BREAKING – major AAS solar announcement: Sun's Fading Spots Signal Big Drop in Solar Activity

“If we are right, this could be the last solar maximum we’ll see for a few decades,” Hill said. “That would affect everything from space exploration to Earth’s climate.”

Update: see the official press release here – “All three of these lines of research to point to the familiar sunspot cycle shutting down for a while.”

It looks like Livingston and Penn are getting some long deserved recognition. See their graph below:

Graph above from the WUWT solar reference page. Note: when the B gauss reading of sunspots hits 1500, they will no longer have enough contrast to be visible. That may occur at or near the years 2015-2017. WUWT carried a story in 2008 warning of this.

The American Astronomical Society meeting in Los Cruces, NM has just made a major announcement on the state of the sun. Sunspots may be on the way out and an extended solar minimum may be on the horizon.

From reporting from the conference:

Some unusual solar readings, including fading sunspots and weakening magnetic activity near the poles, could be indications that our sun is preparing to be less active in the coming years.

The results of three separate studies seem to show that even as the current sunspot cycle swells toward the solar maximum, the sun could be heading into a more-dormant period, with activity during the next 11-year sunspot cycle greatly reduced or even eliminated.

The results of the new studies were announced today (June 14) at the annual meeting of the solar physics division of the American Astronomical Society, which is being held this week at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces.

Currently, the sun is in the midst of the period designated as Cycle 24 and is ramping up toward the cycle’s period of maximum activity. However, the recent findings indicate that the activity in the next 11-year solar cycle, Cycle 25, could be greatly reduced. In fact, some scientists are questioning whether this drop in activity could lead to a second Maunder Minimum, which was a 70-year period from 1645 to 1715 when the sun showed virtually no sunspots.

“We expected to see the start of the zonal flow for Cycle 25 by now, but we see no sign of it,” Hill said. “This indicates that the start of Cycle 25 may be delayed to 2021 or 2022, or may not happen at all.”

If the models prove accurate and the trends continue, the implications could be far-reaching.

“If we are right, this could be the last solar maximum we’ll see for a few decades,” Hill said. “That would affect everything from space exploration to Earth’s climate.”

More on this as it unfolds. This article will be updated as new information becomes available.

See also these previous WUWT posts leading up to this:

Solar activity still driving in the slow lane

Sun’s magnetics remain in a funk: sunspots may be on their way out

The sun is still in a slump – still not conforming to NOAA “consensus” forecasts

Livingston and Penn in EOS: Are Sunspots Different During This Solar Minimum?

Livingston and Penn paper: “Sunspots may vanish by 2015″.

Sunspots Today: A Cheshire Cat – New Essay from Livingston and Penn


As I have been saying for some time:

The long term Ap (the solar geomagnetic index) has been on a downtrend, ever since there was a step change in October 2005.

Thanks to Leif Svalgaard, we have a more extensive and “official” Ap dataset (NOAA’s SWPC shown above has some small issues) that I’ve plotted below. The step change in October 2005 is still visible and the value of 3.9 that occurred in April of 2009 is the lowest for the entire dataset. The Ap Index was the lowest in 75 years then.

Click for a larger image

Click for a larger image

And I’ve also plotted the 1991 to 2009 from BGS/Svalgaard to compare against the NOAA SWPC data:

Click for a larger image
Click for a larger image


Dr. Leif Svalgaard writes:

Here are the abstracts of the three studies referred to in the announcement:


Large-scale Zonal Flows During the Solar Minimum — Where Is Cycle 25?13

Frank Hill, R. Howe, R. Komm, J. Christensen-Dalsgaard, T. P. Larson, J. Schou, M. J. Thompson

The so-called torsional oscillation is a pattern of migrating zonal flow bands that move from midlatitudes towards the equator and poles as the magnetic cycle progresses. Helioseismology allows us to probe these flows below the solar surface. The prolonged solar minimum following Cycle 23 was accompanied by a delay of 1.5 to 2 years in the migration of bands of faster rotation towards the equator. During the rising phase of Cycle 24, while the lower-level bands match those seen in the rising phase of Cycle 23, the rotation rate at middle and higher latitudes remains slower than it was at the corresponding phase in earlier cycles, perhaps reflecting the weakness of the polar fields. In addition, there is no evidence of the poleward flow associated with Cycle 25. We will present the latest results based on nearly sixteen years of global helioseismic observations from GONG and MDI, with recent results from HMI, and discuss the implications for the development of Cycle 25.


A Decade of Diminishing Sunspot Vigor

W. C. Livingston, M. Penn, L. Svalgaard

s Convention Center

Sunspots are small dark areas on the solar disk where internal magnetism, 1500 to 3500 Gauss, has been

buoyed to the surface. (Spot life times are the order of one day to a couple of weeks or more. They are thought to be dark because convection inhibits the outward transport of energy there). Their “vigor” can be described by spot area, spot brightness intensity, and magnetic field. From 2001 to 2011 we have measured field strength and brightness at the darkest position in umbrae of 1750 spots using the Zeeman splitting of the Fe 1564.8 nm line. Only one observation per spot per day is carried out during our monthly telescope time of 3-4 days average. Over this interval the temporal mean magnetic field has declined about 500 Gauss and mean spot intensity has risen about 20%. We do not understand the physical mechanism behind these changes or the effect, if any, it will have on the Earth environment.


Whither goes Cycle 24? A View from the Fe XIV Corona

Richard C. Altrock

Solar Cycle 24 had a historically prolonged and weak start. Observations of the Fe XIV corona from the Sacramento Peak site of the National Solar Observatory showed an abnormal pattern of emission compared to observations of Cycles 21, 22, and 23 from the same instrument. The previous three cycles had a strong, rapid “Rush to the Poles” in Fe XIV. Cycle 24 displays a delayed, weak, intermittent, and slow “Rush” that is mainly apparent in the northern hemisphere. If this Rush persists at its current rate, evidence from previous cycles indicates that solar maximum will occur in approximately early 2013. At lower latitudes, solar maximum previously occurred when the greatest number of Fe XIV emission regions* first reached approximately 20° latitude. Currently, the value of this parameter at 20° is approximately 0.15. Previous behavior of this parameter indicates that solar maximum should occur in approximately two years, or 2013. Thus, both techniques yield an expected time of solar maximum in early 2013.

*annual average number of Fe XIV emission features per day greater than 0.19


newest oldest most voted
Notify of

Oh snap.

John S.

Can you really predict the sunspot activity of the sun with any sort of precision? It seems to me like predicting how many bubbles in any given second a boiling pot will produce.


What happens when wind turbines are unbalanced due to icing and PV farms are snowed over?


Instead of de-industrializing the west and spending trillions on “global warming”, we should be thinking about how to survive in a world where our growing seasons are shorter by 30 to 60 days.

Jenn Oates

No surprise to those who have been paying attention, but still…it’s going to be an interesting decade.

Roberto Carioca

Haha Got it right sorry for been a show off (see my posting in previous post re this matter). We are looking at a serious cooling off. I believe it has started and is being held off by ocean heat release, but beware apparently a trransition to full ice age can occur in a 20 year period. Refs are available

This is why this is a great science blog. None of this is a surprise to regular readers.

It may be good science. I am not questioning that. However, it does provide excellent cover for the Warmista to withdraw from their ridiculous positions. I bet they do, pronto.

David Falkner

Repent sunners! 😉

Several years ago, there was a prediction that cycle 25 was going to be very weak based on a big drop in the speed of the solar conveyor.


“That would affect everything from space exploration to Earth’s climate.”
Did they say that out loud? That’s going to annoy the hell out of a lot of folks… ;D


Hmmm. Sounds familiar: Catastrophic climate change, millions of climate refugees, crops failing etc. etc..
It’s 50 years too late to jump on the disaster novels bandwagon, though: from 1962, we have this

Curious Canuck

L&P can’t get a much clearer endorsement of their work. Climate change just might become the major new world challenge afterall, just not warming. Perhaps CO2 hasn’t saved us from the Ice Age we’re in like Big Climate been bragging about in Wikipedia afterall.

Michael D Smith

Haven’t you heard? 0.1% variation doesn’t matter (unless it’s CO2). These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.


That doesn’t sound good at all. So far it has not been so warm in North West. I started to built a greenhouse for our garden. That is the only way if we want any vegetables this year. The tomato plants are struggling.
Climate disruption is one thing from a weak sun but how would this affect the magnetic coupling to the planets? How would this affect the earth?


I wonder if Phil Jones will continue working long enough to admit to statistically significant cooling.


It is quite obvious that we will be hit by a long cold period. According to The Team’s models, their solution would be to emit as much CO2 as we can in order to avoid a planetary catastrophe. Then again, according to their funny science, if we emit more CO2 the planet will cool even more…


Not necessarily suprising to those that follow this blog, but a very interesting statement from AAS none the less. If we do get a Maunder like minimum, maybe we should hope the warmistas are right!
It will be interesting to see how the MSM reprton this.


The new Smartgrid should be online just in time. Now it’s not only going to be dark, it’s going to be cold, too.


Can’t wait to see the media and political spin on this. 😉

richard verney

I do not have substantial confidence in our predictive powers, either to be able to predict how much future solar activity there will be, nor to predict the effects of such activity (or lack of it). I am, however, convinced that a cold spell with shorter growing seasons will be far more of a problem to mankind than some warming of a few degrees (which warming would very probably have been beneficial to mankind).
If there is lower solar activity and if this causes cooling, given that people are more mobile than they use to be, we may well see a mass exodus to sunnier climes.


Be careful what you wish for….
If it turns out to be true that solar activity is going to be low for a while, then maybe the sun — in the last 5 years — really has had more than a negligible impact for cooling the planet.
If that is true, then maybe, in the absence of significant solar cooling, greenhouse gases have more of a warming effect that many of us on this website believe.
I’m not saying how this will play out, I don’t know, but until this latest article, I wasn’t yet prepared to think that the Sun could really be in something approaching Dalton or perhaps even Maunder Minimum solar cooling.

Krishna Gans

“We need not wait until 2030 to see whether the forecast of the next deep Gleissberg minimum is correct. A declining trend in solar activity and global temperature should become manifest long before the deepest point in the development. The current 11-year sunspot cycle 23 with its considerably weaker activity seems to be a first indication of the new trend, especially as it was predicted on the basis of solar motion cycles two decades ago. As to temperature, only El Niño periods should interrupt the downward trend, but even El Niños should become less frequent and strong. The outcome of this further long-range climate forecast solely based on solar activity may be considered to be a touchstone of the IPCC’s hypothesis of man-made global warming. ”
New Little Ice Age
Instead of Global Warming?

Landscheidt – Energy and Environment 14, 327-350. – 2003

“If the models prove accurate…” When are they going to learn that models of complex physical systems are no good, with such noisy data? They are just showing me the infant stage of their investigations, much less their understanding, with these graphs.

John from CA

Having followed Leif’s posts for some time, I’m more than a bit concerned about the erratic behavior of the sun in this cycle. It isn’t as simplistic as a dimmer switch.


The greens won’t mind.
They want less people, a mini ice age will kill-off tens of millions of people.
Sort of a win-win-win for the greens, who don’t like industry or people.

carbon-based life form

But don’t worry, ABC News says the effects of a cooler planet will be mostly good! Like fewer humans around to burn fuel and consume Earth’s precious resources.


Seeing that politicians are primarily lawyers with little to no concept of physics, they’ll probably pass a law requiring the sun to start making sunspots again.
I say this tongue in cheek… but when you consider what they’re doing with regulations on fuel mileage and coal fired power plants, which if enacted will lead to disasterous impacts on our economy and way of life, one can only wonder what stupidity is coming from them next.
Who is John Galt?

David Falkner

@ DavidS:
No spin. Just a flick of the wrist as they sweep it under the carpet.

Grant from Calgary

I wonder how/whether Carrington events factor in.

Anything is possible

Theo Goodwin says:
June 14, 2011 at 10:26 am
It may be good science. I am not questioning that. However, it does provide excellent cover for the Warmista to withdraw from their ridiculous positions. I bet they do, pronto.
I’ll take that bet.
Even if the world cools, their position will be this :
“This a temporary reprieve. It buys us time. It is now imperative that the world seize this unexpected opportunity to reduce CO2 emissions to safe levels to avoid the catastrophic warming that will inevitably occur when Solar activity returns to normal.”
These people are nothing if not predictable…….

“I wonder if Phil Jones will continue working long enough to admit to statistically significant cooling.”
Possibly he could move to the White House Staff as a financial adviser. Their accuracy and predictive abilities are legendary. Steady work for 4 to 8 years, I hear.


Ice fairs on the Thames and Dickensian Christmases 😮

I wonder if the Beep(BBC) will ignore this or if they don’t, how they will spin it?
The Sun may go spotless, but not to worry. The Sun effect on the climate is so small. Nothing to see here. Move on.
Just continue to spend money on windmills, continue the march in to the wonderful new green world order and continue to de-carbonizing/de-industrialize the economy.


Might take a bit of explaining if this comes to pass. Certainly the past two winters in the UK have been unusally cold is this just the opener? But overall arent these last few years supposed to be the hottest ever?
I’m confused

Mike Clark

What it is Leif?

Think I’ll adopt a wait and see attitude (much like my attitude on global warming). The solar “experts” were predicting SC24 to be a monster only a few years ago.

Many people have suggested that SC24 is going to be like SC5, and I advocated that on bases of my calculations.
Dr. Svalgaard predicts SC24 same as SC14, and that SC25 will be ‘considerably bigger’. I think he is wrong, since my calculation however imperfect, shows that there was a phase switch around 1800, and the polar fields extrapolation
shows that the polar fields may not switch polarity some time in the near future. So the L&P effect may just be a feature of a deep minimum ( as Dalton) where there is some kind of magnetic phase perturbation taking place.
But what is the cause? Don’t expect an answer from the regular science.


Can’t see what ll the fuss is about. The faithful know that the sun has no effect on the earth’s climate, in exactly the same way that the gas ring cooking their organic rice is not why the pan gets hot.

mike sphar

Paging Dr. Mann, Paging Dr. Trenberth, Paging Dr. Jones, Emergency STAT

All-out CO2 maximization is clearly called for. “2,100 ppm by 2100!” Even if it doesn’t produce any warming, it will a) facilitate full exploitation of abundant hydrocarbon fuels, and b) make for faster-growing and more robust plants and crops. Both will be urgently needed.

John from CA

Grant from Calgary says:
June 14, 2011 at 10:51 am
I wonder how/whether Carrington events factor in.
Exactly and Anthony’s prior post, “Power grid cut worries flaring over solar flares”, is raising the hair on the back of my neck.
A Carrington event, like the one in the 1800s, would kill millions today due to the lack of electricity and available water and food.
What was the solar cycle in 1859?


Just read that Italy is shutting down it’s nuclear plants. Right along with Germany and Switzerland. Seems to me their timing is just a leeeeetle unfortunate.
Get out the woolies, folks.

Sean Peake

This can’t be correct. I didn’t see a request for more funding

Stephen Wilde

There are those who predicted this for example:


“Ice fairs on the Thames and Dickensian Christmases :o”
God bless us, every one!

R. Gates

Theo Goodwin says:
June 14, 2011 at 10:26 am
It may be good science. I am not questioning that. However, it does provide excellent cover for the Warmista to withdraw from their ridiculous positions. I bet they do, pronto.
On the other hand, IF the said new Maunder Mininum does in fact take place as predicted, it will provide a wonderful chance to compare the climate of the new period with the previous quiet sun period. We’ve now got 40% more CO2 in the atmosphere than we had back then. If it makes no difference (i.e. Europe get’s just as cold now as it did then) then we can pretty much throw away any caring about CO2 levels. If however, it doesn’t get as cold, or temps just sort of flat-line for 20 or 30 years, that also will tell us a great deal about the effects of CO2…meaning of course, that CO2 will have turned out to be a blessing in disguise…at least for the next 20 or 30 years. A lot of IF’s here…exactly why it’s such an exciting time to be alive and watch what happens!


According to the article, Hill said “If we are right, this could be the last solar maximum we’ll see for a few decades,” – “That would affect everything from space exploration to Earth’s climate.”
If I remember correctly, this goes agains Leif’s point of view.

R. Gates

Mark Bowlin says:
June 14, 2011 at 10:58 am
Think I’ll adopt a wait and see attitude (much like my attitude on global warming). The solar “experts” were predicting SC24 to be a monster only a few years ago.
A prudent course of action…and besides, when it comes to the sun, what else can we do!?