Audio from the NOAA/SWPC press teleconference

Well, it took me a week to get it, and finally here it is. Last Friday, May 9th as you may recall NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center had a teleconference which I was not invited to listen in on. But, Doug Biesecker kindly provided the audio.

This press teleconference coincided with SWPC’s announcement of going with the lower Solar cycle 24 prediction curve.

You can listen to the MP3 audio of the teleconference here

iconmp3 Your media player or MP3 player should open automatically.

UPDATE: Admittedly, the SWPC audio is a bit rough. WUWT reader John Sayers has run the MP3 through some audio processing to improve the quality. His improved version is here.

The quote of interest in their new update (from Spaceweather.com)  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.

Here is 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

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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36 thoughts on “Audio from the NOAA/SWPC press teleconference

  1. Hang on. “Earth- threatening solar storms”??? But I thought the official mantra was that the Sun’s effects didn’t amount to much.

  2. Well, we only have four years to wait and see who’s right in this game. So we could peak at 50 visible sunspots and Dr. Svalgaard’s prediction of ~70 could still be right if there’s enough of a divergence in the visible spots from what the F10.7 data shows.
    Interesting times indeed.

  3. curious how they “called” the minimum for Dec, when we’re still seeing double digit stretches with no sunspots at all…in May.

  4. I like how they put the very subtle groveling for funds right in the first paragraph:
    “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.”
    Translation: If Old Sol farts in our general direction, it could be a $1Trillion dollar hit. We need to watch that guy very closely ’cause he is very mean sometimes and if you cut our funding, this devastating calamity might go completely unnoticed and electrocute your cute little hamster in the wire cage AND mess up your Facebook account. Oh, and you can forget about the cell phone. But if you keep our funding up, we can probably give you at least 100 milliseconds more time to prepare! We are REALLY IMPORTANT to keeping you safe from possibly devastating solar blasts that could be a hundred times worse than Katrina! Not that there’s anything we can DO about it or any way we can predict in advance when such a thing might happen, but by golly we will make sure you get the word that it is on its way before you hear it from anyone else!
    Of course, if you cut our funding, it is going to be a hundred times worse than Katrina.

  5. Don’t get me wrong, I support funding their research, I just thought it was funny that the article seemed to me about giving people something to worry about so as to validate their importance at the funding trough.
    The article looks like they are scared or something or worried that they aren’t a budgeting priority or something.

  6. It’s a good thing that they got the “catastrophe” part taken care of early in the press conference. Do all government agency procedures now require that every press conference or announcement must contain at least ONE possible catastrophe?
    I can imagine an announcement at grade school:
    Uhhh… children the school buses will be arriving about fifteen minutes late today because the drivers are having a meeting. Also, we must let you know that any time you get on a school bus or any other motor vehicle there is a possibility that you may die in an accident. Have a nice day! 🙂

  7. After hearing the audio, it was a refreshing contrast to the written press release to actually hear NASA’s solar prediction scientists’ admissions of how little they know about the Sun. They may have overdone this modesty just a little, I hope. Having an open mind is one thing, but for these solar scientists to give the impression that they have no idea even why the normal solar cycle is eleven years doesn’t impress one with the depth and breadth of their knowledge. Perhaps somebody who does have some ideas about what is driving the solar cycles should be on the prediction panel. He could answer some of those interesting questions, being careful to merely add words like “we don’t fully understand this, but there are some interesting correlations…”

  8. Just out of morbid curiosity, could you overlay the graph with Hathaway’s original prediction?

  9. Gerry (16:40:41) :
    . . . Having an open mind is one thing, but for these solar scientists to give the impression that they have no idea even why the normal solar cycle is eleven years doesn’t impress one with the depth and breadth of their knowledge. . .

    Um. . . Does anybody know “why the normal solar cycle is eleven years”?
    /Mr Lynn

  10. Speaking of the sun — from SOHO imagery, it looks like that three day event is finally starting to fade; looks more like a smeck [a smudged speck], and there appears to be a SC23 plage region just starting to show on the eastern limb (the left side of the photo) just below (south) of the equator.

  11. Anthony – If you send me an email I’ll return you a link to a cleaned up, intelligible version of the audio.
    REPLY: done – A

  12. What the ‘news’ release conveyed to me was a combination of “some catastrophe could happen” and “we unabashedly make new predictions after our old predictions fail to come true.”
    Hmph. Never heard THAT before.

  13. “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.
    SAME STORY SO MANY TIMES….IT´S A SPAM

  14. Re: crosspatch (16:05:35)
    [But if you keep our funding up, we can probably give you at least 100 milliseconds more time to prepare!]
    There would be more time to prepare than that. Leif has a very good paper on extreme space weather at his website; http://www.leif.org/research/1859%20Storm%20-%20Extreme%20Space%20Weather.pdf
    That paper’s Table III contains a listing of the “fast transit” events of 1859-2003. The transit times range from 14.6-21.8 hours (measured from inferred/observed flare onset to geomagnetic storm sudden commencement). That is plenty of time to prepare (as well as we are able). The problem is mostly one of being able to prepare, not one of not having enough time to do so.

  15. They are doing the impossible in order to raise up to the SSN for their predictions are correct … they count speks instead of sunspots, with a number of wolf 18 yesterday … incredible!

  16. I think history will view us as the Catastrophic Age…. everything bad that can happen to humans are happening in this period of history. The future will look back and laugh at us.

  17. I see the sun springing to life, blowing and going, just like normal, any minute now … Is prediction what you want and hope will happen or is it what you think will happen? Anybody can draw pretty lines.
    IS there anyway to tell if the ‘specks’ could be seen with the instrumentation available for sunspot observations 100s of years ago? And why isn’t that important?
    Like with the ‘tiny tims’, I for one think it is polluting what little data we have if we do not have instrumentation that sees things as they were, going along for the ride. It makes the spliced data sets discontinuous and not very useful. What would be wrong with two sets of observations at the same time?

  18. Crosspatch–
    Well, I suppose Joseph-channeling-Leif is right (What do I know?), but nevertheless I much enjoyed your 100-millisecond commentary anyway. Keep it up. I mean, one needs a little respite now and then, here in the Catastrophic Age.

  19. Jim Cripwell (17:19:06) :
    I thought that the 11 years had something to do with the orbit of Jupiter.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    I believe it does. Specifically, with the solar tide producing conjunctions of Jupiter and the inner planets. Even NASA has looked at this:
    http://gltrs.grc.nasa.gov/reports/2007/TM-2007-214817.pdf
    Attn Anthony: I have worked up a little Powerpoint presentation showing the specific phasing of each of the 27 such conjunctions from 1894 to 2007. I’d be happy to send it to you for your inspection and possible posting if you are interested.

  20. “Richard deSousa (18:34:52) :
    I think history will view us as the Catastrophic Age…. everything bad that can happen to humans are happening in this period of history. The future will look back and laugh at us.”
    I think it’s worse than that. I think the rest of the world is looking and laughing at Americans now!

  21. I have carefully constructed a model of the solar activity from the above graph and it clear shows that their projection is wrong. My projection shows a clear asymptotic decline to zero and then a simple flat line zero to infinity…
    Then again, it is possible that there is some additional data that might be added to the above graph that would let me produce a much more accurate model. Please send cheque for further model updates… Oh, and the world might come to an end and the sun explode if we ignore this and don’t get a more accurate model, so send the cheque really really soon!
    (I don’t see much difference between my satire and the actual published stuff… Do I have a future in Real Science ™? I can even shout POPPER POPPER!!! repeatedly at anyone who does not agree with me… )
    Seriously, though, it does look like the sun is going sleepy-by (I’d guess for about 20 years, given past patterns and the present status) and yet the Real Scientists ™ are loath to recognize this, instead doing incremental revisionism trailing reality by about 4 to 6 months. Heck, I can do that… In fact, I could issue changes daily in lock step with observations… being unencumbered by the notions of preexisting broken theories. At least they could take the existing diminishing trend and put their model in sync with it, then they would only be wrong once when reality inflected to a new trend…

  22. Even with the latest prediction, the sun better start getting busy or there will have to be another revision.

  23. crosspatch (16:05:35) :
    Actually, a severe enough solar storm could knock out the power grid and take a couple years to be fully repaired and restore power everywhere. Imagine no electricity for a year. Thats a valid threat to prepare for IMHO.

  24. Gerry (20:08:25) :
    Jim Cripwell (17:19:06) :
    I thought that the 11 years had something to do with the orbit of Jupiter.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    I believe it does.

    Astronomers have found some ‘sun-like’ stars. These also show a star cycle like the Sun. It seems that periods are close to the solar peiod (11 years), so you would assume that they have Jupiters too?
    Current understanding is that the length of the solar cycle is determined by the speed of the meridional circulation, which in turn probably has its course in a small temperature difference between equator and poles, and thus be a property of this kind of star at this point in its life.

  25. Leif Svalgaard (23:17:19) :
    Gerry (20:08:25) :
    Jim Cripwell (17:19:06) :
    I thought that the 11 years had something to do with the orbit of Jupiter.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    I believe it does.
    Astronomers have found some ’sun-like’ stars. These also show a star cycle like the Sun. It seems that periods are close to the solar peiod (11 years), so you would assume that they have Jupiters too?
    Current understanding is that the length of the solar cycle is determined by the speed of the meridional circulation, which in turn probably has its course in a small temperature difference between equator and poles, and thus be a property of this kind of star at this point in its life.
    ***************************************************
    Thank you, Lief. Since the Jupiter-inner-planet conjunctions occur because of resonances between the orbits of these planets, and since we now know of quite a few stars with Jupiter-size planets, it would not surprise me if some of these stars also had planets with similar resonant orbits.
    As for the speed of the meridional circulation and latitudinal temperature differences being important factors, I do not disagree with that. If this is generally believed to be the predominant mechanism determining solar cycle lengths, I would have liked to have heard a comment to that effect in the teleconference when the question of cycle length causation was raised. A very brief summary of how measurements of the meridional circulation speed and latitudinal temperature differences are being used by the prediction panel would have been appropriate too.

  26. Mark Wagner (15:23:07) :
    curious how they “called” the minimum for Dec, when we’re still seeing double digit stretches with no sunspots at all…in May.

    Leif may have a point that the F10.7 flux turned upwards around that time
    http://www.leif.org/research/TSI-SORCE-2008-now.png
    But if we have newfound knowledge that the “classic” correlation betwen sunspot numbers and the F10.7 is changing (“value correlation”), then perhaps there is also a change in the “time correlation” ?

  27. Mr Lynn (16:51:17) :
    Um. . . Does anybody know “why the normal solar cycle is eleven years”?

    It isn’t. It has varied between ~7 and ~14 years if I am not mistaken. It is the average that is just over 11 years, and I am not sure if there many average cycle lengths have been observed
    http://web.dmi.dk/fsweb/solarterrestrial/sunclimate/SCL.txt
    But I agree it would be nice to have theory explaining why the average is ~11 years and not 42 or whatever.

  28. A major solar storm could be just what the economy needs. Think of all the jobs it would create replacing power lines etc. Shame it’s about as likely as the tidal wave coming up the Thames and engulfing london.

  29. Dr Leif Svalgaard,
    I would like to thank you first for what has been, for me, an extraordinary process of discovery and education in the real facts on climate models, solar mechanisms, and what a real scienist accomplishes when they persue truth. I am in the process of launching a free speaking blog. where the truth about many things can be told.. This being inspired by the brilliance of WUWT, ( Mr Watts, you are better than sliced Bread)
    I will formally ask that I be allowed to place a link to WUWT.com.. once the sight is up, and I would ask then you, and the other greatminds here.. might post upon it, should it meet the criteria of what you would feel merits such consideration.
    I will continue to read and learn, laugh and be completly informed by the those who Post, and those of us who comment.
    Sam Bailey… Die hard fan of WuWt

  30. Richard deSousa (18:34:52) :
    “I think history will view us as the Catastrophic Age…. everything bad that can happen to humans are happening in this period of history. The future will look back and laugh at us.”
    Yes. Recently Dr. Michio Kaku, a respected physicist, warned that in spite of the solar quiet – we should all be prepared for a “solar tsunami.” Inevitable. The psychology of catastrophizers is to manipulate behavior through fear. It also heaps attention on the catastrophizer – gratification for a savior complex.
    http://tinyurl.com/p3axv3
    We are in the process of bringing about the end of the Catastrophic Age by shining the light of truth on the subject. The people, slowly are awakening to the fact that there is no fire breathing dragon at the edge of town. This however, does not remove the real need for a cogent domestic energy policy.

  31. Carsten Arnholm, Norway (01:03:25) :
    Mr Lynn (16:51:17) :
    Um. . . Does anybody know “why the normal solar cycle is eleven years”?
    It isn’t. It has varied between ~7 and ~14 years if I am not mistaken. It is the average that is just over 11 years, and I am not sure if there many average cycle lengths have been observed
    http://web.dmi.dk/fsweb/solarterrestrial/sunclimate/SCL.txt
    But I agree it would be nice to have theory explaining why the average is ~11 years and not 42 or whatever.
    ““““““““““““““““““““““`
    The resonant solar tide producing planetary conjunctions produce conjunctions at 1.6 year intervals, which straddle many sunspot number peaks. Other intervals are 8.8 years, 10.4 years, and 12 years.
    Anthony: My offer still stands to send you a pictorial exposition of how this works. If you think your readers might be interested, please contact me by email so I can send a potential posting to you.
    Leif: My apologies for the typo with your name. It was not intentional, I assure you.

  32. Richard deSousa (18:34:52) :
    I think history will view us as the Catastrophic Age…. everything bad that can happen to humans are happening in this period of history. The future will look back and laugh at us.

    Back about the turn of the First Millennium, AD, it was widely feared, or anticipated (at least in Christendom), that the world would come to an end.
    Then, that was more or less true at the end of the Second Millennium, AD, too.
    /Mr Lynn

  33. At least they could take the existing diminishing trend and put their model in sync with it, then they would only be wrong once when reality inflected to a new trend…

    I wonder how long they will let the that “jump” up from today’s actual measurement to today’s supposed prediction point to remain: You’d figure that that they would be embarrassed by a an impossible one week “spike” in the sun’s activity, and have at least smoothed the curve to fit realty.
    Sure: Reality doesn’t fit their smoothly-fitted “curves” – but aren’t they honest enough to admit that and adjust the “predicted” future activity curves, and not rely on “reality” suddenly jumping upwards by 20% overnight?

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