Sunspot update for January 2018

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.

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"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

Today NOAA posted its monthly update of the solar cycle, covering sunspot activity for January 2018. Below is my annotated version of that graph.

As you can see, the low sunspot activity of the past two months continued in January. November 2017 remains the most inactive month for sunspots since the middle of 2009. January is now the second most inactive month, with December a very close third.

January 2018 Solar Cycle graph

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.

Though activity continues to track close to but considerably below the 2007 weak prediction, the difference appears to be increasing as the ramp down to solar minimum continues. While I have said in past updates that the trend suggests an early arrival of the solar minimum, a close look at the previous ramp down in 2007 and 2008 shows that when activity became this weak, the ramp down slowed considerably. This previous pattern suggests that we could see another year or two of similarly low activity before the minimum arrives.

Regardless, the low activity, this soon, continues to suggest that the next maximum will also be weak, and might even not come at all, as some solar scientists have proposed. Instead, we might be heading toward another Grand Minimum, with no significant sunspots for decades.

Will that Grand Minimum produce cold weather worldwide, as it appears to have done during the last Grand Minimum in the 1600s? There is circumstantial evidence in the past decade that it might. We will not know, however, until it happens, and that possibility remains very uncertain.


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  • Andrew_W

    Yep, temperatures are going to drop any time now . . . any time now . . .

  • Phill O

    This is a great opportunity for solar dynamcists and climate modelers: a chance at empirical data.

    A chance for Solar Powered Climate Change advocates to potentially say :We told you so”.

    Me: I like to see things for myself. While we have been rather warm in the SW USA, other places have returned to a more “normal” winter.

  • Edward

    Andrew_W wrote: “Yep, temperatures are going to drop any time now . . . any time now . . .

    Indeed. As they noted half a century ago, it is about the expected time for the current interglacial period to come to an end. These warm periods have usually been fairly brief, but this one has lasted a bit longer than most. So, yes, the next “ice age” is due any millennium now.

    Of course, Robert is only speculating about another Little Ice Age, not an entire glacial period, as the climate scientists, half a century ago, were telling us might be starting. The politicians then, as now, were telling us that we had to change our behavior in order to save the planet. Funny how the changed behavior is the same no matter the change to the planet, be it global warming, global cooling, or just naturally occurring climate change. Wouldn’t it be better if desert climates turned to climates that supported farmland, as we have been trying to turn some our deserts into, all these decades? If so, then some climate changes could be good, not bad.

    Robert was specific that the correlation during the previous Little Ice Age appears to have a causal relationship, not that it does have one.

  • Edward

    Here is another scientific data point that suggests that global warming is not anthropogenic:

    Data collected by NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) satellite, launched in 2014 to measure changing levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) worldwide, indicates that Earth’s tropics have been the largest sources of recent CO2 emissions.

    Fortunately, however, the article was able to reassert that man is the cause of CO2 increases after all by using correlation as causation:
    Global average CO2 emissions have been increasing annually since the start of the Industrial Revolution in the early 1800s. Earth’s atmosphere today contains approximately 850 gigatons of CO2 in contrast to approximately 595 gigatons before the start of the industrial age.

    Never mind that the Earth was already increasing in temperature for a couple of centuries before the industrial age, because the Earth had been and still is coming out of the Little Ice Age. The article completely ignores the evidence that it presents, that the largest source of CO2 emissions is not populated or industrious regions but the nature’s own tropical regions.

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