NOAA has once again published its monthly update of its monthly graph that tracks the number of sunspots on the Sun’s Earth-facing hemisphere. Below is that November graph, annotated by me with some additional details added to provide context.
Though sunspot number continued to be much higher than the prediction (almost double), October saw almost exactly the same number of sunspots as seen in September, which is why this new graph seems almost identical to last month’s.
In other words, the pause in the ramp up to solar maximum, first noted in August, continues.
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.
October once again saw no blank days, continuing the pattern for all of 2022, which has so far seen only one day where the visible hemisphere of the Sun has been blank. It is likely we will not see another blank day now until after maximum, several years hence.
The pause in ramp up suggests the maximum might not be as high as the earlier numbers had suggested. At the same time, the numbers continue to be significantly higher than the prediction, (95 to 54). For the actual sunspot count to come into alignment with the prediction we would either need to see a sudden drastic drop in sunspots (unlikely), or the pause would have to continue for the rest of this year and all of ’23. The prediction did not call for a monthly sunspot number of 95 until January 2024.
Such a pause would be entirely unprecedented. The normal solar cycle pattern for the past two centuries is for the ramp up to be steep and fast, and the ramp down to be more gradual. The peak at maximum meanwhile can go on for months, even a year or so.
What is going to actually happen in the coming months however remains a complete mystery. As I wrote last month,
We will not really know what the Sun will do in the next four years, until it does it. The prediction for this upcoming maximum is as much an educated guess as the three predictions made for the last solar maximum. Though scientists know the Sun’s magnetic dynamo creates sunspots, no one really understands the fundamental processes that create the Sun’s sunspot cycles. Thus, almost all the predictions made by scientists have generally been based on extrapolating different interpretations of past performance into the future, a very unreliable prediction method.
In other words, the Sun will do what the Sun wants to do.
Stay tuned. It is going to be most interesting to see what happens over the rest of this year.
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