Tag Archive: Solar maximum


Space Weather

by Dr. Tony Phillips.

SOLAR ‘MINI-MAX’:

Last month at the Space Weather Workshop in Boulder, Colorado, solar cycle expert Doug Biesecker of NOAA announced that “Solar Maximum is here, finally.” According to his analysis, the sunspot number for Solar Cycle 24 is near its peak right now.

Spoiler: It’s not very impressive. “This solar cycle continues to rank among the weakest on record,” says Workshop attendee Ron Turner of Analytic Services, Inc. To illustrate the point, he plotted the smoothed sunspot number of Cycle 24 vs. the previous 23 cycles since 1755:

In the composite plot, Cycle 24 is traced in red. Only a few cycles since the 18th century have have had lower sunspot counts. For this reason, many researchers have started calling the ongoing peak a “Mini-Max.”

“By all Earth-based measures of geomagnetic and geoeffective solar activity, this cycle has been extremely quiet,” notes Turner. “However, Doug Biesecker has presented several charts showing that most large events such as strong flares and significant geomagnetic storms occur in the declining phase of the solar cycle.”

In other words, there is still a chance for significant solar activity in the months and years ahead. Let’s just hope it is not too significant.

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The calm before the solar storm? NASA warns ‘something unexpected is happening to the Sun’

  • 2013 was due to be year of the ‘solar maximum’
  • As this picture shows, in fact the sun is incredibly calm – baffling experts

By Mark Prigg

 

 

This year was supposed to be the year of ‘solar maximum,’ the peak of the 11-year sunspot cycle.

But as this image reveals, solar activity is relatively low.

 

Sunspot numbers are well below their values from 2011, and strong solar flares have been infrequent, as this image shows - despite Nasa forecasting major solar stormsSunspot numbers are well below their values from 2011, and strong solar flares have been infrequent, as this image shows – despite Nasa forecasting major solar storms

 

THE SOLAR CYCLE

Conventional wisdom holds that solar activity swings back and forth like a simple pendulum.

At one end of the cycle, there is a quiet time with few sunspots and flares.

At the other end, solar max brings high sunspot numbers and frequent solar storms.

It’s a regular rhythm that repeats every 11 years.

Reality is more complicated.

Astronomers have been counting sunspots for centuries, and they have seen that the solar cycle is not perfectly regular.

‘Sunspot numbers are well below their values from 2011, and strong solar flares have been infrequent,’ the space agency says.

The image above shows the Earth-facing surface of the Sun on February 28, 2013, as observed by the Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI) on NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory.

It observed just a few small sunspots on an otherwise clean face, which is usually riddled with many spots during peak solar activity.

Experts have been baffled by the apparent lack of activity – with many wondering if NASA simply got it wrong.

However, Solar physicist Dean Pesnell of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center believes he has a different explanation.

‘This is solar maximum,’ he says.

‘But it looks different from what we expected because it is double-peaked.’

‘The last two solar maxima, around 1989 and 2001, had not one but two peaks.’

Solar activity went up, dipped, then rose again, performing a mini-cycle that lasted about two years, he said.