Sunspot update February 2019: The Sun flatlines again


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We are now deep into solar minimum. On Sunday NOAA released its the monthly update of the solar cycle, covering sunspot activity for February 2019. As I have done every month since the start of Behind the Black, I am posting it below, annotated to give it some context.

February 2019 sunspot activity

The graph above has been modified to show the predictions of the solar science community. 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.

For the second time since the beginning of the solar minimum last year, the Sun flat-lined for an month, producing no visible sunspots during the entire month of February.

That streak has continued into March. At present we are four days into March, and still no sunspots.

The big question that I will be repeating probably every month for the next two years is whether we are merely experiencing an early and possibly deep solar minimum, or the advent of a new grand minimum, with no visible sunspots for decades. During the last grand minimum in the 1600s there is evidence the Earth cooled, so much so that it was labeled the Little Ice Age. And with previous grand minimums over the past few thousand years there is evidence that similar coolings occurred. Similarly, periods where sunspot activity was high also appear to have been periods of warmer temperatures.

Why is not clearly understood, though there is some evidence that it might be related to the increasd cosmic ray flux during solar minimum.Those rays might interact with the atmosphere to produce more clouds, thus cooling the Earth. This is not proven however and remains merely a theory linked to some tentative preliminary evidence.

If we do enter a grand minimum, scientists will likely get the answers to these questions. However, we might also find ourselves experiencing significantly colder weather. I am right now flying from Chicago to Columbus, over Lake Michigan, which is filled with ice floes, something we have not seen in March for decades. Nor has this kind of cold weather been unusual for the past decade or so. Could it be because of the weak solar maximum we just experienced and the deep and extended solar minimum just before that? No one knows.

All we can do is gather data, and find out.

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13 comments

  • Kyle

    This last month it was so cold up here we got down to 4 degrees F, with wind chill, which is really cold for Washington State. The last time it got that cold that I could remember was back in about around ’08 – ’09, when I had ice forming on my front door on the inside of old apartment, they were cheap but still it was pretty cold. And then from 2014-2016 we had a drought effect most of the state were we had very little precipitation, even on the wet side of the state. All this to say that it seems to line up pretty close to the bell curve, I wounder how other areas of the country match up.

  • Jay

    This minimum is killing me radio wise. I could barely hear Europe over the weekend. Little to no sunspots during this Cycle-25 and band conditions are poor.

  • Phill O

    “Why is not clearly understood, though there is some evidence that it might be related”

    Might be better with a comma as “Why, is not clearly understood, though there is some evidence that it might be related”

    Aside from being nit-picky, I do enjoy the articles a you, Bob, bringing this to the forefront on your site.

  • Rick

    I thought it was because of cow farts, and airplanes?

  • pzatchok

    Couldn’t global warming save us from this period of cold?

    But seriously. The last few winters here in Ohio have not been that bad.

  • Phill O

    The winter in Alberta this year has not been bad: but then, I have been in New Mexico.

  • Jason Hillyer

    Considering the Sun is 99.8% the mass of the entire solar system, it is amazing how little we know about it. I am particularly excited for the Parker Solar Probe and the discoveries it will make.

  • Garth

    Aside from being nit-picky, I do enjoy the articles a you, Bob, bringing this to the forefront on your site.

    “a you, Bob”?

    If you’re going to nit-pick, at least make sure you don’t err worse than the material you’re criticizing.

  • Mark

    I Am Mark In Savannah, Georgia. Will I Still Be Able To Get Analog Channel 2 TV Stations From Canada, Cuba, New Mexico This Spring And Summer Since They Are Still On The Air. Thanks.

  • Mark

    Will I Still Be Able In The Spring Time And Summer Time Of 2019 To Still Get Analog Channel 2 Channels From Canada, Cuba, Mexico?

  • Fred Strauss

    Bob, have you looked at the work of Ned Nikolov and Karl Zeller? Do you have an opinion?

  • Fred Strauss: Please provide me links. I might be aware without remembering their names.

  • Fred Strauss

    Bob, sorry – each link I attempt to provide is rejected as spam by your blog. Just google their names. Include ‘Coloradoan’ in your search for an article printed there recently.

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