The new cycle 24 solar forecast is hot off the press from noon today, published at 12:03 PM from the Space Weather Prediction Center. It looks like a peak of 90 spots/month in May of 2013 now. SWPC has dropped their “high forecast” and have gone only with the “low forecast” as you can see in the before and after graphs that I’ve overlaid below. Place your bets on whether that “low forecast” will be an overshooting forecast or not. It has been a lot of work getting this info out as the SWPC has had trouble with their web page today.
The quote of interest is:
A new active period of Earth-threatening solar storms will be the weakest since 1928 and its peak is still four years away, after a slow start last December, predicts an international panel of experts led by NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center.
After over a year of hedging, it looks like NOAA’s SWPC is finally coming around to the reality of a lower than normal solar cycle. – Anthony
UPDATE2: Minutes later @12:15PM. Dammit, they changed the graphs back! Anybody have cache files? – Anthony
UPDATE3: @12:20 PM And now it’s back.
UPDATE4: @ 12:45PM There are some serious problems with the SWPC page, the sunspot graph content keeps changing and the 10.7 flux graph is just plain wrong. They also have no written press release. What a train wreck.
UPDATE5: @1:00PM I called Doug Biesecker, SWPC’s “media relations” director at both of his numbers, to ask what is going on. No answer. Left a request for a call-back.
UPDATE6: @1:40PM I heard from Doug Biesecker, he said they are having server issues, he and his webmaster were working to fix the problem. He also said the press conference was recorded and he would be sending an audio link. Look for it here soon.
UPDATE7: @2:10PM looks like SWPC has their web page fixed now. Thanks Doug.
UPDATE8: @2:18PM Found the NOAA SWPC press release (linked at spaceweather.com) and it is reprinted below the “read more” line. I also changed the title of this post to reflect the quote in the spaceweather.com feature story/PR from SWPC.
I was able to capture the new sunspot prediction graph, and combined it with the previous prediction as an overlay, which I have presented below:
Leif Svalgaard found this explanation:
If one digs a little deeper, there is some ‘explanation’
Solar Cycle 24 Prediction Update
May 8, 2009 — The Solar Cycle 24 Prediction Panel has reached a consensus decision on the prediction of the next solar cycle (Cycle 24). First, the panel has agreed that solar minimum occurred in December, 2008. This still qualifies as a prediction since the smoothed sunspot number is only valid through September, 2008. The panel has decided that the next solar cycle will be below average in intensity, with a maximum sunspot number of 90. Given the predicted date of solar minimum and the predicted maximum intensity, solar maximum is now expected to occur in May, 2013. Note, this is a consensus opinion, not a unanimous decision. A supermajority of the panel did agree to this prediction.”
The ‘90′ was not agreed upon. The only choices the panel members had in the last vote were ‘high’ or ‘low’. I pointed out that the value was important too and that just because 90 was the average number of the ‘low’ group two years does not mean that it a good number now. This was ignored.
This one paragraph below is all we have so far from SWPC web page:
Solar Cycle 24 Prediction Update released May 8, 2009
The charts on this page depict the progression of the Solar Cycle. The charts and tables are updated by the Space Weather Prediction Center monthly using the latest ISES predictions. Observed values are initially the preliminary values which are replaced with the final values as they become available.
Here is the “press release” as feature story from spaceweather.com
May 8, 2009: A new active period of Earth-threatening solar storms will be the weakest since 1928 and its peak is still four years away, after a slow start last December, predicts an international panel of experts led by NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center. Even so, Earth could get hit by a devastating solar storm at any time, with potential damages from the most severe level of storm exceeding $1 trillion. NASA funds the prediction panel.
Solar storms are eruptions of energy and matter that escape from the sun and may head toward Earth, where even a weak storm can damage satellites and power grids, disrupting communications, the electric power supply and GPS. A single strong blast of solar wind can threaten national security, transportation, financial services and other essential functions.
The panel predicts the upcoming Solar Cycle 24 will peak in May 2013 with 90 sunspots per day, averaged over a month. If the prediction proves true, Solar Cycle 24 will be the weakest cycle since number 16, which peaked at 78 daily sunspots in 1928, and ninth weakest since the 1750s, when numbered cycles began.
The most common measure of a solar cycle’s intensity is the number of sunspots—Earth-sized blotches on the sun marking areas of heightened magnetic activity. The more sunspots there are, the more likely it is that solar storms will occur, but a major storm can occur at any time.
“As with hurricanes, whether a cycle is active or weak refers to the number of storms, but everyone needs to remember it only takes one powerful storm to cause expensive problems,” said NOAA scientist Doug Biesecker, who chairs the panel. “The strongest solar storm on record occurred in 1859 during another below-average cycle similar to the one we are predicting.”
The 1859 storm shorted out telegraph wires, causing fires in North America and Europe, sent readings of Earth’s magnetic field soaring, and produced northern lights so bright that people read newspapers by their light.
A recent report by the National Academy of Sciences found that if a storm that severe occurred today, it could cause $1-2 trillion in damages the first year and require four to ten years for recovery, compared to $80-125 billion that resulted from Hurricane Katrina.
The panel also predicted that the lowest sunspot number between
cycles—or solar minimum—occurred in December 2008, marking the end of Cycle 23 and the start of Cycle 24. If the December prediction holds up, at 12 years and seven months Solar Cycle 23 will be the longest since 1823 and the third longest since 1755. Solar cycles span 11 years on average, from minimum to minimum.
An unusually long, deep lull in sunspots led the panel to revise its 2007 prediction that the next cycle of solar storms would start in March 2008 and peak in late 2011 or mid-2012. The persistence of a quiet sun since the last prediction has led the panel to a consensus that the next cycle will be “moderately weak.”
NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) is the nation’s first alert of solar activity and its effects on Earth. The Center’s space weather experts issue outlooks for the next 11-year solar cycle and warn of storms occurring on the Sun that could impact Earth. SWPC is also the world warning agency for the International Space Environment Service, a consortium of 12 member nations.
As the world economy becomes more reliant on satellite-based communications and interlinked power grids, interest in solar activity has grown dramatically. In 2008 alone, SWPC acquired 1,700 new subscription customers for warnings, alerts, reports, and other products. Among the new customers are emergency managers, airlines, state transportation departments, oil companies, and nuclear power stations. SWPC’s customers reside in 150 countries.
“Our customer growth reflects today’s reality that all sectors of society are highly dependent on advanced, space-based technologies,” said SWPC director Tom Bogdan. “Today every hiccup from the sun aimed at Earth has potential consequences.”