NASA June 2012 Solar Cycle 24 Prediction – Lowest in 100Yrs

NASA MSFC

The current prediction for Sunspot Cycle 24 gives a smoothed sunspot number maximum of about 60 in the Spring of 2013. We are currently over three years into Cycle 24. The current predicted size makes this the smallest sunspot cycle in about 100 years.

The prediction method has been slightly revised. The previous method found a fit for both the amplitude and the starting time of the cycle along with a weighted estimate of the amplitude from precursor predictions (polar fields and geomagnetic activity near cycle minimum). Recent work [see Hathaway Solar Physics; 273, 221 (2011)] indicates that the equatorward drift of the sunspot latitudes as seen in the Butterfly Diagram follows a standard path for all cycles provided the dates are taken relative to a starting time determined by fitting the full cycle. Using data for the current sunspot cycle indicates a starting date of May of 2008. Fixing this date and then finding the cycle amplitude that best fits the sunspot number data yields the current (revised) prediction.

Predicting the behavior of a sunspot cycle is fairly reliable once the cycle is well underway (about 3 years after the minimum in sunspot number occurs [see Hathaway, Wilson, and Reichmann Solar Physics; 151, 177 (1994)]). Prior to that time the predictions are less reliable but nonetheless equally as important. Planning for satellite orbits and space missions often require knowledge of solar activity levels years in advance.

A number of techniques are used to predict the amplitude of a cycle during the time near and before sunspot minimum. Relationships have been found between the size of the next cycle maximum and the length of the previous cycle, the level of activity at sunspot minimum, and the size of the previous cycle.

Among the most reliable techniques are those that use the measurements of changes in the Earth’s magnetic field at, and before, sunspot minimum. These changes in the Earth’s magnetic field are known to be caused by solar storms but the precise connections between them and future solar activity levels is still uncertain.

Of these “geomagnetic precursor” techniques three stand out. The earliest is from Ohl and Ohl [Solar-Terrestrial Predictions Proceedings, Vol. II. 258 (1979)] They found that the value of the geomagnetic aa index at its minimum was related to the sunspot number during the ensuing maximum. The primary disadvantage of this technique is that the minimum in the geomagnetic aa index often occurs slightly after sunspot minimum so the prediction isn’t available until the sunspot cycle has started.

An alternative method is due to a process suggested by Joan Feynman. She separates the geomagnetic aa index into two components: one in phase with and proportional to the sunspot number, the other component is then the remaining signal. This remaining signal has, in the past, given good estimates of the sunspot numbers several years in advance. The maximum in this signal occurs near sunspot minimum and is proportional to the sunspot number during the following maximum. This method does allow for a prediction of the next sunspot maximum at the time of sunspot minimum.

A third method is due to Richard Thompson [Solar Physics 148, 383 (1993)]. He found a relationship between the number of days during a sunspot cycle in which the geomagnetic field was “disturbed” and the amplitude of the next sunspot maximum. His method has the advantage of giving a prediction for the size of the next sunspot maximum well before sunspot minimum.

We have suggested using the average of the predictions given by the Feynman-based method and by Thompson’s method. [See Hathaway, Wilson, and Reichmann J. Geophys. Res. 104, 22,375 (1999)] However, both of these methods were impacted by the “Halloween Events” of October/November 2003 which were not reflected in the sunspot numbers. Both methods give larger than average amplitude to Cycle 24 while its delayed start and low minimum strongly suggest a much smaller cycle.

The smoothed aa index reached its minimum (a record low) of 8.4 in September of 2009. Using Ohl’s method now indicates a maximum sunspot number of 70 plus/minus 18 for cycle 24. We then use the shape of the sunspot cycle as described by Hathaway, Wilson, and Reichmann [Solar Physics 151, 177 (1994)] and determine a starting time for the cycle by fitting the latitude drift data to produce a prediction of the monthly sunspot numbers through the next cycle. We find a maximum of about 60 in the Spring of 2013. The predicted numbers are available in a text file, as a GIF image, and as a pdf-file. As the cycle progresses, the prediction process switches over to giving more weight to the fitting of the monthly values to the cycle shape function. At this phase of cycle 24 we now give 66% weight to the amplitude from curve-fitting technique of Hathaway, Wilson, and Reichmann Solar Physics 151, 177 (1994). That technique currently gives similar values to those of Ohl’s method.

Note: These predictions are for “smoothed” International Sunspot Numbers. The smoothing is usually over time periods of about a year or more so both the daily and the monthly values for the International Sunspot Number should fluctuate about our predicted numbers. The dotted lines on the prediction plots indicate the expected range of the monthly sunspot numbers. Also note that the “Boulder” numbers reported daily at http://www.spaceweather.com are typically about 35% higher than the International sunspot number.

More information can be found HERE:

Advertisements

About Russ Steele

Freelance writer and climate change blogger. Russ spent twenty years in the Air Force as a navigator specializing in electronics warfare and digital systems. After his service he was employed for sixteen years as concept developer for TRW, an aerospace and automotive company, and then was CEO of a non-profit Internet provider for 18 months. Russ's articles have appeared in Comstock's Business, Capitol Journal, Trailer Life, Monitoring Times, and Idaho Magazine.
This entry was posted in Analysis, Solar. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to NASA June 2012 Solar Cycle 24 Prediction – Lowest in 100Yrs

  1. Remaining DOOMERS
    Find one single IPCC report that does not qualify a CO2 climate CRISIS with a MAYBE, POTENTIALLY or PROBABLY etc. “Hello 911, my house is on fire…………….maybe?”
    And how is it consensus of a deadly crisis when thousands of scientists have thousands of different views on effects, not causes?
    You condemn the voter’s children and expect us to vote for you?
    –Julian Assange is a climate change “crisis” denier.
    -“Socialist” Canada voted in a climate change denying prime minister to a majority.
    -Occupy does not mention CO2 in its list of demands because of the bank-funded carbon trading stock markets run by corporations.
    -Canada killed Y2Kyoto and nobody cared, especially the millions of scientists.
    -Obama has not mentioned the crisis in the last two state of the unions.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s