Solar scientists: sunspot increase in next solar cycle

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The uncertainty of science: Using new computer models, two solar scientists are now predicting that the next solar cycle will begin in about a year and will see an increase in sunspot activity, compared to the weak cycle just ending.

Their ensemble forecast surprisingly suggests it could even be stronger than the cycle which is just ending. They expect the next cycle to start rising in about a year following the end of the current sunspot cycle minimum and peak in 2024. Bhowmik and Nandi predict space environmental conditions over the next decade would be similar or slightly harsher compared to the last decade. They find no evidence of an impending disappearance of sunspot cycles and thus conclude that speculations of an imminent Sun-induced cooling of global climate is very unlikely.

Their conclusion is different than other predictions that are claiming a weak next cycle, or even the beginning of a grand minimum, with no suspots at all. Since an real understanding of the sunspot cycle remains elusive, and all these predictions rely on computer models, it is hard to say which will be right. The advantage this particular prediction has is that their model appears able to match what has happened for the past 100 years.

Stay tuned.



  • born01930

    How did their prediction for the last cycle hold up?

  • Phill O

    One aspect of science is the discussion of opposing views. The use of models is flawed by human development. Our understanding of solar dynamics is sooooo limited. Empirical data; how I love it!

  • born1930: The predictions for the just ending cycle were generally poor. The solar science community was at first divided between two camps, one predicting a very short but very powerful sunspot cycle, and the other predicting a longer weak cycle. When it was becoming clear that the first was wrong, they coalesced around the second prediction, though revised slightly.

    In the end, this revised prediction was not that great. The cycle was weaker than predicted, as well as shorter. See my last cycle update and look at the graph.

    I plan to do my monthly update later today.

  • Diane Wilson

    If their model makes a reasonable prediction about the past 100 years, that’s worth noting; backcasting is about the only way to verify a predictive model. But that still leaves the unstated assumption that we know all the cycles, influences, and independent variables, and have good data for them. That’s not a particularly sound assumption.

  • Willi

    Should not the headline read “Solar scientists predict sunspot increase…”

  • Phill O

    Diane Wilson “That’s not a particularly sound assumption.”


  • Willi: Colon got left out. Now fixed. Thanks.

  • Orion314

    Diane, this old fart been around a long time, and yet, i never heard the term “backcasting”: til your post. It’s obvious in retrospect, yet I never wordsmithed it.. Thank’s for a new buzzword!
    Hat tip!

  • Edward

    Diane Wilson wrote: “backcasting is about the only way to verify a predictive model.

    Backcasting is not a particularly good verification. It suggests that the model isn’t terrible, but I can create a model based upon a Fourier transform of past data and have it predict the past perfectly, but it most likely will not do well at predicting the future.

    The only way to validate a model is to have it successfully predict the future. This means that any model takes some amount of time to be verified. It also helps when the model maker can explain the influences and variables, otherwise it may have just been a lucky guess.

    One of my earliest paid positions, during college, was as a scientist’s aide as we compared actual wind tunnel results to seven different three-dimensional aerodynamic models. The idea was to figure out which models made the best predictions and why, and to determine where and why they got different results than reality. The reality that we used was something that the modelers did not have when they created their models, so we could be quite sure that we were testing the models’ ability to predict rather than any ability that the modelers’ had to do their own backcasting based upon historical wind tunnel tests.

  • wayne

    Good stuff!
    I would have gravitated toward you, if we were at the same College! (at my school, the Psych department was in the Science Building and not the Social-Science building.)

    —(totally tangential– I was a paid lackey for 6 months in grad school, for a brilliant Behavioral Pharmacologist. He had us dose-up lab-rats & pigeons with psychoactive substances and we had to monitor the equipment to make sure the lever-pressing & pecking was being recorded accurately.
    (Slightly before my time, but he did some of the first instrumental human-subject experiments on the effects of Ritalin & Amphetamine, in school-age children diagnosed with Minimal Brain Dysfunction. (That was before they changed that DX to ADD & ADHD.)
    [yes– stimulants do work for that disease category, but only for a very limited time and are secondary to proper operant-conditioning and environmental controls. His often repeated line was, “control for teaching, and 90% of childhood “hyperactivity,” disappears.”

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