NASA Sun Spot Number predictions revised again

UPDATE: see my animation of NASA solar forecasts since 2004 below.

WUWT Commenter J Gary Fox writes:

The solar cycle 24 predicted sunspot maximum has been reduced again – predicted peak down to 59 Max. (1/3/11)

click to enlarge

“It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future. Philosopher Y. Berra

This will be at the level of the Maunder Minimum of 1675 -1715.

Previous NASA predictions below:

  • 2010 October: Predicted peak 60-70
  • 2009 May 29: predicted peak: 80-90 range
  • 2009 Jan 5: predicted peak: 100-110 range
  • 2008 Mar 28: predicted peak: 130-140 range

From the NASA page:

Current prediction for the next sunspot cycle maximum gives a smoothed sunspot number maximum of about 59 in June/July of 2013. We are currently two years into Cycle 24 and the predicted size continues to fall.

Here’s what the prediction looked like in March 2009:

What a difference.

Here’s an animation showing all of the prediction graphs from NASA that we have thus far:

click for a larger animation at full size

Ira Glickstein did a guest post here a few days ago that outlines a lot of the changes in the forecast over time. It is well worth the read.

Current prediction for the next sunspot cycle maximum gives a smoothed sunspot number maximum of about 59 in June/July of 2013. We are currently two years into Cycle 24 and the predicted size continues to fall.

newest oldest most voted
Notify of

the curve already looks too high for the (little) data so far


It looks like even the doubters will find out how much Solar activity impacts the climate.
If we get a major northern hemisphere volcanic eruption, the disruption to agricultural production could be catastrophic.


I am not sure that Maunder has anything to do with it, but NASA is certainly showing a minimum of correct predictions. But, hey, it’s the government at work.
At some point they should just admit that, except in the most general sense that the sun will continue to cycle roughly each 11 years, neither they nor anyone else can predict solar activity. They are barely more than guessing.
Like “climate science”, solar science is just getting going. Now that we have more sophisticated that we have more advanced satellite-based instruments getting data, maybe progress will be made.

Steve W.

O.K., we don’t have a clue, but look at that neat sun picture behind!


Any bets on how many more revisions down there will be. The 10.7 is still horribly low.


William and Mary were appointed joint monarchs after the Glorious Revolution of 1688. Their reign occurred in the Little Ice Age. In Scotland, the weather led to the period being referred to as “King William’s ill years”.


Moving the goalpost again. Only NASA could get away with such redactions, I mean predictions.


The predicted value is still too high but it is getting closer, in my honest opinion.
I am guessing it will be closer to 50 judging from behavior so far.

George Kominiak

It may be time to stop arguing, put the computer codes on pause and sit back and watch the show. If, as historical information suggests, a lack of solar activity is going to have an adverse effect on the Earth’s weather/climate, we may soon be in a position to see it first hand!


At what point does Hathaway have to stand by his predictions? Or does he just get to re-write them every three months?
By the way I predict that the average SSN for last month will be 22!


How can you try and predict the unknown,NASA couldn’t predict a fart in a space suit!


Actually its refreshing to see scientists adjust their predictions and views as new data is received. It is apparent there is much we just don’t know.



Bill in Vigo

WOW! Makes you kinda wonder just when the “fat lady is gonna sing” huh. I think it is time for the folks with the money and equipment to start to tell the raw data and let those that have no agenda to start looking at it and the real possible repercussions. We just might need to find more sorces of energy rather than destroy the ones we have in hopes of finding new ones in time for the cold. Heat or cold it takes energy to mitigate either heating uses energy, airconditioning uses energy. Perhaps it is time for the real scientitst to have access to the data, the raw data. These could be serious times. These are real comparisons and it will take all of our best to meet the needs of the mass of humanity and life in general if this minimum really bottoms out.
Bill Derryberry
PS I started to say something like “Play Ball” or “Let the game begin”, but it is really a serious possibility we are looking at. Better to just get to work and prepare for which ever way nature takes us.


Just for my own knowledge, what is the commonly assumed “lag” time for the thermal inertia of the earth to portray changes in solar output? If anyone has references, that would be nice.

P. Solar

Nice animated graph. Amazing to see that as late as end of 2007 they were still predicting a huge peak , higher than the previous cycle. The time it has taken at each step to adjust to data that is has not been following their dictates suggests they have more faith in their predictions than the reality of their data.
Even a layman could have come up with <60 peak by eyeballing the data 3 months back.
At first it seems they are so caught up in their "OMG it's going to burn" hype but then, since they claim the sun only has insignificant effect on climate, you wonder why.


The animation reminds me of the game of “Whack a Mole”. Maybe an idea for a new game – “Whack a Prediction” . 🙂


A couple of points come out of this:
1/ Is it wrong to laugh at a graph? I can almost smell the hope when there’s an uptick during 2007 and the peak doesn’t have to retreat to the right for a whole month. Then smell the despair as it comes down again and the proposed peak commences its march into the future.
2/ Why between March 09 and April 09 does the predicted peak for 2001 suddenly change? Winston Smith at it again?


I think we need to be fair to Dr Hathaway. He’s out there making predictiong, then revising them downwards as new information becomes available. He’s throwing out theories as actual data shows them to be incorrect.
In other words, he’s acting like a scientist.
Contrast that with “The Team”, whinc, instead of admitting when they are wrong, embarks on a Ministry of Truth – like campaign of doublethink and doublespeak, where the hotcold temperature that we are experiencing is completly consistant with the predictions made and were warned about.
Much like the droughtflood here in Australia.
In other words, who are you going to listen to? The guy who makes a prediction then revises it as events happen, or the guy who makes an absolute statement that never changes (only the interpretation of events change)?

William Abbott

The number goes down and the maximum get pushed out farther and farther. We were supposed to hit the maximum in 2010. They had to revise or… they could just “bag it.” Just tell the world NASA won’t do prophecy any more.


Hands up if you feel happy that its warmed a few % of a degree (yes i know but its a climate calc) over the last 100 years.


Keeping in mind the L/P (syndrome) the smoothed SSN will be around 10 at 2015.
Any curve with a maximum above 35 (2011/2012) will be peculiar.
And as ShrNfr says “The 10.7 is still horribly low”
To end up at higher numbers something unusual must happen

Doug Allen

As most of us are aware, there is a pretty good correlation between sunspot numbers and global temperature. The instrumental record of both were at historic lows during that early period of instrumental data measurement when the recently invented thermometer and recently invented telescope were used to record data that we still have. This was during the Little Ice Age. This correlation has continued to the present, and most observers would state that it’s a much closer correlation than the CO2- temperature correlation. Yes, we all know that correlation does not necessarily imply causality. I once wrote a spoof in a VHF Propagation publication, a spoof of the widespread belief that sporadic E ionozation (E-skip) was caused by thunderstorms. I called the article “E Skip Causes Thunderstorms!”
I think we should be aware of correlations, and just maybe, if climate scientists ever get back to science, they’ll discover if and to what extent there is a solar forcing using the proxy of sunspots or solar flux.

Bob Barker

Sunspots have been tracked and studied for many cycles. We still don’t have enough data or smarts to predict the next cycle. But global warming, we have a real handle on that stuff, yes indeed.


Someone recently said the number of significant sunspots is much lower as the new counting system counts “micro spots” or something like that. Can anyone comment on this?


I’m going to go with those who say they are still high. Looks more 50ish to me, quite possibly under 50.
Temps this summer should be educational.

Regardless of how many corrections they make to the prediction, the far more interesting aspect of the next decade will be the effect of reduced sunspots on the Earth’s climate.
There are several theories that would predict that extended reduced sunspots will result in cooler climate. If the climate does cool as predicted by Joe Bastardi, then it will show that sunspots are more significant than CO2.
The next decade will be very important.
John Kehr

John Blake

For NASA’s information, the Maunder Minimum is conventionally dated over seventy years, from 1645 – 1715, when wolves froze to death in Rhineland forests and wine frosted over in Louis XIV’s goblet in his palace of Versailles. The subsequent Dalton Minimum persisted over forty years from c. 1790 – 1830, marking the final cold-snap of Earth’s 500-year Little Ice Age (LIA) before the precipitate rebound that began c. 1890 – 1939 (fifty years), alternating warming with cooling phases in 1940 – 1979 (forty years), 1980 – 2009 (thirty years), now 2010 – 2029 (twenty years).
On this basis, after about 2030 the global thermostat –apparently there is such a thing– will shake itself to pieces, simultaneously attempting to switch both On and Off. As cyclic wavelengths diminish, so weather-events’ amplitudes and frequencies will increase in proportion. Though chaotic, non-linear, complex dynamic systems are inherently unpredictable in detail (Edward Lorenz, 1960 – ’64), cyclical phenomena in context of long-term secular trends are well-defined.
Yes, global temperatures have been increasing since the LIA petered out from c. 1890; indeed, the thirty-year period 1980 – 2009 represented a cyclical warm-phase. But this involved no anthropogenic CO2 nor any other “forcing mechanism,” and populations now face an end to Earth’s “long summer,” our current 12,250-year Holocene Interglacial Epoch long overdue for a resurgence of median 102,000-year Pleistocene Ice Time.
Green Gangsters such as Briffa, Hansen, Jones, Mann, Trenberth et al. join Luddite sociopaths like Paul Ehrlich, John Holdren, latterly Keith Farnish, in abominating post-Enlightenment industrial/technological civilization and all its works. Over the next several generations, their brutal handiwork will likely result in mega-deaths.

This is very interesting for those of us who have keenly followed the various postings, writing and papers of David Archibald. He was predicting this back in 2007 – see here:
and in his book and presentation to the Lavoisier Institute in Australia in early 2007 – The Past and Future of Climate.
I find the very late ‘predictions’ by NASA particularly galling since many warmists blogging in 2007 and 2008 were extremely rude about David with quite nasty ad hominem attacks. If David Archibald can make these predictions – he admits that he is not a specialist – how come the heavy duty and well-funded climate scientists at NASA can get it so wrong? Does this have something to do with the IPCC’s conviction that the sun has little effect upon climate and they are tailoring their ‘predictions’ to suit?
How long before climate ‘science’ releases itself from its religious fervour? I am not confident that it will be soon…


No problem – just send Cillian Murphy with a REALLY big bomb and that should fix things! Oh – just realised that might give some people ideas….

Claude Harvey

The following is pure supposition on my part and is supported by nothing more than a curious, 180 degree change in course I observed in Hathaway.
I don’t think Hathaway is the total idiot his series of prognostications might imply. I distinctly remember an article he either wrote or that featured him in which he expressed alarm that the great solar conveyor belt had essentially ground to a halt. That was long before cycle #24 punked out almost entirely. A couple months later he was being quoted as saying in effect, “There is nothing at all unusual about the current dearth of sunspots. Everything is perfectly normal.”
My reading at that time was that Hathaway had bucked to internal NASA political pressure. There was immense pressure to deny any development that might distract from the political mantra that “We’re all going to burn up and die soon if we don’t drown first, unless we drastically restrict fossil fuel use.”

Anything is possible

Neil says:
January 18, 2011 at 2:48 pm
I think we need to be fair to Dr Hathaway. He’s out there making predictiong, then revising them downwards as new information becomes available. He’s throwing out theories as actual data shows them to be incorrect.
In other words, he’s acting like a scientist.
I agree. He got it wrong, held up his hands, cracked a few jokes at his own expense, and got back to work prepared to revise his opinions in the light of new information.
Exactly what good scientists should be doing, and exactly what most climate scientists seem incapable of doing.
Dr. Hathaway gets a pass from me.


@ RobW says:
January 18, 2011 at 2:59 pm
Someone recently said the number of significant sunspots is much lower as the new counting system counts “micro spots” or something like that. Can anyone comment on this?
There’s on going discussion of this at . Many feel that the microspots should not be counted since they would not have been seen until modern technology made them visible. is a good site that does not count the micro spots

The hand writing is in the sky…or better put, on that star we call our sun. Changes are coming, and most likely, they not in the best interests of humanity, climate-wise. Most of present day humanity has little concept of what a Maunder type Minimum will do to our modern world. Time to wake up!
The hard truth is that we are apparently headed for much colder weather over the next half a century! People had better start making plans for this, because our world as we know it now, is fixing to undergo some major changes, over the next 25-50 years or so.

Few years back I had a brief correspondence with Dr. Hathaway. At that time he was confident that SC24 is going to be the strongest ever SC. Needles to say he rejected my idea out of hand, bat it proved to be far more reliable prediction method.
Here is an updated version:

Dr T G Watkins

‘There is nothing so bad that the interference of government can’t make worse.’
Not my quote, but it seems that the predictions of government funded agencies more or less follow that rule, if you follow my thoughts.
We will see in the next 5 – 30 years whether William Herschel was correct in relating the price of corn to the SSN, a correlation without a means of causation. (Herschel was the Astronomer Royal in late 18C.)
It could be an interesting period, with many wishing they had paid more attention to WUWT.


It’s funny how the error bars are getting relatively much more important as the graph-o-prediction progresses. Pretty soon it will be anything between 0 and 100. Spot on!


May I revise my Patriots/Jets prediction for last Sunday as well?


In a few more years, it’ll be time to open those snowmobile dealerships in Texas and Georgia.

Sean Houlihane

The error bars are representing the expected month to month variation, not the accuracy of the prediction. Sunspots are behind the f10.7 curve and I don’t think its clear which one is supposed to influence climate – but the lag is something like 6 years, so conveniently most of the normal cycle is lost in the smoothing. Given the current understanding of solar predictions, this is about the time we should be expecting an update to the projection as the weighting shifts from projection based on model parameters to extrapolation of the emerging trend.
Has anyone checked on the forecast update rate for the last few cycles?


If my graph is right, should not get over 47, but since nasa keeps on trying, give them an ‘E’ for effort.


RobW says:
January 18, 2011 at 2:59 pm
Someone recently said the number of significant sunspots is much lower as the new counting system counts “micro spots” or something like that. Can anyone comment on this?
Hi Rob, If you go the site below, you will find explanations of the changed method of counting and the historical comparisons and a daily comment.

John Campbell

Is it too soon to start painting our roofs black and spreading coal dust on all of our snow here in Canada?
It can’t be too soon to start devising some schemes to heat up the earth. I am willing to drive a Ferrari as much as I can if it can be sufficiently government subsidized. I am certainly ready to do my part to avert a climate catastrophe.

Last time, there was a panel of solar physicists who decided on the prediction of the cycle 24 maximum. Was it not reported that a ‘supermajority’ of the panel agreed on the height of the maximum ? Leif Svalgaard was on the panel and seemed to have been voted down by the supermajority, as the only member.
Using the words of Dr. Tom Peterson: “Can we afford to wait another century* before they know better?”
Hadn’t the first prediction the year of the maximum in 2011?
*Replace century by i) solar cycle, ii) half cycle, iii) quarter cycle, iv) other time span

Theo Goodwin

Neil says:
January 18, 2011 at 2:48 pm
“I think we need to be fair to Dr Hathaway. He’s out there making predictiong, then revising them downwards as new information becomes available. He’s throwing out theories as actual data shows them to be incorrect.”
Nice post. I can cut Hathaway some slack. At least he is reporting the data, unlike others we know. But isn’t he just extrapolating from past graphs? He doesn’t actually have something worthy of the name theory that might prove falsified, right? He isn’t actually predicting, right?


ex-President Clinton likes to say that doing the same thing over and over again, while expecting a different outcome, is one clinical definition of insanity.
NASAs sunspot scientists are getting uncomfortably close to resembling that definition. Time for some new theory, folks, because the old ones don’t seem to be working.

David Corcoran

I remember Dr. Hathaway’s NASA press release in July 2008, “What’s Wrong With the Sun? Nothing”:
“The quiet of 2008 is not the second coming of the Maunder Minimum, believes Hathaway. “We have already observed a few sunspots from the next solar cycle,” he says. “This suggests the solar cycle is progressing normally.”
If this is a grand solar minimum, he needs to retract the above statement and start warning the public to prepare for the not-insignificant possibility of an LIA. Lives depend on it; cold kills more surely than warmth… especially if fossil fuels have been deliberately priced so high that the poor can’t keep themselves warm. Such deaths have happened in the last few winters. Not to mention crop failures. Notice that food’s getting more expensive?


I hope the polar bears are reading this report


To be fair to Dr Hathaway, he’s working on it.
“We still don’t quite understand this beast,” Dr. Hathaway said. “The theories we had for how the sunspot cycle works have major problems.”