Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Sunspots Coming 'Round the Mountain When They Come?

The best experts at NASA have been predicting the imminent ramp-up of Sunspot cycle #24 since 2006. Well, here it is almost 2010, over three years later, and there has been a bit of an upsurge in Sunspot activity. At long last, it appears a Sunspot ramp-up may be coming 'round the mountain* pretty soon - but they won't be drivin' six white horses when they come!

The base figure above is from NASA/NOAA and shows their latest prediction (May 2009) which is the lowest and latest of the four red hoops. You can see that the actual Sunspot observations (black jig-jags with blue smoothing) do not quite match up with NASA's latest prediction. They also fall far short of the previous predictions which I have annotated into the figure as the three higher red hoops. [Click on image for larger version.]

Note that NASA's March 2006 prediction (the highest red hoop) was that Sunspot cycle #24 would start in late 2006 or early 2007 and peak at 156 or higher in 2012 or before. That ill-fated prediction is still online here. The NASA researchers used the best computer models of the Sun's magnetic conveyor belt and concluded #24 would peak at 156 or higher, "30% to 50% stronger than the previous one" and it would be a "doozy".

That wrong prediction played into Global Warming alarmism because high Sunspot activity is historically related to the Medieval Warm Period that was more than 1ºC (2ºF) warmer than current temperatures. Ain't gonna happen!

As the figure indicates, their second prediction, made in October 2008, that #24 would peak at 134, and their third prediction, made in January 2009, that #24 would peak at 104, also missed their marks.

Well, in January 2009, a non-expert Ira predicted #24 would not ramp up until late 2009 or early 2010 and would peak at a weak 80 sometime in 2013 (see low gray hoop).

It was not until May 2009 that NASA followed my example (:^) and predicted #24 would peak at 90 in 2013, far below the "doozy" they had originally predicted.


You can follow the coming ramp-up of #24 in the right-hand column of this Blog. Scroll down just below the Dilbert cartoon and you'll see the latest NASA image of the Sun and, below that, their latest graph of actual and predicted Sunspot activity, along with descriptive information from me and links to related postings. Below that you will see the World Climate Widget that displays the current Sunspot Number and Solar Flux, along with CO2 readings and temperature anomaly.


The apparent solar minimum will be mighty "Inconvenient" (to borrow from our former Vice President) to the Global Warming alarmists. But it is good news for those of us who have been a bit skeptical about our being close to any kind of "tipping point" with respect to Global Warming.

See the NASA description of the relationship between low Sunspot Numbers and historic climate cooling. "This [1645 to 1715] period of solar inactivity also corresponds to a climatic period called the 'Little Ice Age' when rivers that are normally ice-free froze and snow fields remained year-round at lower altitudes." If low counts persist for several more cycles, we may be in for several decades of global temperature stabilization or even a bit of cooling. That is good news that will give us some time to solve the issue of rapidly rising carbon gasses that contribute to warming.
Ira Glickstein

*from She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain

She'll be coming 'round the mountain when she comes, (when she comes). She'll be coming 'round the mountain, she'll be coming 'round the mountain, She'll be coming 'round the mountain when she comes. (when she comes).

The same structure is repeated with the following verses:
She'll be drivin' six white horses when she comes, etc.
Oh we'll all come out to meet her when she comes, etc.
We will kill the old red rooster when she comes, etc.
We'll be havin' chicken and dumplings when she comes, etc.
We'll all be shoutin' "Halleluja" when she comes, etc.

Contrast this to the original lyrics of "When the Chariot Comes":

O, who will drive the chariot When she comes? O, who will drive the chariot When she comes? O, who will drive the chariot, O, who will drive the chariot, O, who will drive the chariot When she comes?
King Jesus, he'll be driver when she comes, When she comes . . . .
She'll be loaded with bright Angels When she comes . . . .
She will neither rock nor totter, When she comes . . . .
She will run so level and steady, When she comes . . . .
She will take us to the portals, When she comes . . . .


JohnS said...

Ira, I am not competent to understand the math however I always enjoy your discussions of global cooling.warming and sun spot activity. One thing I noticed. It took nine years for the sunspot activities to decline - from 00 to 09 yet both you and NASA perdict the next peak in only 4-5 years. How come?

Ira Glickstein said...

Great question, John! (And don't worry about the "math" because even the experts at NASA don't really know why Sunspot cycles start and end or when they will do so).

We have good Sunspot data from 1610 onwards. Old cycles are said to end and the new cycle is said to begin when the Sunspot Number hits a minimum. Normally, Sunspot Number does not decline to zero.

Modern researchers can tell cycles apart by their magnetic polarity, which changes every other cycle. This new technology revealed that spots from the old cycle can intermingle with spots from the new cycle during the period of transition. Spots from cycle #23, just ending, have intermingled with spots from cycle #24, just beginning. The first #24 spot appeared in January 2008 and what we think is the last #23 spot was observed in May 2009, an overlap of a year and a few months! So the transition was in late 2008.

Cycles are nominally 11 years long, but they can be a few years shorter or longer. Thus, the time from peak to transition can be as short as 4 years or as long as 9 years.

Sunspot cycle #23 that recently ended, peaked 4 years after it started and has taken 9 years to decline, a total of 13 years!

Early this year, I predicted a #24 peak in mid-2013, which would be 5 years from it's start in 2008. NASA's latest prediction is for #24 to peak in early 2013, but, at the time of their prediction (May 2009) they wrongly thought the transition had occurred in 2007.

I expect #24 to be 12-13 years long and relatively weak, peaking at a count of 80 or less. NASA's early predictions were for a much higher peak (156+) and a shorter duration. Generally, higher peaks are associated with shorter duration and vice-versa.

If you click on the figure and look closely at the magnified version, you will see that the monthly Sunspot Numbers (black) jig-jag up to 30 above and below the smoothed (blue) value. When we predict peaks we are talking about the smoothed value.

Over the past week, #24 has jagged up to a count over 40. That is what lead me to say it is probably on its ramp-up. However, there have been a couple of previous jags that turned out to be false alarms. #24 is down to 26 today according to the World Climate Widget in the right-hand column of our Blog.

We won't know the smoothed yearly values for more than a year nor the smoothed peak for five years or more. Until then, we can have fun watching for Sunspots and monitoring the counts every day on this Blog!

Ira Glickstein