March 13, 2012

Something I had wondered about...

snowy bear

This is interesting to me for a couple of reasons. One, I've blogged about sunspots occasionally, and wondered how people can possibly make predictions of how intense the next sunspot cycle will be. This piece by David Hathaway of NASA lays it out...

NASA/Marshall Solar Physics:

...Predicting the behavior of a sunspot cycle is fairly reliable once the cycle is well underway (about 3 years after the minimum in sunspot number occurs [see Hathaway, Wilson, and Reichmann Solar Physics; 151, 177 (1994)]). Prior to that time the predictions are less reliable but nonetheless equally as important. Planning for satellite orbits and space missions often require knowledge of solar activity levels years in advance.

A number of techniques are used to predict the amplitude of a cycle during the time near and before sunspot minimum. Relationships have been found between the size of the next cycle maximum and the length of the previous cycle, the level of activity at sunspot minimum, and the size of the previous cycle....

The other reason? Well, I hope you are not making any long-term bets based on that Global Warmin' stuff. The bumps on the sunspot cycle charts are getting smaller and smaller. (More here on the changing predictions). And, as I'm sure you know, sunsets have historically correlated with climate. The low points of the Little Ice Age are associated with the Spörer, Dalton and Maunder sunspot Minima.

Posted by John Weidner at March 13, 2012 7:13 AM
Comments

Hathaway was notorious in some circles for simply moving out his prediction for the current cycle until reality finally matched it....
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