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Sunspot update: In July the Sun continued its high sunspot activity

Today NOAA released its monthly update of its graph that tracks the number of sunspots on the Sun’s Earth-facing hemisphere. As I have done every month for the entire thirteen years I have been doing this website, I have posted that updated graph below, adding to it some extra details to provide some context.

Though the sunspot count in July was slightly less than the very high numbers in June (the highest seen in more than two decades), the decline was almost inconsequential. Except for June’s activity, the activity in July was still the highest sunspot count in a month since September 2002, when the Sun was just beginning its ramp down after its solar maximum that reached its peak in late 2001. From that time until the last two months, the Sun had been in a very prolonged quiet period, with two solar minimums that were overly long and a single solar maximum that was very weak with a extended double peak lasting almost four years.

July 2023 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 July numbers once again far exceeded the 2020 prediction by NOAA’s panel, so much so that they were well beyond that prediction’s margin of error, as shown by the the grey area around the red curve.

Looking back to 2002

The graph to the right, which I posted last month, extends NOAA’s graph back to the 2002 solar maximum, the last strong maximum. The red line makes clear the comparison of June’s high activity with that of September 2002. July’s number essentially matched June.

How much higher can solar activity go? Quite a lot, based on the long term solar cycle graph at the bottom of the first graph above. The 1958 solar maximum produced about twice as many sunspots as we have saw in the weak maximum in 2014. The high activity right now is only a little higher than the highest numbers from that 2014 maximum, so history says the sunspot count certainly go up quite a bit before this next maximum is reached.

It could even go up so high that NOAA (and I) will have to increase the Y-axis of the graph, increasing its top number to as much as 300.

Meanwhile, it must be stated again these numbers demonstrate that the consensus prediction of NOAA’s solar science panel of a weak maximum in 2025 was wrong, and that the dissenting prediction by a handful of other solar scientists who in 2020 predicted a very high maximum in 2025 was closer to being right, even though those same dissenters recently pulled back on their own prediction, saying they now expected the maximum to come one year early, in 2024, and that the maximum will not be as intense as they predicted, though still higher than NOAA’s prediction.

As I said last month, I would not bet much money on the predictive powers of either camp. Neither really understands the fundamentals that cause the sunspot cycle, other than it is connected to the flip in polarity of the Sun’s magnetic field every eleven years, and that sunspots themselves are formed in connection with violent changes in the Sun’s magnetic field lines.

That lack of understanding also applies to the Earth’s climate, which is certainly affected by the Sun’s changing activity, but in ways that we as yet do not fully understand. Nor do we really understand the Earth’s climate itself. It is too complex, and we have only been able to gather worthwhile data about it for less than four decades.

Anyone who says this subject is “settled” is either a fool, is willfully ignorant, or is outright lying for political gain. Remember that the next time a journalist or media outlet pushes a news story about some UN know-it-all claiming “Era of global boiling has arrived!”

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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


  • Max

    I wonder what they’ve learned so far from the Eugene Parker probe circling the sun? If there’s been any new big Science breakthroughs, they’re not sharing it.
    I don’t buy the “Coronal heating problem” being solved by “magnetic induction”… The areas of the highest magnetic flux like sunspots would have unusually hot corona above it. (sunspots themselves are cooler than their surroundings by 2000°, even though they’re much brighter in the UV spectrum)

    Coronal plasma creates its own magnetic fields.
    It’s also a poor conductor to be influenced by another magnetic field other than to attract or repel it. This could be why coronal mass ejections achieve speeds of 2,000,000 miles an hour. Like charged mass particles through a rail gun.

    Glenn Beck makes fun of the UN secretary general in the same clip that you posted above. Less than two minutes.
    “The era of global boiling has arrived”

    Yeah, we call it summer… It happens every year and I prefer it to shoveling snow. Unusually cool summer in Utah, we still have snow in the mountains which is very unusual.
    Only a few days over 100°, it’s raining right now.

    “Unless a LOT more people stop eating, the planet will warm another half-degree by 2050”, John Kerry contends.

    A tempest in a teapot! The temperature ranges about 100° between summer and winter every year, in the world has not ended yet.
    The Fahrenheit scale was created with the average summer temperatures (about 100 degrees), and the average winter temperatures (of 0°) with 50° being the average “mean temperature” overall. So in hundreds of years, we’re at 52° average now? (Girls in bikinis is always preferable to an Ice Age)

    All they need to reach “zero carbon emissions”, is to achieve “zero carbon consumers!”
    Keep in mind, 1/10 of the crust of the earth is carbon compounds… entire mountain ranges made out of lime stone. There’s plenty of it and it never has been a problem except for those who “hate all life”.
    Climate change religious believers are a “death cult”.

    Also, methane converts to carbon dioxide and water vapor fairly quickly. That’s why it is so rare at 1.8 ppm.
    Cows and other animals eat grass and hay, that humans cannot eat, on hillsides and in areas that cannot be farmed, providing necessary nutrition for humans and pets. The grass they do not eat is wasted! (when plants die and rot, converting directly into methane, without being eaten and converted to protein first)

    All life “whether eaten or not” will turn to methane when it dies because anaerobic bacteria eats it, causing it to rot. Natures garbage disposal in the carbon cycle.

    Last year‘s 30 year contract to pay farmers not to grow anything.

    “We need Congress” to tackle climate change, Ms. Goitein said. “Issuing an emergency declaration for the express purpose of getting around Congress isn’t an appropriate use of emergency powers in our constitutional system.” It also lets lawmakers off the hook, she said.”

    I’m sure a war on climate change will be as effective as the war on poverty, war on drugs, and the war on homelessness… Have we won any of these wars yet? Billions and billions and billions spent… Apparently all we need now is a few solar panels? Solyndra got it’s billion dollars, how many more have their hands out?
    Doomsday preppers are worried that the climate emergency will be worse than Covid. Using all the methods they learned from locking down. Geo tracking our phones to make sure we don’t consume too much fuel, the turning off our AC systems, turning off natural gas, restricting electrical use with smart meters and outlawing generators.

    I guess most people are stupid, all you have to do is control the media and the masses will believe anything you say. 1:40 minutes;
    “Believe your fact checkers, for the sake of the democracy“ (this was the stuff we used to make fun of Russia for)
    Useful idiots following orders.

  • BLSinSC

    Monday afternoon I took my FIVE YEAR OLD GREAT GRANDDAUGHTER out to pick tomatoes. As we walked along the front of our home we were in the shade. I asked her “why is the grass cool here but hotter over there”? She didn’t even hesitate and said “that part is in the sun – it makes everything hotter”! Now I did have to tell her that the other – cooler part – was called “shade” but she understood what the SUN does to things!! Now apply that KNOWLEDGE to SUNSPOTS and their affect on our earth! Most intelligent people will tell you that sunspot activity matters. The idiots will counter with cow farts!
    Looking at one chart, it looks like there is a WAVE of activity that follows an eleven year cycle. We look to be at the PEAK of the latest cycle so pay attention to the Doomsdayers as they shift into “ICE AGE”!!

  • Andrew_W

    BLSinSC so where’s the correlation between the solar cycle and global temperatures?

  • Max

    The sun is fairly consistent in its radiant energy, it varies only by 1%. The correlation seems to be mostly solar wind of an active sun blocking cosmic radiation which is influential on atmospheric cloud formation. Causes drought conditions.
    When the sun is quiet with no sun spots and a chaotic reversing magnetic field, cosmic radiation peaks as does increased cloud formation over the entire planet. Cooler with a longer rainy season.
    As the suns magnetic field complements earths magnetic field every 22 years (plus or minus) drought and rain cycles intensify. But then there’s websites dedicated to studying this phenomenon.

    Space weather reports a current six year low in radiation levels.
    “What’s going on? Ironically, the radiation drop is caused by increasing solar activity. Solar Cycle 25 has roared to life faster than forecasters expected. The sun’s strengthening and increasingly tangled magnetic field repels cosmic rays from deep space. In addition, solar coronal mass ejections (CMEs) sweep aside cosmic rays, causing sharp reductions called “Forbush Decreases.” The two effects blend together to bring daily radiation levels down“.
    Copied from The bottom of the page of;

    It is rumored that the farmers almanac has been using the sunspot cycle With a 70 to 80% reliability since the 1700s to predict the coming seasons…
    But farmers almanac isn’t telling their secret.

    Is this what you were asking for Andrew? Or were you being sarcastic?
    The seasons have been exaggerated for political expediency to fool those with the purse strings to spend money on foolish projects. (and it’s working) in the end, they can call it Ice Age/global warming but it’s still just the normal seasons.

  • Andrew_W

    Max, I assume your comment is satirical.

  • Phill O

    The month of July saw a significant increase in equatorial sunspots, which may mean we are very close to maximum. Again, looking at all the data (from NOAA) the last two maxima are similar to those during the Dalton minimum.

  • Edward

    Max wrote: “I don’t buy the “Coronal heating problem” being solved by “magnetic induction”… The areas of the highest magnetic flux like sunspots would have unusually hot corona above it. (sunspots themselves are cooler than their surroundings by 2000°, even though they’re much brighter in the UV spectrum)

    The sunspots could conceivably be cooler due to transferring large amounts of heat energy from themselves to the corona. They have strong magnetic fields associated with them, so these fields could be the mechanism. Solar astrophysicists have looked into a similar phenomenon of magnetic recombination as the source of the heat transfer but decided that it was not sufficient to account for the difference in heat energy.

    Regarding Max’s solar cycle comments, we noticed that global temperatures were cooler during both the Dalton Minimum and the Maunder Minimum and that temperatures have warmed ever since, when there were larger peaks during the maxima. From this, a hypothesis was formed and a crude model created that predicts another cooling period during the next long-term minimum. We await this minimum to test and refine this model for better understanding of what goes on between the Sun and the Earth.

    Meanwhile, these past two cycles have been lower in strength than most in the past century, and the warming “paused.” We cannot be sure that this is related or coincidental, but the lack of warming was so bad that the anthropogenic global warming activists in NOAA and at NASA fudged the historical average global temperatures to suggest that the pause did not exist. Too late. Global warming is now out and climate change is in. Thus, no matter what the weather is, mankind is at fault and must be constrained from his actions in order to save the planet.

    However, many people believe that the science is settled (then why are there still climate scientists performing climate science?) and that mankind is responsible. With a settled science, any dissent or skepticism must be squelched. Unfortunately, the most important aspect to science is dissent and skepticism, which drives all scientists to demonstrate the reality, not to accept blindly someone’s favorite theory.

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