With today’s monthly update from NOAA of its graph tracking the number of sunspots on the Sun’s Earth-facing hemisphere, we find that the Sun continues to confound the experts. As I do every month, I have posted this graph below, with additional details to provide the larger context.
In November the sunspot count rose slightly, but remained well below the highs that had occurred through most of the first half of 2023. Yet, despite that continuing reduction in the number of sunspots, the overall amount of activity remains above the prediction of some scientists, and below the prediction of other scientists.
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 small rise in sunspots in November, compared to the steep drop in October, kept the count well above the 2020 prediction of a panel of NOAA scientists, but well below the prediction of a smaller group of dissenting solar scientists.
In fact, in the past few months all these solar scientists have been scrambling to revise their predictions in order to make the public believe they always knew what they were talking about. In April the dissenting solar scientists lowered their prediction to better match the incoming data. In October 2023, the NOAA panel raised its prediction to better match the incoming data.
Not to be outdone, a group of solar scientist in India issued their own new prediction on November 28, 2023, claiming that their new analysis of the ongoing changes in the Sun’s magnetic field tells them the next solar maximum will occur sometime in 2024, a full year earlier than expected.
These new predictions do not really have much value. It is very easy to predict the winner of a horse race when the horses are only a dozen feet from the finish line, and that is exactly what all these new predictions are doing.
What they all failed to do was predict what would happen, before the race even started. All the early predictions were wrong, and this new late prediction waited until the race was almost over before putting its bet down.
In essence, these scientists have demonstrated how little they understand the fundamentals of the solar sunspot cycle. They know it traces the eleven year cycle of the polarity flip of the Sun’s magnetic field. They know that sunspots are created by concentrations of magnetic field lines at the Sun’s surface.
What they don’t know however is more important. They do not understand the actual principles behind these processes, and why the Sun undergoes this cycle in the first place. Why does the Sun’s magnetic field flip? Why does it do it on an eleven year cycle? Why do some cycles produce a lot of sunspots, while others very few?
If you don’t understand why, you really can’t predict what will happen next, which is exactly what has been happening in the solar scientist community for the past two decades. They failed to predict the weak solar maximum in 2014, and they failed to predict this still unpredictable rise to maximum now in 2023.
Recognizing this ignorance would be the best first step in solving the problem. My impression however of this solar scientist community is they don’t do it. Instead, they make believe they know more than they do, and too often ignorant journalists accept that make believe innocently.