Solar Cycle Continues To Be The Weakest In 2 Centuries

The sun in July 2017

By Frank Bosse and Fritz Vahrenholt
(Translated/edited by P Gosselin)

Our source of energy and life at the center of our solar system was significantly below normal with respect to activity last month.

The measured sunspot number (SSN) was 18.3. That was only 36% of what is typical (51) this far into the solar cycle – calculated from the previous 23 solar cycles recorded.

The sun was completely free of spots on 11 days in July. Notable: while during last month the sun’s northern hemisphere was more active (in June all sunspots were in the northern hemisphere), last month the southern hemisphere was the most active part with 60% of the sunspots appearing there. The following diagram shows the course of solar cycle 24 thus far:

The current solar cycle 24 (red) compared to another similar solar cycle 5 (black) and the mean of the previous 23 cycles (blue).

The following chart is a comparison of all the solar cycles, 104 months in:

Comparison of sunspot activity of all cycles since 1755, accumulated deviation from the mean.

The outlook for solar activity that is coming after the current cycle is somewhat uncertain. The error in the polar field data that has been known since May, 2017, still has yet to be corrected. Thus it is not possible to make any reliable forecasts for the strength of the upcoming cycle.

One thing is certain however: the cycle will be again below normal strength. The field experiment surrounding a long inactive sun thus continues.

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The first chart above shows that the current cycle is the weakest since solar cycle 6, which occurred close to 200 years ago.

 

25 responses to “Solar Cycle Continues To Be The Weakest In 2 Centuries”

  1. tom0mason

    Your diagram showing “The current solar cycle 24 (red) compared to another similar solar cycle 5 (black) and the mean of the previous 23 cycles (blue).” is interesting but as many people have pointed out, solar cycle 12 (December 1878 with a smoothed sunspot number of 2.2 and ended in March 1890) shows a better approximation to the current solar cycle. See http://www.solen.info/solar/images/comparison_similar_cycles.png where cycle 12 is cyan (pale blue/green) and the current cycle in black.

    Some scientific papers managed to predict its arrival and strength fairly accurately http://www.leif.org/research/Dikpati-Prediction-2005GL025221.pdf (Received 13 November 2005; revised 28 December 2005; accepted 11 January 2006; published 3 March 2006).
    And the 2010 paper https://www.researchgate.net/publication/233861189_On_The_Prediction_of_Solar_Cycle_24 — ‘On The Prediction of Solar Cycle 24’ by Dhani Herdiwijaya, and within it is a curious musing —

    However, even when the level of solar activity can be forecasted with reasonable
    accuracy, the prediction of exceptional events will always provide new challenges. A
    below-average cycle is capable of producing severe space weather. These include solar
    radio bursts that overwhelm GPS [such as on 6 December 2006, solar energetic-particle
    events that reach Earth without warning [often observed as ground level events or GLEs
    (Shea and Smart, 2000) and shock waves (Herdiwijaya, Kurniasari, 2008; Herdiwijaya,
    Hermawan, 2009)], and the possibility of solar activity at a location on the disk is
    determined by conditions far from that location. Also, the great geomagnetic storm of
    1859 of Cycle 10, for instance, occurred during a solar cycle of about the same size at
    peaked sunspot number around 98. The National Academy of Sciences found that if a
    similar storm occurred today, it could cause $1 to 2 trillion in damages to society’s high-
    tech infrastructure and require four to ten years for complete recovery. For comparison,
    Hurricane Katrina caused “only” $80 to 125 billion in damage. In the respected way, the
    sun is behaving in very interesting way, but an unexpected behavior.

    Considering that the coronal hole that has shown up over recent times has caused some upset to weather forecasting (Europe’s last winter’s stratospheric warming it caused leading to anomalous movement of the jetstream and the transient Arctic warming), maybe Dhani Herdiwijaya has a point here.

    1. tom0mason

      Oops my error

      The Dikpati-Prediction-2005GL025221.pdf was the inaccurate one from leif.org, saying as it does, that they expected that cycle 24 would have a larger sunspot count that cycle 23.

      However the Dhani Herdiwijaya stands as the remarkably accurate one.

  2. tom0mason

    As a point of solar interest a new paper is out by A. I. Shapiro et al. called ‘The nature of solar brightness variations’ Nature Astronomy (2017). DOI: 10.1038/s41550-017-0217-y
    There is a summary of it at https://phys.org/news/2017-08-variable-sunshine-sun-brightness-fluctuates.html

    A team headed by the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Göttingen reports this result in today’s issue of Nature Astronomy. For the first time, the scientists have managed to reconstruct fluctuations in brightness on all time scales observed to date – from minutes up to decades. …

    One particular difficulty: the brightness of our Sun varies on very different time scales. Some fluctuations have cycles of only a few minutes; others, which have an impact on Earth’s long-term climate, can only be recorded by researchers over decades. A unified theory encompassing all of these time scales has so far been lacking.

    The new study’s tour de force lies exactly in this point.

    “The results of our study show us that we have identified the governing parameters in our model,” concludes Sami K. Solanki, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research and second author of the study. “This will now allow us, finally, to model the brightness fluctuations of other stars.”

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  4. crosspatch

    “One thing is certain however: the cycle will be again below normal strength”

    I would say that while that might indeed be what happens, it is by no means “certain”. NASA is currently predicting 25 to be stronger that 24. Saying it is “certain” is speculative at best.

    1. yonason

      Before 24 began, they predicted that it would be a LOT stronger than it turned out to be. And, from what I’ve seen, they have been hyping it to be bigger than it really is.** Nope. As spectacularly wrong as they were on 24, I’m not going to trust their forecast on 25.

      **One e.g., early on was from a “space weather” update that gave a “sunspot number” for an accompanying photo of the sun. After clicking on the image to enlarge it, and straining to see what they were referring to, I thought I found it. Turned out to be just a speck of dust on my monitor.

      1. yonason

        OH, and yest, I agree with your assessment that nothing is certain until it happens, …(and sometimes not even then). I was just bashing NASA’s forecasting ability, based on past performance.

    2. Frank

      Crosspatch: From the solar polar fields one can see that they are well below the average of 1970…2016 also when one anticipates a correction after December 2016. Your comment: “NASA is currently predicting 25 to be stronger that 24.” says nothing at all about the sentence in the article:” One thing is certain however: the cycle will be again below normal strength” It’s the same as: A: “-10 is lower than 0” B:-10 is greater than -12!

  5. yonason
  6. SebastianH

    So why is it is still warming despite lower sun activity?

    Could it be that the small variation of solar output don’t play that much of a role to be able to override what the increase in greenhouse gases does to surface temperatures?
    https://www.carbonbrief.org/why-the-sun-is-not-responsible-for-recent-climate-change

    1. Kenneth Richard

      Since the 21st century began, there has been no warming independent of the last two Super El Nino events (1997-’98, 2015-’16), which raise or lower the trend lines depending on whether we begin or end the trend with the ENSO event.

      http://woodfortrees.org/plot/uah6/from:2001/to:2015/plot/uah6/from:2001/to:2015/trend

      And for any warming trend that does exist in the oceans, the reduction in cloud cover since the 1980s could easily explain that, as shortwave cloud forcing completely dominates (3-7 W m-2) over any effects of small changes (0.000001) in atmospheric gas concentrations (alleged 0.2 W m-2 per decade).

      http://notrickszone.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Solar-Forcing-of-Global-Temperatures-1983-to-2001-vs.-CO2-Ogurtsov-2012.jpg

      ftp://bbsoweb.bbso.njit.edu/pub/staff/pgoode/website/publications/Goode_Palle_2007_JASTP.pdf
      The decrease in the Earth’s reflectance from 1984 to 2000 […] translates into a Bond albedo decrease of 0.02 (out of the nominal value of about 0.30) or an additional global shortwave forcing of 6.8 Wm2. To put that in perspective, the latest IPCC report (IPCC, 2001) argues for a 2.4 Wm2 increase in CO2 longwave forcing since 1850. The temporal variations in the albedo are closely associated with changes in the cloud cover.

      Conclusion: In this paper we have reviewed the physical mechanisms behind solar irradiance variation, and we have reviewed how on the timescale of solar evolution, the Sun cannot have been any dimmer than it is at the most recent activity minima. We have also shown how concurrent changes in the Earth’s reflectance can produce a much larger climate impact over relatively short time scales. Thus, a possible Sun–albedo link, would have the potential to produce large climate effects without the need for significant excursions in solar irradiance. These could provide an explanation for the apparently large climate response to apparently small solar changes, as well as how the 11/22 year solar cycle is imprinted on Earth. Regardless of its possible solar ties, we have seen how the Earth’s large scale reflectance—and the short wavelength part of the Earth’s radiation budget—is a much more variable climate parameter than previously thought and, thus, deserves to be studied in as much detail as changes in the Sun’s output or changes in the Earth’s atmospheric infrared emission produced by anthropogenic greenhouse gases.

      1. ScottM

        Odd that Spencer and Christie have “adjusted” the UAH record in a way that hides the warming. Here’s their previous version:

        http://woodfortrees.org/plot/uah5/from:2001/to:2015/plot/uah5/from:2001/to:2015/trend

        1. Kenneth Richard

          Yes, a few years ago, HadCRUT and RSS both showed cooling between 2001 and 2015, and UAH showed warming.

          http://woodfortrees.org/plot/hadcrut3vgl/from:2001/to:2015/plot/hadcrut3vgl/from:2001/to:2015/trend/plot/rss/from:2001/to:2015/plot/rss/from:2001/to:2015/trend/plot/uah5/from:2001/to:2015/plot/uah5/from:2001/to:2015/trend

          From all appearances, then, any trend is conclusively statistically insignificant.

        2. tom0mason

          “Odd that Spencer and Christie have “adjusted” the UAH record in a way that hides the warming.”

          I take it you have other evidence the prove your assertion?
          Like a statement from either of them, or their boss, to the effect that the intent of their adjustments of the UAH record is to hide the warming.

          If not your assertion is just a baseless smear, a slur on the reputation, credibility, and character Spencer and Christie.

          Or could it be that the actuality is there is no warming to hide, and that is what has so upset you.

          1. SebastianH

            If not your assertion is just a baseless smear, a slur on the reputation, credibility, and character Spencer and Christie.

            Why do you think this doesn’t apply to temperature dataset adjustments that change the trend in the other direction? Hiding the warming good, emphasizing warming bad?

      2. SebastianH

        Since the 21st century began, there has been no warming independent of the last two Super El Nino events (1997-’98, 2015-’16),

        Skeptics choosing about the only time frame where that is the case for some temperature data series … but context is important and leaving out El Ninos as if they are not an effect of heat buildup is kind of dubious.

        Also, why does version 6 “hide the incline”? As per skeptics logic, an adjustment in any direction is clearly a sign of fraudulent behavior, isn’t it? 😉
        http://woodfortrees.org/plot/uah5/from:1990/plot/uah6/from:1990

        And for any warming trend that does exist in the oceans, the reduction in cloud cover since the 1980s could easily explain that

        Just a few days ago you commented on this paper: https://www.nature.com/articles/srep33315.pdf

        Is that not true anymore? The cloud activity compensating for the greenhouse effect and thus causing a “hiatus”?

        1. Kenneth Richard

          “leaving out El Ninos as if they are not an effect of heat buildup is kind of dubious”

          El Ninos are connected to changes in wind, which affect vertical heat distribution. And they are natural events. Or did you think humans cause changes in tropical wind currents, in addition to being the cause of the heat content changes in the 0-2000 m layer? Do humans cause La Ninas, or are those natural?

          By the way, the 2010 El Nino was very strong too, which also affects the trend.
          ——————
          http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/340780#.VzB0zw-3sCA.twitter
          The current El Nino phenomenon that has brought prolonged drought and sweltering heat to Malaysia is the strongest of the 20 over the last 60 years, but there is no concrete evidence to link its heat intensity to global warming, says an expert. Climatologist and oceanographer Prof Dr Fredolin Tangang of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia said this year’s El Nino was even more extreme than the severe phenomena experienced in 1982/82 and 1997/98.

          There is no conclusive evidence that the occurrence of El Nino (frequency and intensity) is influenced by climate change,” said Tangang, who had served from 2008 to 2015 as vice-chairperson of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a United Nations agency.

          The IPCC, which comprises representatives from 190 countries, produces a report every six to seven years on the trend of global climate change, its causes and impacts and how to migitate these. Saying that the current El Nino was in its final stretch and that the condition in the Pacific Ocean was expected to return to neutral by June, Tangang stated that the IPCC, in its latest report released in 2013, did not come up with a conclusion on the inter-relation between El Nino and global warming. He said that unlike typhoons, which the IPCC concluded would increase in intensity as global warming intensified, El Nino occurrences did not switch in frequency or intensity due to climate change.

          El Nino is a naturally occurring phenomenon, which is part of the inter-annual variability associated with oscillation of the atmosphere-ocean interaction in the Pacific Ocean that occurs in a two- to seven-year cycle.”
          ————————

          “Is that not true anymore?”

          You should probably learn a bit more about cloud radiative forcing, SebastianH. In an attempt to put it into simple terms for you, the shortwave effects of clouds override the longwave (GHE) on a net global basis, such that a reduction in cloud cover will lead to a warming despite the reduced LW. The radiative effects of cloud cover variations in both SW and LW completely dominate over (and largely cancel out) the influence of CO2. As even the RealClimate blog concludes:

          “the range of net infrared forcing caused by changing cloud conditions (~100W/m2) is much greater than that caused by increasing levels of greenhouse gases (e.g. doubling pre-industrial CO2 levels will increase the net forcing by ~4W/m2)”

          1. SebastianH

            Do you agree that something that oscillates shouldn’t leave the surface warmer after an event occurs? Where does the released heat come from? What do you think?

            And they are natural events.

            Natural events … the greenhouse effect is also natural. The question is, where is the energy coming from. If – as you say (by quoting) – there is no conclusive evidence that climate change influences El Ninos, then so be it. But the absence of evidence is no proof against it, is it?

            You should probably learn a bit more about cloud radiative forcing

            I’ll ask again: is what this paper (https://www.nature.com/articles/srep33315.pdf) is saying not true anymore? Have you changed your mind?

            You quote RealClimate on this from time to time and I always reply that you apparently aren’t understanding the fundamental difference between the 100 W/m² value and the 4 W/m². I see that is still the case. One is a 24/7 forcing value and the other is the change in LW back radiation between no clouds and cloudy sky. It doesn’t even include the blocked SW radiation that you keep mentioning.

            A little bit of context would be nice.

          2. Kenneth Richard

            “Do you agree that something that oscillates shouldn’t leave the surface warmer after an event occurs?”

            That would assume that the oscillation completes a full cycle, or that the warming event is entirely equal to the cooling. It also assumes that La Ninas regularly follow El Ninos to balance them out. There have been more natural El Nino events than natural La Nina events in recent decades. So if we have more natural warming events than natural cooling events, or if the amplitude of the natural warming event exceeds the amplitude of the natural cooling, then a net warming may occur due to the decrease in the cooling. For example:

            http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/abs/10.1175/JCLI-D-11-00148.1
            “Global satellite observations show the sea surface temperature (SST) increasing since the 1970s in all ocean basins, while the net air–sea heat flux Q decreases. Over the period 1984–2006 the global changes are 0.28°C in SST and −9.1 W m−2 in Q, giving an effective air–sea coupling coefficient of −32 W m−2 °C−1 …[D]iminished ocean cooling due to vertical ocean processes played an important role in sustaining the observed positive trend in global SST from 1984 through 2006, despite the decrease in global surface heat flux. A similar situation is found in the individual basins, though magnitudes differ. A conclusion is that natural variability, rather than long-term climate change, dominates the SST and heat flux changes over this 23-yr period.”

            Where does the released heat come from? What do you think?

            Vertical heat redistribution, as modulated by wind currents, which are modulated by the Sun (here and here). And ultimately, of course, the heat comes from SW surface incident solar radiation absorption.

            http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/94JC01621/full
            Beside the strong effects on vertical mixing, solar radiation is the primary heating term in the surface layer heat budget, and wind forcing influences SST by driving oceanic advective processes that redistribute heat in the upper ocean.

            If – as you say (by quoting) – there is no conclusive evidence that climate change influences El Ninos, then so be it. But the absence of evidence is no proof against it, is it?

            Correct. Proof is an extremely high standard that one can only aspire to when so little empirical evidence is available. On the other hand, if we say there is no conclusive evidence that a decrease of -0.00001 (10 ppm) CO2 from the atmosphere will cause a cooling in a body of water, does that mean we should rest assured that, since there is no “proof” of this cause-effect, it is nonetheless true anyway that -10 ppm CO2 causes a measurable cooling? Should we call people “deniers” if they don’t agree that the lack of evidence for the cause-effect is immaterial?

            I’ll ask again: is what this paper (https://www.nature.com/articles/srep33315.pdf) is saying not true anymore? Have you changed your mind?

            Have I changed my mind about what? That there has been no perceptible effect of anthropogenic CO2 emissions on the CO2 greenhouse effect during 1992-2014? That the influence of CO2 on greenhouse effect trends is overridden by changes in cloud cover? Because no and no.

            the fundamental difference between the 100 W/m² value and the 4 W/m²

            As the quote (from Peter Minnett) says, that’s the range of radiative forcing for clouds (LW + SW) vs. the range for CO2 (LW). For example:

            http://www-ramanathan.ucsd.edu/files/brt18.pdf
            “Clouds reduce the absorbed solar radiation by -48 W m−2 (Cs = −48Wm−2) while enhancing the greenhouse effect by 30 W m−2 (Cl = 30Wm−2) [range of 78 W m-2], and therefore clouds cool the global surface–atmosphere system by 18 W m−2 (C = −18 W m−2) on average. The mean value of
            C [cloud radiative forcing] is several times the 4 W m−2 heating expected from doubling of CO2

            http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/RG022i002p00177/full
            On the variability of the net longwave radiation at the ocean surface
            [S]pecific humidity in the atmospheric column above the surface layer can introduce LW⇅, variations of 30–40 W/m². … The RTE studies also reveal that LW⇅ variations due to cloudiness effects can be very large. Low clouds can reduce LW⇅ from clear sky values by as much as 70 W/m² [CO2 is not mentioned anywhere in the paper as a factor affecting LW radiation at the ocean surface.]

            http://www.sciencemag.org/content/267/5197/499.short
            Ship observations and ocean models indicate that heat export from the mixed layer of the western Pacific warm pool is small (<20 watts per square meter). This value was used to deduce the effect of clouds on the net solar radiation at the sea surface. The inferred magnitude of this shortwave cloud forcing was large (≈ – 100 watts per square meter) and exceeded its observed value at the top of the atmosphere by a factor of about 1.5.

          3. SebastianH

            There have been more natural El Nino events than natural La Nina events in recent decades.

            Your own link to your September 2016 blog post says that the “pause in the greenhouse effect is mostly caused by the high number of La Niña events”

            And ultimately, of course, the heat comes from SW surface incident solar radiation absorption.

            Heat released during an El Nino event comes from a reservoir of heat. What do you think that reservoir is and how heat accumulates in it? Is that because the ocean is not able to get rid of all the heat as it is being absorbed? Or do you propose a different mechanism?

            Should we call people “deniers” if they don’t agree that the lack of evidence for the cause-effect is immaterial?

            You are using so much data that is based on proxies in your quotes/citations, e.g. no actual measurements. Why is it so hard for you to understand that it is good enough to know how things behave in different situations to be able to infer what happens in another situation?

            As the quote (from Peter Minnett) says, that’s the range of radiative forcing for clouds (LW + SW) vs. the range for CO2 (LW). For example: […] and therefore clouds cool the global surface–atmosphere system by 18 W m−2 (C = −18 W m−2) on average

            And you really want to compare that to the 4 W/m² (or 3.7 W/m²) value from a CO2 doubling? So by how much does the cloud cover need to increase so the 4 W/m² CO2 induced change gets compensated for? 22.2%? Did that happen or will that happen? Or in the other case (you proposing that changed cloud cover can explain the increase in temperature): how much does the cloud cover need to decrease to have the same effect as 4 W/m² of CO2 forcing? And which way is it now?

  7. richard verney

    Whilst discussing the UAH adjustments, perhaps Sebastian can clarify whether he finds it odd that RSS have recently adjusted their assessment to show warming where none was previously apparent?

    Perhaps, Sebastian has only a 1 way view of things.

    1. SebastianH

      They have a pretty good FAQ about the V4.0 update:
      http://www.remss.com/blog/faq-about-v40-tlt-update

      Can you tell us where they wrongly adjusted the data or why it sounds unreasonable to do so?

      For UAH v6 see: http://www.drroyspencer.com/2015/04/version-6-0-of-the-uah-temperature-dataset-released-new-lt-trend-0-11-cdecade/

      It’s kind of funny that the commenters on R. Spencers blog thought in 2015 that 2003-ish was the peak of global warming and from then on it’s just going downwards. Something about the solar cycles. Yet, it’s still warm and the probability is high that 2017 will become the second warmest year on record. And those same skeptics routinely claim that observations don’t meet the model predictions? 😉

  8. John Brown

    John says that second best is not best.

    When running an not first, only second, then not improved.

    SebH has not explained why second best makes a warming.

  9. John Brown

    John says:

    The reason why little energy from the sun reaching the surface of Earth can heat it up to average 15 deg C is that Earth itself has a temperature!

    https://www.nps.gov/wica/learn/nature/cave-meteorology.htm

    … At Wind Cave for instance, the mean annual surface temperature is 47°F, yet the temperature in most parts of the cave (away from the tour routes) is 55°F. Where is all this extra heat coming from? The answer appears to be from below! …

    John says that the easy explanation must be the correct one.

  10. Il ciclo solare 24 continua ad essere il più debole da 2 secoli : Attività Solare ( Solar Activity )

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