Sunspot update August 2019: Even fewer sunspots

Silso graph for August 2019

Last month I titled my sunspot update “Almost no sunspots,” as there were only two sunspots for the entire month of July, with one having the polarity for the next solar maximum.

August however beat July, with only one sunspot for the month, and none linked to the next maximum. To the right is the Silso graph of sunspot activity for August, showing just one sunspot for the month, on only one day, August 13.

Below is NOAA’s August graph of the overall sunspot cycle since 2009, released by NOAA today and annotated to give it some context.

August 2019 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, with half the scientists predicting a very strong maximum and half predicting a weak one. The red curve is their revised May 2009 prediction, extended in November 2018 four years into the future.

Note how the almost total lack of sunspot activity during the past three months is far below the expected activity indicated by the red curve. Note too that the activity for this entire cycle has consistently under performed the predictions. The ramp up to solar maximum started later and has ended sooner than predicted, with the activity itself always less than expected.

In fact, this particular now-ending cycle appears to have been only a little more than ten years long, from 2009 to 2019. In the past, short cycles were always associated with very active solar maximums. Weak solar cycles always lasted longer than eleven years. The last cycle however was very unprecedented, being short and weak. Moreover, its double peak, with the second peak the larger of the two, was also unprecedented. In past double-peaked maximums the first peak had always been the larger.

What does this mean for the future? Who knows? I can promise you that the solar scientist community only has a vague idea themselves. What we have been seeing is different that past solar behavior, and means the Sun is teaching us things we didn’t know before.


  • mpthompson

    I seem to recall that an active Sun as measured by sunspot activity protects much of the Solar System from Galactic Cosmic Radiation (GCR) — that when the Sun becomes inactive, the charged particles can more readily penetrate deeper into the Solar System. Furthermore, I believe some scientist have associated increased GCR exposure with heavier cloud formation on Earth (and perhaps other planets) which could have a significant impact on Earth’s climate.

    Given we are seeing such low sunspot activity for the first time in modern times, are we able to measure the impact on GCR and whether the theories that tie Earth climate to sunspot activity via GCR strength have any merit?

  • mpthompson: Your memory is mostly correct. Watch the video at the end of this BtB post: Al Gore and the silencing of debate. It describes in great detail the entire subject.

  • mpthompson

    Thanks, I just watched the video you linked. I remember watching a movie about the astrophysicist Henrik Svensmark and his similar theories that came out around the same time that video was made. It’s disappointing that physicists theories tend to be dismissed because they aren’t “climate scientists”. To a layman’s eyes, their evidence seems very compelling.

    It will be interesting to see if this current minimum will provide more evidence that there are larger forces in play that just CO2 when it comes to our climate.

  • Phill O

    The sun spots observed may have gone unnoticed during the monitoring during the Maunder and Dalton minima, IMHO. This gives about 3 full months of no sun spot activity, something not seen in recent recorded history.

    Yes, we are in a period of solar discovery.

    The paper in the link base things on C14 data which, itself is not totaly accurate as the C14 data depends on CO2 concentrations, which, many will argue, vary.

    The no warming since 2005 data goes in opposition to the claim that Europe and eastern Canada have seen an unprecedented rise in temperatures.

    The recession rate of the Athabasca glacier has slowed since the early 1900s. I was looking at the Birdwood glacier last week and noted greater snow coverage than 10 years ago. This indicates its recession also has slowed and might be reversing. Since 2010, I have observed snows later in the year (like late September) where no snows remained from the past winter. For example, last week I was crossing a snow slope which was not there 20 years ago, but has been there the last two or three years.

    The skies for Alberta autumns has gone to crap for astronomy over the last 10 years. Similar observations are made for SW New Mexico, where summer skies have clouded over. This summer has seen a drop in temperatures for SW NM and Alberta. In fact, this was the coldest summer for Alberta since I have been here (1973).

    Let us not confuse weather with climate. One cold summer would be weather. When the weather patterns change over decades, this is climate. Right now, from this observers view, climate has cooled over the past 10-20 years.

    The underlying reasons for the link between solar activity and climate needs extensive work; and we may be at a point where this can be done.

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