr. Z.

  • Philip L horner

    Apply the same judicious suspicion to politicians spending our tax money.

    It’s been a $30 trillion train wreck.

  • scruboak

    I offer one correction. Scientific results reward those who are more right that the others. As soon as science states that without question this is how a thing works is when science ends. All the great scientists that have expanded our understanding have one thing in common, their theories fail. Sometimes it takes the scientific community many years to figure out where and how they fail, but they do. So science is all about that often used cliche, question everything.

  • Edward

    scruboak wrote: “I offer one correction. Scientific results reward those who are more right that the others. As soon as science states that without question this is how a thing works is when science ends.

    I offer a correction to this correction. The science does not end so much as it slows down. The second part of scruboak’s comment is more correct, in that the science continues and finds any errors or refinements to the original conclusion.

    Aristotle explained how gravity works, but Galileo showed a more correct model. Copernicus moved the center of the solar system to the Sun, Kepler explained orbits as elliptical, and Newton figured out a mathematical model for explaining elliptical orbits. Einstein further modified our model of gravity.

    scruboak’s conclusion is correct. These improvements in our knowledge happen because we question everything. Robert is also correct about any consensus. My examples, above, have been consensuses until they were proved not as correct as thought. The science is never settled, no matter how much we think it is. Question everything.

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