So What’s Up With Sunspot Cycle 24 Anyway?

Curiouser and Curiouser

Sunspot 1011 on 01/20/2009

Sunspot 1011 on 01/20/2009

I’ve not written for months on the state of the sun, and the strange lack of sunspots.  Go ahead – click on the thumbnail to see a blow-up of the sun’s surface today. There’s one (count ’em, one) sunspot to be seen, a very week one.   It’s labelled on the image.

And it’s an oddball in that it also has the wrong magnetic polarity (albeit weakly) for this cycle.  It’s almost a throw-back to the previous sunspot cycle.

But the question remains, is this late-starting sunspot cycle all that unusual, historically?  David Archibald at Watt’s Up With That gives us some perspective.

Solar Cycle 23 had its genesis with the magnetic reversal at the Solar Cycle 22 maximum. As the graph above shows, Solar Cycle 23 is now 19 years old. Only 9% of the named solar cycles produced spots after this.

The graph also shows the position of Solar Cycle 24 relative to its month of genesis. Solar Cycle 24 is now the second latest of the 24 named solar cycles. January is 105 months after the Solar Cycle 23 maximum. Only Solar Cycle 5, the first half of the Dalton Minimum, is later.

So yes, this cycle is starting very late, but there’s at least one known to have started later.  If the pattern holds true, it will also be weak.

If Solar Cycle 24 is going to be as weak as expected, the monthly sunspot number should remain under 10 by the end of 2009.

We’ll have a chance to keep track of these numbers to see if the prediction holds.   (Space Weather has an alternate calculation of the sunspot number that is widely used).

As for sunspot 1011, a reader of Watt’s Up With That has an interesting comment.

The newest from
Yesterday’s sunspot (NOAA 1011) has rapidly faded away. The sunspot’s low latitude suggests it may have been a member of old Solar Cycle 23; the sunspot’s magnetic polarity was unusual and did not clearly identify it as a member of either Cycle 23 or Cycle 24. Credit: SOHO/MDI

So, maybe, Solar Cycle 23 has not yet run out.


Explore posts in the same categories: Astronomy, Global Warming, Science

2 Comments on “So What’s Up With Sunspot Cycle 24 Anyway?”

  1. Ken Calvert. Says:

    I have a feeling that the Copenhagen Conference at the end of this year is going to be moken or broken on the basis of sunspots.

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