Leif Svalgaard at AGU on the Current Solar Cycle: ‘None of us alive have ever seen such a weak cycle’

WUWT’s resident solar expert Dr. Leif Svalgaard (and others) says  ‘None of us alive have ever seen such a weak cycle’  and the panel he was on talk about the current state of our solar cycle at the AGU Fall Meeting.

Here is Dr. Svalgaard’s current SSN plot:


Watch the video, Leif is on the left hand side.

At this year’s Fall Meeting of American Geophysical Union, held in San Francisco that I attended, prominent solar scientists made a presentation on weak Solar Cycle 24 and its consequences. They included:

  • Nat Gopalswamy, astrophysicist, Solar Physics Laboratory, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland
  • Leif Svalgaard, senior research scientist, W. W. Hansen Experimental Physics Laboratory, Stanford University, Stanford, California
  • Marty Mlynczak, senior research scientist, Climate Science Branch, NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia
  • Joe Giacalone, professor and associate director, Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona

They agreed that the current solar cycle is on track to be the weakest in 100 years and that is an unprecedented opportunity for studying the Sun during this period. While the weak solar cycle trend is not new for the Sun, it is new and interesting for scientists who observe and measure it today with modern instruments and methods.


In this panel, scientists examined the current solar cycle in relation to past cycles and discuss the consequences of the weak solar cycle on the various layers regions between the Sun and Earth, including implications for space weather, atmosphere and climate.

Here is part of the press release package:

Solar signatures and Heliospheric Consequences of the Weak Activity Cycle 24

Nat Gopalswamy, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD 20771,

The Sun in the middle of its activity maximum that is relatively weak. The maximum phase ended in the northern hemisphere of the Sun and began about a year ago in the south.

The weak activity of cycle 24 is thought to be due to the weak polar magnetic field in cycle 23. If this trend continues for the next couple of cycles, the Sun may be heading for a global minimum.

Whether global minimum or not, the weak solar cycle has resulted in milder space weather: there are not many large geomagnetic storms and the energetic particle events are also generally of lower intensity. The milder space weather also reduces the drag on satellites and it is easy to keep them in orbit. On the other hand the space debris also have longer life, posing increased collision threat to operating satellites.

The weak solar activity in terms of the sunspot number did not quite translate into the CME rate itself. The CME occurrence rate in cycles 24 and 23 are comparable in the maximum phase. Then how do we understand the mild space weather in cycle 24?

A clue to the reason for milder space weather came from the fact that all CMEs that produced particle events are halo CMEs in cycle 24, compared to about 70% in cycle 23. Halo CMEs originate from close to the disk center and expand rapidly and give the appearance of surrounding the Sun. There must be something different about the size of the CMEs in SC 24.

Gopalswamy and co-­‐workers examined the relation between CME width and speed and found that the cycle 24 CMEs are wider than the cycle 23 ones for a given speed. For energetic CMEs (speed exceeding 1000 km/s), the width is higher by about 40%.

When they examined the total pressure (magnetic pressure + plasma pressure) in the heliosphere from measurements made by spacecraft such as ACE and Wind, they found that the pressure decreased by an astonishing 40% in cycle 24. From this they inferred that the pressure must drop by a similar amount near the Sun. CMEs released into this low-­‐pressure medium, expand more than usual, resulting in weaker fields, and hence weaker geomagnetic storms. The magnetic field strength in CMEs decides the intensity of geomagnetic storms.

As far the particle radiation, the situation is a bit more complicated. The reduced total pressure means a slight increase in the Alfven speed in the heliosphere. The Alfven speed is the characteristic speed of the medium. A CME needs to be faster than the Alfven speed to drive a shock that accelerates particles.

Therefore, it is slightly easier for the cycle 24 CMEs to drive shocks. However, the shocks are propagating through a medium of reduced magnetic field, which is known to be less conducive for accelerating particles to high energies. This means the number of particle events is not very low, but the events are generally of lower intensity and energy.

Here are other parts of the press release. Source: AGU


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WYWT’s resident expert???
Wouldn’t that be your resident expert?

Does anyone here know just how many “piggies” have their noses in the public trough, and how much cash is consumed by this “industry” with anything to do with weather?


So, if this weakness continues through cycles 25, 26, or longer what does this do to earth’s climate?


First again? And on a Solar thread?
Let’s see…ice skating in the streets of Dallas while summer snow falls in Australia…snow in Cairo and Jerusalem.
While the last few winters have seen snow in Tatooine, Tunisia (of Star Wars fame), tropical Brazil and Argentine Islands where no living local had ever seen snow. (see iceagenow.info for the litany)
You can tell me again it’s not the Sun, but I suspect there is more than TSI affecting the Earth. As climate is a sum of weather, maybe we should look at what constitutes weather and start thinking how the Earth’s interaction with the Sun contributes to that – ocean temps, jet stream locations, teleconnections, etc…


I love how the word “unprecedented” is used.


It may just be my eyes, but each cycle seems more chaotic at its peak – if that is so, why ?


Dr.Svalgaard commented on such things himself very recently
“Science by press conference is often like that: To justify their funding [and beg for more], some scientists tend to claim that what they are seeing is unique, has never been seen before…”
Must see this thread:
…might as well start from the bottom to see the bottom line

Press Release says:
“The weak activity of cycle 24 is thought to be due to the weak polar magnetic field in cycle 23.”
Is there a commonly held theory on the mechanism of weak polar magnetic field in prior cycle producing a weak cycle, or is this an observed correlation that this cycle has repeated?
Probably covered a million times before here, but the statement above seems reticent to assert a known causal mechanism.

thisisnotgoodtogo says:
December 13, 2013 at 6:14 pm
some scientists tend to claim that what they are seeing is unique, has never been seen before…”
except in this case, we strongly emphasize that for the Sun such cycles are old hat and that we have seen several such, e.g., as we point out, 100 years ago.

Charlie Johnson (@SemperBanU) says:
December 13, 2013 at 6:14 pm
Is there a commonly held theory on the mechanism of weak polar magnetic field in prior cycle producing a weak cycle, or is this an observed correlation that this cycle has repeated?
Both, e.g. http://arxiv.org/pdf/1312.3408.pdf

Eric Barnes

Yes he is an unbelievably huge PITA, but he’s our PITA. Hats off to Dr. Svalgaard.

Imagine if we didn’t have a grand solar minimum at this time in history, when the entire planet was almost duped into and on the verge of conscription to an oligarch ruled global government? I understand the deep freeze hardship the new grand solar minimum is going to cause. But it’s totally worth it for our freedom and getting to stick it to the world’s oligarchs. No Carbon Dioxide Tax for you.
At 1:54 in this video;
“2009 is the first year of global governance with the establishment of the G20 in the middle of the financial crisis. The Climate conference in Copenhagen is another step toward the global management of our planet.”
Herman Van Rompuy is the first full-time President of the European Council.
How’s that NWO thing working out for you Herman?

Cairo snow: Egyptian capital sees snowfall for the first time in 112 YEARS. Something’s going on. Is it the weak sun? Or, maybe… global warming? Yeah, that’s the ticket.


Yes, Dr. Svalgaard, and except in this case you are always truthful


How profoundly refreshing to hear a scientist say “we don’t know”. We need more of that.

Ken L.

Just looking at the graphs, if there are mechanisms not currently and precisely known for the sun’s variation to effect climate( new comprehensive multi-disciplinary research underway as I recall reading last January), could there be a lag in effect? If so, could the warming
prior to the current pause( 80s and 90s) possibly have been related to the peak activity in the 50s and early 60s? And in addition, might we expect possibly cooling ahead from the current downward trend in solar activity? I would appreciate if anyone here might address that question from this curious layman?

@Charlie Johnson:
Yes, there is a “commonly held theory” that the spots in one cycle depend on how much magnetic field moved to the poles in the prior cycle.
To me this leaves a little bit of an issue about inflection points. Somehow you need to have a shift from “less” to “more” flux in order to get the spots going up… but happening in a cycle where the flux went down prior and spots went down and…. So there’s an inflection change issue that I don’t know much about… But the “what you had determines what you get next” is the general idea.


This discussion is way above my pay grade. I am here to say “Hi” to Chiefio.


When you think about all the known knowns and unknowns that affect our climate it does make you wonder. It makes me wonder why co2 has failed to budge surface temps in the last 16 years. [Please no one tell me that such pauses have been seen before since 1850 – they have not at our level of co2 ppm].

I would like to request that “thisisnotgoodtogo” be removed from participation on this website.


Excellent information!
Nice job Leif !
I do have a question relating to todays 2 trillion kilowatt hour measurement delta from the early 2000’s.
Can anyone quantify that delta over a years total of the same? Perhaps as a percentage of total?
I am just curious.


I consider it of prime importance that scientists always be honest.
I’ve referenced Dr.Svalgaard elsewhere, trusting.

Alan Robertson

I want to thank Dr. Svalgaard for the repository of his work and solar knowledge base which he maintains online and for his efforts here.


I still don’t know the answer to this question: Did the Maunder minimum cause cooler temperatures on earth? What evidence for or against? According to the panel, there is no correlation apparently.

phodges says:
December 13, 2013 at 5:51 pm
That makes sense to me.


Leif is our resident expert. A treasure to have here in these disorientating times. Someone has their feet squarely on the ground.

Um, can this be the very same Dr. Svalgaard who claims solar output is constant?

Theo Goodwin

Dr. Svalgaard,
Would you please give us a hint or two about what you will be looking to discover in this cycle? What new things might show up?


Don’t for a minute think that going into a cold phase or even a little ice age is going to stop the authoritarians. All they’ll do is rewrite history and claim that they knew this was going to happen and state that they need to be in charge to save us from the devastation of the freezing cold. Plus they will blame it on the capitalists and free markets. We must ration our gas and oil to prevent the third world from freezing. Redistribution will be their answer of course.

Henry Clark

Dave says:
December 13, 2013 at 7:18 pm
I still don’t know the answer to this question: Did the Maunder minimum cause cooler temperatures on earth? What evidence for or against? According to the panel, there is no correlation apparently.
Look for yourself (and likewise for Ken L.’s question):

Brant Ra

To go with that weak cycle…..
Snow Covers Egypt for First Time in 100 Years

I have just finished publishing about this article.
For a change, we don’t have to wait a hundreds years to see if a prediction is correct.
Grand Minimum of the Total Solar Irradiance Leads to the Little Ice Age
Habibullo Abdussamatov. November 25, 2013
Significant climate variations during the past 7.5 millennia indicate that bicentennial quasi-periodic TSI variations define a corresponding cyclic mechanism of climatic changes from global warmings to Little Ice Ages and set the timescales of practically all physical processes taking place in the Sun-Earth system. Quasi-bicentennial cyclic variations of the TSI entering the Earth’s upper atmosphere are the main fundamental cause of corresponding alternations of climate variations. At the same time, more long-term variations of the annual average of the TSI due to changes in the shape of the Earth’s orbit, inclination of the Earth’s axis relative to its orbital plane, and precession, known as the astronomical Milankovitch cycles, together with the subsequent feedback effects, lead to the Big Glacial Periods (with the period of about 100,000 years).
Thus quasi-bicentennial variation of the TSI always leads to the unbalance of the annual average energy budget of the Earth-atmosphere system, while upcoming Grand minimum of the TSI leads to deficit of the annual average energy budget of the Earth and the Little Ice Age.
See http://scienceandpublicpolicy.org/images/stories/papers/originals/grand_minimum.pdf

William Astley

It is astonishing that the paleoclimatic researchers have not explained to the general public and the scientific community that there are cycles of abrupt climate change events in the paleorecord that correlate with abrupt solar magnetic cycle events. I find it difficult to imagine that no one has bothered to do cross discipline research related to the piles of anomalies to format a hypothesis as to the physical cause of what has happened in the past. I guess the absolute lack of curiosity and cross discipline discussion of anomalies explains the blasé attitude concerning what is currently happening to the sun.
Rather than blinding (ignoring the observational fact that the ‘sunspots’ are changing) continuing to count the number of sunspots groups and sunspots and then plotting the irreverent sunspot number on a graph and comparing that graph to other solar cycles graphs (comparison is not apples to apples), it should be noted that the ‘sunspots’ (what is observed on the surface of the sun) are changing as solar cycle 24 is progressing.
It appears we are going to experience a Heinrich event, a once in 8,000 to 10,000 year event, a special solar magnetic cycle that causes abrupt cooling/abrupt climate events, abrupt changes to the geomagnetic field, an astonishing increase in earthquakes. It appears at this time obvious based on observations (current, what has happened in the past, along with a physical explanation for what has happened in the past) that the solar magnetic cycle has been interrupted. A consequence of the interruption (observations which support the assertion that the solar magnetic cycle has been interrupted) was the temporary inhibiting of the GCR modulation of planetary clouds. An observation to support this assertion would be a sudden turning on of the GCR mechanism. (For example, a sudden increase in fog which occurred in the past when then was high GCR, sudden increase in cloud cover in high latitude regions, sudden cooling of high latitude regions of the planet, and so on.)
The GCR inhibiting mechanism is starting to decline. The increase in low cloud cover in the Arctic in the summer of 2013 resulted in the coldest arctic summer temperature in 20 years. High GCR results in cooling of the high latitude regions due to an increase in low level clouds which reflects more sunlight off to space, which results in colder summer temperatures. In addition the increased GCR causes a decrease in high level cirrus clouds (the wispy high level clouds, it is assumed that the increased GCR results in larger ice crystals in the cirrus clouds which fall to the earth) which results in more long wave radiation emitted to space, which in the winter results in colder winter temperatures. ( I would assume the cirrus cloud mechanism is inhibited over the Antarctic ice sheet as due to extreme cold temperatures due to altitude of the ice sheet, there is less water vapor to form cirrus clouds in the winter.) Unequivocal high latitude and global cooling will likely be a game changer for the climate wars, the end of EAGW and likely the end of lukewarm AGW.

Henry Clark says:
December 13, 2013 at 7:52 pm
Thanks for sharing that link.

john robertson

So last happened 100 years ago, now we have sensors in place to observe.
Chance to learn more.
As to effects on planetary climate, not sure?
Please fix or explain title WYWT?
Misprint or new org?
REPLY: Fixed. I was dead tired when I wrote that post, even though it was only 8PM. The week at AGU took its toll on me and my typing suffered. – Anthony

William Astley says:
December 13, 2013 at 8:02 pm
It appears we are going to experience a Heinrich event, a once in 8,000 to 10,000 year event, a special solar magnetic cycle
There is no evidence for that.


Y ?


@William Astley
“It is astonishing that the paleoclimatic researchers have not explained to the general public and the scientific community that there are cycles of abrupt climate change events in the paleorecord that correlate with abrupt solar magnetic cycle events. ”
I think you will find this is quite intentional. If it can’t be linked to CO2, then it is ignored. We have no control over solar magnetic cycles. They [can’t] be taxed, capped or traded or reduced to “save” the planet.


Make that “can’t” be taxed…


I want thank Dr. Leif Svalgaard for his presence on WUWT. Having an honest scientist who will speak to us heathen skeptics is a huge plus for us.

William Astley says:
December 13, 2013 at 8:02 pm
( I would assume the cirrus cloud mechanism is inhibited over the Antarctic ice sheet as due to extreme cold temperatures due to altitude of the ice sheet, there is less water vapor to form cirrus clouds in the winter.)
Spaceweather.com posted a video of noctilucent clouds over Antarctica. They have been occurring over a very large area of the continent over the time frame of several months. The video is still on their front page. I found myself wondering if there is some impact or relationship with the sea ice remaining above +2 on the trend line for the same period as this heavy display of noctilucents.

Mike Wryley

Mr. Astley,
Interesting assertions, where would someone find out some details on the “Heinrich” event ?
I find it hard to believe that there isn’t a single paleoclimatic expert on a soapbox somewhere making the case for this.

Janice Moore

Applause, applause!
What a treat to get to watch you, Dr. Svalgaard (your accent is adorable — NOT TO WORRY — as you no doubt are well aware, I’m a non-scientist; anyone whose opinion of you matters would find that fact completely irrelevant). Your memory for detail, great breadth as well as depth of knowledge (loved the anecdote about Sweden), and the conscientious accuracy of your answers make you truly a Science Giant.
You rock, Leif Svalgaard!
Well, done!
May you live to see many more Sun cycles (and interesting ones!).
Your grateful student,
P.S. LOL, you physicists were too smart for ol’ Borenstien; you never did pick up his rotten red herring “anthropogenic” loaded question. “Technical difficulties…” — right.

NZ Willy

Anyone remember that ludicrous prediction by two solar scientists back in 2008 (?) how we were heading for a super big maximum for cycle 24? They disagreed only on how quickly the Sun would accelerate into the new super high cycle. The article ended by intoning “One thing is clear — there’s a big storm a’coming.” I can’t find the article now, the two scientists were a man and a woman. I’ll bet they’re hoping no one remembers their folly.

Mike Wryley

Finally Lief chimes in,
If the TSI is relative as constant as we are told, then other parts of the earth ought to be warmer than usual this winter to offset the freak events, such as snow in Cairo. I suspect that since more of the Southern Hemisphere is ocean, no one notices.
Too often, posts on this site make a lot of noise about the weather events that seem to refute CAGW, and that kind of tit for tat is no better than the warmist drivel from the usual collection of dolts. We should strive for more discipline.
This past week it was in the F degree single digits or zero, and colder than a witch’s you know what in a brass brassiere in the Midwest. Next week the forecast will put us in the 40’s, pretty much a standard December.

Dave says:
December 13, 2013 at 7:18 pm

I still don’t know the answer to this question: Did the Maunder minimum cause cooler temperatures on earth? What evidence for or against? According to the panel, there is no correlation apparently.

Now, Dave was asking Dr Svalgaard, but I’ll ask he and rgbatduke to address my response below as well…)
Perversely, that the Maunder Minimum occurred very near the “bottom” of global temperature dip between 1600 – 1666 may actually indicate that it was the “cause” of the following RISE in temperatures between 1650 and today’s (2010) Modern Warming Period. Except I am doubting that as well…… Because, if the Maunder Minimum DID cause a “rise” in global temperatures between 1650 and 2010, then today’s Modern Minimum (Sunspot) period could not be causing the “pause” temperatures at a high point in a global temperature cycle.
This because, barring a global regulator or external “intelligent designer” there is nothing but natural causes that can affect global temperature averages. (If you wish, today’s CO2 levels “might” affect global temperature averages, but then the government’s CAGW religion requires you accept that no changes in global temperature occurred previously over the past 2500 years ….)
Thus, somehow, one MUST account for a regular “long cycle” of 1000 years peaking near 0000 AD, 1000 AD, and probably 2000 AD of approximately 0.30 degrees magnitude, and a period – obviously – of 1000 years.
To this “long cycle” we must account for a “short cycle” of about 68 years (Pacific and Atlantic fishing records dating to the 1400’s, for example) but the simple sum of only two cycles can re-create the proxies going back to before the Roman Optimum Period, going through the Medieval Warm Period, and duplicate the Dark Ages, Little Ice Age, and even today’s “pause” in temperatures in 1930-1945, the decline into the 1970’s, and the rise from 1970 – 2000, then the pause again between 2000 – 2015.
Note: I do NOT claim to know a “cause” of either cycle, I am merely noting that they appear to be present, be stable, and account for most the recorded and proxy global temepratuer records.
Fine. We have described a result – NOT a process nor a REASON for the two cycles – but (like Copernicus’s “circlar orbits” a description that describes what is happening. i may need to let some one else determine that the planets circle in elliptical orbits, and let a future Newton describe gravity, and a future ??? define gravity … But let us continue.
If the world temperature is warming from the Dark Ages in 750 AD, assume it is subject to BOTH a CONTINUOUS COOLING forcing of 0.15 degree, AND a CONTINUOUS WARMING forcing of 0.15 degree C. Neither “forcing” is changing in method, but both are continuous events. Both are inversely proportional to the ‘global” temperature: The cooling “forcing” increases as temperature rises (thermal radiation increases, for example) as temperature to the 4th power); the warming “forcing” increases as temperature decreases (For example, cloud cover decreases as the world cools, so less radiation is reflected from the atmosphere before it hits the ground and oceans.)
Now, right at 750 AD, the two are equal, but the world is warming from the Dark Ages “up” towards the Medieval Warming period maximum of approximately 0.15 degree C, and that long 500 year increase can be represented in a physical or thermodynamic system as a massive thermal inertia.
It is the continuous but opposing 0.15 degree COOLING “feedback” that arrested the warming that began in 450 AD-550 AD, and that finally stopped the warming at its peak between 950 and 1050 AD. That the Medieval Warming Period “maximum” occurred between 950 AD and 1050 does NOT mean that any climate influence that also happened around 1000 AD warmed the earth’s climate up! It was already hot in 1000 AD. Also, that something “cold” happened in 1000 AD does not mean that “cold” event stopped the heating! The heating cycle had already stopped!
Equally, that any given single “cooling influence” of any kind happened between 950 AD and 1050 AD does NOT mean that specific cooling influence reduced temperatures between 1050 AD and the lowest point of the Little Ice Age. A periodic long term temperature cycle going between maximum and minimum temperatures may definitely be influenced by short-term Maunder-like solar minimums occurring near its lowest point, BUT that single Maunder minimum did NOT (could not actually) cause a gradual cooling between 1050 AD and 1600 AD.
instead, that long term tempratrure cycle CANNOT change UNTIL its cooling influence EXCEEDS its warmong influence by some amount: In a physical system like a mass suspended between two springs, the negative feedback must exceed the positive inertia if the system is to stop and reverse direction. Likewise, until even a continuous positive influence exceeds the negative inertia of the system, the mass continues downward, but is only slowing steadily. It is not immediately or suddenly changed. A continuous positive (heating) influence will continue to heat the system all the time, but this does NOT imply the system is at a single “steady state” or equilibrium temperature.
Rather, or even perversely, the maximum temperature of the system (at its peak) MUST exceed the “assumed” steady state temperature – if it did not, that continuous negative influence (such as radiation which increases to the 4th power of temperature as the system warms!) could never get large enough to (1) stop the increase in temperature, (2) begin to cause the steady decline (1000 years in the future) forces a minimum temperature….
The Perversion of Logic at Periods of Maximum and Minimum Temperatures.
So, if you assume the Maunder Minimum “caused” any sort of cooling event, then that cooling event occurred at the wrong time: The time of cooling was in 1000 AD because that is when the increasing temperature that we call the Medieval Warming Period stopped warming, and began to cool. The Maunder Minimum – if it assumed to affect global temperatures – must have (somehow) caused them to rise, because it was only after the Maunder Minimum stopped that global temperature s began increasing into today’s Modern Warming Period. I too for many years superimposed the effects because they overlap so, so very logically at 1600-1700, but have to reject sunspot counts at least, as having any effects because their effect occurs at the wrong time of their symptom.
likewise, the significant increase in sunspot counts in the last three solar cycles before solar cycle 24 (nbrs 21, 22, and 23) occurred as the last 68 year short cycle increased in global temperatures between 1975 and 1998. But, then the 2000-2010 pause happened – before the solar cycle 24 began.


I don’t understand. In the video, Marty Mlynczak said in the Q&A in response to a chat question by Seth Borenstein that there was no effect of the solar cycles on earth temps and said no one has seen any (“we don’t know of any effects on climate”).
Yet, graphs show correlations between no sunspots and the Maunder Minimum, and the vastly reduced sunspots and the Dalton Minimum (Solar Cycles 5 and 6 for starters). And various scientists writing here have reported that it is more than a correlation, it is a cause. I think IIRC that the head of a Russian space agency, Dr. Amdassamatov (Sp? form memory), said the same thing.
What am I missing?

Policycritic says:
December 13, 2013 at 9:29 pm
What am I missing?
That correlation is not necessarily causation.

Bob Weber

Solar flux and geomagnetics baby! Its about time old Sol got some respect. Too bad that respect isn’t shared by everyone in the sciences. Too bad they’re not looking at the implications of variable solar activity on our daily weather and how that accumulates into “climate”. That entire area is the biggest blind spot in the “climate” sciences, and needs immediate triage.


I should have looked his name up. It’s Habibullo Abdusamatov (and I spelled it incorrectly). He’s the “supervisor of the Astrometria[1] project of the Russian section of the International Space Station and the head of Space research laboratory at the Saint Petersburg-based Pulkovo Observatory[2][3] of the Russian Academy of Sciences.”