New Sunspot emerging – looks to be cycle 24

Alert reader Andrew writes:

“I was just looking at the SOHO images and is it just me or does it look like there’s a sunspot developing in the lower left quadrant? If so, would this still be a cycle 23 spot given its low latitude?”

It appears that a new spot is indeed emerging, and unless I’m dyslexic about the polarity it looks as if this is the first cycle 24 spot in the southern hemisphere.

Compare it to the last cycle 24 spot, in the northern hemisphere:

Note the when crossing to the southern hemisphere, magnetic polarity reverses and you cross the equator and this spot is reversed from the polarity of the last cycle 24 spot in the northern hemisphere.

Michelson Doppler Image (MDI):


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anna v
May 3, 2008 10:05 pm

Yes, it looks as a 24 one.
A few days ago there were in the magnetogram dispersed concentrations of N and S that could have been interpreted as a weak swarm of 24s.
As we say in Greece, one swallow does not introduce spring.

May 3, 2008 10:09 pm

It’s tiny!!

Brian D
May 3, 2008 10:21 pm is calling it a 24 spot.

May 3, 2008 10:29 pm

Nevermind. It was just a fly on the lens…
PS. I have learned more about sunspots in the last couple of months than I ever thought possible.

May 3, 2008 10:39 pm

frog: Yes, amazing how not seeing any will do that.
Helios Sneezed.

May 3, 2008 11:18 pm
Frank Ravizza
May 3, 2008 11:21 pm

It’s tiny!

Pierre Gosselin
May 3, 2008 11:55 pm

Another tiny Tim.
Wouldn’t it be a bit of a stretch to say Cycle 24 has started?
Is the puny size an indication of how this Cycle 24 is starting? It seems to be stalling and sputtering. Is this spot expected to bite the dust like the earlier ones?

Michael Ronayne
May 4, 2008 12:40 am

Here is a blink-animation for the new SC24 (?) sunspot. The magnetic abnormality appeared in the frame at 2008-05-03 06:58. The sunspots appeared in the frame at 2008-05-03 20:46.
A minimum of 3 sunspots can be discerned in some frames. In the last frame with sunspots, their size and number appears to be decreasing. I will update the blink-animation when more frames become available.
Note: To view using IE press the “F11” key to toggle between full screen and the normal IE display. To stop the animation, press the “Esc” key. To restart the animation press “F5”. The solar image is best viewed in full size, if using IE pass the pointer over the image and click if a magnifying glass is displayed with a “plus” sign in the center. The blink speed is one frame every 2.5 seconds with a 8 second delay on the last frame.

May 4, 2008 1:27 am

I would like to state for the record that that is a different Andrew than me. He is welcome to take the label for use here, and I will come up with something else. For the record, I sometimes use the label “timetochooseagain” so that is what I will use from now on, I suppose.

Jerker Andersson
May 4, 2008 3:23 am

There have been very small SC24 magnetic fields almost every week for the last few months but the size of them is far too small to even get close to produce sunspots. The duration of those “micro” magnetic fields seems to last a very short time, 1 or 2 days.
Now, there is no doubt that SC24 has started to produce sunspots but the big question is, how long will it keep producing very tiny spots and be outnumbered by SC23? Does anyone have data or pictures available from the last transition between SC22 and 23? Did it also just produce very tine spots for a year until the big one started to appear?
Is this a normal transition, i.e. it starts with very tiny spots and then later as it accelerates it starts to produce big spots that lasts for more than a few days?

May 4, 2008 3:59 am

Talk about a Timy Tim. I though it was a busted pixel on my flat panel….

Bob B
May 4, 2008 5:41 am
Michael Ronayne
May 4, 2008 6:54 am

SIDC has an alert on the event which they officially classified as Solar Cycle 24. No number has been assigned as yet.
:Issued: 2008 May 04 1243 UTC
:Product: documentation at
A small A sunspot group appeared today at latitude -28 degrees. This tiny feature belongs to the new solar cycle and is the first one to appear in the Southern hemisphere. No significant activity is expected from this group. The solar wind speed is still elevated (500 km/s) but without major impact on the Earth magnetosphere. We predict quiet to unsettled geomagnetic conditions for one or two days, followed by quiet conditions. We thus issued an all quiet alert.
NASA appears to be on holiday and their near real-time image database is a tad bit slow this morning.

Bill Illis
May 4, 2008 6:58 am

SIDC is calling it a Cycle 24 sunspot. The Sun is slowly waking up.
A small sunspot group appeared today at latitude -28 degrees. This
tiny feature belongs to the new solar cycle and is the first one to
appear in the Southern hemisphere. No significant activity is expected
from this group. The solar wind speed is still elevated (500 km/s) but
without major impact on the Earth magnetosphere. We predict quiet to
unsettled geomagnetic conditions for one or two days, followed by quiet
conditions. We thus issued an all quiet alert.

May 4, 2008 7:46 am

this raises an interesting question. How long does a sunspot have to exist before it is labeled as such by the powers-that-be?

May 4, 2008 8:20 am

Scoff: Cycle 24 can’t be said actually to have “started” until C24-spots outnumber C23-spots.
Did this spot get a “number”? And what’s the running total now? (Just how Tiny does Tim have to be before that give him a number and take away his name, anyway?)

May 4, 2008 8:45 am

I imaged it myself today (from Norway), using an 8-inch Schmidt Cassegrain and a webcam, plus white light solar filter. It is a stack of about 600 single frames.
There is also a a whole disk image taken with a digicam throuh a smaller telescope. That spot is indeed a tiny one

Andrew Upson
May 4, 2008 8:53 am

The other Andrew – sorry. I usually type in my last name too but didn’t for some reason. Feel free to keep using your first name. I’ll make sure to use my full name from now on.
Anyway, it’s still visible on the current magnetogram image, though it’s almost gone from the continuum image.

May 4, 2008 9:20 am

[…] 24 Spot Posted on May 4, 2008 by chillguy33 Will Cycle 24 please come on down? Trained eyes (Anthony Watts) say the polarity is correct (reversed, since below the Sun’s equator). Now, will it stick […]

Michael Ronayne
May 4, 2008 9:52 am

At the risk of being accused of not wearing my aluminum foil helmet today (honestly I have it on), the MDI Continuum and MDI Magnetogram SOHO images have still not updated after over 11 hours at while current images of other data products are already available. Without the SOHO MDI images we are blind. For example we can’t accurately determine how long this new SC24 sunspot lasts.
I check the MDI history using Excel for both datasets and found that in the last 400 downloads (early February 2008); there have been outages which lasted as long as 2 days, 17 hours and 38 minutes! The sun has been so inactive that no one apparently cared.
System will only fail when the data is most critical!
The second I post this message the updates will become available.
I am making this post to insure an update.

May 4, 2008 10:06 am

Like Pluto was downgraded recently to a dwarf planet, I think these early new SC24 sunspots should be renamed as dwarf sunspots.

May 4, 2008 11:20 am

Dumb question – I know the solar cycle business and sunspot deal. What I’m not clear on is what significance it has. Does it mean warmer, cooler, does the delay in starting the next cycle mean something? Maybe someone can explain or provide a link to a solar cycle primer.

Pierre Gosselin
May 4, 2008 1:05 pm

Carsten Arnholm,
Great shot!

May 4, 2008 1:27 pm
Michael Ronayne
May 4, 2008 1:43 pm

Houston We Have A Problem!
The SOHO MDI Continuum & MDI Magnetogram imaging systems are not updating, as the Date/Time stamps on the following eight SOHO products indicates.
As of this post the last MDI Continuum & MDI Magnetogram downloads were over fifteen hours ago.
The following graphic shows the delays between MDI Continuum & MDI Magnetogram downloads during 2008. With the number of Tiny Tim SC24 sunspots we are seeing, could one have slipped through unnoticed through the gaps which the following graphic identifies.
REPLY: It’s the weekend, perhaps they are short staffed for some reason. No need to panic yet.

May 4, 2008 2:04 pm

It sure looks like the real deal. All I can say is late is better than never. I’m not looking forward to a cooling of any kind. I’ve gotten use to the mild winters, and the longer gardening seasons of the last 2 decades.
I can still remember vividly the long, seemingly endless winters of my childhood (Snow from and frigid temps from Thanksgiving to St Joseph’s Day in March or April).

Brian D
May 4, 2008 2:07 pm
May 4, 2008 2:56 pm

Carsten Arnholm, Norway (08:45:37) :
“I imaged it myself today (from Norway), using an 8-inch Schmidt Cassegrain and a webcam, plus white light solar filter. It is a stack of about 600 single frames.
Nice job, though I can’t think of any other sunspot image I’ve seen where someone has gone through that much effort to photograph it. Maybe next time you’ll be able to split the penumbra and umbra – I imagine this was all penumbra.
Michael Ronayne (09:52:47) :
“… we can’t accurately determine how long this new SC24 sunspot lasts.”
Okay guys. It’s 2008 and we’re looking at sunspots that Galileo never could have seen without 300 more years of progress and we’re trying to make sunspot counts so we can compare them with past centuries. Perhaps James Hansen would be willing to come up with an adjustment that boosts past numbers so we can compare things with today.
Measuring the life time of sunspots is interesting – we happily burble on about “Hurricane Days, “Heating Degree Days,” and I’ll talk your ear off about “Snow Depth Days.” The summed sunspot counts over time sort of do that, but when we’re dealing with spots that don’t have the decency to last an entire day or Solar rotation, it does leave a pretty bad error signal, at least percentage-wise. Perhaps we need a better measurement of size too instead of giving a boost by counting groups of spots too.
By the time SC24 ramps up, I’ll probably be a much bigger fan of the 10.7 cm radio flux as a measurement of solar activity as that helps account for size, duration, and invisible activity.
Oh – while I have the floor, the pages hanging off of has NOAA’s “Prediction Panel’s” April 2007 forecast. There are pages saying they would update things in a year, I asked about that last Friday and got a response from the media contact saying conditions haven’t changed and that a forecast would be out a year after SC24 gets going.
There may be a bit of a disconnect between documents I see and those the SWPC deals with, but I’ll conclude that they have no better idea of what’s going on than we do. I was kind of waiting for the 2008 report before getting interested in climatology again, but in February I realized I had waited long enough and interesting things had started happening. I have no idea if anything other than the graphs will be updated soon.
– Ric

Pamela Gray
May 4, 2008 3:30 pm

While a sunspot is interesting, it is IMO, not the correct measure to use for the sun’s affect on climate. I believe the magnetic field to be important, which during a quiet sun, allows atmospheric disturbances on earth to occur that play a significant role in water vapor development and planetary cooling. Even flares, big ones, may not be the measure we should be looking at as far as climate goes. The more active the sun gets, the more magnetic field it generates. The magnetic field generated by an active sun keeps us wrapped in an atmosphere that tends to warm us up and trap trace gases that feeds our plants. I believe we have been in a quiet cycle 23/cycle 24 minimum for quite some time and have been hit hard with cosmic rays.

May 4, 2008 4:42 pm

The end of the last cycle has previously been observed to be 6-20 months from the first sunspot of the new cycle, with a mean of 11-12 months. (That is, it takes about a year from the time the first new cycle sunspot is observed, for the number of spots from the new cycle to outnumber the number of spots from the old cycle.
That should put the end of cycle 23 around Dec 08 / Jan 09. But there is really no way to forcast how quickly the new one will ramp up. You just have to observe what happens, and hindcast the official stop/start a couple of months latter.

Michael Ronayne
May 4, 2008 4:51 pm

The sunspot has been assigned the number 993 but SIDC is not tracking it and it is over 24 hours old. Still no MDI updates.
IA. Analysis of Solar Active Regions and Activity from 03/2100Z
to 04/2100Z: Solar activity was very low. New Region 993 (S29E27)
emerged on the disk during the period as a small, simple Bxo Beta
group. The region has a new cycle magnetic configuration and
appears to be growing slowly.

Paul Linsay
May 4, 2008 4:52 pm

Carsten Arnholm, Norway
As an amateur astronomer maybe you would know: Would a telescope at the time of the Maunder Minimum have been able to resolve sunspots this small?

Michael Ronayne
May 4, 2008 8:54 pm

I am not panicking Mt. Wilson is on the job with paper and pencil reporting on #993. Apparently they work on weekends. I just can’t participate in all the fun!
No MDI sighting yet and we are coming up on 24 hours.
SIDC is now tracking #993 which is now over 36 hours old, if it is still there. I wonder is SIDC closes for the weekend?

May 4, 2008 9:36 pm

That’s what I asked last itty-bitty spot.
I don’t even know yet what the number is. Do these “count”? what’s the total?

May 4, 2008 9:44 pm

Paul Linsay (16:52:52) :
“Would a telescope at the time of the Maunder Minimum have been able to resolve sunspots this small?”
Not a chance. Galileo’s telescopes were barely able to resolve the rings on Saturn. In a modern telescope amateurs might own Saturn is wonderful jewel in the sky – oblate disk with elliptical disk for the rings. Traces of texture on the planet, fairly easy to see the Enke division in the rings. Saturn’s rings are about 40 arc-seconds across, the Sun is about 1800, I’d guess those Tiny Tims are about 5. With all the turbulence during daytime, I’m not sure Carsten could see the spot well with direct viewing, that’s one reason his image is a stack of 600 separate images.
for some Saturn images from an over-achieving small (3.5″ aperture) scope.

May 4, 2008 10:57 pm

You might get an idea of the size of what Galileo did see by looking at his sketches.
was done in June of 1613

May 5, 2008 3:26 am

@Paul Linsay
“As an amateur astronomer maybe you would know: Would a telescope at the time of the Maunder Minimum have been able to resolve sunspots this small?”
Look up the drawings of people like Jan Hevelius, who observed sunspots at that time. I don’t think they would have detected it. I used a 60mm apochromatic refractor (i.e. pretty sharp optics), but it was very hard to see it visually, even when I knew it should be there. I saw it with some difficulty.
Granted, the seeing wasn’t ideal, but all in all I doubt that this spot would have been detected during the Maunder minimum.
So if we are comparing with Maunder minimum sunspot counts, I think we should be careful jumping to quick conclusions. The minimum could be many months into the future still.

Pierre Gosselin
May 5, 2008 3:39 am

Awhile back the idea was floated that the recent bee die-offs may have been linked to solar activity. Here’s something new on the subject:

Pierre Gosselin
May 5, 2008 5:04 am

Back to the Nature report,
Germany’s leading tabloid – Bild – now reports that according to the Leibnitz Institute:
“The earth is now entering a natural cold phase, possibly caused by fluctuations in solar energy. For the time being this effect is neutralising manmade global warming from greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide). But after that, the experts warm, dangerous global warming will resume.”,geo=4445760.html
I don’t recall Keenlyside et. al. mentioning anything about solar energy fluctuations in their press release. Are they recognising the sun is now a factor?

May 5, 2008 5:32 am

The SOHO “realtime” page hasn’t updated since before I went to bed, so I took my telescope out for a peek. Couldn’t see a spot, except for lotsa crud on the eyepiece. (No, there’s no chance of confusing the two – eyepiece crud is stationary, sunspots jump around a lot at the magnification I was using.) I don’t think I’ve ever looked at a spotless sun before, not much reason to most days.
There’s a good chance I wouldn’t have seen it at its best, anyway.

George M
May 5, 2008 6:09 am

Anthony can answer most of the recent questions better than I, but he stays very busy, so I’ll take a swing at a few which have elicited no response.
The primary interest in sunspots is by the radio communications and electric utility sectors. Effects on climate are a new area of interest, and all the effects have yet to be observed, much less docu,mented. The sun bathes the earth in different kinds of particles, radiation at wavelengths from very long (acoustic frequency range electromagnetic) to beyond UV, and maybe more which I don’t know about. The radiation is fully formed electromagnetic, see Maxwell’s equations. The component electric and magnetic are easier to explain to people, and thus the emphasis on one or the other in media reports.
Climate effects:
Which of all these affect climate? Still under debate.
So far, EVERY (recorded) sunspot cycle has been different from every other, making forecasting shall we say, difficult. And, since the raw numbers are so erratic, a cumulative one year smoothed number is used to quantize the data, so even “real time” information is 6 months old.
On the SOHO images, remember the earth is turning under the LaGrange point, and different earth stations receive the images at different times; loss of one ground station will put a big hole in the data, and I don’t know where station outages are reported, or even if they are.
Inter-cycle counts:
The question about the characteristics of the 22/23 crossover keeps arising. I was on a busy travel schedule during that time, and tracked only the gross smoothed number. I remember getting to Guam, turning on receivers and thinking all the antennas were down, since NO signals were present. Turned out to be one of the flares which had erupted after I left home. Someone needs to see if one of the solar observatories (Big Bear, Sunspot, [?]in Chile) has the detailed records of that time period. They were taken, but who archived them? And where? Sorry, I do not have that information.
Count adjustments:
There are ongoing calculations trying to determine what the present numbers mean in terms of the very early observations. I believe this was discussed and several leads to specifics appeared in this blog last year.
You’re going to have to start a Category for Sunspots and make sure the earlier articles get properly tagged. Just in case you need something to do.
George M.
REPLY I’ll add it to the pile

Terry S
May 5, 2008 6:41 am

Re Paul Linsay

As an amateur astronomer maybe you would know: Would a telescope at the time of the Maunder Minimum have been able to resolve sunspots this small?

I’m not an astronomer of any sort but I would imagine that the duration of a sunspot would also play a part as to whether it would have been detected. In the past a spot would only be visible if the sun was not obscured by clouds. The smaller the duration the greater the chance that the sun would be obscured for the spots entire lifetime.

May 5, 2008 8:11 am

Interesting, but really another “Tiny Tim” that may well not have been noticed back during the Maunder Minimum from 1645 to 1715. They certainly would not have known the magnetic polarity of the spots back then.

Jim Arndt
May 5, 2008 8:43 am

SC24 start with the first spot. However we only reach minimum when the number of SC24 spots is greater than the number of SC23 spots. So the general discussion is when due we reach minimum? Make me wonder is the Maunder minimum had these very small spots and they just couldn’t see them.

anna v
May 5, 2008 8:55 am

A small reminder that the length of the sun cycle is inversly correlated with temperature:
Look at fig 13 in
There are more of these simple plots, but I do not have the link. I think he presented them at the conference in march.where people have records for two centuries of both temperature and number of sunspots and the length of the cycles. Nothing fancy, but consistent. The longer the cycle the colder the next period.
BTW Soho has updated the magnetic view. The spot is still there.

anna v
May 5, 2008 9:07 am
with more correlations of sunspot length with temperatures

Michael Ronayne
May 5, 2008 10:16 am

The MDI Magnetogram image updated after 33 hours but there is no update for the MDI Continuum image as yet and that is is the one which counts.

May 5, 2008 10:48 am

Who let Evan Jones out?
Over on El Reg on the Tale of Two Thermometers thread at Evan went British, paraphrasing G&S with “Not to mention that solar cycle 24 is the very model of a modern major minimum.
Jolly good, ol’ chap!

May 5, 2008 10:50 am

David Archibald’s paper presented at the 2008 International Conference on Climate Change in New York is a most cogent discussion of the implications the delayed onset of solar cycle 24. See . One can view his PowerPoint presentation at this site – it can be found about halfway down the page under Monday, March 3, 2008, 2:15 PM, Panels, Track 2: Climatology. The presentation is an update of the one he made at the June 2007 Lavoisier Group’s Workshop in Melbourne titled “Rehabilitating Carbon Dioxide” which can be found at . Fans of Dr. Hansen shouldn’t miss slide #32

May 5, 2008 2:49 pm

OK kids, can we moderate the doom & gloom about the sun? The Little Ice Age took a while to really set in, first with the Sporer Minimum, then the Maunder, and the Earth eased back out of it after the Dalton. It takes a few half-amplitude solar cycles before cumulative effects would really show, just as other studies show longer-term 20th century trends in solar luminance correlate most with historical temperatures. The Earth’s sensitivity to solar flux appears to include a lag of about 5 – 8 years.
Anyone know how much average solar luminance decreased since 1990? Apparently this slight 17-year decline is seen as responsible for a “mere” -0.1 degrC change, or about 0.06 degrC per decade. Understood this is only in the context of steady, full-amplitude solar cycles of the 20th century, meaning periodic minima wouldn’t pull the average down as much.
Longer minima, in a lower-frequency & half-amplitude multi-cycle trend, on the other hand, would a more-significant cumulative effect, proportionately. There must be some data and formulas for this. I would expect a multiple of the -0.06 C/decade.
Shindell at NASA/GISS modeled this back in 2001 and found the Maunder would cause far-more colder continental winters.
The bottom line was that the diminished solar luminance slowed interzonal convection and increased La Nina frequency & a generally lowered heat budget which lead to weaker continent-warming ocean-borne weather fronts in wintertime. While the cooling was modest, the effects in continental
interiors were profound. Likewise SC Asia has a historical record of famine corresponding with declines in solar luminance.
“…They determined that a dimmer Sun reduced the model’s westerly
winds, cooling the continents during wintertime. Shindell’s model
shows large regional climate changes, unlike other climate models that
show relatively small temperature changes on an overall global scale.
Other models did not assess regional changes.”
Shindell’s study found a 0.3-0.4C GST change, which might be about right, compared to this -0.06 current changee. I suspect Shindell’s study, were it run again, would show a lower GST outcome, taking cosmic rays and ocean effects into account. The upshot would be either to make the continental temperature model outcome more consistent, colder, or both.
This model was run in 2001, so it probably didn’t include cosmic ray influences on cloud cover, ocean-air coupling, PDO, AMO, NAO, AO or bigger La Nina effects.
Even skeptics of cosmic ray influence admit CRF can account for as much as 25 percent differential in cloud cover between 20th century solar min & max. A 25 percent differential is not enough to do it all, but it’s a nice nudge either way.
I think it can be reasonably assumed that SC#25 will be a half-amplitude dud, and I think it’s fair to guess likewise SC#26. Solar activity changes of this magnitude evolve over the course of several decades, so this evolving downtrend may be with us for a good while.
But for the time being my guess is the sun’s dimming marks the onset of a moderate Dalton- or Sporer-like grand minimum. That seems to me more probable than a deep-chill Maunder.

old construction worker
May 5, 2008 7:24 pm

This model was run in 2001, so it probably didn’t include cosmic ray influences on cloud cover,
The next questions. Has cloud cover started to increase? If so, what type?
If we are facing another minimum, I vote to name it “The Gore Minumum”.

May 6, 2008 4:38 pm

Hey Old Construction Worker, I’m a middle-aged mechanic.
I used to completely be a complete believer in dangerous CO2-driven global warming after I saw shrunken glaciers in the Rockies in the 1980’s. Then I found out soot has been melting them, the Arctic & Kilimanjaro & started to wonder what was up. Then I saw Gore’s movie & realized we were being stampeded.
I think we need to send Al Gore on the mitigation mission to steer Apophis after it passes by in 2013. Doesn’t matter if Apophis will miss or not in 2039, we need Al Gore to be selected in consideration of his humanitarian heroism:
“Houston. We have a problem. The return booster won’t fire.”
“Roger that Apophis Base. We have studied the problem and we’ve determined that the booster is actually full of copies of AIT.”
“Sorry Houston. Could you repeat that last transmission?”
“Apophis Base to Houston command, do you copy?”
We’ll all remember him as a hero.

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