Solar Cycle 23 Forecasts – The Movie


Click image for movie – note download is large 2.4MB

A guest post by Michael Ronayne

Note: Mike has created a movie (solar_cycle_23-24_sunspots.gif large (2.4MB) animated GIF) that shows how the cycle 23 forecast has progressed through time. Given that NASA’s David Hathaway recently commented on SpaceWeather that we are still seeing Cycle 23 spots, this seemed like a good time to post Mike’s effort.

The Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) at issues weekly reports on solar activity know as Preliminary Report and Forecast (PRF) of Solar Geophysical Data or “The Weekly”. Generally on the week following the end of the month a monthly summary is issued which includes graphics for the past month.

In the summary is the “ISES Solar Cycle Sunspot Number Progression” graphic which shows past, present and predicted average sunspot numbers by month. SWPC maintains a compressed archive of all weekly PRD reports in PDF format since 1996 which is available here.

Individual weekly reports for 2007 are available here  and current reports for 2008 are available here .

The most current graphic is always here.

All of “The Weekly” reports were inspected to identify the monthly summaries and determine the quality of the “ISES Solar Cycle Sunspot Number Progression” graphic contained therein. It was determined that the graphs prior to April 30, 2003 were in a significantly different format, had quality control problems and skipped months, therefore only graphs from April 30, 2003 to present were used.

Using Adobe Acrobat Professional the “ISES Solar Cycle Sunspot Number Progression” graphics was extracted from each of “The Weekly” PDF reports as oversized TIFF graphics to preserve resolution. The standard publication size for the graphic was 720×550 pixels but the aspect ratio for some of the graphs was not preserved within the PDF document. When the oversized TIFF graphic were resized to 720×550 without preserving the aspect ratio within the PDF the original 720×550 graphic was recovered in all cases. The 720×550 TIFF graphic was then converted to a GIF graphic for use in the animation sequence.

While extracting the “ISES Solar Cycle Sunspot Number Progression” graphs it was found that January 31, 2008 monthly summary had not been generated, a fact which SWPC confirmed in response to an Email inquiry. The February 29, 2008 graphic was hand edited at the pixel level to recreate the missing month and is identified in the animation sequence “proxy200801.gif”. The remaining graphics are all identified by the PRF document number.

The Advanced GIF Animator program was used to create the animation sequence. With the exception of January 31, 2008 all of the frames are prefixed by PRF9999 when 9999 is the document number of the original PDF report from which the graphic was extracted.

When the animated frames were inspected in sequence it was found that there was a discontinuity between July 31, 2006 (PRF1510), August 31, 2004 (PRF1514) and the September 30, 2004 (PRF1520) frames. The causes of the discontinuities were:

  1. Data was retroactively changed on the August 31, 2004 frame.
  2. The August 31, 2004 data point was not plotted on the August 31, 2004 frame.

These three frames were not altered or correct in anyway and are displayed as published. This technique is very good at identifying data discontinuity problems.

Excluding the problems noted above the reconstructed graphic went very well and there was no discernible flicker between frames indicating that the PDF extraction process was near prefect. With the exception of the problem about August 31, 2004 and the missing monthly summary for January 31, 2008 the SWPC product has been amazingly consistent since April 30, 2003.


34 thoughts on “Solar Cycle 23 Forecasts – The Movie

  1. I know that correlation does not prove causation without a mechanism of action, but sometimes one wonder at the agnosticism generated by such rigid adherence to scientific principles. I’m speaking about the obvious correlations of the sun with climate that are presently denigrated simply because the mechanism of action is still unknown. I’ll pitch the names Landscheit, Milankovich, Shavovovna, in to the kettle, and from the mists arise an intoxicating cloud.
    I think I’ve never heard so loud
    The quiet message in a cloud.
    Nor have I wondered so slyly
    Of wonders of astrology.

  2. Watch how the lower predicted threshold bottom moves from early 2005 to early 2008 – 3 years later! Clearly the animation shows how they completely underestimated the length of cycle 23. Somewhere I read that earth temperature is not so much a function of sunspot number, but rather more a function of sunspot cycle duration. If this is true, then we have the first signs of a cooling trend.
    Or am I wrong?

  3. Kim, you might want to look at the work of Judea Pearl in regard to causation ( Strong correlation usually is the result of direct causation (A->B or B->A), an outside (hidden) cause, or just plain coincidence.
    I think Landscheidt showed enough correlation that the likelihood of coincidence is very small. It’s unreasonable to think the Earth’s climate is affecting the sun still leaving the possibility of an outside cause. Unfortunately, CO2 might just provide that cause. So, even if there was a sudden “Hmmm….Yasss” from the AGW folk they’d still have that man-made cause as a fall back.

  4. This is great work Michael.
    It looks like cycle 23 will be more than 12 years long (having started in May 1996) so given the average length of a cycle is a little less than 11 years, it is not surprising that the initial projections were off. What is also not surprising is how these scientists like to re-write history about how accurate their projections/models etc are.
    We need to have more of these animations done, especially with respect to the changes in the global temperature data.
    My favourite before and after animation is for the northern sea ice extent which the NSIDC re-wrote with no explanation in January 2007. The before and after animation makes it pretty clear how flagrant this re-writing of history was especially considering that 2007 later became a record low sea ice extent (1.5 million sq. kms less than it would have been without this massive adjustment in the base data.)

  5. That animation gives you a good sense of how much longer cycle 23 is relative to expectation. Jan Jennsens has shown that 3 preceding sunspot cycle groups at solar cycle minimum is not unusual. What is unusual is the lack of accompanying succeeding cycle sunspots (SC24). The behavior of the current cycle minimum is deviating from previous 20th century cycles and shaping up to behave like SC12 and SC13 from the late 19th century, which coincidentally, are associated with a much cooler climate.

  6. DAV Said:
    “I think Landscheidt showed enough correlation that the likelihood of coincidence is very small. It’s unreasonable to think the Earth’s climate is affecting the sun still leaving the possibility of an outside cause. Unfortunately, CO2 might just provide that cause. So, even if there was a sudden “Hmmm….Yasss” from the AGW folk they’d still have that man-made cause as a fall back.”
    DAV, considering all the other outrageous claims made by the Pogies, you might be “right on!”
    Jack Koenig, Editor
    The Mysterious Climate Project

  7. Thanks, Frank, that link to Solaemon is instructive, particularly about the three present spots.

  8. Bill Illis,
    That’s a very interesting graphic as well. But you say:
    “The before and after animation makes it pretty clear how flagrant this re-writing of history was especially considering that 2007 later became a record low sea ice extent (1.5 million sq. kms less than it would have been without this massive adjustment in the base data.)”
    Sorry but I’m having some trouble following you. Which image shows what was actually out in the field? And which image was incorrect? It’s not clear to me what you’re trying to say.
    (Do you write legal contracts?)

  9. MR: Thank you for this impressive and essential documentation.
    I have the impression the NASA heliophysicists and many in the community are beneficiaries of AGW and the temptation to sympathize is real and effective.
    As the prediction of the 24 minimum has progressed: Jan 2007, June 2007, March 2008 (I may be missing some) the pressure has built to maintain AGW compliance. Pierre significantly notes the obsession with solar max inspite of Lassens demonstration that cycle length is more telling.
    We may receive a real victory if Hathaway or his like are forced to abandon AGW support and reluctantly defect.

  10. Yep, yep, yep. I think the nuggets are in the “last one out-first one in” measure and the length of overlap. IMHO cycle 23 is lengthening out as stated above and IMHO cycle 24 is two years old and has had only two reverse polarity spots, both less than a hickup in strength. The predictive value (if we can show this kind of change prior to cold cycles of any length in the past) of this kind of change over could, might, maybe allow us to predict a minimum and allow preparation time for irrigated short season cold-weather crops (I manage a ranch in NE Oregon). The snow run-off will keep ditches full for flood and sprinkler irrigation and strip farming will be productive on dry land due to snow melt into the ground resulting in surface irrigation without applying water from another source.
    If we don’t prepare for global warming and it continues, food production will likely increase (warm temperatures in the past coincide with increase vegetation). If we don’t prepare for global cooling, people will die. Its kind of like Bill’s lie. When he lied about gettin some, no one died (or at least he escaped sudden death at the hands of his wife). When Bush lied about WMD, thousands died.
    My grandparents always told me to dress for cold weather. Even in August. They lived through several cycles of warm/cold years and developed a wisdom that transcended current predictions. Do bad 60 minutes didn’t interview our ancients let alone those who’s research efforts can and have been defended.

  11. Pamela:
    Agree about the end-to-end measure.
    But as to the “thousands died” analogy, one must in all fairness consider how many thousands Saddam was starving and murdering right up to the eve of the invasion. As our fellow liberal, Tony Blair, pointed out about Iraq, “Doing nothing IS doing something.” (i.e, something bad.) No, I don’t want to start a big Iraq sidetrack, just pointing out that in foreign policy as in climate, one has to consider all the known factors.

  12. No, Saddam lied, to keep the Persians at bay. Also, Joe Wilson lied.
    Anthony: While I’m sure a fascinating and robust discussion could emerge, let’s steer away from political please.

  13. @Gary
    The door has been left open for a Hathaway victory:
    When describing the Maunder Minimum:
    “There is evidence that the Sun has had similar periods of inactivity in the more distant past. The connection between solar activity and terrestrial climate is an area of on-going research.”

  14. What? No war for carbon?
    Sorry about that, I’ll restrain myself in the future. She’s aware about climate, anyway, and that’s important.

  15. Reviewing the animation, it is REMARKABLE (cap’s intended!) how rigidly NASA kept its predictions for the Oct-Nov-Dec 2007- Jan 2008. They kept their otiginal intensity prediction of 25 (and plus/minus range markers of over 40!) right up to the point when the actual data showed “zero’s” for the actual activity.
    Stubbornly, in the face of actual numbers declining through the end of 2007, NASA kept pretending that Solar Cycle 24 would suddenly begin (and massively increase) right up through the very last projection for the original gif graph.
    Makes you wonder if NASA is now breeding “scientists” who care only for their predictions, not the actual data.
    Oh wait. Hansen is still schilling for the AGW extremists, isn’t he?

  16. IMHO cycle 24 is two years old and has had only two reverse polarity spots
    This is the elephant in the room everyone is ignoring. What is happening in cycle 23 is of no consequence, including its effect on solar minimum. The real news is the complete absence of cycle 24 sunspots.
    BTW, the way solar minimum is measured as the low point in sunspots between two cycles seems to lead people to think there is a causal relationship (i.e. sunspots from current cycle have to end before the sunspots from the new cycle can begin), which as far as I am aware there isn’t.

  17. AGW is true, now let us prove it!
    Clearly the CO2 concentration at Mona Loa has some sort of an effect on the Solar Cycle.

  18. re: what investors should look for
    The colder climate will affect Canadian and Russian wheat production. Fruit orchards that have marched northward during global warming will freeze. Heating and industrial fuel will be hard to find this time around since oil isn’t sweet anymore. Any kind of animal or vegetable production north of the 45th parallel will likely be reduced due to short and harsh growing seasons.
    Invest in wheat futures here in the US because we will once again be supplying the world with bread. Invest in southern climate fruit production (and learn to like the taste and texture of winter apples). Buy a sheep herd and learn how to shear wool. Cotton will be king once again because ALL oil will go for heating and industry, not clothes. Invest in wood heat if you are lucky. Wind energy may not work so well since cold climates reduce wind. Solar panels may be a bust but don’t throw them away just yet. If you plant a garden, plant short season crops and learn how to preserve food since transportation of food from one part of the country to another will be VERY expensive due to fuel prices (see comment about sweet oil above). Learn how to build greenhouses. Try to remember EVERYTHING your grandmother taught you about anything at all.

  19. …and if you like Washington wine made from Washington grapes, or Oregon wine made from Oregon grades, kiss it goodby because its back to apple wine for the lot of us. My grandmother used to make the best apple wine I have ever tasted.

  20. Pamela Gray
    If the cooling prevails, the economic squeeze will take us to an environment of scarcity rather than the one of plenty we have lived through the last decades.
    This means grandmother’s tips on parsimony and making ends meet and using leftovers for a fancy name meal have to also be recalled.
    It will also mean the flight from suburbia and isolated houses because of security reasons and heating reasons too. It is not by accident that villages came to be with people huddled together in small rooms.
    I am keeping my fingers crossed for a “reasonable cooling” that will stop the AGW stampede without destroying our life rhythms. The two next winters may do it.

  21. Pamela Gray – you have perfectly described “The Second Era Of Human Migration” – AKA “The Second Dark Ages.”
    In a sense, we have probably been toying with the threshold since the late 1700s. We could get pushed over the edge any time.

  22. Quote – Anna V :
    It will also mean the flight from suburbia and isolated houses because of security reasons and heating reasons too. It is not by accident that villages came to be with people huddled together in small rooms.
    The bird flu will love global cooling.

  23. The rise to prominence and eventual decline and “mysterious” and complete disappearance of the Anasazi tribe in the American southwest, shows an almost perfect correlation with MWP as depicted in
    Figure 4 of Archibald
    The rise stars about 490 A.D. and by 1350 A.D. they had completely disappeared. Quite a mystery.
    P.S. apologies if I have not submitted the links properly

  24. Regarding the previous comment, the point is warmer and wetter climate allowed the Anasazi to thrive but when the temperature and moisture levels declined into the LIA the Anasazi culture vanished.

  25. Pam said,

    Hey, don’t abandon all of Canada! I agree, the Landscheidt Minimum is nigh but cereal grains will remain North of the 48th, although I’m not sure the Mennonites (Fort Vermilion, Alberta, Canada) that won best ‘red spring wheat’ at the Chicago World Fair in the 18th century will be even getting a good crop of green feed at the 58th parallel in 10 years.
    … but Winterpeg will no longer be the center of Canadian Soy production because even the summers will be cool, canola will be all we can grow. Lower grades of corn will be questionable, #1 Wheat will be confined to the absolute southern Canadian Praries, Niagra Penninsula and Acadian fruit production will cease (BC will be OK due to microclimate) ….
    So, not the end of the world, but I think Archibald’s thesis that you can just drive 2 hours north (100 miles) to your new climatic conditions pretty well matches the Maunder Minimum experience from the paintings I’ve looked at 😉

  26. Earlier this morning I was dismayed reading the following on “globalchange group”, a moderated discussion group with a predominantly academic bent on IPCC doctrine:
    under the thread “Does Solar Variability affect Climate”, one conclusion was: “Scientists have produced further compelling evidence showing that
    modern-day climate change is not caused by changes in the Sun’s
    Looks like another denialist claim shot down with data.”
    This prompted me to respond with the following (it will be interesting to see if this contribution is accepted):
    “To describe the sun’s contribution to climate change since time immemorial as “a denialist’s claim shot down by data” is an absurd statement, not worthy of a supposedly august forum like this one. Quite apart from Singer’s publications and presentations, there is a huge body of literature, including peer-reviewed, on the correlation of the earth’s climate system with continuously changing solar parameters. Some of the entry portals have already been mentioned in this thread and a simple Internet search will lead you in the right direction.
    Remember, CO2 is a trace gas crucial for photosynthesis (and green houses are known to produce excellent crops at elevated CO2 concentrations); 1934 is the well-documented warmest year of the past 150; there has been slight cooling since 1998 (more pronounced since 2004 – see new satellite data), and much more. And yes, as everybody can check (below) after surviving an exceptionally harsh winter: Northern Hemisphere Sea Ice Area is ahead substantially from a year ago and close to the mean from 1979 – 2000, whereas Southern Hemisphere Sea Ice is considerably above the same mean…
    Example for North: – Southern and global data are also there.
    As an aside: the colonization of Greenland by the Vikings and Alpine Glaciers that had receded much farther than currently are deniers’ illusions? as are the Little Ice Age and the year without summer (1816), since Mann’s careful and universally applicable data proved that these climate events could never have happened…?
    Are you willing to take credit for the likely global cooling of the near future, together with Al Gore? The particulate load from new not-so-clean coal plants may soon be rivalling well-documented volcanic contributions to the mitigation of solar inputs…
    All this does not mean that one should burn fossil fuels with unbridled abandon. But look at the emerging land use and food cost catastrophe built on an out-of-control biofuel craze! Isn’t it time to move toward a differentiated approach to natural resource usage and conservation, to strive toward living in harmony with the constantly changing metabolism of Earth? Isn’t it time to re-evaluate arrogant attitudes like “Save the Planet” and learn to understand what’s truly going on? Isn’t it time to step away from the polarizing debates between Hot Heads and to stop creating all that new Hot Air?
    Is it not time to check the data a bit more carefully, including the often sloppy practices of measuring and recording terrestrial temperatures? Please study other relevant blogs (such as Climate Science, Watt’s up with that, ICECAP and others) with an objective mind before denouncing the solar information as denialist claptrap…
    (my credentials: independent oceanographer specializing in deep-sea imaging, holding a broad US Patent on aquatic habitat health using biomonitoring methods)”
    Given statements such as “Looks like another denialist claim shot down with data”, it’s difficult to refrain from cynicism. I’ll try harder while elucidating certain experimental oceanographic approaches in my new blog – deepslope – coming soon to
    I really appreciate the great work, Anthony!

  27. Anthony, just realized that I posted my lengthy contribution to the wrong thread – if you can accept it, could you please select a more appropriate spot?
    thank you,
    REPLY: Unfortunately I am unable to move comments due to limits in the software, the on;y way they can show up on the right thread is for you to copy/paste and resubmit there.

  28. I notice that the bottom has fallen out of the sunspot numbers according to the graph at NOAA. Any idea when they are going to polish up their crystal balls and issue another “prediction” or must I go down the street and see what Madame Sophia has to say?

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