Sun still blank, no sign of cycle 24

This is a quick post since I’m caught up in a lot of work this weekend. Moderation will be slow so don’t be worried if your posts don’t show for several hours.


Last month I wrote:


From this story on where they talk about the opposing views solar scientists have for cycle 24 they offer some opinions. NOAA Space Environment Center scientist Douglas Biesecker, who chaired the panel, said in a statement:

 […] despite the panel’s division on the Sun cycle’s intensity, all members have a high confidence that the season will begin in March 2008.


We are halfway through March, and the sun has been very quiet, Ap magnetic index remains low, sunspots are zilch, all we have is a bit of solar wind from the occasional coronal hole.

The forecast from SWPC is flatness for the 10.7cm band:


This is the one that worries me though, as I’ve pointed out before, we have that step function (or discontinuity) in 2005 (see red arrows) which gives the impression that something just “switched off” in the solar magnetic dynamo:


Additionally, the sunspot forecast from SWPC calls for sunspot numbers to be very low for the remainder of 2008, which seems to put a kibosh on the consensus formed by NASA’s convened solar scientist panel which made that prediction of “…the season will begin in March 2008” uttered by panel chair Biesecker quoted above.


We live in interesting times.

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steven mosher
March 15, 2008 7:21 am

If moderation is slow how can I make quick retorts?
anyway, solar wind from the coronal hole? is that a sly beavis and butthead reference?

snip if you like

March 15, 2008 8:06 am

Whatever you do, don’t post any graphs or Lee will be here and have a fit.
Oh…too late….

Bob B
March 15, 2008 8:09 am

Anthony, the Stereo behind image shows something coming into view which is low lattitude. Could develop into a cycle 24 spot.

March 15, 2008 8:52 am

In the Svalgaard thread at, Leif has stated that the sunspots during the Maunder Minimum were large, long-lasting, scant, and in the Southern Hemisphere. During the Dalton Minimum they were pretty much absent. This has got to have meaning, but apparently the big boys are investigating.

March 15, 2008 8:54 am

Personally, from the depths of ignorance, I wonder if the solar cycle failed and the magnetic poles of the sun quit flipping for awhile.

Texas Aggie
March 15, 2008 9:10 am

Anthony, I have enjoyed your blog a great deal & have learned much.
Question: How does the step function indicated above differ from similar looking precipitous drops in say, 03 or 05? Untrained eyes want to know.
Thanks for the good work.
REPLY: It is not so much the magnitude of the step, it is what happened after it. Notice that the oscillations up to the present are at a lower average level than before 2005. The blue trend line shows the period to be essentially flat at that lower average level. The implies some sort of state change in the sun’s magnetic activity sinc eit has lasted so long.
IMHO if it were just nromal variance, we’d see swings upwards again and greater in magnitude.

March 15, 2008 10:37 am

Offhand I don’t see that the 2005 ‘step’ was greater than several others.
The extreme decline in late 2003 and early 2004 looks more interesting. The partial recovery by early 2005 then raised the smoothed curve to about where I would have expected it to be.
REPLY: I’m amazed that you do not see this. It is not so much the magnitude of the step, it is what happened after it. Notice that the oscillations up to the present are at a lower average level than before 2005. The blue trend line shows the period to be essentially flat and sustained at that lower average level. The implies some sort of state change in the sun’s magnetic activity since it has lasted so long.
IMHO if it were just normal variance, we’d see swings upwards again and greater in magnitude, like what happened in 2003/2004
Here is another plot of Ap index that also shows what I’m speaking of.

Larry Sheldon
March 15, 2008 1:01 pm

Are there records of that “step” thing in 2005 having occurred before?
Is there a credible guess at what happened?

Jeff Alberts (was Jeff in Seattle)
March 15, 2008 3:06 pm

I’ll bet that on the other side there’s a big smiley face.
“Hehe, watch this…. sunspo.. PSYCHE!”

March 15, 2008 3:26 pm

Wouldn’t the reduced variability at the solar cycle low point be from being bounded at the low end of the measure (can’t drop below zero)? The famous “random walk” analogy is a drunk man stumbling down the sidewalk – if he stumbles past the side of a building, he might temporarily appear less drunk (his side-to-side stumbling is reduced), but it’s only because in one direction he’s bumping against the wall. Once he’s past the wall, he’ll be all over the place again. For solar AP, compare with the last solar cycle minimum in 1997, when variability in solar AP looked similar.

John Willit
March 15, 2008 4:16 pm

There is a new spot (not a real sunspot yet) with high latitude and reversed cycle 24 polarity in the southern hemisphere. We should watch if it forms a real sunspot. There is some discoloration at the area and, as someone else noted, the Stereo Behind image shows it is a fairly active region.
At, Leif Svalgaard posted the most recent butterfly diagram of sunspots which indicates we are at least 6 months away from cycle 24 starting. That would make cycle 23 – 12 years 4 months long – one of the longer cycles in quite some time and close to the solar cycle length numbers which preceded the Maunder and Dalton Minimums.

March 15, 2008 4:18 pm

If the solar cycle has shut down decisively, this will provide decisive evidence against anthropogenic global warming – but then, we already *have* decisive evidence against anthropogenic global warming, in that past variations in solar activity, as recorded by past carbon 14 production,reflect past variations in climate, and it does not seem to trouble the global warmers any. I predict that if the glaciers roll over Florida, this will be explained as further evidence of anthropogenic global warming, and all the major climate science sites will have graphs showing amazingly accurate predictions supposedly made by models based on anthropogenic climate change, and wildly wrong predictions supposedly made by models based on solar activity.

steven mosher
March 15, 2008 6:06 pm

It’s more than the step down or fault scarp as sadlov would say.
it’s the step down followed by less variability. It’s the step down
to a different regime. : lower values AND less variability..
with the other fault scarps you stepped down and then you rebounded up.
Two things have happened. a step down and a reduction of volitility
I’ll duck while you throw your fruit

March 15, 2008 6:15 pm

Is it possible to use the chow test mentioned in “To Tell the Truth.. part 2” to determine if something is structurally different before and after the possible 2005 step-change?

Gary Gulrud
March 15, 2008 6:36 pm

IMHO The conventional wisdom in heliophysics right now is to predict the near future from the recent past. And this is a young science, really only having gotten rolling with the satellite era. Moreover, one has a hard time getting published without making a prediction using some recently discovered insight.
The official minimum, per Jan Janssens, will be set largely by the minimum in the 13 month smoothed sunspot count will be recognized only after at least 3 months following the actual date.
By now it should be clear, 2008 will look very much like 2007 in terms of solar activity measures. Anyone betting that the minimum will come in 2008 is drawing to an inside straight. We still have more cool temps stored up for many tomorrows.

Gary Gulrud
March 15, 2008 6:42 pm

I would say Steven Mosher’s report of Sadlov’s acquired wisdom re: lowered volatility following the step decline beats all of the recent commentary on statistics made here for many threads. Thank you.

Earl Koskie
March 16, 2008 12:32 am

IMHO if it were just normal variance, we’d see swings upwards again and greater in magnitude, like what happened in 2003/2004
Here is another plot of Ap index that also shows what I’m speaking of.
It looks to me like the period from about month 52 to month 80 (more or less) is similar to the recent period starting Oct 2005 month 177(?) EXCEPT shifted downward about 4 units AND preceded by the BIG drop from Month 176.
If we don’t see a rise almost immediately – similar to what happened after month 80 – then we almost have a 3-strikes scenario –
Big drop
Dropping Trend
No recovery in similar time-frame
Equals something new going on – a Maunder Minimum reprise? Depends on how many months-years-decades-centuries(!?) the new “switched-off” conditions persist.

March 16, 2008 4:28 am

thank you for the fresh information i really liked the photo of the sun
i wait the best from you
thanks again

Alan Chappell
March 16, 2008 4:55 am

Latest from Louisxiv Observatory.
Flux Density Values in sfu for 23.00 on 2008.03.15
Julian Day Number 2454541.447
Carrington Rotation Number 2067.858
Observed Flux Density 0067.7
Flux Desity Adjusted for 1 A.U. 0067.0
URSI Series D. Flux, Adj. x 0.9 0060.3
The Numbers are still going down

March 16, 2008 8:30 am

The best analogy I have read for solar science was on
“Understanding the workings of the sun from solar cycles is like trying to understand the workings of the human heart by listening to heatbeats. The trouble is we have only had a chance to hear 23 beats and ony 5 of those beats have been heard clearly”.
REPLY: Well lets all hope the solar EKG doesn’t flatline.

March 16, 2008 2:15 pm

Thanks for these updates Anthony. I think this is by far the most serious issue regarding Earth’s climate today and in the near future. I’m glad that one of the blogs I check regularly is keeping tabs.

Diatribical Idiot
March 16, 2008 7:51 pm

It depends on what you call a “change.” I believe this is just another cycle that occurs every now and then. A good read is here: I won’t pretend to understand everything discussed there, but even if you don’t understand all the technicalities, take a look at the series of three charts of the angular momentum of the sun. In 1990, the same thing occurred that happened in 1632 and 1811 – a negative orbital angular momentum. Notice the difference in the graphs in the decades following this occurrence. Also note the bottom chart. If the cycle beginning in 1990 mirrors the cycle beginning in 1632, we’re in for 4 or 5 weak cycles.

No dog in hunt
March 16, 2008 11:05 pm

I know this is comparing apples to horses, but as one familiar with the technical analysis of equity markets, Anthony’s eye is good. 2005 looks like a bear market market phase shift. However, in this case I might recommend a buy, since a base seems to be forming. Besides if solar cycle 24 doesn’t begin your money won’t be worth much anyway.

Bruce Cobb
March 17, 2008 5:56 am

Well, as Kristen Byrnes said, perhaps we should indeed
Ponder the Maunder. here
is as good an explanation I’ve seen of what is going on.
I fear mankind may be in for some tough sledding ahead, especially if he doesn’t stop this C02 madness.

Bruce Cobb
March 17, 2008 7:52 am

Hmm, I’ll try posting that link again: It’s: New Little Ice Age Instead of Global Warming?
Hope I got it right that time. It’s from the link Diatribical posted above.
REPLY: works this time, thanks.

Diatribical Idiot
March 17, 2008 8:19 am

I just noticed that the period at the end of the link I provided changed the actual location it sends you. Sorry for the confusion. I was trying to point here:

March 17, 2008 8:38 am

This weekend I overheard Al Gore saying: “I rememmmmber a friend telllll me, that if the Sun looooooses its ability to make sun-spots, that is a suuuuure sign of global warming. Our CO2 emmmmissions are killing the Sun. It has a cold and we neeeeeeed to do something about it…”.

March 17, 2008 11:29 am

Anyone up for doing some Fourier Transforms on these waveforms?

March 17, 2008 11:37 am

This may be of interest:
Someone else sent me that, not sure where it originated.

Gary Gulrud
March 17, 2008 11:40 am

Earl Koskie: Astute post.

March 17, 2008 12:50 pm

Ok, I have a couple of dumb questions. Do we measure all the sunspots, or just the ones visible from earth? In other words, are there sunspots that appear and disappear on the other side of the sun before we can ever view them?
REPLY: Only what can be observed earthside. This should give you some insight:

How Sunspot Numbers are Computed Today
An observer computes a daily sunspot number by multiplying the number of groups he/she sees by ten and then adding this product to his total count of individual spots, same way that Wolf did. Many refer to the sunspot number as a Wolf number or count (or as a Zurich Sunspot Number). Results, however, vary greatly, since the measurement strongly depends on observer interpretation and experience and on the stability of the Earth’s atmosphere above the observing site. Moreover, the use of Earth as a platform from which to record these numbers contributes to their variability, too, because the sun rotates and the evolving spot groups are distributed unevenly across solar longitudes. To compensate for these limitations, each daily international number is computed as a weighted average of measurements made from a network of cooperating observatories.

March 17, 2008 1:44 pm

The 2005 anomaly might be an indication of something, but at that point, wouldn’t the sun be coming down from a higher point to a lower point in its cycle? So having it plateau near the bottom may not be surprising.

Gary Gulrud
March 18, 2008 5:58 am

Speaking of plateauing, this months SSN seems to be repeating February’s. Still no further cycle 24 spots.

March 18, 2008 6:49 am

There was a very small spot yesterday, that has all but disappeared. It looked to be on the equator, meaning it was a cycle 23 spot. There have been no cycle 24 spots since the one small, short lived reversed high-latitude one in January. The magnetic flux has flatlined at 70. The recent trend seems to be occasional very small, short lived spots still associated with cycle 23. No sign of #24 picking up anytime soon.

Gary Gulrud
March 20, 2008 6:26 am

Significant note of Dave Archibald at warwickHughes:
Cloudiness, and albedo, may not be implicated in Maunder.

May 18, 2008 6:58 am

[…] Watts over at Watts Up With That? continues his vigilance and analysis of sunspot activity and what that could mean for our global weather. Complete with graphs and whatnot, the short story […]

lance kupchyk
July 9, 2008 6:44 am

What an excellent scientific site you have here!
The graph which shows the noticeable drop in solar activity is very, very troubling !!
The pure global warming heads have it wrong, the sub obviously has an impact on global climate. Anyone care to look at worldwide temperature readings since that week or so in 2005 when the sun
“downshifted” . One of the warminghead sites was showing that most of 2008 so far is about 1.8 F degrees BELOW AVERAGES.
NOT GOOD, NOT GOOD. When global food production is stressed to the limit, now we have potentially a shorter growing season WORLDWIDE…..Even the global warmheads are sheepishly admitting that WARMING IS DELAYED AT LEAST A DECADE due to
occurrences on the sun and elsewhere that over rule human actions.
REAL SCIENCE IS SHOWING A DANGEROUS LOWERING OF OCEAN PH, WHICH IS SHOWING UP IN THE ANIMALS THAT BUILD SHELLS OUT OF CALCIUM. The PH is getting low enough that in certain areas, the shellfish aren’t really shellfish anymore. The change in the ocean PH is the really scarry thing. Protecting food sources
from mankinds activity should be a high priority. It food is not available from the normal sources, then people are encouraged by self preservation to clear cut,(think Indonesia, Brazil, African continent),to grow what they can. Unfortunately , these tracts are very marginal for food production and last a few years before they can grow nothing, then more land is cleared and the process repeats itself.
Hey, Al , you can take that Nobel Prize and put it where it will keep any methane gas from escaping into the atmosphere…If YOU ARE REALLY Concerned about the earth and not just wanting to hear yourself talk…….

danny lafoote
December 25, 2008 12:18 am

10xcsn, the name says it all. No sun spot activity. Decreased solar magnetic activity.
ice age, more or less

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