Scientists tackle a burning question: When will our quiet sun turn violent?

From Science Mag


A violent, active sun, as seen in ultraviolet light in October 2014—near solar maximum in its 11-year solar cycle. As the sun approaches solar minimum, scientists are trying to predict the timing and strength of the next solar maximum.


By Sarah ScolesMay. 30, 2019 , 2:00 PM

BOULDER, COLORADO—For all of February the sun is nearly spotless, a smooth circle filled in with a goldenrod crayon. It has been more than a decade since it was so lacking in sunspots—dark magnetic knots as big as Earth that are a barometer of the sun’s temperament. Below the surface, however, a radical transition is afoot. In 5 years or so, the sun will be awash in sunspots and more prone to violent bursts of magnetic activity. Then, about 11 years from now, the solar cycle will conclude: Sunspots will fade away and the sun will again grow quiet.

In early March, a dozen scientists descend on the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) here to predict when the sun will reach its peak, and how unruly it will become. As light reflects off snow caught in the trees and streams through the tall windows of a conference room, the Solar Cycle 25 Prediction Panel comes to order. NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have sponsored these panels since 1989, aiming to understand what drives the sun’s 11-year cycles and assess methods for predicting them. But the exercise is not just academic: The military, satellite operators, and electric utilities all want to know what the sun has in store, because the flares and bursts of charged particles that mark solar maximum can damage their technologies.

Sunspots can be seen with the naked eye, but it wasn’t until the mid-1800s that astronomers realized they come and go on a rough schedule. They first appear at midlatitudes and then proliferate, migrating toward the equator over about 11 years. In 1848, Swiss astronomer Johann Rudolf Wolf published an account of the sunspot record, identifying 1755–66 as “Cycle 1,” the first period when counts were reliable. He then created a formula for counting the number of daily sunspots—a somewhat subjective technique that has evolved into a counting method used today to marry data sets across the centuries.

The cycles are capricious, however. Sometimes, the sun goes quiet for decades, with anemic sunspot counts across several cycles—as occurred during the 19th century’s so-called Dalton minimum. Such variations are what the scientists at NCAR have gathered to forecast. The problem is that no one—in this room or elsewhere—really knows how the sun works.

Most models snatch at reality, but none pieces together the whole puzzle. The last time the panel convened, in 2007, its scientists evaluated dozens of models and came up with a prediction that was far from perfect. It missed the timing of the maximum, April 2014, by almost a year, and also the overall weakness of the past cycle. This panel, a who’s who list of solar scientists, doesn’t know whether it will do better.

As the NCAR clock ticks toward the start time, the panelists sit in awkward silence, clutching their compostable coffee cups. They know what the next 4 days hold: fights over physics and intuition, belief and data, correlation and causation. Tensions shadow the gathering: Scott McIntosh, director of NCAR’s High Altitude Observatory (HAO) here, has an office above the meeting room and his own unorthodox view of what drives the solar cycle and how to predict it. But McIntosh, outspoken and provocative, has not been invited to be on the panel, although a collaborator will present the HAO’s research.

At 8:30 a.m., the panel’s earnest leader, Doug Biesecker—who works at NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center here and commutes by bike regardless of the weather—welcomes everyone to the task: sorting through the many models and coming to a consensus about the next cycle. “The mess that you get from the community needs to be synthesized into something that is ideally correct,” Biesecker says. “But you know, how can we know what’s going to be correct?”

They can’t.

As if to prove the point, 14 surprise sunspots appear, seething on the surface that had been so featureless for so long.

Even on its calmest days, the sun is roiling. Fueled by fusion in its core, the sun is a ball of hot, charged particles, or plasma, that churns constantly, generating electric currents that in turn induce magnetic fields. Deep inside the sun is a dense radiative zone, where photons slowly fight their way outward. At a certain point—in the outer third of the sun—the plasma cools enough to allow convection, a boiling motion that carries energy toward the surface. In this zone, the sun rotates differentially: faster at the equator than the poles. The shearing motions that result stretch and twist the magnetic fields, strengthening them—a process that somehow affects the 11-year cycle. The tangled field lines sometimes burst through the convective zone and jut out from the surface, forming sunspots.

The sun’s ebb and flow affects Earth. Its upper atmosphere absorbs the sun’s ultraviolet rays, which dim slightly at solar minimum. That causes the atmosphere to cool and shrink, reducing friction for low-flying satellites. In calm solar cycles, operators assume their satellites will remain in orbit for longer—and because the same goes for space junk, the risk of a collision goes up. The sun’s magnetic field also weakens at solar minimum, which poses another threat to satellites. The weakened field rebuffs fewer galactic cosmic rays, high energy particles that can flip bits in satellite electronics.

At solar maximum, in contrast, the sun heats and inflates Earth’s upper atmosphere, and it often flares up and unleashes its own particles. They are not as energetic as the galactic cosmic rays, but they come in a flash flood. At solar max, Biesecker says, these “coronal mass ejections” of charged particles are 10 times as frequent as at minimum. Hours or days after the sun spits them out, particles rush into Earth’s magnetic field, provoking geomagnetic storms that can last for days. The storms can disrupt communications, interrupt spacecraft and missile tracking, and skew GPS measurements. They can also induce powerful currents in electric grids, which can destroy transformers and other equipment. Air crews at high altitudes, particularly near the poles, can be showered with the sun’s energetic particles—a cancer risk.

All of which adds to the practical importance of the panel’s forecasts. “If you design a satellite for a 10- or 12-year life, you need to consider the cycle,” says Michael Martinez, vice president of mission operations at DigitalGlobe in Westminster, Colorado, which makes high-resolution imaging orbiters. Designers need to be sure a satellite has enough propellant to combat the friction of an expanding atmosphere as the sun approaches maximum, and they need to shield its electronics from solar particles.

Most worrisome is the prospect of a major solar storm, such as the Carrington Event of 1859. During that storm, the sun ejected billions of tons of charged particles, causing aurorae as far south as the Caribbean and generating currents in telegraph lines powerful enough to shock operators. Today, the effect of such an event on computers and communications would be dire. Financial transaction systems could collapse. Power and water could easily go out. “It probably would be The Hunger Games pretty soon,” McIntosh says.

If you design a satellite for a 10- or 12-year life, you need to consider the cycle.

Michael Martinez, DigitalGlobe

McIntosh doesn’t question the need to prepare, but he is skeptical of the panel’s approach. In fact, he believes its very premise—predicting the rise and fall of sunspots—is off-base. Sunspots, and the cycle itself, are just symptoms of a still-mysterious story playing out inside the sun.

Lika Guhathakurta, a panel observer from NASA’s Ames Research Center in California, agrees. “Sunspot is not a physical index of anything,” she says, after the morning’s introductory talks. “So the fact that we have used it as a proxy in itself kind of presents a problem.” Using sunspots—a side effect, not a cause—to predict the sun’s future behavior is like trying to divine the germ theory of disease by looking at a runny nose, she and McIntosh think.

But because the panelists have convened specifically to predict sunspot numbers, they soldier on, reviewing about 60 models over the next 4 days. Each predicts the number of sunspots at solar maximum, as well as the timing of minimum and maximum.

Read the full article here.

HT/Joel O’Bryan

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Patrick Geryl
May 30, 2019 10:16 pm

My prediction for the start of Solar Cycle 25 was published in December (!) 2018.

Updated conclusion: Between September 2018 and at the latest December 2018. This in contrast to the NASA panel: late 2019-late 2020… We will know in maximum 8 weeks who is right…

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Patrick Geryl
May 30, 2019 11:37 pm

All the recent activity on SSN has been SC24 activity. We still have at least 6 more months of solar minimum.
My take, SC25 will start 1 January 2020 +/- 1 month based on an analysis of SH polarity behavior over that last 6 cycles. Peak SC 25 will be summer 2024. But the real story is the Active Regions that throw off M and X class flares and big CMEs. The big flares come from Beta-Gamma-Delta (BGD) AR’s, but are only ~5% of all AR’s. Why do some AR’s become delta (mixed polarity)?

My hypothesis predicts BGD active regions 14-17 days out from trigger and come from a different triggering mechanism that astrophysicists are *NOT* ready to accept though IMO. Thus I’m being careful, waiting for more data.
My hypothesis also has a “far-out” prediction for mid-June 2020.
It also provides a rational explanation/connection for both “simultaneous flares” and occurence of “sympathetic flares” on the sun.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
May 31, 2019 1:31 am

That sounds near enough.
My calculation going back to 2012 shows that next minimum will take place in the early 2019.
This is not simply a guess, but based on a hypothesis using data for the magnetic heliospheric spiral trajectory and JPL solar system dynamics ephemerides.
Sun is far to large for kind of power generator driving it, to have an internal oscillating mechanism of about 11 years, additionally being damped down every 100 or so years, therefore I looked for an external mechanism causing these small surface magnetic disturbances we know as the sunspot cycles.
Dr. Svalgaard did an early great work on the heliospheric current sheet, propagating along a spiral trajectory we know as Parker spiral. As the open solar magnetic field flows along heliosphere it encounters strong planetary magnetic fields, creating ever changing magnetospheres, eventually ‘short-circuiting’ the tail end into the ‘magnetic reconnection’ (effect is observed as aurora). By doing so the reconnection turns open solar magnetic field into a close field and so establishing an electro-magnetic feedback loop between solar surface and planetary magnetospheres what NASA calls ‘magnetic ropes’ or ‘portals’, for details see here .
These links are particularly strong with two magnetic giants J & S. occasionally both of these giants are connected into a single ‘magnetic rope’ or ‘portal’ along the Parker’s spiral.
Using the NASA’s Parker spiral trajectories and JPL solar system dynamics web site data, it is possible to calculate when the sun & J & S are connected by single ‘magnetic rope’ the event that might last a month or two establishes close magnetic feedback circuit between their magnetic fields. Some years ago I attempted such calculations and in 2012 produced a diagram which surprisingly ‘neatly’ lined up all solar minima, separating the odd from the even cycles, further more detecting the centenary damping of the solar oscillation as shown
here .
The calculation shows that next minimum will take place in the early 2019.

Reply to  vukcevic
May 31, 2019 2:07 am

typing error it should read “next minimum will take place in the early 2020”
see link near the end of my post.

Ian Wilson
Reply to  vukcevic
May 31, 2019 8:47 am

Below are a set of 2012 blog posts that link the spacing of solar minima to the 11.07 year Venus-Earth-Jupiter Tidal-Torquing model. This link has recently been confirmed by the new paper in Solar Physics by Stefani et al. 2019.
A Model of a Tidally Synchronized Solar Dynamo

Sunday, April 22, 2012
Why Does the Solar Cycle [Minimums] Keep Re-synchronizing Itself With the Gravitational Force of Jupiter That is Tangentially Pushing and Pulling Upon the Venus-Earth Tidal Bulge in the Sun’s Convective Layer?


Monday, April 23, 2012
The V-E-J Tidal-Torquing Model & the Maunder Minimum

The later post concluded with the claim that:

The first solar minimum in the telescope era was the first minimum for Cycle -12, starting in 1610.8. The corresponding zero acceleration [in the VEJ tidal-torquing model] was in ~ 1611.5 (a difference of 0.8 years, which is probably about the order of magnitude of the error involved in setting the date of this minimum)

This means that by ~ 2021 there have been 37 VEJ cycles each of 11.07 years length.

1611.5 + (37 x 11.07) = 2021.1

Hence, if solar cycle 25 has its first minimum at the start of 2021, it will show that the solar cycle has re-synchronized itself to an 11.07 year period VEJ cycle over a ~ 410 year

If the first minimum of cycle 25 occurs at the start of 2019, it will show that the solar cycle has re-synchronized itself to an 11.02 year period VEJ cycle over a ~ 410 year
period, since:

1611.5 + (37 x 11.02) = 2019.24

If the first minimum of cycle 25 occurs at the beginning of 2023, it will show that the solar cycle has re-synchronized itself to an 11.12-year period VEJ cycle over a ~ 410 year
period, since:

1611.5 + (37 x 11.12) = 2022.94

Thus, the first minimum for SC 25, that occurs between 2019.24 and 2022.94 (i.e. ~ 2021 +/- 2 years) will indicate a re-synchronization to a VEJ cycle length of 11.07 +/- 0.05 years over a 410 year period.

Reply to  vukcevic
May 31, 2019 12:42 pm

Hi Ian
You and many others rest their case on the Newtonian physics, while I have moved one step forward and rest my case on the shoulders of Maxwell. Nothing wrong with either of two. I’m sure that someone, somewhere, sometime in the near or more distant future might take another further step forward and invoke the special theory of relativity.
p.s. old Albert allegedly said:
“Fortunate Newton…! Nature to him was an open book, whose letters he could read without effort.”
“The special theory of relativity owes its origins to Maxwell’s equations of the electromagnetic field”
Hence, my hypothesis is more modern than yours, but that doesn’t make it any more credible.(/sarc).
However, for the foreseeable time nether can be proven correct, hence the ‘malcontented’ will declare both as no more than the somewhat elaborate examples of pseudoscience.

Ulric Lyons
Reply to  vukcevic
June 1, 2019 4:44 am

Ian, minimum and maximum synchronize with the current angular aspects and not the mean cycle period, which the long term value is 11.068094 years. There are slips in the synodic series resulting in occasional shorter cycles, and the orbits are not circular, both shift the absolute timing of sunspot max&min away from the mean. Typically minimum occurs at one half of a Jupiter-Uranus synodic period past the previous maximum. The mechanism operates via a quadrupole solar equatorial magnetic moment, which I have additional evidence for with the occurrence of major heatwaves and cold-waves at key quadrupole configurations of the four gas giants.

comment image

Reply to  vukcevic
June 1, 2019 4:25 pm

Wilson: “A Model of a Tidally Synchronized Solar Dynamo”

That paper is based on Schove’s ‘sunspot series’ [1955,1983], but omits to tell us that Schove ASSUMED that there were exactly nine cycles per century, so it is no wonder that the series sows a 11.1 year period. There is thus no observational support for the claimed period. The claim should then simply be dismissed as the numerology it is.

Ian Wilson
Reply to  vukcevic
June 3, 2019 7:07 am

Starting at the first observed solar minimum (n = 0), as calculated from the observed smoothed sunspot records, if you move forward from one solar minimum to the next, you find that the cumulative time between the latest solar minimum (n = N) and the first (n = 0), divided by N, oscillates around a value of 11.07. The current error on this clockwork-like pacing in the solar minimums is 11.07 +/- 0.05 years.

Clearly, the spacings between one solar minimum and the next (i.e. the nominal solar cycle length), varies considerably from one cycle to the next. However, in the long run, the cumulative spacing since the first observable solar minimum always returns to a long-term spacing of an almost precise multiple of 11.07 years.

No amount of obfuscation will make this result go away.

Reply to  vukcevic
June 1, 2019 4:34 pm

Dr. Svalgaard did an early great work on the heliospheric current sheet, propagating along a spiral trajectory we know as Parker spiral.
No, this is incorrect. The solar wind expands radially, no along a spiral. The pattern of magnetic polarity is a spiral just like the water from a rotating garden sprinkler. No spirals of flows in either case.

Reply to  Patrick Geryl
May 31, 2019 3:43 am

there is a medium size SC24 sunspot coming into view
comment image
zoom in for better view.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  vukcevic
May 31, 2019 12:54 pm

That region now rotating into view on the east limb is the old AR 12740 which rotated over the east limb on 5/15/2019. I’ve been watching for the last week on Stereo-A when i12740 emerged on the backside into view along with the old 12741 following behind it by ~3 days. Sad that Stereo-B is gone now and unable to monitor the whole 4π sr solar sphere.
AR 12740 was the old AR 12738 that rotated out of view on the west limb on 4/18/2019.
AR 12738 was the old AR 12736 that rotated out of view on the east limb on 3/24/2019.
AR 12736 come out of Jan Alvestad’s S6139 that emerged on 3/16/2019 at N08 E21.
AR 12736 went beta-gamma-delta briefly on 3/21, and threw off a CME the day before on 3/20.
As evidence here:

My hypothesis made a prediction on 3/07/2109 about that:

I suspected the trigger was strong, but I didn’t realize how strong. (I still don’t know how strong it really was and never will now, as it was an somewhat indirect detection of the likely trigger). If the sun had been in a more active magnetic state, it would have been rather spectacular flaring. Thankfully for Earth, with the solar minimum now in place all it has done keep solar physicists interested each time it has come around Earth-facing for the last 3 months.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
May 31, 2019 1:19 pm

Dang it, I keep getting my limbs backwards. AR’s rotate into view on the east-limb, and out of view on the west-limb.

May 30, 2019 10:26 pm

Sunspot is not a physical index of anything
The number of active regions [sunspot groups] is a strong linear function of the sun’s magnetic field which is a very meaningful ‘physical index’, see e.g. Slide 26 of

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Leif Svalgaard
May 30, 2019 11:18 pm

It’s the blind men and the elephant problem writ 5E+26 elephants large (1.99E+30 kg). Everyone describes what they feel with their touch.
None are wrong.
But none have the complete picture.
The struggle goes on. As do the arguments.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
May 31, 2019 2:42 am

But “[a] complete picture” must be achievable for scientists – simply because suns, generally speaking and in the long run, all behave predictably in their existence. The “picture” cannot be true chaos, can it?
But we may need a thousand years patiently collecting data before we “get the picture”.

So keep trying, you solar scientists.

Reply to  Leif Svalgaard
May 31, 2019 12:31 am

Sunspot numbers have very limited use and will remain virtually useless until somebody figures out how the sun actually works.

Bob Weber
Reply to  Leif Svalgaard
May 31, 2019 6:59 am

…is a strong linear function…

Your strong sunspot number to magnetic field ‘linear function’ is non-linear at high sunspot number. [fig 6]

High sunspot numbers lead to low TSI when the sunspot area is high, often driving TSI below solar minimum floor level, to be offset later by the subsequent lagged bump up in TSI from that same sunspot activity.

This relationship is linear in the low range of 0-100 sunspot number, but at higher sunspot numbers it can only remain linear if under the rare condition when the sun produces a more continuously strong magnetic mean field at the solar maximum, a situation it has a hard time sustaining.

I originally discovered the non-linearity with daily F10.7cm and TSI data, then applied the concept to monthly sunspot number and solar mean field data to attain the similar result in my fig. 6.

The implication is high sunspot number solar cycles such as #19 did not reach as high a level of TSI as would be found using the common linear assumption. This is as significant as your discovery that the solar minimum TSI reaches a floor level. The sun self-limits at both it’s minimum and maximum.

This gets to the idea that there is a solar cycle “sweet spot” for TSI vs sunspot number that varies from 100-220, where TSI maximizes, all depending on the mean field strength. Solar cycle 24 exhibited just high enough solar activity to not drive TSI downward from large sunspot groups, as it did in cycles 21-23, and this allowed for more continuous high TSI forcing in early 2015 when the sun was just past perihelion, driving the strong ocean warming that led to the large 2015/16 El Nino.

Dave Fair
May 30, 2019 10:29 pm

Will they publish the bets, then tell us how the various people fared? Accurate predictions are a hallmark of understanding of fundamental processes.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Dave Fair
May 30, 2019 11:43 pm

Right for the wrong reason… is still wrong.

I want to win the PowerBall lottery. I want to be “right” on 6 numbers for the wrong reason.
I’ll laugh all the way to bank.

May 30, 2019 10:37 pm

Who cares? It’s not like the sun influences climate – it’s all CO2, right?

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  ShanghaiDan
May 31, 2019 12:01 am

On Earth, it’s all insolation.
It’s just no one can agree on what that number is, where it matters, or how it changes due to albedo.
You know, the little stuff.
Thankfully we have a very benevolent sun. And probably a highly unusual sun… as star systems go.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
May 31, 2019 9:46 am

I don’t really accept the claim that its ONLY TSI and albedo. The temperature at TOA varies with solar wind strength and magnetic field intensity and that can influence the radiative balance of the planet by influencing the thickness and temperature of the rarified atmosphere out ot the bow shock. Sure this effect may be small but it is spread over the entire planet.

Reply to  ShanghaiDan
May 31, 2019 1:01 pm

Any future expedition to Mars would welcome a prolonged solar minimum, the Maunder type would be ideal.

May 30, 2019 10:38 pm

And after all this we will get a scientific statement which the world’s news media will breathlessly run with : “Experts say…………!!”

Mike Haseler (Scottish Sceptic)
Reply to  AndyE
May 31, 2019 12:57 am

An expert is someone who can make reliable predictions.

Stephen Richards
Reply to  Mike Haseler (Scottish Sceptic)
May 31, 2019 1:31 am

Feynman said an expert is ignorant, didn’t he ?

Reply to  Stephen Richards
May 31, 2019 5:44 am

“Towards the end of his talk to the National Science Teachers Association, Feynman noted from his own experience that science is neither its content nor form. To just copy or imitate the method of the past is indeed to not be doing science. Feynman says we learn from science that you must doubt the experts: “Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts. When someone says ‘science teaches such and such’, he is using the word incorrectly. Science doesn’t teach it; experience teaches it” (The Pleasure of Finding Things Out, p.187).

Again this simple idea is more profound than it seems. As I mentioned, a view widely received today is that science is its method: scientists check predictions against the evidence from observation. But Feynman is suggesting that our very experience of nature is molded by the collective scientific knowledge of the past, and that the way we view the world is handed down to us, so that evidence and observations are both historically loaded. For example, Aristotelians experienced the world as geocentric (earth-centred) in a void; Newtonians saw the world as heliocentric (sun-centred) in an infinite space-time; Einsteinians see the world as centreless in a finite space-time geometry. Feynman reasons that established descriptions of reality are hijacked as science in the name of trusted experience. In response, Feynman calls for a “philosophy of ignorance.” This is more than just healthy scepticism; it requires professional judgement. Scepticism by itself – merely being distrustful of evidence or experience – is useless in science, as it does not itself tell us what we should be looking for or doing. Feynman describes judgement in science as the skill to “pass on the accumulated wisdom, plus the wisdom that it might not be wisdom… to teach both to accept and reject the past with a kind of balance that takes considerable skill. Science alone of all the subjects contains within itself the lesson of the danger of belief in the infallibility of the greatest teachers of the preceding generation” (Ibid, p.188).”

Reply to  steven mosher
May 31, 2019 12:43 pm

Very well put. A “philosophy of ignorance”. That is exactly what Feynman meant – not just blind scepticism of all new thoughts or theories.

mike macray
Reply to  Mike Haseler (Scottish Sceptic)
May 31, 2019 9:21 am

Scottish Sceptic….

””An expert is someone who can make reliable predictions.””
I thought it was someone who could dodge the obvious obstacles while sweeping on with the Grand Fallacy?
Correct me if I’m wrong .

Jim Masterson
Reply to  Mike Haseler (Scottish Sceptic)
May 31, 2019 3:54 pm

An expert is someone who can make reliable predictions.

I thought it was a former drip under pressure: x-spurt.


Reply to  Jim Masterson
May 31, 2019 7:04 pm

“X” is a symbol that denotes an unknown. A spurt is a drip under pressure. Therefore, an expert is an unknown drip under pressure.

Joel O'Bryan
May 30, 2019 11:07 pm

What I so love about this is area that no matter where one falls on the spectrum of solar science and what drives the magnetic cycle… it can be debated. And there are open admissions of uncertainty and lack of knowledge.
But in real science… opinions don’t count, as everyone has one, and everyone can’t be correct.

Rational models and differing explanations can be argued. Old guard can and does demand exceptional evidence for exceptional claims from the young-ones, and it can still be debated. And evidence will roll in as surely as the sun rises in East every day.
That is actual science. (little “s” science)
Consensus can help form a better prediction “maybe” of SSN at solar max, but none of that provides an explanation. All of us has had times when we were right for the wrong reason. And we need reason.
It is all we have to cut through the junk science that floods our filters everyday.
Hard reason. Uncaring. Unemotional. Where being wrong is actually a step forward.

So I salute Dr McIntosh and his group for the courage to push the Solar Old Guard to think about new ideas, and why they might be wrong.

Of course I have an idea (actually, a well-formed hypothesis) about what kicks a beta-gamma-delta sunspot/AR to form rather than a benign one as flux tubes peel off the solar tachocline at the base of the convective zone. But that is for another time. I’m evaluating my hypothesis against new data and Dr McIntosh’s “solar tsunami” Nature paper (which is free access here: ) so it’s not yet ready still for prime time.
But it has the potential to excite and merge several very disparate branches of astrophysics. And it has a extra-solar prediction that is quite provocative for mid-June 2020.

Thanks CTM for putting this up on WUWT.


Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
May 31, 2019 6:19 am


Speaking about differing points of view, what do you (and others here) think about Pierre Robitaille’s views about a liquid metallic hydrogen core for the sun? I stumbled on to his numerous videos on YouTube not long ago, for example:

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Bryan-oz4caster
May 31, 2019 10:47 pm

I think the first difficulty is being very careful about what one defines as a “metal.”
What is the “metal” characteristics to which you refer. In astronomy, “metallicity” is any atomic number above helium. Metal to a materials engineer may be very different to a metallic hydrogen that might exist in Jupiter’s un-ignited core.
So I’m not sure what anyone can mean about a metal hydrogen in a 15 Million K core of our sun, as the ultra dense hot plasma can carry a current as well as the best “metals”.

So be very careful how you define/use the word “metal” when you go beyond the common Earthly understandings of what is a metal.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
June 2, 2019 5:22 am

In the context of Dr Robitaille, metallic hydrogen is hydrogen under enough pressure that it has condensed into a lattice structure where the protons are bound to their lattice points and the electrons are free to travel along the lattice at will. Therefore, the Sun is not a big ball of gas or plasma, it is condensed matter – a liquid or solid. I find his arguments compelling, AND supported by actual evidence, which is more than can be said about a large portions of standard astrophysics.

Forty Lines of Evidence for Condensed Matter – The Sun on Trial: Liquid Metallic Hydrogen as a Solar Building Block. Pierre-Marie Robitaille.

Dr Robitaille is entertaining in that he uses the five laws of thermodynamics to eviscerate many of standard equations of astrophysics, and by extension moves those theories to be in the same category as unicorn farts and fairy dust. He is a first rate heretic, and I love heretics, especially when the facts are on their side.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
May 31, 2019 10:16 am

To your knowledge, has anyone speculated on the impact of time slowing down in the interior of the sun (as predicted by General Relativity) where the fusion is taking place? Could the 11-year cycle represent something that would take place MUCH faster if observed in a laboratory here on Earth? This might have consequences for those attempting to master controlled thermonuclear reactions.

Reply to  Clyde Spencer
June 1, 2019 5:45 am

Exactly. GR will show these effects if there is a pulsar type neutron supernova remnant at the Solar core. The energy density profile would change any kind of dilation prediction.
In other words a comparison of the homogeneous model profile with a neutron core model (rapidly spinning) might show up known cycles.
Has anyone access to : Is the Sun a pulsar? PETER TOTH ?
If that is what is going on it has major consequences for fusion and might explain the delay.
With a neutron core model, fusion would be a top solar layer phenomenon.

PS. I am fully aware of the kind of chat anything to with neutron cores can start.

May 30, 2019 11:22 pm

It is kind of funny, that this guy “” predict all this stuff for years now and nobody notices it.
how arrogant.

Reply to  rkoch
May 31, 2019 9:54 am

I have been following his work since 2011 – when I still believed in anthropogenic global warming via carbon dioxide. This past 8 years has convinced me that the sun and its internal variability is the main driver for these interglacial fluctuations. Its certainly more likely that assuming the medieval and roman warm periods were caused by miniscule fluctuations in trace greenhouse gasses.

I think it’s clear we are in a Dansgaard Oeschger Event now and we will slowly decline in temperatures for quite some time.

Reply to  xenomoly
May 31, 2019 10:55 pm

Is it not more likely that our global temperature will increase for yet another little while? The warming phase is still in its infancy (has only lasted 150 years). And the increase in atmospheric CO2 is likely even to boost this a bit, is it not? Perhaps another couple of hundred years – to make this more like all other Dansgaard-Oeschger events. And won’t the alarmists be happy to see a continuous increase in temperature!! They will be dancing in the streets.

Coeur de Lion
May 30, 2019 11:24 pm

At least it’s not settled

J Mac
May 30, 2019 11:26 pm

It’s a grand experiment. I hope I’m alive in 11 years to see how this next cycle works out….. and how ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ the various experts are in their prognostications!

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  J Mac
May 31, 2019 1:02 am

Just came in from the patio looking at Jupiter and its moons and then Saturn in my small scope. Magnificent sights. To realize how far away they are, and then the stars of the Milky Way so much further. And then untold billions of galaxies beyond that. Amazing universe we live in.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
May 31, 2019 3:05 am

How amazingly small we are. Do we know if other suns have a similar cycle? In geological time an 11 year cycle is extremely short for such a large body. We suppose it has been doing this since the beginning of its existence?

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Robertvd
May 31, 2019 5:01 am

“Do we know if other suns have a similar cycle? In geological time an 11 year cycle is extremely short for such a large body.”

This might be part of the explanation:

The Sun follows the rhythm of the planets, says German research institute

“One of the big questions in solar physics is why the Sun’s activity follows a regular cycle of 11 years. Researchers from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR), an independent German research institute, now present new findings, indicating that the tidal forces of Venus, Earth and Jupiter influence the solar magnetic field, thus governing the solar cycle”

end excerpt

The Sun is a fascinating subject! A very complicated subject! I love seeing it discussed on WUWT.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
May 31, 2019 11:45 pm

” Joel O’Bryan
May 31, 2019 at 1:02 am

Just came in from the patio looking at Jupiter and its moons and then Saturn in my small scope. Magnificent sights. To realize how far away they are, and then the stars of the Milky Way so much further. And then untold billions of galaxies beyond that. Amazing universe we live in.”

It’s only a model 🙂

Robert B
May 31, 2019 12:45 am

I’m living in South Australia where the large amount of power from wind, when it blows but not too hard, is causing a lot of problems with the grid. I would very much like to know when the next Carrington event will be.

Might go camping.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Robert B
May 31, 2019 1:05 am

My hypothesis can give you about a 14-17 day head start on the next Carrington Event.
Can I join you? North America and Europe will be a mess.
I’ll bring the marshmallows, beer, and my dogs.

Dave Fair
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
May 31, 2019 10:09 am

Don’t forget ammunition, Joel. Lots of ammunition.

Reply to  Robert B
May 31, 2019 11:03 am


Its like predicting the exact weather in Toledo Ohio, on July 4th, 2020. Rain, shine, wind, calm, tornadoes, floods, drought, what?

Seriously, that’s not even hyperbole.

Just saying,
GoatGuy ✓

May 31, 2019 12:48 am

I think their methodology is wrong. Any “concensus” forecast is just as likely to be wrong as any individual forecast. It’s not therefore more useful at all. Pick 3-5 forecasts (or more) and see which one is best. Then reconvene and do it again. You can only know by making bets and seeing who is right. Making one bet has a very low chance of success.

Tom in Florida
Reply to  Phoenix44
May 31, 2019 4:27 am

There is a person who got both the last two cycles correct. I would bet on his method.

Mike Haseler (Scottish Sceptic)
May 31, 2019 12:52 am

Don’t give up hope!

After only ~100,000 daily cycles of the weather, we are now able to predict it quite well a few days ahead.

So, in around 1million years time we’ll probably have quite accurate prediction of the sunspot cycle a few decades ahead.

May 31, 2019 1:20 am

Looks like a new panic topic for the MSM.

May 31, 2019 1:32 am

Scott McIntosh is a solar physicist that is convinced solar activity controls El Niño Southern Oscillation and has published evidence showing it. Being a defender of solar variability effect on climate makes him an heretical among both solar physicists and IPCC-following climate scientists. He has also published on a 22-year cycle in the migration of solar activity bands that determines the 11-year cycle and allows better prediction of the next solar cycle. He is not invited to the panel, which shows the panel is not about the science but about power in the field.

Nature Trail
May 31, 2019 2:26 am

One of the best models for the sun’s activity is the latest model from Valentina Zharkova. For the past Solar cycles her model seems more accurate than any other model.

According to Valentina Zharkova SC 25 and SC 26 will have a major impact on the climate in the Northern Hemisphere.
Why is there so little attention for Valentina Zharkova on Watts up with that?

Stephen Mengel
Reply to  Nature Trail
May 31, 2019 8:59 am

I agree….

Mike B
Reply to  Nature Trail
May 31, 2019 9:29 am

There will be if this next cycle is below this cycle in sunspots.

Reply to  Nature Trail
May 31, 2019 9:38 am

Zharkova’s model has already been shown to be wrong. It doesn’t even reproduce the past correctly.

This is why little attention is being paid to her:
Usoskin, I.G., 2018. Comment on the paper by Popova et al.“On a role of quadruple component of magnetic field in defining solar activity in grand cycles”. Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics, 176, pp.69-71.

Rhys Jaggar
May 31, 2019 2:56 am

Consensus predictions are best at creating an acceptable window of error for pragmatists who need a number not a scientific theory. 60-120 rather than 180-240 is useful if designs capable of withstanding 160 but not 320 are used for satellites etc.

Politicians wanting useful climate predictions on the 30-50 year range though will need much more basic understanding of solar science, not to mention evidence that knowledge of solar strength over 2 Hale cycles actually allows you to make reasonable predictions concerning general climate outcomes (which is only going to be true with good understanding of oceanic modulations too).

So it looks to me that NOAA predictions currently are useful in certain areas but much basic physics research on the sun and oceans is necessary before meaningful whole Hale cycle predictions will be relied upon by long term investors.

Unless of course the military know better but want to keep it secret for enhanced killing capabilities….

May 31, 2019 3:45 am

Throwing a few neutrons into the works :
Is the Sun a pulsar? PETER TOTH

I think the homogenous gas ball consensus ist just that.

May 31, 2019 4:29 am

Yep. Keep working on it.
SILSO says: “The next minimum between the current cycle 24 and cycle 25 is predicted to occur between July 2019 and September 2020. Given the previous minimum in December 2008, this thus corresponds to a duration for cycle 24 between 10.6 and 11.75 years. This thus… more……
Tue, 23 Apr 2019 ”

They also seem to be forecasting cycle 25 to have an amplitude similar to that of cycle 24.

Tom in Florida
May 31, 2019 5:25 am

Question for the more informed:
If there were to be a Carrington event, how would all the information stored in the Cloud be affected?

Jeff Alberts
May 31, 2019 6:14 am

Pretty sure the sun is already violent. Just ask the residents of Mercury.

Pamela Gray
May 31, 2019 6:57 am

Been reading eye candy lately. Seems to me that if a model can hindcast without using autocorrelation, that would be a big deal. And worth putting such a model on the top of predictions to keep an eye on for us armchair solar enthusiasts.

Ian Wilson
Reply to  Pamela Gray
May 31, 2019 9:02 am

Or maybe a solar dynamo model of Tayler–Spruit type:

A Model of a Tidally Synchronized Solar Dynamo
Stefani, F., Giesecke, A. & Weier, T. Sol Phys (2019) 294: 60.

These authors make a brilliant comparison of solar minima data over the last 1000 years to a random walk as compared to a clocked process. They convincingly show that the solar minima data agree with the solar minima being governed by a clocked process that is external to the Sun. This clocked process is the 11.07-year tidal-torquing period associated with the gravitational and tidal forces of Venus-Earth- and-Jupiter.

This is in agreement with my 2013 paper:

Wilson, I.R.G.: The Venus–Earth–Jupiter spin–orbit coupling model, Pattern Recogn. Phys., 1, 147-158

May 31, 2019 7:30 am

All this-yar was goin’ on for millions of years before we became aware of any of it; the sun came up in the morning, the grass grew the aurochs, as long as we sacrified a virgin or three during eclipses all was good. Ogg sucking on his marrow bone there had about as much control over all this as we do, in spite of our scientific “understanding.” I expect my 12th-great-grandfather trundling his ox cart thought HE “knew” a lot, too.

Let go and let God!

Reply to  Goldrider
May 31, 2019 11:08 am

Never forget…

Scientists mostly are repeat defenders. They LIVE to go to conferences, give papers, caravan to remote locations, take gigabytes of measurements, write new papers and publish them. Even if most of the papers are derivative and confirming prior work and/or bias.

Get a bunch of heliospheric scientists to meet every 11 years … and it is going to be quite a party.

Just saying,
GoatGuy ✓

May 31, 2019 10:01 am

May the best model win and ditch the prediction by committee nonsense.

Reply to  ResourceGuy
May 31, 2019 7:05 pm

if the prediction by committee works better you stick with what works

they need to add a market componnet however

Tom in Florida
Reply to  steven mosher
June 1, 2019 5:18 am

As Leif has pointed out, they prefer to be wrong on the high side due to insurance issues.

May 31, 2019 1:51 pm

The Big Bang early Universe scanners coming at the airport security near you

Ulric Lyons
June 1, 2019 5:22 am

Cycle 25 should start to peak Spring 2025 as a centennial minimum cycle, then peak again Autumn 2027 as Jupiter and Uranus reach quadrature. After that it’s back to standard cycles and goodbye Eddy Minimum.
The nominal cycle length away from centennial minima is effectively 0.75 Jupiter-Uranus synodic periods at 10.36 years, like we see through most of the 20th century. With a 3.45 year rise time and a 6.9 year decay time, one third and two thirds of 0.75. Longer sunspot cycles lead into and out of centennial minima, but during an extended minimum such as Maunder, shorter than nominal cycles will occur because of the Ju-Ea-Ve cycles returning to Neptune faster than they do with Uranus.

comment image

comment image

June 1, 2019 5:56 am

I agree with a correlation that can be observed by the position of the planets and solar activity, especially the planets that I looked at, Uranus and Saturn; Jupiter has a side influence. However, correlation does not necessarily mean causation. It could be the other way.
I am not sure why anyone is difficult about the prediction of the next solar cycle? We have the data of the solar polar magnetic field strengths going back to 1971:
1971 was in fact a turning point [double pole switch] as was 2014 [double pole switch again]
i.e. you can see the last two Hale cycles that make up half the Gleissberg cycle.
Anyone here who does not believe yet in the existence of the Gleissberg cycle?

Ulric Lyons
Reply to  henryp
June 1, 2019 6:25 am

I believe that the Gleissberg cycle is variable between roughly 80 to 130 years, and is just another name for centennial solar minima.

June 1, 2019 6:28 am

Anyone here who does not believe yet in the existence of the Gleissberg cycle?

in case somebody asks again

Persistence of the Gleissberg 88-year solar cycle over the last 12,000
years: Evidence from cosmogenic isotopes
Alexei N. Peristykh1 and Paul E. Damon
Department of Geosciences, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, USA
Received 15 March 2002; revised 2 July 2002; accepted 9 July 2002; published 3 January 2003.
[1] Among other longer-than-22-year periods in Fourier spectra of various solar–
terrestrial records, the 88-year cycle is unique, because it can be directly linked to the
cyclic activity of sunspot formation. Variations of amplitude as well as of period of the
Schwabe 11-year cycle of sunspot activity have actually been known for a long time and a
ca. 80-year cycle was detected in those variations. Manifestations of such secular periodic
processes were reported in a broad variety of solar, solar–terrestrial, and terrestrial
climatic phenomena. Confirmation of the existence of the Gleissberg cycle in long solar–
terrestrial records as well as the question of its stability is of great significance for solar
dynamo theories. For that perspective, we examined the longest detailed cosmogenic
isotope record—INTCAL98 calibration record of atmospheric 14C abundance. The most
detailed precisely dated part of the record extends back to 11,854 years B.P. During this
whole period, the Gleissberg cycle in 14C concentration has a period of 87.8 years and an
average amplitude of 1% (in 14C units). Spectral analysis indicates in frequency
domain by sidebands of the combination tones at periods of 91.5 ± 0.1 and 84.6 ± 0.1
years that the amplitude of the Gleissberg cycle appears to be modulated by other longterm quasiperiodic process of timescale 2000 years. This is confirmed directly in time
domain by bandpass filtering and time– frequency analysis of the record. Also, there
is additional evidence in the frequency domain for the modulation of the Gleissberg cycle
by other millennial scale processes.

June 1, 2019 7:27 am


By my calculation the current GB cycle is 86.5 years. However, many studies suggest 88 years….. on average…
I think what you refer to is the DeVries cycle (210) when somehow the sun gets stuck in an extended minimum or maximum. [……..that would suggest causal planetary influence?]
perhaps that is why the average GB cycle over a long time comes to 88?

Ulric Lyons
Reply to  henryp
June 1, 2019 1:00 pm

You don’t have to think what I refer to, I already wrote it for you, between roughly 80 and 130 years, so nothing to do with deVries. A 1% amplitude on a 88 year signal is very small. Centennial solar minima wander around their mean of 107.9 years considerably, in the 19th century it was only seven solar cycles between the Dalton and Gleissberg minima. So your link is not helpful without knowing which centuries the data is from.

June 1, 2019 9:04 pm

Are the foundations of Physics , in particular Kirchhoff’s law , embedded in quick sand ?

June 2, 2019 2:15 am

vukcevic May 31, 2019 at 1:31 am
“Using the NASA’s Parker spiral trajectories and JPL solar system dynamics web site data, it is possible to calculate when the sun & J & S are connected by single ‘magnetic rope’ the event that might last a month or two establishes close magnetic feedback circuit between their magnetic fields. Some years ago I attempted such calculations and in 2012 produced a diagram which surprisingly ‘neatly’ lined up all solar minima, separating the odd from the even cycles, further more detecting the centenary damping of the solar oscillation as shown
here .
The calculation shows that next minimum will take place in the early (rem) 2020.”

Leif Svalgaard June 1, 2019 at 4:34 pm
“No, this is incorrect. The solar wind expands radially, no along a spiral. The pattern of magnetic polarity is a spiral just like the water from a rotating garden sprinkler. No spirals of flows in either case.”

Yes, and No
Yes: each charged particle ejected from the sun moves in a strait line.
Not: each particle doesn’t establishes its own magnetic rope leading from sun outwards.

What happens is that magnetic and electric field of the second ejected particle is linked to the first, the third particle field is linked to second, and so on, i.e. field of any ejected particle is linked to preceding one, thus creating spiralling string of particles linked by the magnetic field (in reality there is an additional cyclotronic spiral with radius r=mveB).
‘Quadrillions’ of such ‘parallel’ strings are wound up in a magnetic rope. By the time leading edge of the magnetic rope reaches Jupiter the source may have rotated up 3/4 of a circle as can be seen in the link above. (note: particles’ acceleration is directly proportional to the distance from the sun)

Yes: Dr. Svalgaard evokes garden sprinkler which is correct
No: droplets are not appropriate analogy in this case. Think of a spider that was nesting at the sprinkler’s end and is ejected outwards when the tap is turned on. Poor little creatures will be shot in the strait line but the silky thread it produces on its involuntary journey it would wind into a Parker type spiral 🙂

Reply to  vukcevic
June 2, 2019 2:40 am

end of my comment was meant to be : Yes and no?

June 2, 2019 9:56 am

@ Leif or anyone.

What exactly do you envisage happening when there is an extended minimum or maximum?

Ulric Lyons
June 2, 2019 6:23 pm

Our Sun’s Mysterious 11-Year Cycle Appears to Be Driven by Alignment of The Planets:

Given that Uranus is also involved and that sunspot cycle maximums occur at alternating syzygies and quadratures of Jupiter and Uranus, that would rule out gravity.
The phase relationship between the pairs of Earth-Venus and Jupiter-Uranus are the cause of each centennial solar minimum, and absolutely defines their intervals. It also defines the occurrence of grand solar minima series, which occur at the half cycle of a 1726.62 year (ave) long term and very stable cycle of all four bodies, at roughly every 863 years (ave). At two points in the long cycle, the alignments have greater radial displacement, which directly causes the greater lengths of a series of centennial solar minima. E.g. from 2220 BC, 1360 BC, 490 BC, 350 AD, 1220 AD, and 2095 AD. There was also a grand solar minimum series starting at close to 10870 BC at the start of the Younger Dryas.
Other integer ratios of Earth-Venus and Jupiter-Uranus synodic periods that do not maintain phase parity also show up mildly in solar proxies, such as at ~166 years and at 345 years.

June 2, 2019 8:49 pm

When will our quiet sun turn violent? All too soon.

We’re doomed.

Johann Wundersamer
June 4, 2019 5:19 am

“They are not as energetic as the galactic cosmic rays, but they come in a flash flood. At solar max, Biesecker says, these “coronal mass ejections” of charged particles are 10 times as frequent as at minimum. Hours or days after the sun spits them out, particles rush into Earth’s magnetic field, provoking geomagnetic storms that can last for days.”

Hours or days after the sun spits them out?

What does AU stand for in astronomy?

How long does it take to travel 1 AU?

Light travels at a speed of 299,792 kilometers per second; 186,287 miles per second. It takes 499.0 seconds for light to travel from the Sun to the Earth, a distance called 1 Astronomical Unit. › venus

How fast does light travel from the Sun to each of the planets?

June 4, 2019 1:49 pm

As far as I remember Hale /Nicholson calculated the whole SC at 22.14 = 2 successive Schwabe cycles.

Reply to  henryp
June 7, 2019 7:11 am

I looked it up

Hale&Nicholson averaged the full solar cycle to 22 years; noting the high variation they probably did not worry about the decimal point….

‘The 22-year Hale-Nicholson sunspot cycle varies from as long as circa 27 years during the sunspot minimum period, as the years 1784-1811, to as short as circa 20.8 years during the sunspot maximum period as the recent epoch 1930s1970s (see Figure 1, central portion of chart). If averaged from minimum to minimum using monthly “Wolf’ (numbers, 1755-1975, with ten full-wave cycles (220 years divided by 10 cycles, averages out to 22 years per cycle) or from maximum to maximum, the 1760 peak to the 1980 peak, the 22-year cycle prevails.”

the above quote is from this old report

Reply to  henryp
June 7, 2019 7:17 am

However, that does not answer my question:

What exactly do you envisage happening when there is an extended minimum or maximum?


June 7, 2019 7:56 am

that does not answer my question

What exactly do you envisage happening when there is an extended minimum or maximum?


%d bloggers like this:
Verified by MonsterInsights