October 2013 Sunspots: Huge Jump!

The monthly International Sunspot Number from the Solar Information Data Center (SIDC) of the Royal Observatory of Belgium is out.

It shot way, way up to 85.6 from last month’s lowly 36.9! It’s the largest single monthly change in spots this cycle. Monthly sunspot numbers go up and down like a yo-yo.

The big news is that the southern hemisphere sunspot average – 55.6 – hit its highest level yet this cycle. The northern hemisphere count is an expected 30 spots.

Only one scientist comes close to predicting the sun’s current behavior. He is Dr. Leif Svalgaard. This month’s giant leap in sunspot activity was anticipated by Svalgaard who compares current behavior to similar behavior during Cycle 14 a hundred years ago.

But Svalgaard knows more… MUCH more.

The sun is undergoing a fundamental transformation that will affect Earth’s near-term future. Just how much is a matter of ongoing speculation.

It’s frightening how little we understand the sun. To fully comprehend what is happening now, a look back on recently held beliefs is mind-boggling.

Solar Activity Significance

First off, understanding and predicting solar sunspot activity isn’t an academic exercise.

It’s vitally important. Directly affected by it are:

  • Satellite orbital characteristics
  • Satellite electronics
  • Astronaut radiation risk
  • Earth’s electric power grids
  • Climate change

Sunspot counts are hard-wired into computer calculations that predict the useful lifespan of orbiting satellites, if and when they may fall back to Earth, and even determine their proper launch altitude. Safety planning to protect sensitive satellite electronics from burnout depends on knowing what radiation hazard to expect.

It’s important to know years in advance how often or how strongly doses of lethal radiation will affect orbiting astronauts or earth-based electric power grids.

Being able to predict solar activity allows its hazards to be mitigated in advance.

Current Status of Solar Cycle 24 Predictions

NASA’s March 2007 Prediction for Solar Cycle 24 Activity

In 2006, NASA formed the “Solar Cycle 24 Prediction Panel” near the end of Cycle 23. It’s an international group of top solar physicists from governments and academia.

Their purpose: Predict Solar Cycle 24 peak sunspot activity.

They missed the mark by a country mile!

The above graph shows the panel was deeply divided in March of 2007. Instead of one, they had two competing predictions.

Group A believed Cycle 24 would have a strong peak of +140 in October 2011. That would make it bigger and more active than Cycle 23 seen at left. Their reasoning was based on past sunspot cycle counts and called the “statistical method”.

Group B had a radically different prediction. They said it would be much weaker than a normal cycle and have a paltry peak of only +90 in August 2012. Their prediction was physics-based using the “precursor method”.

Two years later, in May of 2009, the panel met again and released its final prediction. The strong peak was gone. The “precursor method” won. The final prediction was a peak of +90 to arrive in March of 2013.

NASA’s final prediction is the red curve in this month’s spot update at the top of this article.

Even NASA’s final adjusted prediction is off. The prediction is a lot higher and the peak later than what we are observing.

It’s not official yet, but it is looking like the smoothed monthly peak of solar sunspot activity will be 66.9. That occurred in February of 2012. But should sunspots remain this high for several more months in a row then that could change.

The Svalgaard Effect

Leif Svalgaard is a champion of the “precursor method” and in NASA Group B. He is a man of empirical physics, not of statistics.

Back in 2004, years before NASA formed its panel, Svalgaard/Cliver/Kamide wrote a now-famous paper in the Geophysical Review Letters titled, “Sunspot cycle 24: Smallest cycle in 100 years?

In the paper they predicted a Cycle 24 monthly peak of 75±8 occurring in (≈2011). Their timing was off, but their peak amplitude is nearly spot on with what we are seeing today, right down to Svalgaard’s comparison with Cycle 14!

The precursor they used to make their prediction is the peak strength of solar polar magnetic fields. Solar polar fields peak a few years after sunspot maximum and are precursor indicators of the next sunspot cycle strength. The polar field strength of Cycle 23 had just been measured around the time their paper was written.

Svalgaard is onto another fundamental error. It’s how sunspot counts have been recorded. He knows the so-called “Modern Maximum” isn’t real, but the result of counting errors. More on that another time.


It’s scary that something as important as solar activity is to life of Earth that it’s still so poorly understood after hundreds of years of observations. NASA’s Cycle 24 predictions prove that.

Just this month Columbia University astrophysicists came out with a possible explanation for why the sun’s corona is so very much hotter than it’s surface. It has been known 70 years that the corona is hot, but not why! Their new explanation involves coronal holes.

Physicists do not understand the sun in fundamental ways.

Today, Svalgaard and the “precursor method” have been vindicated. Other predictive precursors have been added to the method. Our ability to predict solar activity is improving.

With it, the first prediction for Cycle 25 is already out. That first prediction is for a monthly smoothed peak of only +7 spots!!!

This month’s gargantuan leap from 36.9 to 85.6 spots only adds to the sun’s mystery.

Where will the sun go from here?

No one knows. But whichever way it goes there’ll be big changes down here on Planet Earth.


About azleader

Learning to see life more clearly... one image at a time!

Posted on Nov 1, 2013, in Business, Climate, climate change, economics, Energy, environment, nature, news, Opinion, Politics, science, space, sunspot report, sunspots, technology. Bookmark the permalink. 31 Comments.

  1. Instinctive FEAR of powerlessness or death over-ruled mankind’s very immature ability to REASON when first witnessing the awesome power of creation and destruction in July/August 1945.

    I recently reported the disastrous consequences for society to Congress:


    The rest of the story will be told in, “A Journey to the Core of the Sun” (in progress).

    1. A one page synopsis:


    2. Chapter 1: The first scientist to visit Hiroshima’s ruins in August 1945, Professor P. K. Kuroda


    The autobiography is being posted as written with the conclusions first because frankly, I do not know if I will be around to write or you around to read information that world leaders still seek to hide from the public.

    With kind regards,
    – Oliver K. Manuel
    Former NASA Principal
    Investigator for Apollo

    • Doesn’t really have much to do with last month’s International Sunspot Number, does it??

      • The Sun’s pulsar core exerts dominant control over all of the material that was ejected in the violent birth of the solar system five billion years (5 Ga) ago. That material has expanded into a volume greater than 10,000,000,000,000,000,000 Earths.

        Sunspots are deep seated-magnetic fields from the Sun’s pulsar core that protrude through the photosphere.

        See: “Super-fluidity in the solar interior: Implications for solar eruptions and climate,” J. Fusion Energy 21, 193-198 (2001)

      • “Super-fluidity in the solar interior: Implications for solar eruptions and climate,” Journal of Fusion Energy 21, 193-198 (2002). http://www.springerlink.com/content/r2352635vv166363/ http://www.omatumr.com/abstracts2003/jfe-superfluidity.pdf

      • OK… I see… given how stark our understand of the inner workings of the sun your pulsar theory doesn’t sound as outlandish as it once did.

        However, I’m sticking with the traditional magneto-hydrodynamics explanation until you can explain to me why the entire sun doesn’t disappear instantly as it gets completely absorbed into the central pulsar right this second.

        There isn’t any explanation I can think of whose outcome can be anything other than instantly turning the sun into a ball of highly compressed neutrons less than 10 miles in diameter.

      • I think superfluidity could be very well be involved in solar processes. I’m not a solar physicist so don’t know if it is or isn’t.

        What superfluidity can’t do, though, is overcome pulsar gravity…

        If there were a pulsar at the center of the sun.. the sun, as we know it, would not be there. Instead, we would see a rapidly rotating neutron star because… wellll.. that is what a pulsar is… and its strong gravitational pull would near instantaneously pull all the sun’s outer matter within the pulsar and crush it into nothing but densely packed neutrons! 🙂

        I do not believe it is physically possible for any other outcome.

      • azleader,

        When observations disagree with calculations, this simple minded experimentalist goes with the observations.

        A pulsar is observed when the outer layer of a star is blown away.

        There are hundreds of other experimental measurements that show:

        1. The solar system condensed from the heterogeneous debris of a local supernova

        2. The Sun consists of:
        _ A photosphere of H & He ,
        _ A mantle of Fe, O, Si, Ni & S -(the same elements that comprise rocky planets and ordinary meteorites), and
        _ A pulsar core

        That harsh reality is what is, it cannot be forever avoided, and acceptance of reality is perhaps the only hope for society.

      • I agree 100% with your statement:
        “When observations disagree with calculations, this simple minded experimentalist goes with the observations.”

        The empirical evidence about a pulsar-centered sun is clear and unequivocal.

  2. Reblogged this on Sparks.

  3. You may like to note the way the 12 month running mean inverts the cycle 24 peak and puts it in the wrong place. 😉


    • I looked at the various ISN smoothing methods.I did not know there were so many. I see that none of them match Belgium’s smoothes numbers.

      In my articles I’ve just went with Belgium’s raw numbers and smoothed numbers because that are the ones officially accepted. ( http://sidc.oma.be/DATA/monthssn.dat )

      According to the official Belgium record the highest smoothed ISN so far in SC24 is 66.9 in Feb 2012. That is very close to, but not quite the same as “solar-rmean12.dat”.

      For their monthly Progression, NASA uses Belgium’s results and ignore their own Boulder Sunspot Numbers.

  4. “In the paper they predicted a Cycle 24 monthly peak of 75±8 occurring in (≈2011)”

    Ironically, end of 2011 did have a peak of about 73 if a proper filter is used. And it may well turn out be peak ( secondary peaks are often lower).

    • Yup… that is true, but it looks to be coincidence because of the unusual spike in sunspot activity in the 2nd half of 2011.

      The “proper” filter, however, isn’t the Belgium filter. The Belgium filter may not be the best, but it is official and, as such, it is right by definition.

      Dr. Svalgaard still favors a comparison with Cycle 14 that had many peaks. Perhaps this one will to.

  5. Hi, where do you see this coming from ISES? I thought the plot with the runny mean was NOAA. SIDC provide monthly numbers.

    Jean Meeus provide another convolution filter that he published in 1958 , apparently, in a belgian journal. That looks like a triple running mean rounded to integer values. (I guess it was being done on paper at that time!).

    “but it is official and, as such, it is right by definition.”

    No, that makes it _wrong_ by definition.

    comparison to cycle 14 may be interesting. In which case it would be better to get the peaks in the right place and of the right number before doing any comparisons!

    • ISES uses Belgium’s numbers… they are one and the same numbers, including both their running means.

      The SIDC running monthly mean has been the standard for a long time. It could very well be true that Meeus’s method is superior to SIDC. I don’t know myself. I just know what is accepted and not accepted and go with that until it gets changed.

      To me the SIDC/NASA method appears to do more smoothing than Meeus. Meeus has a bit more of a spike. I don’t know if the one is better than the other. SIDC seemed to work pretty well for Cycle 14.

  6. “Yup… that is true, but it looks to be coincidence because of the unusual spike in sunspot activity in the 2nd half of 2011.”

    No, it’s not coincidence. This is the kind of crap that happens with running means. Depending upon the spacing of the dips either side in relation to the rm window size it can invert peaks and troughs. This is exactly what my article is about. I’ve added this as an example.

    • The coincidence is that there was a giant 8-month spike of solar activity in late 2011 that made the Svalgaard 2004 prediction for an (~2011) peak look prophetic.

      I seriously doubt Svalgaard tells people he got the timing right to. At least I’ve never read it anywhere.

      And as far as Hathaway and the Group A folks are concerned… they didn’t get anything right from the get go.

      • Thanks, I did not realise what you meant by the coincidence comment.

        The 2011 peak is very likely the first of two major bumps, to judge by previous patterns. I doubt it will be as featureless as cycle 14.

        To see whether Svalgaard’s timing was correct we need to know what he meant by “smoothed”. A fairly useless term scientifically. If he meant one all englobing envelop like the Hathaway prediction, it looks like he was about 2 years short but got the peak height about right.

        BTW, do you know what group are responcible for the 12mo running mean? To me it looks like it comes from NOAA.

      • Because of the huge jump in sunspot activity that appears to be carrying over into November, folks are suggesting that the so-called “double-peak” predicted by Goddard’s Dean Pesnell’s last March is underway.

        Svalgaard definitely thinks outside the box, but when it comes to things like smooth counts he sticks with convention. That means his 75+/-8 smoothed prediction from 2004 uses Belgium’s definition. NASA uses Belgium’s smoothed counts to. That I know because I see them every month when NASA’s smoothed count comes out after Belgium’s and they are exactly the same.

        The graph at the top of this article I made from Belgium’s raw and smoothed counts and NASA’s prediction data (red curve).

        I call mine the SIDC Progression because it is off the latest Belgium updates that come out before NASA.

        As you can see, it looks like NASA’s ISES Progression graph… except mine is prettier. 😉

      • “Because of the huge jump in sunspot activity that appears to be carrying over into November, folks are suggesting that the so-called “double-peak” predicted by Goddard’s Dean Pesnell’s last March is underway.”

        If the current level of activity is maintained trough the month, two strong monthly figures will probably produce a similar bump to the late 2011 one. Mind you, the running mean will almost certainly get it wrong and put a peak around 2013.6 and a trough on Oct/Nov !

        Thanks for the info on the origin of the mean. I’ve found the definition of the “smoother” they use:


        R12=(R-6/2 +R-5+…+R+…+R5+R6/2)/12

        Basically a 13 point running mean with first and last weighted 50%. That at least shows some awareness that running mean is bad but as my plot shows they still get the peaks in totally the wrong place.

        I will try to contact them to suggest a better filter. Not sure whether I owe a NOAA and apology. They obviously are unaware of the problem and are replicating it blindly, thus propagating the problem.

  7. Thank you, azleader, for allowing this subject to be discussed here.

    Since, “world leaders were also frightened in 1945, tried to save the world, and are not to blame for hiding answers to “the endless quest” in 1945, . . .

    Can you and I help restore sanity to society and avoid the futile and self-destructive demands for retaliation ?

    Chapter 2 of my autobiography will be limited to one or two sets of empirical “evidence for a pulsar-centered sun that is clear and unequivocal.”

    Again, I thank you for allowing this matter to be discussed here.

    With kind regards,
    – Oliver K. Manuel
    Former NASA Principal
    Investigator for Apollo

  8. john piccirilli

    Bostonglobe.com/news/nation/201 willie soon. Not at all
    Truthful . Borders on libel

    • I’ve never met Willie Soon. I have watched several of his lectures and presentations in their entirety online. I’ve read some of his papers.

      Have you? Or do you get your opinions from newspaper articles?

      My impression is that Soon is one of the most open, honest and competent scientists I’ve come across in recent years. It comes out in everything he says and writes.

      Yes, Soon is an astrophysicist and not a climatologist. But he has infinitely more credibility than someone like… say… a politician such as Al Gore.

      Most important is the science behind what a scientist says. In Soon’s case it appears very solid. If it is wrong, then that is what you should criticize.

      Soon, and skeptics like him, are vilified by the hard-core climate community for one and only one reason… they question the status quo and can tell you why using solid science-based arguments.

      AGW theorists attack the messenger (Willie Soon) and sweep the message they cannot refute under the rug.

  9. Reblogged this on Power To The People and commented:
    If Climate Scientists have so little understanding of the impact the Sun has on the Climate how can they be so certain that CO2 is the primary culprit behind Climate Change?

    • The IPCC has been wrong about a lot of things, but they are beginning to see the error of their ways.

      For example, in AR5, the IPCC has dialed back on its prediction of extreme hurricanes, droughts and heat waves for the rest of this century.

      And, of course, earth’s global sea/air temperature database is below the minimum error level of nearly every one of the 70+ climate models they accepted for publication.

      The tide of science is turning against the IPCC. Its only a matter of time until the UN is discredited.

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