Monday, January 05, 2009

Is Solar-Terrestrial Activity the Lowest Ever?

Well, maybe not. However, one important index is showing the lowest long term averages since that data series began in the 20th century.

Ap, the planetary "A" index derived from measurements of geomagnetic activity, continues to show historically low smoothed averages. Examination of data shows that this phenomenon began in 2005, and continues up to the most recent measurements permitted by the design of the average.

Ap, of course, does not directly measure solar activity. However, it is a reliable indicator of magnetic activity caused solely by energetic events on the sun.

Scientists are divided on the prospect of a low or nonexistent Cycle 24. There is also an ongoing debate as to whether such a misfire would mark the start of a major extended solar lull (a "Dalton Minimum"), causing an extended spell of cold climate (a "Little Ice Age").

Just about everything readily available online is more about politics than science. This is because the solar lull has become a major reason for contention between advocates of different government policies with regard to "global warming." The result is that it's hard to find anything addressing prospects for radio propagation.

And so we wait and see, while band conditions remain dreadful. Maybe there will be a Cycle 24 strong enough to create the improved HF propagation that we've become used to, and maybe there won't. Meanwhile, the weak signals are further disrupted by a huge increase in noise from popular consumer electronics.

Not all of the depressions this year are economic. It does appear as if HF DXing has fallen on hard times.