Waiting for the next sunspot cycle: 2019-2030 

Posted: September 4, 2016 by oldbrew in Cycles, Solar physics, Uncertainty
Tags: ,

A solar cycle 24 prediction chart [credit:NASA]

A solar cycle 24 prediction chart [credit:NASA]

What follows are extracts, omitting a few of the more technical aspects which can be viewed in the GWPF’s full article here. Possible ‘colder climates’ get a mention.

Sten Odenwald of NASA Heliophysics Education Consortium writes:
Forecasters are already starting to make predictions for what might be in store as our sun winds down its current sunspot cycle in a few years. Are we in for a very intense cycle of solar activity, or the beginning of a century-long absence of sunspots and a rise in colder climates?

Ever since Samuel Schwabe discovered the 11-year ebb and flow of sunspots on the sun in 1843, predicting when the next sunspot cycle will appear, and how strong it will be, has been a cottage industry among scientists and non-scientists alike.

For solar physicists, the sunspot cycle is a major indicator of how the sun’s magnetic field is generated, and the evolution of various patterns of plasma circulation near the solar surface and interior. Getting these forecasts bang-on would be proof that we indeed have a ‘deep’ understanding of how the sun works that is a major step beyond just knowing it is a massive sphere of plasma heated by thermonuclear fusion in its core.

So how are we doing?
For over a century, scientists have scrutinized the shapes of dozens of individual sunspot cycles to glean features that could be used for predicting the circumstances of the next one.

Basically, we know that 11-years is an average and some cycles are as short as 9 years or as long as 14. The number of sunspots during the peak year, called sunspot maximum, can vary from as few as 50 to as many as 260. The speed with which sunspot numbers rise to a maximum can be as long as 80 months for weaker sunspot cycles, and as short as 40 months for the stronger cycles.

All of these features, and many other statistical rules-of-thumb, lead to predictive schemes of one kind or another, but they generally fail to produce accurate and detailed forecasts of the ‘next’ sunspot cycle.

The forecasts suggest Cycle 25 might continue the declining trend of polar field decrease seen in the last three sunspot cycles, and be even weaker than Cycle 24 with far fewer than 100 spots.

So what can we bank on?
Statistically speaking, the current Cycle 24 is scheduled to draw to a close about 11 years after the previous sunspot minimum in January 2008, which means sometime in 2019. We entered the Cycle 24 sunspot minimum period in 2016 because in February and June, we already had two spot-free days. As the number of spot-free days continues to increase in 2017-2018, we will start seeing the new sunspots of Cycle 25 appear sometime in late-2019. Sunspot maximum is likely to occur in 2024, with most forecasts predicting about half as many sunspots as in Cycle 24.

The bad news is that some studies show sunspot magnetic field strengths have been declining since 2000 and are already close to the minimum needed to sustain sunspots on the solar surface. This is also supported by independent work in 2015 published in the journal Nature. By Cycle 25 or 26, magnetic fields may be too weak to punch through the solar surface and form recognizable sunspots at all, spelling the end of the sunspot cycle phenomenon, and the start of another Maunder Minimum cooling period perhaps lasting until 2100.

But the good news seems to be that none of the current forecasts suggest Cycle 25 will be entirely absent.

Source: Waiting For The Next Sunspot Cycle: 2019-2030 | The Global Warming Policy Forum (GWPF)

  1. oldbrew says:

    ‘Are we in for a very intense cycle of solar activity, or the beginning of a century-long absence of sunspots and a rise in colder climates?’

    Aren’t we ‘encouraged’ to think any solar variation would be swamped by supposed man-made warming, or is NASA rowing back on that one?

  2. J Martin says:

    Leif Svalgaard thinks that SC 25 will be much the same strength as SC 24 and he predicted sc24 correctly. So the question in my mind is whether the input wattage of sc24 and sc25 is enough to maintain temperatures, increase temperatures or lead to a gradual decrease in temperatures. But then again El Nino seems to be the major influence at present.

  3. daveburton says:

    J Martin wrote, “Leif Svalgaard thinks that SC 25 will be much the same strength as SC 24 and he predicted sc24 correctly.

    Well, he was spot-on for the magnitude of SC24, but (like just about everyone) he was way off for the timing.

  4. tom0mason says:

    But surely all this is just academic. What really matters is what the consensus of UN approved ‘solar scientist’ and their models decide when and what the sunspot number will be.

  5. daveburton says:

    BTW, that bar-chart of SC24 predictions seems to be similar to the one on p.18 of this report:

    I extracted page 18 here:
    and the chart here:

  6. Jaime Jessop says:

    Zharkova et al predict that the peak of SC25 will be slightly down on SC24. After that peak, they predict solar activity will drop to near zero and we could see Maunder Minimum type conditions from about 2025 to 2053. SC26 will be very weak.


    If this does happen, we will then see just how significant (or not) anthropogenic CO2-driven global warming is in comparison to cooling induced via low solar activity. The next decade is going to be a very revelatory one in terms of climate science and solar science, that’s for sure.

  7. TinyCO2 says:

    Since the real value fell between the upper and lower bounds of prediction, this proves that the science of solar cycle prediction is sound. There is now a consensus that the next solar cylcle will fall somewhere between similar bounds… unless it doesn’t but we have to accept that sometimes natural variability can get the science wrong but that sooner or later real time observations will match predictions, even if we have to reassess how we count sunspots and/or adjust past records.

    Isn’t that how consensus works? 😉

  8. There is more bad news. Schwabe cycles appear to pile up or pile down over several cycles and although the climatic effects of one cycle may be small the cumulative effect of five or more in the same direction appear to be associated with climate change.

    While this might satisfy those who take pleasure in saying “I told you so”, others might wish that the poor of the world should continue to enjoy the modern warm period.


  9. James Kaidy says:

    Everybody is still ignoring the thoroughly predictable aspect of this and that is the movement of the solar system barycenter into and out of the solar disk. This happens on 167 year cycles. Last time this happened was during the Dalton Minimum. Every one of these disrupted solar cycles go back in time on these cycles including the Maunder, Sporer, Wolf, and they are accompanied by cold climate. The first to propose this mechanism was Landscheidt. He is due up for being given attribution and name for this latest minimum.

  10. tallbloke says:

    James, we haven’t ignored Landscheidt or the motion of the Sun relative to the system barycentre at this website. However, your statements are inaccurate, and the issue is complex. One thing Landscheidt did observe is that when the barycentre path skims the solar surface within 0.1 solar radii for several years, there is a solar slowdown in activity. We last got one of those in the 1970s.

  11. oldbrew says:

    For reference: New Little Ice Age Instead of Global Warming? – by Dr. Theodor Landscheidt [2002?]

    From the link:

    Fig. 4: Close correlation between surface land air temperature in the Northern Hemisphere (thick curve) and the changing length of the 11-year sunspot cycle (thin curve), indicating the varying intensity of the sun’s eruptional activity (From Friis-Christensen and Lassen, 1991). Contrary to the curve in Fig. 3, representing the steadily increasing amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the thin solar curve covaries with the undulations of observed temperature.

  12. I say we have to wait and see but thus far the data is showing that solar activity should be low going forward.

    This current solar cycle probably 12 + years in length.

  13. Paul Vaughan says:

    Regarding the graph above at September 4, 2016 at 8:10 pm

    As I have pointed out far more times than should be necessary:
    The spatial pattern (NOT the global average) relates to solar cycle deceleration, not solar cycle length. Fram Strait ice export and western nordic seas ice extent relate to solar cycle length. It’s a spatiotemporal differintegral relationship. Ongoing ignorance of such a simple relationship maintains ongoing suspicion. What raises more suspicion than anything is the insistence on false uniformity assumptions. A blend is not a contrast. Mathematically they are DIFFERENT variables.

  14. Paul Vaughan says:

    FC wrote:

    “He estimated that the variation in ocean temperature within one solar cycle is about 0.1 degree Celsius.”

    A blend is not a contrast.

    Please everyone: Get serious. The spatial uniformity assumption was dead on arrival.

    Let me vent:
    Holy f***ing h*ll!!!!!

  15. Paul Vaughan says:


    Center a map on the Warm Pool.
    Rotate it half-a-turn (180 degrees).
    Notice a land-ocean X-pattern. It’s the simple key to partitioning of EOP by climate.

    Most of the pattern will be obvious (to the naked eye), but not necessarily the Himalaya-SPCZ (land-ocean 3rd pole) symmetry….

    Because the US is unwisely trying to deceive China about climate, the US is going to end up getting deceived by China.

    Illustrations forthcoming.

  16. ren says:

    The Ap-index reached its minimum in October 2009, 10 months after sunspot minimum. Highest monthly Ap-value so far this solar cycle was reached in March 2015 (16,3), slightly higher than March 2012 (16,1) and September 2015 (15,8). In June 2015, the smoothed Ap-value passed 10 for the very first time this solar cycle. Most of the minor geomagnetic storms in 2015 were the result from high speed streams from coronal holes. Table underneath summarizes the highest monthly Ap-value per solar cycle (since 1932). Notice how the highest values almost always happen in spring or autumn, and usually 2-4 years after SC-maximum. So far this solar cycle (June 2015), we still did not experience an extreme geomagnetic storm (Kp=9), however very intense storms (the strongest sofar in SC24) took place on 17 March and 22-23 June 2015 (Dst resp. -223 and -204 nT). See also the updated graph underneath from this STCE Newsitem (26 March 2014), showing the overall weakness of the geomagnetic disturbances in SC24.

  17. ren says:

    Comparison of UV solar activity in the three most recent solar cycles (SC) 22-24. The thick curves show the Mg II index timeseries twice smoothed with a 55-day boxcar. Dates of minima of solar cycles (YYYYMMDD) were determined from the smoothed Mg II index.

  18. ren says:

    It can be seen that the magnetic activity of the sun is similar to the previous cycles, but at a much lower level.

  19. ren says:

    The last few decades were marked by considerable successes in helioclimatology. Both
    satellite and ground-based observations have brought a lot of new evidence for a link
    between solar activity and the phenomena of the lower atmosphere. The progress in theory,
    experiment and modeling has also significantly increased our knowledge of the Sun and
    solar-terrestrial connections. Nevertheless, the absolutely conclusive proof of the reality of
    the solar-climate link is still missing. The lack of facts and understanding about the
    connecting processes at work is the main cause of this shortcoming. Data obtained by
    experimental observation are quite precise but rather short in time scale. Paleoproxies are
    much longer but their uncertainty generally increases as a function of time from the present.
    Thus, in solar-climatic research we face a kind of “uncertainty principle”:

    Moreover, it has been shown that the Sun-climate connection, even if it actually exists, may
    be realized by an indirect and nonlinear way. As a result the search for a link between solar
    activity and weather and climate has turned out to be a more difficult task than was
    previously anticipated. Quite possibly further future research in helioclimatology will
    follow the guidelines envisaged below:
    1. Further gathering and accumulation of the information together with its subsequent
    systematization. This concerns both instrumental monitoring of solar-cosmic and
    geophysical parameters and work on constructing new paleoreconstructions of solar
    activity and climate. The development of methods of paleoastrophysics and
    paleoclimatology is an integral part of this work.
    2. The improvement of the methods of statistical analysis, particularly, methods aimed at
    the search and detection of nonlinear interrelations between the different time series.
    3. Further laboratory research of the physical processes which possibly provide a link
    between solar activity and the low atmosphere.
    4. Increasing our understanding about the climatic system and improvements of methods
    of climatic modeling.
    2.2 Paleoastrophysics of nitrate
    Nitrate ions (NO3
    ) concentration in polar ice of Antarctica and Greenland has been under
    investigation for many years (Zeller and Parker, 1981; Herron, 1982; Legrand et al., 1989;
    Mayewski et al., 1993; Dreschhoff and Zeller, 1994, 1998). The properties of nitrate record in
    ice are connected with its mechanism of generation. According to Logan (1983); Legrand
    and Kirschner (1990), Mayewski et al. (1990) nitrate “precursors” – the various NOx (N, NO,
    NO2) and NOy (N, NO, NO2, NO3, HN2O5, N2O5, HO2NO2, ClONO2, BrONO2) molecules –
    are formed at different altitudes of the atmosphere:
    a. In the troposphere (due to industrial activity, biomass burning, soil exhalation,
    lightning and the influence of galactic cosmic rays).
    b. In the stratosphere and higher altitudes (due to biogenic N2O oxidation, galactic cosmic
    rays, solar cosmic rays, solar UV radiation and relativistic electron precipitation).

  20. ren says:

    Two sets of nitrate (NO3−) concentration data, obtained from Central Greenland and East Antarctic (Dronning Maud Land) ice cores, were analyzed statistically. Distinct century-scale (50–150 yr) variability was revealed in both data sets during AD 1576–1990. It was found that century-type variation in Greenland and Antarctic nitrate correlates fairly significantly with the corresponding Gleissberg cycle: (a) in sunspot number over 1700–1970 AD; (b) in 10Be concentration in Central and South Greenland over 1576–1970 AD. Thus, presence of century-scale relationship between polar nitrate and solar activity was confirmed over the last 4 centuries. That proves that NO3− concentration in polar ice caps could serve as indicator of long-term solar variability.

  21. Geoff Sharp says:

    Tallbloke says:

    One thing Landscheidt did observe is that when the barycentre path skims the solar surface within 0.1 solar radii for several years, there is a solar slowdown in activity. We last got one of those in the 1970s.

    Landscheidt did not make this discovery as far as I can tell. He was aware of this phenomenon but did not see the link to solar slow downs. Instead he thought the disordered inner loop orbit as described as a “major instability event” was responsible for the rise and fall of animal populations, economic turning points, stock prices, interest rates, global periods of general instability and even human creativity, later he associated what he called the ” PTC event” with changes to the ENSO pattern. So I have found no link to solar grand minima when the barycentre path skims the solar surface within 0.1 solar radii for several years in Landscheidt’s research.

    Landscheidt used the planet position of Saturn, Uranus, Neptune opposite Jupiter as his marker for solar grand minima, during this period there is no disordered orbit. The disordered orbit (or when the barycentre path skims the solar surface within 0.1 solar radii for several years) can only occur when J/U/N are opposite S (and Saturn needs to be in a specific position) that I call the AMP event.

    I was lucky enough to stumble on this discovery which adds to Charvàtovà’s theory where she recognized grand minima can only occur during her “disordered phase” which is a long time period of around 100 years when several AMP events can occur. The individual AMP events cause the “disordered pattern” that she observed.

    More info can be obtained at:

  22. oldbrew says:

    I may be misinterpreting it but Charvàtovà also refers to 370-year ‘exceptional segments’ and we’re about 370 years on from the start of the Maunder Minimum.

    Update: ‘When there is full phase separation, we have the conditions last seen during the Maunder minimum, 370 years ago.’ – Prof. Zharkova, 2015

    “In cycle 26, the two waves exactly mirror each other – peaking at the same time but in opposite hemispheres of the Sun. Their interaction will be disruptive, or they will nearly cancel each other. We predict that this will lead to the properties of a ‘Maunder minimum’,” said Zharkova. “Effectively, when the waves are approximately in phase, they can show strong interaction, or resonance, and we have strong solar activity. When they are out of phase, we have solar minimums. When there is full phase separation, we have the conditions last seen during the Maunder minimum, 370 years ago.”

    Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2015-07-irregular-heartbeat-sun-driven-dynamo.html

  23. Geoff Sharp says:

    If the 370 year segment existed it would be seen repeating across the Holocene, we don’t have a LIA or Maunder Minimum every 370 years?. The only pattern that repeats that I have seen is the 4627 year cycle. The outer 4 planets come back to their original positions every 4627 years. ( for the last few years cycles at least)

  24. oldbrew says:

    Maybe it depends whether the hemispheres are in phase or out of phase, as Zharkova theorises?

  25. Geoff Sharp says:

    No need to add to the complexity when the simple solution works. The planet positions determine grand minima, when the conditions are right the disordered orbit is huge and traces out a different line. Just let the planets do their 4627 year dance and everything is explained.

  26. Paul Vaughan says:

    ren quoted
    bureaucratic red tape:

    “Nevertheless, the absolutely conclusive proof of the reality of the solar-climate link is still missing. The lack of facts and understanding about the connecting processes at work is the main cause of this shortcoming.”

    That’s a strictly false statement. Aggregate proof exists.

    Each time these lies are repeated we are reminded that good climate leadership must come from outside USA because in the US the skeptic movement has been infiltrated and sabotaged by agents aggressively committed to a higher purpose. The higher purpose overrides truth, honesty, and fair judgement.

    Submission to the orchestrated American shepherding suggests irrational belief that something is to be gained by falling in line. There’s nothing to be gained. It just makes people look gullible, easily dominated, stupid, complicit, and corrupt.

    The superior option is to boot the orchestraitors off stage without further delay. This should have been done 4 or 5 years ago. The delay is informative. Delay is the preferred tactic of administrators. The appearance is that we’re dealing with administrative minds. That isn’t helpful. We don’t need more of that kind of thinking. That’s the wrong direction and it can only serve to bristle as it runs against the natural grain.

    The best way to deal with a corrupt administrator is to shut down their department.

  27. oldbrew says:

    Re lack of proof of solar-climate link: ‘The lack of facts and understanding about the connecting processes at work is the main cause of this shortcoming.’

    Oliver Heaviside had a good quote for that kind of thinking:
    ‘Shall I refuse my dinner because I do not fully understand the process of digestion?’

    In other words, don’t pretend observations are irrelevant just because they can’t be fully explained.

    NB Wikipedia says:
    ‘Although at odds with the scientific establishment for most of his life, Heaviside changed the face of telecommunications, mathematics, and science for years to come.’

    If the ‘scientific establishment’ was never challenged not much progress would ever be made.

  28. oldmanK says:

    Geoff Sharp said “Just let the planets do their 4627 year dance and everything is explained.”

    Interesting. Do we know what the dance choreography was like 4627 years ago? 4627 (2611 bce) was an interesting period in some respects. We do not know what was ‘observed’ then but we have been left a record of sorts.

    Nice to know about Oliver Heaviside; it is becoming more evident who are those who really lead the herd – ultimately.

  29. Geoff Sharp says:

    We have 20,000 years of data that records the position of the planets within a reasonable framework of accuracy.

    The big question for the maths boffins is if the 4 outer planets only repeat their positions every 4627 years, how do we accept any repeating patterns concerning the big four in timescales less than 4627 years?

  30. oldbrew says:

    There are sunspot cycles every ~11 years, or ~22 years for the magnetic cycle, so looking at periods as long as 4627 years is not going to explain that. But at least the next twenty years or whatever – e.g. cycles 25 and 26 – should give us some interesting data to play with.

  31. TLMango says:

    During the Ice-age there is 90,000 years when the 4627 year alignment
    cycle does dominate. During this period the Hallstatt cycle is the long
    period of 2313 years. But the great alignment cycle is based solely on
    alignment. It takes eccentricity and acceleration to produce strong magnetic
    fields throughout the entire solar system. The kind of magnetic field strength
    that we have during an inter-glacial is due to the acceleration of the sun.

  32. Geoff Sharp says:

    The Schwabe and Hale cycles look to have no connection to the outer 4 planets and the Milankovitch cycle is a cycle of the Earth not the Sun. My point is that any planetary theory using barycentric movements cannot have a cycle length shorter than 4627 years, the outer planets positions never repeat during this time. So the Jose, De Vries, Hallstatt, 370 segments etc are all fictional.

    And the bad news is that the 4627 year cycle could be a short term event as every 4627 years Jupiter moves about 2 deg away from the other 3 according to the latest ephemeris.

  33. tchannon says:

    Geoff Sharp,

    Tim writes, shorter Periods are faster frequencies, that is, are harmonics and therefore would be a rational detail structure forming the form of the entire entity. I see no conflict other than declaring a single entity as the one true god-form.

    Whether there is a barycentre effect, I sit on the wall.

  34. el gordo says:

    ‘So the Jose, De Vries, Hallstatt, 370 segments etc are all fictional.’

    Geoff you maybe correct, but here we see a 1600 year cycle which appears to have merit.


    Are you saying the Gleissberg is a fiction?

  35. el gordo says:

    Geoff the 1600 year cycle looks good.


    Are you saying the Gleissberg is irrelevant.

  36. oldbrew says:

    There’s a better match between 35 U-N and 302 J-S according to the JPL data (~5999 years).

    Obviously there’s a greater frequency of 3 of the 4 planets ‘lining up’, e.g. S-U-N was close in 1990 and J-U-N in 1997.

  37. oldbrew says:

    Presence of the Solar de Vries Cycle (∼205 years) during the Last Ice Age


    Certain characteristic periodicities in the Δ14C record from tree rings, such as the well-known 11-yr Schwabe cycle, are known to be of solar origin. The origin of longer-period cycles, such as the 205-yr de Vries cycle, in the Δ14C record was less certain, and it was possible to attribute it either to solar or climatic variability. Here, we demonstrate that the de Vries cycle is present in 10Be data from the GRIP ice core during the last ice age (25 to 50 kyr BP). Analysis of the amplitude of variation of this cycle shows it to be modulated by the geomagnetic field, indicating that the de Vries cycle is indeed of solar, rather than climatic, origin.

  38. Roger Clague says:

    oldbrew says:
    September 10, 2016 at 10:11 am
    Presence of the Solar de Vries Cycle (∼205 years) during the Last Ice Age

    The title assumes that which is being investigated, the cause of the cycle
    The paper says:

    Analysis of the amplitude of variation of this cycle shows it to be modulated by the geomagnetic field, indicating that the de Vries cycle is indeed of solar, rather than climatic, origin.

    I can see the paper quoted has data that shows the 205 -year cycle is affected by the Earth’s magnetic field. But does the suns field cause the Earth’s field?

    Not according to Huapei Wang quoted here


    “There’s really no way to predict what will happen after that, given the random nature of the magnetohydrodynamic process of the geodynamo.”

    He says the process causing Earth’s magnetic field Is random and nor caused by the sun.
    So the 205-year cycle is not solar. caused

  39. Geoff Sharp says:

    El Gordo, the Gliessberg cycle is a background trend of solar activity not taking into account grand minima. It is the natural force driven by the outer 4 planets that drive solar modulation. When U/N are opposite the force is at it weakest, ie the solar orbits are at their weakest. When U/N are together the force is at maximum as it drives the Sun to its maximum away from the SSB. The higher the solar angular momentum the bigger the cycle (that can also be the reverse with the inner loop orbit).

    The Gliessberg cycle is good but not part of the grand minima cycles.

  40. Geoff Sharp says:

    The De Vries cycle is not a cycle…it is the most common gap between grand minima.

  41. Paul Vaughan says:

    el gordo, the year, day, & QBO are all fictional. Belief in their existence will be made illegal in california.

  42. oldbrew says:

    ‘But does the suns field cause the Earth’s field?’

    As the biggest magnet (by size) in the solar system it might have something to offer.

  43. oldbrew says:

    ‘The EMI (El Niño Modoki index) has a clear decadal period, similar to the solar cycle, and demonstrates a significant positive correlation with sunspot numbers’

    Figure 1. Annual mean Solar-Spot Numbers SSN (solid grey line) and El Niño Modoki Index EMI (dotted black line) from 1890 to 2015, with a lag of two years. [credit: GWPF]

  44. oldbrew says:

    ‘Fujiki and collaborators show that there’s a distinct correlation between polar coronal-hole area and observed galactic cosmic rays. Cosmic rays from within our galaxy have long been known to exhibit a 22-year periodicity. Fujiki and collaborators show that the periodicity of the galactic cosmic-ray activity tracks that of the polar coronal-hole area, with a ~1-year lag time — which is equivalent to the propagation time of the solar wind to the termination shock.’ [bold added]

  45. TLMango says:

    “But does the suns field cause the Earth’s field?’

    Indirectly it does. The earth’s dynamo is dependent
    on the acceleration of the sun. The earth is caught up
    between an accelerating sun and a single large moon.
    All of the Milankovic cycles can be traced back to the
    360 degree rotation of the sun’s outwardly directed
    Come and visit weathercycles.wordpress and see my
    latest work on this subject. Thanks OB