New sunspot cycle may be lowest in 80 years

(This post is Paul Huttner once again – still having computer problems)

NOAA and NASA have issued a new forecast for Solar Cycle 24, which is showing signs of life this week. If the forecast is right, the new sunspot cycle will peak in May 2013 with a peak sunspot number of 90, the lowest since 1928 when Solar Cycle 16 peaked at 78.

The sun was remarkably quiet in 2008. No sunspots were observed 266 of 366 days last year. That’s 73% of the time. The sun has been even quieter through March of this year. No sunspot activity was observed on 78 of 90 days, or 87% of the time.

NASA astronomers say our current solar minimum is the deepest in nearly a century.

Douglas Biesecker from NOAA’s Space Weather Center says even though the coming solar cycle may be weaker than average, it can still produce strong geomagnetic storms. I interviewed Doug on Jet Streaming earlier this spring.

NASA spacecraft indicate that the sun’s brightness has dimmed by 0.02 percent at visible wavelengths and a whopping 6 percent at extreme UV wavelengths since the solar minimum of 1996. The vast majority of climatologists believe these changes are not enough to reverse global warming. Even though we observed reduced solar last year, 2008 was still the 8th warmest year on record globally.

It will be interesting to see how Solar Cycle 24 pans out as we head toward May of 2013. Talk about a long range forecast!


  • David Pawlowski

    “Even a below-average cycle is capable of producing severe space weather,” points out Biesecker. “The great geomagnetic storm of 1859, for instance, occurred during a solar cycle of about the same size we’re predicting for 2013.”