Posts Tagged ‘solar maximum’

Solar Cycle 24’s double peak is not over yet

November 4, 2013

I thought we had reached solar maximum (albeit at a very low level) for this Solar Cycle 24 about a month ago with a double peak apparently having been evident in May. But the recent burst of solar activity during October suggests that the double peak may not be quite over yet.

SC24 sunspot activity October 2013

SC24 sunspot activity October 2013

Nasa’s prediction for SC24  (Wilson, Hathaway, and Reichmann) now looks like this:

SC24 prediction November 2013

SC24 prediction November 2013

Solar Maximum which was expected this fall may be somewhat delayed and might even be pushed back to the end of 2013.

The activity levels are still historically low and if SC 25 continues at very low levels then we will be getting close to the conditions of the Dalton and perhaps the Maunder Minimum. The sequence of solar cycles SC23,24 and 25 (Landscheidt Minimum) are then to be compared to the sequence of cycles SC4,5 and 6 for the Dalton Minimum whereas the Maunder Minimum corresponds to the period before solar cycle numbering started (prior to SC1).

Solar science is a long, long way from being a settled science and it always amazes me that “climate science”, which is overwhelmingly dependent upon the solar dynamo in its many various forms, can be considered to be settled. And not only settled, but so little dependent upon solar effects!

We ignore the Sun at our peril!


Asymmetric reversal of the Sun’s magnetic field is under way – NASA

August 6, 2013

The sun’s magnetic field reverses roughly every 11 years at solar maximum. We are now approaching solar maximum of solar cycle 24 (SC 24) but this magnetic reversal is strongly assymetric according to NASA:

“The sun’s north pole has already changed sign, while the south pole is racing to catch up,” says Scherrer. Soon, however, both poles will be reversed, and the second half of Solar Max will be underway.”

The North pole of the sun switched polarity in mid-2012 which seemed early at the time since solar maximum was not expected till the fall of 2013. It is difficult to imagine that there will not be consequences for the Earth but what those consequences might be is not a “settled science”.

Certainly geomagnetic reversals on Earth have more to do with the flow patterns in the earth’s liquid core and have quite different time periods. The time span between geomagnetic reversals on the Earth vary between 0.1 and 1 million years with an average of 450,000 years.

The latest one, the Brunhes–Matuyama reversal, occurred 780,000 years ago. However,a study published in 2012 by a group from the German Research Center for Geosciences suggests that a brief complete reversal occurred only 41,000 years ago during the last glacial period. The reversal lasted only about 440 years with the actual change of polarity lasting around 250 years.

From Dr. Leif Svalgaard’s research page:

Solar magnetic reversal cycle

The NASA press release says:

August 5, 2013:  Something big is about to happen on the sun.  According to measurements from NASA-supported observatories, the sun’s vast magnetic field is about to flip.

“It looks like we’re no more than 3 to 4 months away from a complete field reversal,” says solar physicist Todd Hoeksema of Stanford University. “This change will have ripple effects throughout the solar system.”


Does the solar cycle impact the global economic cycle?

April 2, 2013

That weather and climate are affected by solar cycles is highly likely even if it is not part of the mainstream climate theories (though I think it is patently obvious). That climate and weather affect food production is clear and that this must impact the economic cycle is not so far fetched. Yet it has never been part of mainstream economic thinking that there will be a connection from the solar cycle to global economic cycles. Back in 1801 William Herschel observed the apparent connection between the sunspot cycles and the price of wheat. Since then many economists have returned at regular intervals to studying the link between the 11 year sunspot cycle and the behaviour of the global economic cycle. It is becoming increasingly clear that the economic cycle is not unconnected with solar cycles but the mechanisms are far from clear.

Mikhail Gorbanev an economist at the IMF has a fascinating new paper that became available last month at the University of Munich. He does add this Caution though!

Caution: This research is not in the “mainstream” of the economic thought. Read at your own risk!

Sunspots, unemployment, and recessions, or Can the solar activity cycle shape the business cycle?,” MPRA Paper 40271, University Library of Munich, Germany. (pdf Gorbanev Business Cycle and solar cycles MPRA_paper_40271)

Gorbanev shows some interesting correlations and  goes on to predict that “For other advanced economies, the upcoming solar maximum also suggests higher chances of recessions. The 3-year period when the recessions are most likely to occur in the G7 countries would run from early 2013 till end-2015”.

Whether there will be a sharp increase in US unemployment after the solar maximum remains to be seen. But it is not so unlikely that the world economy has another 2 – 3 tough years ahead!


Sunspot cycles and US unemployment (Gorbanev 2012)

Sunspot cycles and US unemployment (Gorbanev 2012)


 Over the last 77 years (from 1935), all 7 cyclical maximums of the solar activity overlapped closely with the US recessions, thus predicting (or triggering?) 8 out of 13 recessions officially identified by NBER (including one “double-deep” recession). Over the last 64 years (from 1948), all 6 maximums of the solar activity were preceded by minimums of the US unemployment rate, and the spikes in the unemployment rate followed with lags of 2-3 years. On the world scale, over the last 44 years (for which the data is available), all 4 maximums of the solar activity overlapped with minimums of the unemployment rate in the G7 countries, followed by its spikes within 2-3 years. From 1965, when consistent recession dating is available for all G7 countries, nearly 3/5 of the recessions started in the 3 years around and after the sunspot maximums. Was it a mere coincidence or a part of a broader pattern? This paper explores the correlation between the solar activity cycles (as measured by the number of sunspots on the sun surface) and the timing of recessions in the US and other economies. It finds out that the probability of recessions in G7 countries greatly increased around and after the solar maximums, suggesting that they can cause deterioration in business conditions and trigger recessions. This opens new approach for projecting recessions, which can be applied and tested with regard to the next solar maximum in 2013.

Double peak in Solar Cycle 24? as in SC14 and in SC5?

March 4, 2013

The NOAA/NASA Solar Cycle Prediction Panel is puzzled. They don’t know if we are reaching solar maximum or whether another little peak could be on its way which would shift solar maximum for SC24 to 2014 from 2013.

And should we compare SC24 with SC14 or should it be SC5?

But SC24 will still show the lowest sunspot activity for 100 years. I note that not only SC14 but even SC5 had a double peak – so my expectation remains that this Landscheidt Minimum may be comparable to the Dalton Minimum – though not perhaps to the Maunder Minimum.

credit Dr. Tony Phillips

credit Dr. Tony Phillips

This Sciencecast video is a good summary of what we don’t know:

Landscheidt’s prediction is that this Minimum will last till 2060 so we can expect low sunspot activity for the next 4 sunspot cycles (till SC28).

Landscheidt’s predicted solar minima

The Sc24 –  SC5 comparison looks like a repeating pattern but it would be wrong to assume that the Sun cares about this and it will surely continue to keep us perplexed as it does its own thing.

SC24 compared to SC5

The Big Picture is persuasive – even if we don’t really know what the sun is upto and even less about how the Earth dances to the Sun’s music.

Recent solar activity (Wikipedia) showing the Maunder and Dalton minima


Solar cycles and the Landscheidt minimum

Theodor landscheidt: Sun-Earth-Man and the Kepler ratios

Journalists: The Purveyors of Doom

June 15, 2010

Why do journalists always feel it necessary to report science in alarmist terms?

Solar storms and the geomagnetic consequences are serious and the subject of serious study but such study is devalued when sensationalised by intrepid reporters from the outback.

Yesterday’s Daily Telegraph informed us that “Nasa warns solar flares from ‘huge space storm’ will cause devastation”. The reporter Andrew Hough goes on breathlessly  to explain that the “Daily Telegraph can disclose” that

National power grids could overheat and air travel severely disrupted while electronic items, navigation devices and major satellites could stop working after the Sun reaches its maximum power in a few years. Senior space agency scientists believe the Earth will be hit with unprecedented levels of magnetic energy from solar flares after the Sun wakes “from a deep slumber” sometime around 2013. In a new warning, Nasa said the super storm would hit like “a bolt of lightning” and could cause catastrophic consequences for the world’s health, emergency services and national security unless precautions are taken. “We know it is coming but we don’t know how bad it is going to be,” said Dr Richard Fisher, the director of Nasa’s Heliophysics division. Every 22 years the Sun’s magnetic energy cycle peaks while the number of sun spots – or flares – hits a maximum level every 11 years. Dr Fisher, a Nasa scientist for 20 years, said these two events would combine in 2013 to produce huge levels of radiation.

We should head for the hills !!!!

The 22 year Solar Cycle – the Babcock cycle was discovered by HW Babcock in 1961.

In 2007 NASA was predicting the Cycle 24 maximum for 2011 as a strong maximum or in 2012 as a weak maximum. By March 2009 the maximum was being forecast for May 2013 with the admission that “It turns out that none of our models were totally correct,” says Dean Pesnell of the Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA’s lead representative on the panel. “The sun is behaving in an unexpected and very interesting way.”

The great 1859 storm– the “Carrington Event” – electrified transmission cables, set some papers on fire in a few telegraph offices, and produced exceptionally  bright Northern Lights. Some electrical disruption also occurred during storms in 1921, 1937, 1941 and 1958. On August 4, 1972 a solar flare knocked out long-distance telephone communication across Illinois. That event, in fact, caused AT&T to redesign its power system for transatlantic cables. A similar flare on March 13, 1989, provoked geomagnetic storms that disrupted electric power transmission from the Hydro Québec generating station in Canada. In  2005, a solar storm disrupted satellite-to-ground communications and Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation signals for about 10 minutes.

There is a long way in nature from notable to  disruption to devastation and to catastrophe; but in journalism the distance seems exceedingly short.

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