Many have predicted a weak sunspot cycle in the years ahead, but new work from India suggests otherwise. The work dashes speculations of a sun-induced global cooling of Earth’s climate in the coming decade.
It is thought that the current sunspot cycle – cycle 24 – will approximately span the years 2008 to 2019. In other words, we haven’t reached the lowest ebb of the cycle yet, and no one knows exactly when it will come, but solar physicists think we’re probably close. This cycle has been an odd one, with fewer dark sunspots visible on the sun’s surface than expected. Now, with the next cycle due to start, we’re beginning to see projections for what will happen when the sun revs up again and begins producing more sunspots. Will the next sunspot cycle be more “normal” or will we again see a decreased number of spots?
On December 6, 2018, the Center of Excellence in Space Sciences India (CESSI) reported that two of its scientists have made a prediction for the upcoming sunspot cycle. Solar physicist Dibyendu Nandi and his Ph.D .student Prantika Bhowmik devised a new prediction technique, which simulates conditions both in the sun’s interior, where sunspots are created, and on the solar surface, where sunspots are destroyed.
Earlier predictions (like this one) have suggested the coming sunspot cycle 25 will be weaker than the current cycle 24. But, based on their model, Nandi and Bhowmik believe cycle 25 might be similar to or even stronger than 24. They expect the next cycle to start rising about a year from now and to peak in 2024. Their work was published December 6, 2018, in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Communications.
Why should we care?
Indeed, many people do care about solar activity, due to the sun-Earth connection. High activity on the sun can negatively affect some earthly technologies, for example, electric grids and orbiting satellites. So – as Nandi and Bhowmik point out – an accurate prediction of a coming solar cycle might help space scientists plan satellite launches and estimate satellite mission lifetimes.
Another sun-Earth issue has particularly grabbed the public’s imagination: a little-understood, possible link between activity on the sun and Earth’s climate. Keep reading, to learn more.
This is a contrary view of the coming solar cycle 25. Your thoughts? Stronger than SC-24, Weaker than SC-24, the same?