Sunspots: Where are they Going?
The February sunspot number is in. Its 38. That’s scary low. It is less than half what it should be.
We are at forecast solar max right now. The Earth’s north pole should be blazing with awe-inspiring aurora constantly lighting up the night sky. It isn’t.
The sun’s surface should look like a teenager with a terminal case of acne! It doesn’t. It’s nearly smooth as a newborn’s behind.
Solar prominences, X-Class flares and CMEs should be a dime a dozen. They aren’t.
Its solar max for crying out loud!! What the heck is going on?
Solar Non-News of the Month
On March 1st, four days ago, solar physicist Dean Pesnell of the Goddard Space Flight Center made mainstream media news with a new solar cycle 24 update.
In it he predicts that this cycle (24) will have a double peak. The first peak already happened. The next peak, he predicts, will begin late this year and perhaps last into 2014.
Pesnell is right, but it isn’t really news. The double peak was predicted months ago after it was confirmed that the sun’s northern hemisphere had already peaked in late 2011. The sun’s southern hemisphere is continuing its lag left over from the previous cycle.
Heck, the last three solar cycles had double peaks. The cycle that this one most closely resembles, cycle 14 that peaked in 1906, had a big-time double peak. This one probably will to.
The Real News of the Month
Solar sunspots are disappearing! They are going away and nobody fully understands why.
An average solar maximum produces 119 spots/day. Last month had only 38; 1/3rd the average peak. Every revision since 2007 has lowered the expected peak and moved it further away. Solar minimum arrived nearly two years later than expected.
The sun’s magnetic flux is steadily declining linearly toward zero. Once the sun’s magnetic flux drops below 1500 gauss or so, visible sunspots can no longer form. At the current rate it will happen in 2022.
With each passing year and each passing month it is looking more and more like sunspots are going to go away for a long time. Nobody knows what effects that might have on Earth.