Solar Cycle 24 has officially started

What a day! First a major storm whacks the west coast, now we have the official start of solar cycle 24.

Solar physicists have been waiting for the appearance of a reversed-polarity sunspot to signal the start of the next solar cycle. The signal for the start of a new cycle is sighting a particular kind of sunspot. That wait is over.


Click for larger image

A magnetically reversed, high-latitude sunspot, dubbed as number 981, emerged on the surface of the sun today. Just a few months ago, an “All Quiet Alert” had been issued for the sun. This reversed polarity sunspot today marks the beginning of Solar Cycle 24 and the sun’s return back to Solar Maximum.

Solar Cycle 24 has been the subject of much speculation due to competing forecasts on whether it will be an highly active or a quiet low cycle. If it is a low cycle, it may very well be a test of validity for some CO2 based AGW theories. Only time will tell.

UPDATE: There have been some questions about solar cycle length, and “when does one cycle end and another begin or is there overlap”? Thanks to Joe D’Aleo of ICECAP, please see the graph below:


This from ESA may help everyone understand the transition:

With the next solar cycle this [sunspot magnetic] orientation is flipped in both hemispheres, as the Sun’s global magnetic field reverses its orientation.

As a new cycle begins, the number of sunspots with the reverse orientation will increase and the ones with the orientation of the old cycle will decrease in number. In the transition period they can both occur on the Sun, as the two cycles have no sharp boundary and overlap.

Russ Steele has some interesting information on the current state of knowledge and predicting the next solar cycle intensity at his Dalton Minimum Returns site.

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Evan Jones
January 4, 2008 8:58 pm

Interesting and a bit of a relief. How long will it be before we can make some sort of judgement as to how intense a cycle it will be?

Steve Moore
January 4, 2008 9:53 pm

About time that little bugger showed up!
Notice the “decay” from maximum on 23 was about a year longer than for 22? Raises a question or two in my mind. Guess I’ll have to go digging to find some answers.

Jeff C.
January 4, 2008 10:56 pm

Question from a solar neophyte if anyone has the answer. When talking about solar cycles, how exactly are the beginning and end of a cycle officially defined? Does the appearance of the first reversed-polarity, high-lattitude sunspot officially start the new cycle and end the old cycle? There must be an overlap period where the new cycle spots co-exist with the old cycle, low-lattitude spots. How is this managed? Seems like the old cycle can’t end until its spots cease.
I have yet to find this cleanly described but it seems like it is an important point when trying to make the cycle length/temperature correlation.

January 5, 2008 3:20 am

Here is an interesting site for Solar Cycle 24:
Also NASA has a site with lots of info:
And if you are looking for info on Solar Cycle 25:

January 5, 2008 5:24 am

Sounds a lot like the named storm thing that NHC is putting out. I think I will wait a little longer to see if it was real. Yeah I know about the ‘particular type and the lags and all, but still one does not a trend make. I remember a few months back when NOAA started the same thing, and then there were the cycle 24 predictions that weren’t …
And didn’t NASA just own up to some, ahem, ‘errors’ in the USHCN temperature record that went undetected by them. And aren’;t those USHCN weather stations in such a fine state of repair that the temperature readings are surly reliable and accurate.
BTW, did the NHC name the storm that hit California to add to the bogus total for the 2007 season? Or was pushing it into 2008 a little much to hide.
I don’t think these agencies are either an honest neutral science broker, nor are they a disinterested party any longer in the events they portend to witness. The agenda driven science has completely taken over these government agencies — NOAA, NASA, NHC, they are all in the same boat pushing the hype for the same reason, more taxes to fund themselves with.
You would wish the real scientists wouldn’t go along, but the lure of grant money is too great I would guess.

January 5, 2008 5:31 am

There is overlap. #23 won’t completely end for another ~12 months….

Gary Gulrud
January 5, 2008 6:51 am

Re: Solar cycle starting date. There isn’t a hard definition and the date will likely be adjusted upto years after the fact.
The assigned date has come 9 to 24 months following the first reversed spot at high latitude for prior cycles. Spots of both cycles, 23 & 24 will likely appear for the next 2-3 years before a date will become solid. There were a couple, likely spurious spots, in the summer of 2006 so we aren’t 100% certain that counter is starting now.
The original assigned start of cycle 23 was May 1996 but that was later adjusted to Sept. 1996. One can find the archived Daily Sunspot Data at the SEC’s ftp server.
If one graphs the spots of the two cycles, 23 diminishing in number while 24 increasing, the spot where the lines cross will fall close to the assigned date. Jan Alvestad’s dxlc site has past curves for all the cycles, one can compare those with the current cycles. I would expect this decay to look like those about 180 to 200 years ago, i.e., more than a year remains until the official starting date.

George M
January 5, 2008 7:36 am

As with most things associated with solar cycles, the determination of cycle end is very retrospective. You’ll have to wait until summer, or spring at the earliest for a definitive designation of the end of one cycle, beginning of a new one. And, Evan, you will have to wait about 4 years. There was a double humped cycle a while back which took literally years to sort out whether it was going to be “big” or not. Somewhere about 9 years from now, when 24 is in full decline, that question can be accurately answered. And, Steve, I *think* the conventional wisdom is cycles last anywhere from 10 to 13 years, according to the historical record.

January 5, 2008 11:26 am

Can you explain in regular folk understanding what that means? Does this affect climate and seasons? —Please reply….Thanks….

Steve Moore
January 5, 2008 1:18 pm

It isn’t the length of the cycle that intrigues me, but rather the “shape”, if you will (I hope this doesn’t sound “cranky”).
Look at the previous cycles as waveforms, and compare the “attack” and “decay”:
I wonder what causes the variation. And what it means for Earth.

January 5, 2008 4:28 pm

Riverof liveis a joy:
Take a look at this press release:
“What we are saying today is that my own research and that of the other scientists at the SSRC verifies that NASA is right about one thing – a solar cycle of 50 or lower is headed our way. With this next solar minimum predicted by NASA, what I call a “solar hibernation,” the SSRC forecasts a much colder Earth just as it has transpired before for thousands of years. If NASA is the more accurate on the schedule, then we may see even warmer temperatures before the bottom falls out. If the SSRC and other scientists around the world are correct then we have only a few years to prepare before 20-30 years of lasting and possibly dangerous cold arrive.”
When asked about what this will mean to the average person on the street, Casey was firm. “The last time this particular cycle regenerated was over 200 years ago. I call it the “Bi-Centennial Cycle” solar cycle. It took place between 1793 and 1830, the so-called Dalton Minimum, a period of extreme cold that resulted in what historian John D. Post called the ‘last great subsistence crisis.’”
Not sure if you can place 100% trust on this press release, but I would consider it one possibility.
FROM ANTHONY: I have doubts about the veracity of this organization/individual. I had this press release days ago but since I couldn’t verify the source beyond a shell of a web page, I did not post this. Take this all with a grain of salt or two.

George W
January 5, 2008 6:00 pm

Related announcement from:
Changes in the Sun’s Surface to Bring Next Climate Change
January 2, 2008
Today, the Space and Science Research Center, (SSRC) in Orlando, Florida announces that it has confirmed the recent web announcement of NASA solar physicists that there are substantial changes occurring in the sun’s surface. The SSRC has further researched these changes and has concluded they will bring about the next climate change to one of a long lasting cold era.
Today, Director of the SSRC, John Casey has reaffirmed earlier research he led that independently discovered the sun’s changes are the result of a family of cycles that bring about climate shifts from cold climate to warm and back again.

As they say, read the whole thing.
We will see how this pans out in the next few years, also.
FROM ANTHONY: I have doubts about the veracity of this organization/individual. I had this press release days ago but since I couldn’t verify the source beyond a shell of a web page, I did not post this. Take this all with a grain of salt or two.

Larry Sheldon
January 5, 2008 6:32 pm

Another idjit question… With respect to the word “reversed” in the context of magnetic polarity, sunspots, and all that.
In some places I see “reversed” used as an attribute of the sunspot, so the question here is: “reversed” with respect to the Sun itself, or “reversed” with respect to the previous sunspot? Group of sunspots? ???
In other places I see “reversed” used as an attribute of the Sun itselt, so is it with respect to what it was last cycle?
Or am I hopelessly confused?
And maybe I can help with the “what it means” questions–some people (illiterate me being one, for what ever that is worth) believe that the temperature of things here is more a factor of how much energy arrives from the Sun, than it is the amount trapped here from where ever it came from. (Mind game: would “greenhouse” be an issue if there was no energy arriving from the Sun?) This all assumes you accept that when the Sun is “active” (sunspots and all that) there is more energy being flinged into space than when it is quite. I believe you can actually prove that for yourself if you have an FM radio that does not “squelch” in between stations. A month ago I think the inter-station noise was not nearly as loud (for the same loudness-knob settings) as it will be when the cycle gets going good.

George M
January 5, 2008 8:18 pm

I thought the AGW promoters blame the variation on all those big SUVs? :-)~
Seriously, that subject is a big part of ongoing solar study. Both parts. We radio operators see it as unpredictable variations in signal propagation, while the internal solar mechanism causes remain under investigation. No volunteers to go take close-in data. And the earth weather effects are one of the presently hot topics for discussion in the AGW business. ROL: No real consensus on specific weather or climate effects, although global warming seems to track inverse sunspot activity (among a thousand other things).
I would be willing to bet, however, that some advocacy group will develop a way to blame solar variability on human activity, and want to tax us to fix it.

January 6, 2008 1:46 am

So much for worrying about global warming. This guy, John Jay Harper, seems to be hinting I need to move to a cave – go out and lay in a supply of lead suits, heavy parkas, insulated boots and a new Y2K food supply. Yikes!

Charlie S
January 6, 2008 6:33 am

Solar activity is no way to fully explain present global warming. The consensus is; man-made CO2 is warming the planet. Nobody wants it to be happening, nobody is plotting to tax you more.

Gary Gulrud
January 6, 2008 6:58 am

RE: Sheldon and ‘reversed’. The new spots magnetic polarity is reversed with respect to the polarity of the preceeding cycle; the two cycles spots manifest a local magnetic field erupting at the Sun’s surface and this field is very roughly perpendicular to the axis of rotation.
RE: Global temperature and solar activity, the increase in the former is strongly anti-correlated with the length of the solar cycle displayed in Anthony’s histogram; longer cycles are associated with cooling and vice versa. Cycle 23 will be the longest in the graph at 12.5 years.
Russ’s excerpt of the Haigh paper states that the coupling mechanisms, how the energy arrives in the Earth’s system, are poorly understood but principle component analysis has indicated the Sun’s incoming energy is responsible for the lion’s share of warming or cooling.
An example, it has only recently been observed that when the Sun is at minimum its magnetic field dispersed in the plane of the ecliptic tilts south to link with the Geomagnetic field an inputs terawatts into the our system when coronal flares arrive. So the 1996 solar minimum was very active in comparison with the 2008 minimum and as a result a source of warming that this one is not.

George M
January 6, 2008 7:31 am

When the term “reversed” is used concerning spot polarity, it means in reference to the previous cycle. Which brings up another point, the “sunspot cycle” is actually 22 years +/- rather than the usually quoted ~11 years. Liken it to the sine wave of electric power. There are two voltage peaks during each “cycle”, one positive, the other negative. Since the primary effects seen on earth are “power” related, the magnetic polarity *seems* to be immaterial, while the actual internal solar mechanisms are likely polarity sensitive. Detailed examination of the solar references will be the place to look, as I’ve forgotten most of what I learned 50 odd years ago.
While you are there, look at solar output in the various energy ranges vs. sunspot cycle. Some go up, some go down, others apparently remain unknown.

Mike M.
January 6, 2008 3:22 pm

River, it’s easy. Low sunspot activity=increased low level cloud formation which leads to increased Earth albedo. Ocean currents react to decrease in warmth. PDO, AO, NAO, SOI, all go negative. Global temps slowly fall to levels of 200 years ago, dropping 1.5c by 2032. The only thing keeping it from getting any colder is the massive amounts of greenhouse gases that we have pumped into the atmosphere.
I’ll bet that’s what Joe D’Aleo is thinking! 🙂

January 6, 2008 3:42 pm

I don’t understand. What’s the significance of entering a new solar cycle?

January 6, 2008 3:59 pm

George M. says “I would be willing to bet, however, that some advocacy group will develop a way to blame solar variability on human activity, and want to tax us to fix it.”
The modern world is caught up in the old geocentric versus heliocentric argument. AGW is just a new age wrapper for the geo vs. helio argument. Geo = Green religion and Helio = Objective Science.

Larry Sheldon
January 6, 2008 7:10 pm
George W
January 6, 2008 7:57 pm

Anthony, thank you for the comment. Since I retired and started looking at “global warming” on the web I have found that almost everything needs to be taken with a grain or more of salt.
Your work has been very revealing. Most people would assume that the temperature record is quite good. My experimentalist colleages who measure indoor air temperatures know it is difficult to remove the radiation effects from such a measurement. I had no idea the US system was so poorly standardized. If standards and measurement conditions keep changing I don’t see how a person can have confidence in century-long trends to a fraction of a degree C.
The idea of global cooling (back to the 70s!) is fascinating. The possible connection from the positions of the planets to solar activity to cosmic rays to cloud formation and changing albedo producing a Dalton minimum style cooling which could have much greater consequences that the current projected warming — but wil it happen? Only time will tell. Our knowledge of this complex system is too rudimentary for confident prediction. (the recent thread on radiation at climate audit is relevant)
I hope Mr Casey will produce a reviewable paper, and better yet, one whose data and methods are sufficiently transparent for public review (like CA). And still it will be several years before we have much confidence in the prediction.
Best wishes,
FROM ANTHONY: Thanks George, I doubt Mr. Casey will produce a paper, his background seems to have been exposed., see the previous link from Mr. Sheldon.

January 6, 2008 8:17 pm

Okay, so now is the Earth gonna start to bake? Calif doing the “big slide”?, start to freeze? spin backward? bounce up and down going “eeep, eeep, eeep”?, pole reversal? vibrate like hillary thinking about ruling the world?, gore bursting into flames? crack into more pieces than a frozen Charleston Chew? What?

Evan Jones
January 6, 2008 9:11 pm

Charlie S.
here’s what appears to be going on:
Surface temp. measurements very probably are just plain wrong.
Reasons (in a nutshell):
1.) Creeping microsite violations (heat sinks and waste heat) have overtaken the surface stations at a much faster rate than they have overtaken the surface of the globe.
2.) Heat sinks greatly exaggerate small temperature increases because they bump up (especially) night-time minimums.
Result: At least half (probably considerably more) of the recorded temp. rise since 1980 is probably spurious.
Solution: Put up a new set of PROPERLY SITED surface stations. Cheap. Easy. About 300 at a cost of 1000 clams a shot, plus overtime. A couple million bucks at most. (Beats blowing a few $tril. (with a “T”) off the top.)
Wait one year. Compare new station record with current station metadata. Readjust historical records as appropriate.
Then readdress the problem. If any.

January 7, 2008 5:04 am

Well I think I need to read up on sunspots as I seem to be a touch clueless as to the effect they have on our climate.
Very Interesting though!

January 7, 2008 7:35 am

[…] appeared at high solar latitude after a long period of no sunspots (”inactivity”). The blog reporting the “official start” of the new cycle apparently finds this to be […]

Wondering Aloud
January 7, 2008 10:24 am

Charlie you left out We’re from the government we are here to help you.

January 7, 2008 12:18 pm

[…] meaningful. This morning when I logged it to WordPress, I found something that may explain why: a post announcing the emergence of a new sun spot on January […]

January 7, 2008 12:20 pm

LOL Wondering Aloud 😉 If you ever hear the govt say that, you’d better run fast!
Interestingly concerning weather, last Wednesday, we were getting snow and the trains were late because of the freezing cold. Today in the Chicago area it is 64 and our snow is gone. 64 degrees today…
So, the big question, how does the solar cycle affect the 2012 stuff he he?

Evan Jones
January 7, 2008 12:37 pm

bordymcb :
The bare-bones amateur take is:
–The normal sunspot cycle affects temperatures less than +/- 0.1C.
–If there is a serious Dawson or Maunder-type minimum (up to 5 bum cycles in a row), it can drag down temps over 1C. This is very nasty.

January 7, 2008 2:35 pm

[…] physicists have been waiting for the appearance of a reversed-polarity sunspot to signal the start of the next solar cycle. As of Friday, that wait is over. A magnetically reversed, high-latitude sunspot emerged on the […]

January 7, 2008 6:12 pm

If you’d like to check the amplitude of the solar cycle in terms of global temperature response, I stumbled on what appears to be the 11-year solar cycle in a global temperature anomaly graph this weekend by simply smoothing CRUTEMP3 GL and HADSST2 Gl annual data with a 3-year filter. I assume it would be there if you used HADCRUT3 or something similar. I only ran the data and graphs from 1950 to 2000, but I imagine it’s there earlier and later. The amplitude with the smoothed data appears to vary with cycle from 0.1 to 0.15 deg C. I seached for a couple of hours to see if a similar graph was posted anywhere, but couldn’t find any. I haven’t tried 2-year or 4-year filters, just tried three, looking for something else, and there it was.

January 8, 2008 8:25 am

I pulled this off of a Dece entry on Steel’s blog:
“Astronomers are watching the Sun, hoping to see the first stirrings of cycle 24. It should have arrived last December. The United States’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted it would start in March 2007. Now they estimate March 2008, but they will soon have to make that even later. The first indications that the Sun is emerging from its current sunspot minimum will be the appearance of small spots at high latitude. They usually occur some 12-20 months before the start of a new cycle. These spots haven’t appeared yet so cycle 24 will probably not begin to take place until 2009 at the earliest”
So, even though we have a high latitude sunspot, this may not be the official start of #24, just a sign it’s ~12ish months from officailly starting.
Am I reading that right?

January 9, 2008 1:42 pm

RE: bill-tb (05:24:06) :
You may be referring to the “NHC” NEPAC DIVISION (virtual tongue planted firmly in cheek):

January 10, 2008 9:46 am

Vigorous entertainment produces pleasant participation. A 10th grade English teacher did to me this wonder of mentorship. And at the time I was sustaining a marginal “D”. He did this with Shakespeare no less.
Several movies (Star Wars-1977 and later ET-1982) have allowed a similar participation with my children.
Such provocative talk of Solar Cycle 24 here today has reopened this pleasant participation in learning. And I understand “it is the Sun, dummy” that needs focus in academia.
“More input”.

January 14, 2008 11:56 am


January 14, 2008 11:58 am


February 2, 2008 11:11 am

Look again at the heliosphere dent and watch for more reverse field solar activity. When the Sun passed this way in the Galaxy the last time there was an extended ICE AGE. Check you data for around 700,000 years ago.

February 13, 2008 10:33 pm

[…] and months on next to nothing, and the start of Solar cycle 24 seems to have materialized (as first reported here) then abruptly disappeared. The reverse polarity sunspot that signaled the start of cycle 24 on […]

February 15, 2008 5:43 am

[…] and months of next to nothing, and the start of Solar cycle 24 seems to have materialized (as first reported here) then abruptly disappeared. The reverse polarity sunspot that signaled the start of cycle 24 on […]

February 15, 2008 5:34 pm

[…] and months of next to nothing, and the start of Solar cycle 24 seems to have materialized (as first reported here) then abruptly disappeared. The reverse polarity sunspot that signaled the start of cycle 24 on […]

February 26, 2008 8:43 am

[…] a cycle 23 spot rather than one from the cycle 24 that is gave one spot on January 8th, signaling a start of cycle 24, but has given no cycle 24 type […]

April 12, 2008 1:35 am

[…] you can see while the latitude is high and almost identical in latitude to the January 4th cycle 24 spot, it still hasn’t formed up to be a true sunspot. It remains simply a disturbed magnetic […]

April 21, 2008 5:54 pm

Solar cycles have a mind of their own. They begin and end when they do and if they over lap that’s ok. What I am interested in is the cycle itself. Most think it is an 11 year cycle but I feel it may actually be 22(+-) years. This is evident due to each 11 year cycle being of the opposite magnetic orientation to the preceeding cycle. 22 years cycles seem a better explanation to account for a full cycle to occur and for the sun to return to its initial magnetic orientation at the beginning of the cycle. What we maybe/should be talking about cycle 24a?? (which if you work the numbers back will actually be Cycle 12.

Barbee Butts
June 15, 2008 8:01 am

I am very intrigued by Ghociumn’s comment of 4/21/8, regarding the 22 yr. cycle. Has anyone ever charted this? If so, I would very much like to see this. In my imagination a chart like this would have a midline of zero sunspots. The upper portion of the graph would contain the data: # of sunspots with N/S polarity. And below the midline-lower portion of the chart-would contain the data: # of sunspots with S/N polarity orientation. What do you think, Anthony? Is this form of data even captured? For how many years? Hmmm…

August 21, 2008 8:20 pm

[…] The announcement came on the IPS web page, today, on the day that two small cycle 23 sunspots has started to appear near the solar equator. Many had expected more cycle 24 spots to be visible by now, but the sun remains quiet, and has been producing more cyccle 23 spots than 24 spots so far since the first cycle 24 spot was seen on January 4th, 2008 […]

September 12, 2008 7:33 pm

September 12, 2008.
Just to point out that there are still no sunspots – it has been 6 weeks now since August started, and no solar cycle 23 sunspots have appeared in August and September – which is good, in a certain way. At least cycle 23 is (possibly) over, so solar cycle 24 can begin thinking about beginning to start beginning.
Then again, solar cyle 24 hasn’t begu eitehr ……

September 12, 2008 7:57 pm

Maybe one more spot:
“take a look before it disappears.”

October 11, 2008 10:18 am

[…] is the biggest Cycle 24 spot since the first one was seen on January 4th, 2008. This spot looks to have some staying power other than the “specks” we’ve seen […]

Laura Meddle
December 5, 2008 9:33 pm

10xcsn has been mentioned as a cause of the sunspot lull . I wish the ice age vs global warming crowd would settle this question.
It scares the sniffers outa me and my wife . We are over eighty and cannot bear the news of a ice age or green house rage in 10 or 20 years.
It might kill us.

January 4, 2009 11:45 pm

[…] starting gate for solar cycle 24 opened ayear ago today, when I announced the first ever cycle 24 sunspot. However in the year since, it has become increasingly clear that the horse hasn’t left the […]

January 5, 2009 11:11 am

[…] starting gate for solar cycle 24 opened ayear ago today, when I announced the first ever cycle 24 sunspot. However in the year since, it has become increasingly clear that the horse hasn’t left the gate, […]

January 10, 2009 7:27 am

Oh Great… Now Al Gore and the other global warming climate change people will come back out of the wood work again. The sun had been quite for a year and we’ve had record cold temporatures and record snows in some places. Now its going to get warmer again, which I prefer, but now the Carbon tax fraud pushers are going to be out in mass this year because the spots are back in the sun. This carbon tax stuff is nothing but a fraud by the globalist and technocrats to further defraud the people and deindustrialize the U.S. Carbon dioxide is not a poisonous gas. Plants need it to breathe and I exhale it. I bet you that they are planning to tax us for exhaling CO2.

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