Sunday, February 1, 2015

Solar Cycle News Update - It's Downhill From Here

I try to do these every 6 months and my last was in mid-June, so January is the update to post.  Just missed getting this in during January (I forgot!). 
It looks like the second peak of the cycle has ended, with the smoothed number (blue) heading down and the monthly values reducing the range they run over.  It appears the absolute peak of this cycle was just about a year ago and we'll be in the declining side of the cycle for the next few years.  From my experience, the downside of the solar cycle has tended to have more disruptions from solar flares and to decline in activity slower than the cycle peaked.  We haven't had an x-class flare (the strongest class) since October, though, from what I can find.   

As I've posted before, this is the weakest solar cycle in 100 years, which means no living solar scientist has seen a cycle this weak, and our records of what the sun was doing back then are more sparse than what's available now.  Since no living scientist has seen a cycle this week, expect all predictions, including my little one above, to be even less accurate than usual. 

My interest in solar activity grew out of the shortwave radio listening hobby I started at about 13 years old.  That was in the cycle right after the strongest one on record, the peak from the late 50s.  Solar activity acts to increase the density of the ionosphere, which raises the frequency at which radio waves are bent back to Earth.  Following the highest frequency that will propagate between two points, the Maximum Usable Frequency or MUF, is generally the way to hear (or talk with) the farthest points with the lowest loss of signal.  If you're a radio listener or ham it gives you the best shot at those far points.

More recently, I became interested in the sunspot cycle and how it affects the non-radio aspects of life.  The link between solar minima, like the Maunder Minimum, and the little Ice Ages is pretty well known.  Despite what the alarmists say about Global Warmening (or whatever they call it this week), mankind has done better in warm periods than in the cold periods in our history (huge pdf alert - but fascinating reading). 

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, this cycle was kind of a bust for radio propagation.

    The next peak will probably be my last, so I hope it's a good one!