The Flip! August 2013 Sunspot Report
The Royal Observatory of Belgium promptly published August’s official sunspot number on September 1st.
NOAA, tardy as usual, hasn’t reported yet.
The monthly sunspot number jumped significantly to 66. It’s up from 57 last month. The increase was due to an upturn in northern hemisphere sunspot activity.
It’s odd for two reasons:
- It breaks a steady decline in northern activity in recent months
- There were practically no northern sunspots at all mid-month from Aug. 11 to Aug. 18.
What’s the big deal? How is it related to the upcoming switch in the sun’s polarity?
The Big Switchero
These bursts can lead to space storms and changes to Earth’s climate
“A storm is coming: Sun’s poles are set to FLIP within four months and it could lead to bad weather and radio disruption“
– Victoria Woollaston, The Daily Mail, 8/6/2013
Numerous reports last month that the sun’s polarity will switch in the next four months was the biggest sun news in all of mainstream media. That came as a shocking discovery to some newspapers, like England’s Daily Mail, that foretold of a great calamity to come.
Unfortunately for them, it isn’t unusual. It happens like clockwork every cycle. The last switch was in early 2001. The timing of the next switch was predicted by solar physicist Dr. Todd Hoeksema in an August 5th NASA Science News story titled, “The Sun’s Magnetic Field is about to Flip“.
Current Cycle 24 Sunspot Behavior
Northern and southern hemisphere sunspot activity are not always symmetrical. Often, one hemisphere gets ahead of the other. Northern hemisphere sunspot activity peaked way back in November of 2011.
In this cycle (Cycle 24) the northern hemisphere claims bragging rights as the first and highest to peak. The south has lagging behind.
The rebel cry shouted from the sun’s southern hemisphere was, ‘The South will rise again!’
Southern hemisphere activity finally caught up to and surpassed northern spots last April. Even with the north’s burst of activity in August, southern hemisphere sunspot activity is currently about twice that of the north.
So there. Take that, damn Yankees!
Solar Polarity Switch
The sun’s polarity reverses at the peak of each solar cycle maximum. We are at the peak right now. When polarity switches we will officially be half way through the sunspot cycle with the 2nd half kickoff about to begin.
However, sunspot magnetic flux has been steadily declining over the last couple decades. Overall sunspot activity was less in the 2nd half compared to the first in each of the last three cycles. That will probably happen again this time.
At the current rate of decline, spot magnetic flux will drop below 1,500 gauss by 2022. That’s the point at which sunspots stop forming altogether.
Most solar physicists predict the next solar cycle (Cycle 25) will be the weakest in 400 years with maybe only 7 spots at maximum. Normal is about 119 spots. This cycle sits near 67.
The fact that earth’s temperature has not risen since the late 1990s is consistent with the cooler, less active sun we’ve observed.
Sunspot numbers jumped from a daily average of 57 in July to an average of 66 in August. The jump was due entirely to an increase in northern hemisphere activity. Southern activity remained steady compared to July.
It is odd that a resurgent northern hemisphere stopped dead in its tracks for about a week in the middle of August. Why?
Could it be that the polarity shift has already begun?
The jump in August sunspot numbers is consistent with the sun’s behavior during a polarity shift.
The trend over the last three solar cycles has been for weaker 2nd half activity. This makes perfect sense given the general decline in sunspot magnetic field strength over time. A weaker 2nd half of Cycle 24 is the most likely scenario.
The most exciting part of the polarity shift is that afterward more indicators about the strength of Cycle 25 will begin to show up.
We are at the beginning of a profound change in the sun. What it means and how it will affect climate change long-term is the biggest unknown in climate science today.