Category Archives: Sun

Solar Cycle 25 Predictions–National Weather Service and NASA See It Differently

While it is not unexpected that experts predicting how active Solar Cycle (SC) 25 will be compared to SC 24, the new forecast from NASA is significantly different than the National Weather Service  forecast.

A few weeks ago, I reported that the National Weather Service forecast for SC 25 activity would be slightly greater than SC 24.    They added:

“The expectation that Cycle 25 will be comparable in size to Cycle 24   means that the steady decline in solar cycle amplitude, seen from cycles 21-24, has come to an end and that there is no indication that we are currently approaching a Maunder-type minimum in solar activity.”

NASA’s prediction is different, really different.  Their expert says:

Research now underway may have found a reliable new method to predict this solar activity. The Sun’s activity rises and falls in an 11-year cycle. The forecast for the next solar cycle says it will be the weakest of the last 200 years. The maximum of this next cycle – measured in terms of sunspot number, a standard measure of solar activity level – could be 30 to 50% lower than the most recent one. The results show that the next cycle will start in 2020 and reach its maximum in 2025.

The NASA prediction did not discuss the possibility of a Maunder minimum.   However their prediction does not rule out a Maunder minimum in progress as it forecasts SC25 will not be the end of a steady decline in solar cycle amplitude.

Both of the predicting groups acknowledge that they are still far from a full understanding of how the Sun works. So, we will just have to wait and see.


Predicting Solar Cycle 25

Prior to the advent of SC 24, there were many predictions of  its level of activity.  Most of the predictions were for a replicate of SC 23. Leif  Svalgaard’s  predicted a major change in  its level of activity.     He was predicting about half as active as were most of the predictors and  we know now that he was right.     Svalgaard’s method  used  the Solar Polar Field Strength  to make the prediction. 

I know many of you know all about the solar polar fields, but for those that do not, let me review what the following chart tells us.




The X axis is time beginning on 7 Dec 1976.  It extends out to 2 Feb 2019 showing part or all of SCs 21,22,23 and 24.  Solar Cycle 24 began January 2008 and is forecast to end late 2019 or early 2020.  SC 24 was at maximum activity during April 2014 with  a smoothed sunspot number of 111..  The maximum typically occurs when the South magnetic field and the North magnetic field reverse positions. In the chart above, the red (South) moving line crosses the zero Field strength line noted on the Y axis  going south and the north (Blue) moving line crosses zero going north. These fields continue toward the poles where they begin producing sunspots in the high Sun latitudes.  The fields begin to move toward the zero line and the new SC 25 will begin.

To make the prediction one has to  use the black line, the north field strength minus the south field strength,  to make the prediction.  The time to make the prediction is when the black line is the furthest from the Y axis zero line.  This occurred in the spring of 2004 so they predicted SC24  to be small.  If you look at the black line, say in January 2018 it is about the same distance from the zero line so the gurus are saying SC25will be about the same size as SC24. 

If Leif Svalgaard reads this, he would probably say I have oversimplified the procedure and do not have it exactly right.  So be it. 

The National Weather Service posted the following   Solar experts predict the Sun’s activity in Solar Cycle 25 to be below average, similar to Solar Cycle 24

April 5, 2019 – Scientists charged with predicting the Sun’s activity for the next 11-year solar cycle say that it’s likely to be weak, much like the current one. The current solar cycle, Cycle 24, is declining and predicted to reach solar minimum – the period when the Sun is least active – late in 2019 or 2020.

Solar Cycle 25 Prediction Panel experts said Solar Cycle 25 may have a slow start, but is anticipated to peak with solar maximum occurring between 2023 and 2026, and a sunspot range of 95 to 130. This is well below the average number of sunspots, which typically ranges from 140 to 220 sunspots per solar cycle. The panel has high confidence that the coming cycle should break the trend of weakening solar activity seen over the past four cycles.

“We expect Solar Cycle 25 will be very similar to Cycle 24: another fairly weak cycle, preceded by a long, deep minimum,” said panel co-chair Lisa Upton, Ph.D., solar physicist with Space Systems Research Corp. “The expectation that Cycle 25 will be comparable in size to Cycle 24   means that the steady decline in solar cycle amplitude, seen from cycles 21-24, has come to an end and that there is no indication that we are currently approaching a Maunder-type minimum in solar activity.”

This is the Experts’ chart below and it shows the 24 SCs with the maximum sunspots ( see Y axis) and the time it occurred.. Also, the Experts have plotted SC25 on the chart::


The Experts are also predicting SC26 when they say “The expectation that SC 25 will be comparable in size to SC 24   means that the steady decline in solar cycle amplitude, seen from cycles 21-24, has come to an end and that there is no indication that we are currently approaching a Maunder-type minimum in solar activity.”

I wonder if that is wishful thinking?


Solar Cycle 24 is Nearing Completion.

Sometime ago, every month I blogged a brief report on the activity of the Sun.  I have the urge to do that again, so here goes.

Solar Cycle (SC) 24 has just about run its course. It is forecast to give over to SC 25 in late 2019/early 2020 and when it does, that’s call the 24SC minimum.

Sunspots are a proxy for Solar activity.  The chart below shows the average number of sunspots in each month.  The blue dashed line is a 13-month averaged sunspot count.  It is the official sunspot number.  (The formula for the count is shown at the end of this posting.)  The official number of sunspots peaked in April of 2014 thus the solar maximum happened then.

The chart below  illustrates how recent SCs compare to SC 24:


All three of the preceding SCs were much more active than SC24.

As side note,  the SCs on average last for 11 years, or saying another way, 132 months.  At one time, it was believed that if the SC was over before 11 years it was generally an active SC.  More than 11 years, less active.


The chart below shows the 24 SCs and the chart makers attempt at a SC25.  The X axis is in years from 1749 to an estimated 2040.  The Y axis is sunspots

One can see that SCs 23, 22, 21, 19, and 18 represent a very active sun.  The maker of the chart calls this the “modern warm period”.   Looking back the chart maker has noted the time of the “Dalton Minimum” and the “little ice age”.  These periods of low solar activity coincide with the periods of low global temperatures. Perhaps you can see why many scientists are forecasting that global temperatures will soon be dropping.  Also one can speculate that  the global warming  we have experienced may be a product of the past 60 years of a very active sun.    Ok, now one more reading of the chart might suggest that we are due for a period of low solar activity thus a drop in global temperatures.   The chart maker’s projection of SC 25 to  be lowest in recorded history is very likely to be wrong.  However the batting average of the predictors of future SCs is not too stellar  so who knows.

Throughout the recent past, claims were made that the global temperature was going to drop because SC 24 was relatively inactive.  I do not think that the temperature did drop.  I believe I read  one article where the claim was that SC 24 was the reason that the increased CO2 in the atmosphere did not raise the temperature as much as it should  have.  I don’t believe that one.

Was SC 24 definitely an uniquely quiet SC?  I think so.

The sunspot activity of the cycles in comparison. The numbers in the diagram are obtained by summing the monthly differences between the observed SSN and the mean (blue in Fig.1) up to the current cycle month 125. ( I am not sure whom to attribute this chart but I got it from Prof. Fritz Vahrenholt and Frank Bosse who write the diekaltesonne  blog.)

This shows that at just about 10-1/2 years,  SC 24  has had 4464 fewer sunspots than the average  SC.  It also shows that SCs 5 and 6, had the  fewest sunspot and those two SC are coincident with the Dalton Minimum.   SC 12, 13, 14, 15, and 16 were way low on sunspots and they coincided with the little ice age.

It is clear that the sun was much less active as demonstrated by the sunspot record.  I expected a clear sign by the end of its cycle, which we have not yet seen,  of a cooling global temperature  trend. Some think we have that, but I do not see what I expected from the UAH satellite global temperature readings.  The temperature  has declined since the last El Nino but it has not been lowered to the temperature before that El Nino.

Next a look at Solar Cycle 25.


Sunspot Counting–Woolf Number

The smoothed count is a 13-month averaged sunspot count using this Belgium’s formula:
Rs= (0.5 Rm-6 + Rm-5 + Rm-4 + Rm-3 + Rm-2 + Rm-1 + Rm + Rm+1 + Rm+2 + Rm+3 + Rm+4 + Rm+5 + 0.5 Rm+6 ) / 12
Rs = smoothed monthly sunspot count
Rm = One month’s actual sunspot count
The “-6” through “+6” appended to each Rm is the number of months before or after the month whose smoothed count is being calculated. The beginning and ending months in the formula are only given half the value of the others.*


The Endangerment Finding Needs To Be Repealed Quickly

Probably the most important environmental action the Trump administration can take is to eliminate the Endangerment Finding (EF). The EF was used to have CO2 and several other so-called greenhouse gases (GHGs) inserted in the Clean Air Act.   That action has allowed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to enact regulations without any input from Congress.  Giving the EPA free reign has given the radicals in that Department the leverage to try to regulate fossil fuels out of existence.


As recently as 30 January this year, just a little over a month ago, EPA Director Pruitt said in a Congressional hearing that he was reviewing a challenge to the EF.   Red teams, blue teams and all that but not one to my knowledge has been formed. Nothing seems to be getting done. It is over a year ago that the Pruitt was named Director.

Posting of that hearing by USA Today, reported:

“Pruitt spent much of the hearing touting some of the priorities he sees as important: aggressively cleaning up Superfund sites, modernizing water systems tainted by lead and cleanup of abandon mines.”

Good objectives but minor league compared to the EF.  And that list of his priorities will eventually be done as both parties want them done.  He needs to concentrate on getting things done that the Democrats will not do if they get back in power.

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Does The Green House Gas Effect Really Exist?–Part 2

The previous posting,  “Does the Greenhouse gas effect really exist–Part 1”,  looked at measured radiation of longwave infrared (IR)  that demonstrated the greenhouse gas effect.

There is another way to demonstrate the  greenhouse gas effect using the SURFRAD data.  I have selected SURFRAD data for the year 2016 for the Sioux Falls, South Dakota and Desert Rock, Nevada sites

Some thoughts about the following charts 1B and 3B.  These charts plot  the radiation data—both solar short wave and the Earth’s longwave IR plus the net Solar and net longwave IR.

Charts 2B and 4B show air temperature, wind speed, relative humidity and albedo.  These data are not used in the analysis but might prove valuable to someone interested in deriving a better understanding of the energy balance.

Figure 1B Monthly Means Sioux Falls SD:  Radiation Chart For 2016

Different from the earlier chart in Part 1 which showed a 24 hour continuous plot of data, the following 4 charts are the daily data in a given month combined and  the mean extracted for each data set.

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Does The Green House Gas Effect Really Exist?–Part 1

Does one have to deny that the so-called green house gases (GHG)s have an effect on global temperatures to be a skeptic?  Many of the big-league skeptics believe that the GHGs do play a part in global temperature.  So maybe not.

The following is a quote from Climate Change Reconsidered II** :

“ As carbon dioxide concentrations increase so too does the intensity of back radiation at the surface across the active wavebands of CO2, and because this radiation emanates from a lower and warmer layer of the atmosphere, the magnitude of the back radiation increases. Consequently, the net infrared radiation emanating from the surface is reduced, causing a rise in temperature that generates increased heat exchange and evaporation. This surface warming also contributes to an increase in convective instability”.

So, hold on and let me explain why I believe this.

First, a look at the big picture.   The Sun’s surface is somewhere about 5500 C.  Radiation goes out in all directions with some of it directed toward Earth.  This is Earth’s principal source of energy.  This radiation travels 93 million miles in about 8 minutes to reach Earth.  It loses much of its strength in the journey, but at the top of our atmosphere, its strength is nominally 1365 watts per square meter.  The Sun’s radiation mainly consists of photons of visible light, ultraviolet and infrared.  The full force of the Sun’s radiation seldom reaches the Earth surface because of clouds, reflection off snow and ice, scattering in the atmosphere for example and the angle that the Sun’s rays strike the surface.  Further complicating this topic is the fact on average, the Sun only shines on any place on Earth for more than 12 hours per day.

Many charts showing the Earth’s average energy budget use 340 w/m²  because when you factor in the length of the day and the spherical geometry of the Earth the effect is about ¼ the energy at the top of the atmosphere at noon.  While the Energy budget charts are useful, I believe they get in the way of understanding the GHG effect.  So, the following will uses actual measured radiation data and not the hypothetical 340w/m².

To get an idea of what happens at the surface, lets take a look at the data collected by the Surface Radiation Project. The Surface Radiation Budget Network (SURFRAD) was established in 1993 through the support of NOAA’s Office of Global Programs. The SURFRAD mission is clear:

“its primary objective is to support climate research with accurate, continuous, long-term measurements of the surface radiation budget over the United States”. 

SURFRAD currently has 7 operating stations.  These stations are very well equipped. They can measure upwelling and downwelling solar, upwelling and downwelling IR, temperature, RH, wind speed, cloud cover, UVb  and several others.   The SURFRAD website allows you to make charts of the collected day.  For starters I have plotted some data from the Desert Rock, Nevada SURFRAD site.

Figure 1A

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What?  Downwelling IR Radiation–Why?  Condensation Nuclei (Cloud?)–How?  Tyndall (Colloid) Scattering