NOAA SWPC Solar Cycle 24 Prediction: "weakest since 1928"

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:

click for larger image - note this is an overlay done by WUWT

click for larger image - note this is an overlay done by WUWT

Leif Svalgaard found this explanation:

If one digs a little deeper, there is some ‘explanation’

http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/ftpdir/weekly/README3

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.”

Leif  writes:

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

http://www.spaceweather.com/headlines/y2009/08may_noaaprediction.htm

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.”

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Mike86

I’m sorry, but that’s it?!? “We haven’t been right yet, but there’s always hope”?
Oh well, you can’t predict what you don’t understand.

Alan Chappell

As I am first ?
I dont want to make a fool of my self.
Wait! (not Watt)

Madman

Leif, they are coming around to your old prediction of a peak of ~75 !
You are de man!

Peak of 90, actually.
Note that there was no press conference and no further explanation for the prediction. The 10.7 graph is just plain wrong. They use an erroneous conversion formula between SSN and F10.7 flux, that among other things gets the minimum value wrong [as is plain by inspection]. Very embarrassing for them [and indirectly for me as I am on the infamous panel].

George DeBusk

I have not paid much attention to the sunspot cycles. What is the significance of a delay in the start of the next cycle? Does that portend a less active coming cycle than usual?

For february 2013, the highest of the lower curve reaches a SSN of 90 “invisible ghosts”:
2013 02 108.5 127.0 90.0

Walt Stone

Is there an intrinsic changing of the predicted peak (trough) of UV radiation for 2013 as well? Or is the difference between a sunspot number of 90 and 80 yield very little change in UV radiation hitting the earth’s surface?

Mark T

Sigh… how could you, Leif? /sarcasm
It does look like their F10.7 prediction curve has a serious discontinuity. It must not be smoothed with any previous values in the mix (else it would continue from where it actually is now).
Mark

Madman (09:14:25) :
Leif, they are coming around to your old prediction of a peak of ~75 !
You are de man!

They were not brave enough to go all the way…

I think that the maximum in 2013 is misguided. Every cycle with a lower amplitude has a significantly slower beginning – so I guess that the maximum will occur in 2014 if not 2015-2016.

Mike Abbott

I must be missing something. I cannot find any new press release on the SWPC web site. It still says it is coming even though the 12:00 ET target time has passed. I only find the same information Anthony posted yesterday.

Mark T (09:26:35) :
It does look like their F10.7 prediction curve has a serious discontinuity. It must not be smoothed with any previous values in the mix (else it would continue from where it actually is now).
Their curve is just wrong. And they know it, but are not allowed to fix it [as per Doug Biesecker when I pointed that out to him: “Leif, Yes, the f10.7 should not go down to 60. Our forecast minimum limit is 65. However, this requires a change in a product and I’m not ready to take that task on at this time. Changing products within the NWS can be a very time consuming, difficult task. For starters, we need some good analysis to show us definitively how to treat very small SSN data. However, if one were to complain about a product to the proper authorities, one might be able to prompt action. You’ll find a feedback form on our website.”]
Perhaps if everybody used that feedback form…
But this is a farce.

Richard deSousa

I still think they’re rolling the dice. They could be correct… eventually they will be correct but in which decade?

Douglas DC

Things like this give m no confidence in NASA.They have the predictive power of the late Johnny Carson’s “Great Karnak..”

MC

George DeBusk (09:21:40) :
I have not paid much attention to the sunspot cycles. What is the significance of a delay in the start of the next cycle? Does that portend a less active coming cycle than usual?
George, Go to DavidArchibald.info and read all the publications he’s made over the last 2-3 years. When your done you’ll be current on why there’s so much interest over SSC24. There are differing predictions and depending on who’s right and who’s wrong will determine who’s going to be credited with having and diseminating the best information.
Welcome aboard!!!

If one digs a little deeper, there is some ‘explanation’
http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/ftpdir/weekly/README3
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.

Richard deSousa

Why is consensus necessary? All it takes is for one astrophysicist to be contrary and correct and the consensus is wrong. A consensus is a collection of cowards who are afraid to stand for their convictions.

Leif Svalgaard (09:49:21) :
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.
REPLY: add to main post thanks. – A
Note that the above is NOT part of the README, but was my comment.
REPLY2: will delineate that – A

Leif Svalgaard
“However, this requires a change in a product and I’m not ready to take that task on at this time. Changing products within the NWS can be a very time consuming, difficult task.”
If I understand you they are saying that doing science stuff is too difficult or that they do not have the resources to make the change you described?
From the post..
“For every month beyond March 2008 that minimum slips, it is necessary to shift the prediction curves by the same amount.”
Is there a scientific term for doing this?

CPT. Charles

I look and I just shake my head.
I don’t know why, but a line from an old [beloved] cartoon popped into my head: “Hey Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat.”
That trick never quite worked out for Bullwinkle; the SWPC seems to be having the same run of luck.

Mike Abbott

Thanks, Leif, for posting that update. I never would have found that. I presume the SWPC will post it to their main web page shortly.

Pierre Gosselin

George DeBusk,
Average solar cycle is about 11 years. The theory is that the shorter the cycles (high solar activity), the warmer the climate gets. The longer the solar cycle (less solar activity), the cooler the climate becomes.
Right now cycle 24 is long overdue, should have begun a year or a year and half ago.
This delayed cycle 24, according to theory, should result in a cooler climate ahead. History (last 400 years) has shown a very close correlation between solar activity and global temps – but this is hotly debated.
DISCLAIMER:
PLEASE NOTE I’M A JUST A LOW LEVEL LAYMAN ON THIS SUBJECT, AND OTHERS HERE WILL SURELY ADD TO THIS AND/OR CORRECT ME.
Leif Svaalgard is our solar authority here in this blog.

Morgan

Lief’s comment:
“Their curve is just wrong. And they know it, but are not allowed to fix it…” gives some great insight into how government science works. Not pretty insight, but useful.

And as the Sun is delaying his awakening, mammals, birds, insects, herbs and trees are conquering their ancestral habitats. Why to see the new geographical distribution of living beings like something wrong? Living beings are adapting to recurrent climatic conditions. They were there long time ago, and they are getting back there; nothing new, nothing creepy. Study them, investigate how they adapt to cyclical climatic conditions, and do the same as they are doing. Don’t blame humans on what they have not produced and for which nature, the source of those fluctuations, has provided with many routes for running off.

Michael Ronayne

Here is a three-way animation of the latest SWPC predictions for what they are worth, which is not very much. Remember to use the “ESC” and “F5” keys to stop and restart the animation.
http://i283.photobucket.com/albums/kk316/MichaelRonayne/SSN_Predict_SWPC_3Way.gif
See my latest posts at Solar Cycle 24 for additional information on this topic:
http://solarcycle24com.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=general&action=display&thread=482&page=8#19008
http://solarcycle24com.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=general&action=display&thread=482&page=8#19029
Mike

Here is another view:
http://www.spaceweather.com/headlines/y2009/08may_noaaprediction.htm?PHPSESSID=tr1e17uje2eq9bo127eetq8o42
Note the link to ‘NOAA press release’ . The release has been pulled. Nothing there.
From the link above:
“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.””
Note the ‘moderately week’ nonsense. And the reason for the lower value is NOT that this minimum has been unusually low. Prediction of a low value is several years old. What might be behind that misleading statement is simple damage control in that the high predictions seem dead.

ew-3

“consensus decision ”
well there you have it. we all know how good consensus decisions are.
/sarc

my spell checker did not complain about ‘moderately week’. Perhaps it somehow knew about the competence level of somebody…

[snip – mind your manners]

Harold Ambler

I predict an SSN of 50 or below.
But that’s just me.

Pierre Gosselin

George DeBusk:
Following link shows the last 400 years of solar activity.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sunspot_Numbers.svg
Note the Dalton Minimum in the early 1800s (cold period) when solar activity was quite low!
In general solar activity has trended upwards since 1750 or so, which took us out of the Little Ice Age.
Some scientists now say we may be entering another Dalton Minimum, or worse, another Maunder Minimum like back in the 1600s when it was colder than a witch’s t–.
If that happened, humanity would be seriously challenged.

Oops! Sorry…

Doug Biesecker on F10.7 (as of 5 minutes ago):
“Leif, You are free to express your embarrassment to whomever you wish. The panel is releasing an opinion that is representative of the whole group, not one individual. As for F10.7 being wrong, that is a more fundamental problem with how NOAA has always converted SSN to F10.7. The only published papers on the topic are wrong and that is what NOAA uses. Given that we finally have an extended period of low SSN and F10.7, there should now be plenty of data points for someone to correctly characterize the SSN to F10.7 relationship for low SSN and publish it.”

skeptic

Its widely believed around here that sunspots correlate highly with global temperatures.
If solar activity was well above historical averages, I’d wager dollars to donuts that this would be taken as proof that solar activity drives global temperatures. Instead, we’re well below historical averages, and its nice to see that this is *still* taken as proof that solar activity drives global temperatures (which are currently well above normal almost everywhere). Nice to see the consistency.
Its also nice to see that increased solar activity is alleged to be causing higher temperatures at night (when, you know, the sun doesn’t shine) and is causing cooler temperatures in the upper atmosphere. Again, lots of consistency on this site.
Also, of course, this is further proof that NASA is either incompetent, or part of some conspiracy.

kim

I’m amused that ‘the panel has agreed’ on the timing of the minimum, but ‘the panel has decided’ on the maximum sunspot numbers. If only they put as much energy into undeceiving the public as they do into deceiving it.
===========================================

Perry Debell

Gosh, but I have had a terrible shock! First I clicked on one of those those computer generated links which transported me to http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/05/solarcycle There I learned that Big Solar Flare Portends Sun’s Return to Normal. Kaiser is sure this sunspot is part of the new cycle because it appeared at about 30 degrees of latitude. This is typical early in the solar cycle when sunspots appear closer to the poles.
I was stunned, so I retraced my steps to the SOHO MDI image and I saw spots all over the sun. Appalling. Thank goodness for Waitrose farmhouse cider. I dipped some paper towel in my restitutional beverage and wiped my monitor. Miracle of miracles, the spots were gone. The old Kaiser was gone in 1919 and the new one may depart 90 years thereafter. Orl t’anks t’ inkerhol.

Mrs Whatsit

So, if I correctly understand this, a government employee has told Leif that this government website, funded presumably with public dollars and intended to provide information to the public, will continue to display incorrect information to the public because fixing it would involve too much red tape.
Truth is stranger than fiction.

chip harrison

My Mark One eyeball says that the descent to a minimum is much more gradual than the ascent to a maximum. Should the curve be symmetrical like a parabola or is there a reason why the rise is accelerated compared to the fall?

Pierre Gosselin (10:16:09) :
In general solar activity has trended upwards since 1750 or so, which took us out of the Little Ice Age.
There are good reason to believe that that is not so [see several earlier comments or http://www.leif.org/research/Napa%20Solar%20Cycle%2024.pdf ]

Nasif Nahle (10:08:47) :
And as the Sun is delaying his awakening, mammals, birds, insects, herbs and trees are conquering their ancestral habitats
Wise observation!. Hope the NASA and NOAA hires some bird watchers. WUWT already supplies, once in a while, that kind of information ( The Ice Owl post ).
Back in the 1950′ s or 60″ s if someone should have said that a city like Lima , Peru, located on the dry west coast of SA, relatively too cold in winter for parrots to live, was going to be filled with these birds would have been taken as someone crazy.

Gino

Richard deSousa (09:54:43) :
Why is consensus necessary? All it takes is for one astrophysicist to be contrary and correct and the consensus is wrong. A consensus is a collection of cowards who are afraid to stand for their convictions.
———————————————————
If everyone is thinking the same….THEN SOMEONE ISN’T THINKING.

Leon Brozyna

“… a train wreck.”
You are too kind in your description. My description would not be appropriate for this blog – and I’ll leave it at that.
I tried different methods of capturing the screen image and, while my screen image stayed the same, what I kept capturing was different, from the original graphs dated Apr 6 to the updated ones dated May 1 & 8. I even captured (and saved) into Word all three graphs dated May 8.
They might get it right one of these days.

wws

I love this line from Bisecker: “The only published papers on the topic are wrong.”
Gee, and I’ll bet they were all peer reviewed, too!!!

Lief,
Thanks for taking your time on this. It makes the thread very interesting. I’ll just keep coming back and reading.
J

I think they are consulting which prediction would be more “convenient”…But the old sun follows its own rules (except, of course, when deeply affected by the “Watts effect”)

tarpon

They dare call this science — What happened with the ‘search for truth’ part?
A huge dose of honesty would go a long way, but it is clear too much new tax money, and grants, is riding on this hocus-pocus game.
Science may never recover from this charade. In the end, looks like we are forced to ‘do our own’ science.

Frank K.

It’s interesting to observe that consensus solar cycle predictions are about as accurate as consensus climate model predictions…

Ray

Why was it important for them to rush into a press conference to give an update on their prophecy?
Since when in science do we take an average of what people think? If they do that, maybe they should include error bars in the graph. That at least would represent the lack of understanding amongst solar scientist of how the sun works.
Did the values from those people that had it wrong on all the previous trials were also included?
What was the point of all this?

Gentry

The AP wants us all to prepare for the end of the world…
Warning: Sunspot cycle beginning to rise
[please follow the link to read the story]

Tom in South Jersey

Drudge has a headline link to a Breitbart story that warns that the suspot cycle is beginning to rise and it quotes the 90 per month number.