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Solar Cycle 24: How Epic is the 2013 Solar Maximum?

September 25, 2013 Solar System 316
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Credit: M. Aschwanden et al. (LMSAL), TRACE, NASA

Credit: M. Aschwanden et al. (LMSAL), TRACE, NASA

Since we’re virtually at the peak of sun’s solar maximum for 2013, it makes sense to have a look at how this solar maximum compares to that of previous solar cycles. This discussion may remind some of you that, earlier this year, we had three X-class solar flares within two days, which is rather impressive as X-class flares are the largest and most dangerous kind of solar flare. They are major events that can trigger radio blackouts around the whole world and cause long-lasting radiation storms in the upper atmosphere (hello, aurora). However, since these two flareups, we haven’t witnessed much activity from our closest stellar neighbor.

 

I keep track of solar activity as I get email updates of solar activity from the Australian Meteorology and Space Weather whenever there is a solar event larger than C8 (Solar flares are classified as A, B, C, M or X, and within a class there is a linear scale from 1 to 9). So, what does it mean that we haven’t seen anything above a C8 in recent weeks? That we’re having the weakest solar maximum in the past 100 years. Not only is this the weakest solar maximum, we had the weakest solar minimum as well. The actual solar activity is determined by the amount of recorded sun spots, and (obviously) this solar maximum has had less than previous cycles.

 

We are currently in the maximum of Cycle 24, each cycle (on average) lasts for approximately 11 years. Cycle 23 had smaller spots than some of the previous cycles, the largest of cycle 23′s spots appeared later on in the solar maximum and were in lower latitudes. Scientists assert that this can help explain why cycle 24 is unusually quiet. Weak polar fields at the end of cycle 23 were a precursor to a weaker Cycle 24, and with Cycle 24 showing even weaker polar fields, it is currently proposed that Cycle 25 could be even quieter than the 2013 solar maximum.

 

Graph shows, there are far fewer sunspots during this peak than  in past cycles. via NASA

Graph shows, there are far fewer sunspots during this peak than in past cycles. via NASA

Personally, I love the irony of everything that happened during the 2012 doomsday predictions–all the hoopla surrounding the impending solar maximum and how it was poised to destroy all life on Earth, and the fact that we’ve had the quietest solar maximum in a century…makes me chuckle a little.

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72 Comments

  1. Samuel Maldonado September 25, 2013 at 3:34 pm -

    Anthony Parrilla

    Reply
  2. Mike Makowsky September 25, 2013 at 3:36 pm -

    Cool!

    Reply
  3. Brent Landers September 25, 2013 at 3:39 pm -

    By the way the solar flare itself is not the contributor to the black outs or any of the electronic malfunctions.. it is the coronal mass ejections that spew the charged particles that really affect our electronic systems.

    Reply
    • Satrio Budi Laksono September 25, 2013 at 3:53 pm -

      what is effect Solar Maximum with atmosphere ?

      Reply
    • Brent Landers September 25, 2013 at 3:56 pm -

      well the solar maximum is the time (approximately ever 11 years) where the sun is most active… Though solar flares are not too much to worry about, it is the charged particles given off during the flare that are hazardous.. Which are called Coronal Mass Ejections (CME’s)

      Reply
    • Jay Rastafari Devine September 26, 2013 at 12:39 am -

      CME’s are game changers,

      Reply
  4. Dan Kelly September 25, 2013 at 3:39 pm -

    Watts!

    Reply
  5. David Macht September 25, 2013 at 3:46 pm -

    This is a farce, the solar maximum reach its peak March 2012. Covering it up by declaring an extension only cause problem when accurately determining the cause and effect of sun’s impact on the planet and the atmosphere.

    Reply
    • From Quarks to Quasars September 25, 2013 at 3:53 pm -

      Hi David, That statement is based on an incorrect understanding of solar maximum as a clearly defined time-frame. In fact, the solar cycle is an irregular cycle, averaging about 11 years in length. Solar maximum is simply the month(s) during the solar cycle when the 12-month mean of monthly average sunspot numbers reaches a maximum i.e., the solar maximum is not a defined time and is dependent on what we observe (that’s the short definition anyways). For more on when the solar maximum is predicted, see http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sunearth/news/solarmin-max.html#.UkM-1casiSo

      Reply
    • David Macht September 25, 2013 at 3:56 pm -

      I know what the solar Maximum is and this year proves that last year was the peak as global temperatures are not as high as it was last year. Granted there was record highs in temperatures in some areas, however they were not as great or wide spread as last year.

      Reply
    • Andrew Minter September 25, 2013 at 4:09 pm -

      The solar cycle on average last 11 years but can run over or under depending on a lot of factors that are involved. This year is the maximum and NASA has even come out to say that things are looks like this will be the peak. It’s by no means a farce at all. This very reason is also why global warming is nothing but a bunch of nonsense. We can’t predict what the weather will be after a certain amount of time much less claim that we know there’s a constant involved in global temperatures to even begin to claim that there is a global warming problem. The proof in this is that now the global warming nuts are now coming out and saying soon it might be called global cooling because the data they are acquiring shows that the earth is actually cooling, further proving that this issue is a farce. I know GW might seem unrelated to this issue but it’s not and it just goes to show how full of shit people are.

      Reply
    • From Quarks to Quasars September 25, 2013 at 4:16 pm -

      Again, that statement is inaccurate. Global temperatures do not necessarily correlate with solar maximum. For clarification, please read this article from NASA: “Something unexpected is happening on the sun. 2013 is supposed to be the year of Solar Max, the peak of the 11-year sunspot cycle. Yet 2013 has arrived and solar activity is relatively low. Ultimately, this is the year of solar max. However, the back-and-forth swing in sunspot counts can take anywhere from 10 to 13 years to complete; also, the amplitude of the cycle varies. Some solar maxima are very weak, others very strong. …Sunspot counts jumped in 2011 and dipped in 2012…” http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2013/01mar_twinpeaks/

      Reply
    • David Macht September 25, 2013 at 4:20 pm -

      The information I provide is not inaccurate, the information you provide is scientific manipulation to continue to endorse gloabal warming. The U.N. has already release documents that proves global warming is reducing. Even the North pole is producing more Ice then originally predicted or thought possible.

      Reply
    • Andrew Minter September 25, 2013 at 4:21 pm -

      I’m not talking about just temperatures alone, I’m talking about the whole thing, and it’s actually not inaccurate. This information has been around for a while but it’s not exactly accepted by a lot because those who use it disagree with the whole Climate Change movement which kind of makes people not want to listen to them. i know what you’re saying about the double peak and everything, I’ve read on it a lot, But the cycle is lasting a bit longer then previously expected is the point I was trying to make. The only reason I brought up the warming issue was to just make a point, not say that it’s all done this way.

      Reply
    • David Macht September 25, 2013 at 4:23 pm -

      The Cycle is not lasting, why the global warming is lasting is do to the increase of Methane Gas in the atmosphere.

      Reply
    • Jay Rastafari Devine September 25, 2013 at 4:40 pm -

      I love these scientific bitch fights, there so aggresive zzzzzzz

      Reply
    • David Macht September 25, 2013 at 4:44 pm -

      There not fights, there debates that actually improves scientific understanding of factors that impact the planet and humans.

      Reply
    • Bob Kane September 25, 2013 at 5:54 pm -

      *they’re* x3 :)

      Reply
    • Terry Nutley September 25, 2013 at 6:22 pm -

      They are.

      Reply
    • From Quarks to Quasars September 25, 2013 at 9:17 pm -

      Andrew Minter, when I said that the statement is inaccurate, I was not responding to you, but to David. I was in the midst of typing and didn’t see your message until after I pposted my comment. I was referring to David’s point that solar maximum correlates with global temperatures and that solar max. already happened. In relation to GW, it has been established for years that GW will involve localized points of global cooling as there are more particles in the air. And you are correct, we do not fully understand climate change as we have only been taking measurements for the last century or so. The only thing we have to go on are predictions based on previous data; it gives us a good idea of how these process work, but it is definitely not 100% accurate. Science can alter and advance to incorporate new ideas and information–that is the point of science, not a failing.

      David, I am really not sure how the date of solar maximum can impact the way that we understand global warming. Regardless, the point made in the article you posted–that NASA does not know exactly when solar max will occur–is the exact same point that I am making. In fact, NASA even admitted that they cannot predict solar max with 100% certainty because the solar sysle varies. They can estimate when it will occur, but we don’t know with 100% certainty until we have all the measurements from the various years. In short, we are still going through the process of solar maximum, and the date does not relate to global warming.

      Reply
    • Tom Staub September 25, 2013 at 9:18 pm -

      Do not use contractions.

      Reply
    • David Macht September 25, 2013 at 9:28 pm -

      Large amounts of Methane with Co2, A hole in the Ozone and then with peak of the solar maximum last year was the overall factor why it was so warm. This year alone has proven that the peak has already been achieved. Factors to prove this are, Globally the temperatures have been cooler, Arctic Ice has increase in vast amounts, the number of hurricanes and typhoons are not as numerous (Hurricanes and Typhoons being Mother Natures air conditioner), solar cycles are only 11 years not 12 or 13, last and final point is that there has not been enough volcanic activity to counter a solar maximum peak this year as well.The main article that I have been looking for that declare the date of the solar maximum last year has vanished from the internet. Logic would state, if every sign shows that the Earth is cooling, then why continue to state that it is doing the opposite?

      Reply
    • Jonathan Kehn September 26, 2013 at 1:15 am -

      Science 101 says that the sun heats the earth. as the earth heats up ice melts.. how is this any question? ohhh and for all the ‘global climate’ people.. Mother nature will ALWAYS balance itself out. ALWAYS. the only catch is if we are still alive to see it. oO :P

      Reply
    • Mark de Graaf September 26, 2013 at 2:50 am -

      Sorry, but anyone who quotes a site like mayanpredictions.net instantly loses all credibility

      Reply
    • Melv Mudder Lubber Langer September 26, 2013 at 5:08 am -

      Maybe the Sun has been played with, i.e. maybe the ET’s sucked much of the energy out of it or somethin, don’t quote me on it but i saw on one of dem NASA vids how there was heaps of lil ships drinking from the sun or they were doin somethin with it n e ways ;) peace ^^

      Reply
    • David Macht September 26, 2013 at 5:53 am -

      Well Melv, I do believe that there is other intelligent life in the universe however I also believe the human race is to arrogant to receive open communications with them as well. The overall factor is that global warming has been used for the last 22years as a marketing scheme more then a reality. The 1970′s had a similar issue, except the climate change was global cooling. Draw your own conclusions, however when concerning the weather on any level, never believe anything 3 days in advance.

      Reply
  6. Marta Domagała September 25, 2013 at 3:52 pm -

    :(

    Reply
  7. Anthony Aczel September 25, 2013 at 3:55 pm -

    Amazing!

    Reply
  8. Justin White September 25, 2013 at 4:04 pm -

    Dude, the sun needs to wake the f**k up, for solar max there’s really been nothing going on. I think there’s been 4 spots on the disk this last week with hardly a burp outta them lol

    Reply
  9. David Ponder September 25, 2013 at 4:07 pm -

    the quiet before the storm…

    Reply
    • OutruntheWind September 25, 2013 at 9:10 pm -

      Or the beginning of a Deep Quiet.

      Reply
  10. Heather L Rose September 25, 2013 at 4:08 pm -

    I heard on a science news podcast that last year the sun was in an unusually long dormant stage and that the hyper activity happening now was kind of expected ( though the scientist did state that science is in its infancy in regards to predicting solar activity)

    Reply
    • Andrew Minter September 25, 2013 at 4:13 pm -

      Correct! It’s good to know that there are some people left out there that are interested in these types of things. It’s refreshing to be honest.

      Reply
  11. Paul Humphrey September 25, 2013 at 4:15 pm -

    I love how it looks like a covenant invasion cruiser XD

    Reply
  12. Louis Kring September 25, 2013 at 4:18 pm -

    Thanx for the info.

    Reply
  13. Paul ElBandito Bibby September 25, 2013 at 4:19 pm -

    Apparently the sun and the moon are the same thing.
    Is this true?

    Reply
  14. Anthony Sweeney September 25, 2013 at 4:41 pm -

    David mayanpredictions.net is full of shit. The op gave you a link from nasa.gov and you gave pseudoscience conspiracy billsh*t. I understand being labeled as incorrect or an idiot on the net can be embarrassing so instead we can say presently misinformed. Which by admitting to what we are incorrect about or mistaken, gives us the chance to be right in the future. Also this solar maximum will be interesting, but I was expecting something along those lines next year. We shall see, we are still evolving and cannot be expected to be right all the time. thank you from quarks to quasars. I enjoy your posts and comments.

    Reply
  15. Paul ElBandito Bibby September 25, 2013 at 4:48 pm -

    David, you strike me as the type of guy who reads the horoscopes whilst drinking herbal tea.

    Reply
  16. Heather L Rose September 25, 2013 at 5:01 pm -

    Hey, drinking herbal tea is good for you, horror scopes are funny, and your form of entertainment doesn’t have any bearing on your intellectual acuity. Science is about the exchange of ideas. Inaccurate ideas are just as important as accurate ones.

    Reply
  17. Scott Mackenzie September 25, 2013 at 5:20 pm -

    Science is about understanding the truth, not about reading your horoscopes while debating clearly pseudo-science topics that are based on old science and do not follow the scientific method.

    Reply
  18. Heather L Rose September 25, 2013 at 5:37 pm -

    Science isn’t about understanding the truth, it’s about finding it, debating it, questioning it, even trying to disprove it. 500 years ago it was a scientific ” truth” that the world was flat and the center of the universe. ” The minute you think you know everything is the minute you stop learning”.

    Reply
    • Scott Mackenzie September 25, 2013 at 6:28 pm -

      You are now just trying to arguing semantics. Understanding is not static, as you would lead us to believe. Understanding is using EXISTING concepts to think about NEW concepts about an object of KNOWLEDGE. Science is about UNDERSTANDING REALITY, using the SCIENTIFIC METHOD. Pseudoscience is a claim, belief, or practice which is presented as scientific, but does not adhere to a valid scientific method, lacks supporting evidence or plausibility, cannot be reliably tested, or otherwise lacks scientific status. Typically Pseudo-science quotes old outdated science for credibility, even your loved horoscopes were once considered “science”. Enjoy your daily serve of pseudo-scientific horoscopes with your herbal tea.

      Reply
    • Patrick Drouin September 26, 2013 at 1:02 am -

      my feeling: relative calm before a storm.
      do not worry
      buy a lot of water

      Reply
    • Patrick Drouin September 26, 2013 at 1:04 am -
      Reply
  19. Cary Burnett September 25, 2013 at 5:48 pm -

    Well said Heather L Rose. :-)

    Reply
  20. Earl Johnson September 25, 2013 at 5:58 pm -

    the calm before the storm… maybe like a pressure cooker right before… Thar she blooowwwwwsssss!!!! :-)

    Reply
  21. Chen Portter September 25, 2013 at 6:40 pm -

    一瞬之間!!

    Reply
  22. Heather L Rose September 25, 2013 at 7:07 pm -

    So what your saying is that the study of something that cannot be reliably tested is not science, but pseudo- science? Am i following that correctly?

    Reply
  23. Nyrone Otto September 25, 2013 at 7:10 pm -

    Impossible to say never?

    Never say never. What if one great company make it possible for those who do not have the finance like others?

    Apple granted me this opportunity, and I want to share it with you too:
    http://perfecttrafficstorm.com/links/32711

    Reply
  24. Hootowl Jake Meow September 25, 2013 at 8:27 pm -

    thats a huge flare 0.0

    Reply
  25. Josh Kaye AK September 25, 2013 at 9:06 pm -

    ohh shit…

    Reply
  26. Immi Waqas Ahmed September 25, 2013 at 11:46 pm -

    oOpsssSs….

    Reply
  27. Patrick Drouin September 26, 2013 at 1:01 am -

    my feeling: relative calm before a storm.
    do not worry
    buy a lot of water

    Reply
  28. Deoxyribonucleic Acid Jva September 26, 2013 at 2:06 am -

    4,.-’¨´+

    Reply
  29. Appy Bee September 26, 2013 at 3:12 am -

    Nice pun

    Reply
  30. Fida Ali Engr September 27, 2013 at 4:07 am -

    As our knowledge increases our concerns also increase. Many things are happening without being noticed.

    Reply
  31. Thomas Irwin September 27, 2013 at 6:43 am -

    oddly enough, everyone has changed their mind about when the solar peak is happening. in 2010 they said it would be in the year 2012 and in 2012 they changed it to this year,2013. Make up your mind astrophysicists.

    Reply
  32. dr. abraham Weizfeld October 1, 2013 at 1:32 am -

    These calculations are only due to the 11 year cycle that is actually being overlayed by the 250 year cycle, due to engage in 2040. We are witnessing the initial downturn of the spot cycle towards the major cycle. While being a compensatory factor, a major one, this does not eliminate the glabal warming phenonmenon. What is being set up is a class of extremes with undertermined consequences.

    Reply

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