Monday, September 22, 2008

Cycle 24 Spots: Can It Be?

A small sunspot group has appeared with a magnetic polarity suggesting the beginning (again) of solar cycle 24. Maybe this time it's for real. For what it's worth, this group actually has a number (11001), which the previous faint spot did not.

Definitive statements always wait on moving averages that haven't happened yet, but we do know that the end of cycle 23 had a double minimum, making 24 very, very late. Before this, we had gone at least a month with no observable sunspots at all.

As we know, many observers are predicting a low peak, followed by a pause in solar activity resembling the Dalton Minimum observed from 1790 to 1830. These minimums tend to appear at the same time as cold weather spells aka "little ice ages."

While a "little ice age" in the 21st century is a very interesting hypothesis, there are other variables influencing climate. I can't yet share the euphoria of many Internet writers that we can now cancel global warming. We will just have to wait for the data on this one too.

I hope that, this time, the solar activity really is on the way up. HF has become quite boring here in The Land That Shortwave Forgot.


Photo credit: SOHO/MDI