At a recent Amateur Radio ‘Hamfest’ I purchased a bundle of RadCom, which is the journal of the Radio Society of Great Britain. Reading through May 2006 issue I came across a news item ‘Intense solar maximum forecast for next cycle.’
This subject is about the number of sunspots that rise to a peak approximately every eleven years, and have been faithfully recorded since 1755. The one in 1755 has been designated as number 1 and the most recent is cycle 24 that should have peaked around 2011.
The news item refers to the team of scientists at the National Centre for Atmospheric Research in the USA and led by Mausumi Dikpati that developed a computer model, which could accurately predict the strength of subsequent cycles.
The technique used information on the movement of the sub-surface remnants of the previous two cycles and has been fine-tuned to simulate the strength of the previous 8 cycles of sunspot peak number with an accuracy of more than 98%.
Using this technique they were able with great confidence to predict that cycle 24 would be between 30% and 50% stronger than the 120.8 of cycle 23. The sunspot number is derived from a monthly average, which is why it is possible to have fractions of a sunspot number.
So this would put cycle 24 at a monthly average sunspot number between 157 and 181.2. This would indeed make it one of the top 5 in the 24 cycles to date. In fact any increase above 36% would make it the second highest on record.
With much of the data of cycle 24 now available we are able to test the computer model and the work of Mausumis Dikpati’s team.
The cycle peaked twice, the first peak of 66.9 occurred in Feb 2012 and a second peak of 75.4 in November 2013. An average of these two peaks gives a number of 71. This is 38% LOWER than the average of 114.1 for the previous 23 cycles.
It makes this the 4th LOWEST sunspot maximum on record. The previous three being in May 1816 at 48.7, Feb 1805 at 49.2, and Feb 1901 at 64.2.
Considering that the computer model matched almost perfectly for the most recent 8 cycles over a time span of 100 years it is so surprising that the prediction is so incredibly wrong.
Imagine what would happen if for example someone matched a shorter period of say 20 years of recent global warming with the steady increase of CO2 in the atmosphere and blamed the warming on CO2 produced by burning fossil fuels!
Photo by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center
Photo by NASA Goddard Photo and Video