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Worrying about the Sun and climate change: cycle 24 is late

10 July 2008

Summary:   Solar cycle #24 is on my list of things to watch.  The next 11-year solar cycle – number 24 — has not yet started.  It is a little late, and getting later.  Nothing significant yet, but it could quickly become a major geopolitical factor.  We may have a problem if it does not start by September.

A late cycle may be a “small” cycle, one with few sunspots and low levels of solar activity.  Such periods have often accompanied periods of cold weather on Earth.  Cooling means famines.  The theory explaining the connection is uncertain, and our knowledge of this relationship is based only on the past dozen cycles — not statistically significant — plus the big fact that the Little Ice Age occurred during the Maunder Minimum (1650 – 1715, a period with few sun spots).

There are already several thousand stories on Google about this, pro and con — mostly nonsense — but nonetheless it is something to keep on the radar.  Here are some hard science sources of information.

  1. The Solar Cycle 24 Prediction Panel
  2. Other sources of information
  3. For more information about global warming

I.  The Solar Cycle 24 Prediction Panel

The official predictions come from a group formed by NOAA, NASA, the International Solar Energy Society (ISES), and international representatives:  the Solar Cycle 24 Prediction Panel.  

(a) Their last formal forecast was announced on 20 March 2007.

(1)  Consensus Statement of the Solar Cycle 24 Prediction Panel on 20 March 2007

The Solar Cycle 24 Prediction Panel anticipates the solar minimum marking the onset of Cycle 24 will occur in March, 2008 (±6 months). The panel reached this conclusion due to the absence of expected signatures of minimum-like conditions on the Sun at the time of the panel meeting in March, 2007: there have been no high-latitude sunspots observed with the expected Cycle 24 polarity; the configuration of the large scale white-light corona has not yet relaxed to a simple dipole; the heliospheric current sheet has not yet flattened; and activity measures, such as cosmic ray flux, radio flux, and sunspot number, have not yet reached typical solar minimum values.

In light of the expected long interval until the onset of Cycle 24, the Prediction Panel has been unable to resolve a sufficient number of questions to reach a single, consensus prediction for the amplitude of the cycle. The deliberations of the panel supported two possible peak amplitudes for the smoothed International Sunspot Number (Ri): Ri = 140 ±20 and Ri = 90 ±10. Important questions to be resolved in the year following solar minimum will lead to a consensus decision by the panel.

The panel agrees solar maximum will occur near October, 2011 for the large cycle (Ri=140) case and August, 2012 for the small cycle (Ri=90) prediction.

(2)  Solar Cycles 24 Consensus Prediction (PPT)- Douglas Biesecker, scientist, NOAA Space Environment Center; chair, Solar Cycle 24 Prediction Panel

(3)  NASA and Solar Cycle Predictions (PPT)- W. Dean Pesnell, project scientist, Solar Dynamics Observatory, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center; member, Solar Cycle 24 Prediction Panel

(4)  Economic Impacts - Daniel Baker, director, Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, University of Colorado, Boulder; Chairman of the Committee on Solar and Space Physics, National Research Council:

  1. Economic ImpactsLayer 1Layer 2Layer 3
  2. Solar Cycles
  3. Space Studies Board Economic Impacts Study

(5)  Impacts of Space Weather on the Economy, Joseph Kunches, Chief of the Forecast Center, NOAA Space Environment Center

(b)  Update on 2 May 2008 of Solar Cycle 24 Prediction Panel

(1)  During the annual Space Weather Workshop held in Boulder, CO in May, 2008, the Solar Cycle 24 Prediction Panel released an update to the prediction for the next solar cycle. In short, the update is that the panel has not yet made any changes to the prediction issued in March, 2007. The panel expects solar minimum to occur in March, 2008. The panel expects the solar cycle to reach a peak sunspot number of 140 in October, 2011 or a peak of 90 in August, 2012.

(2)  Presentation of the update at the May 2008 Space Weather Workshop

Please share your comments by posting below (brief and relevant, please), or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).

Other sources of information about the Solar Cycle

(a)  For current data and analysis

  1. Daily sun watch at Spaceweather.com
  2. NOAA’s  Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC), including their Solar Cycle Progression page and the latest predictions.
  3. NASA’s background information about Solar Cycle Predictions
  4. Detailed information at SolarCycle24.com
  5. Solaemon’s Spotless Days Page — Excellent graphs of historical sunspot activity

(b)  Other posts on this site

  1. A look at the science and politics of global warming  (12 June 2008)
  2. Global warming means more earthquakes!  (19 June 2008)
  3. An article giving strong evidence of global warming  (30 June 2008)
  4. Worrying about the Sun and climate change – cycle 24 is late  (10 July 2008)
  5. More forecasts of a global cooling cycle  (15 July 2008)

For more information about global warming

(a)  Other posts on this site

  1. A look at the science and politics of global warming  (12 June 2008)
  2. Global warming means more earthquakes!  (19 June 2008)
  3. An article giving strong evidence of global warming  (30 June 2008)
  4. Worrying about the Sun and climate change – cycle 24 is late  (10 July 2008)
  5. More forecasts of a global cooling cycle  (15 July 2008)

(b)  Information from other sources

  1. SURFACE TEMPERATURE RECONSTRUCTIONS FOR THE LAST 2,000 YEARS“, Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate, Division on Earth and Life Studies, NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES (2006) — aka The North Report.
  2. Report of the “Ad Hoc Committee on the Hockey Stick Global Climate Reconstruction”, commissioned by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce (July 2006) — aka The Wegman Report.  Also note this excerpt from the Q&A session of the Dr. Edward J. Wegman’s testimony.
  3. The role of statisticians in public policy debates over climate change“, Richard L. Smith, American Statistical Association – Section on Statistics & the Environment Newsletter (Spring 2007) — One of the too-few reports by statisticians on the climate change literature.
  4. A timeline of the science and politics of climate science.
  5. Bibliography by year of climate science research. 
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One Comment leave one →
  1. 5 November 2008 6:42 pm

    Does anyone have the latest sunspot number predictions in a graph form? I am helping a scientist prepare for a major talk.
    .
    .
    Fabius Maximus replies: I suggest the following:

    (1) First place to go: see the site listed on the FM refernce page Science, Nature, and Geopolitics
    (2) Scrolling thru Anthony Watts’ Watts Up With That
    — esp his solar articles.
    (3) Leif Svalgaard’s Research Page (which has a wealth of data)

    Some specfic articles which might help.
    * Best of breed: NASA moves the goalposts on Solar Cycle 24 again
    * New essay claims- “Not to Worry: Solar Magnetic Activity for Cycle 24 Is Increasing”
    * Hard lesson about solar realities for NOAA / NASA

    Like

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