Solar Cycle 25 has been slow to get going — sunspots have been relatively rare — and a recent “blank” spell lasting 2-weeks took most solar physicists by surprise. However, when checking back with NOAA’s official forecast, things appear to be running “on schedule,” perhaps even a little ahead; but remember, NOAA foresaw a historically weak Solar Cycle 25 –one comparable to that of Solar Cycle 24– and the agency’s latest update doesn’t sway from that.
“The sun is performing as we expected–maybe even a little better,” says Lisa Upton of Space Systems Research Corporation, and co-chair of the NOAA/NASA Solar Cycle 25 Prediction Panel. “In 2019, the panel predicted that Solar Cycle 25 would peak in July 2025 (± 8 months) with a maximum sunspot count of 115 ± 10. The current behavior of the sun is consistent with an early onset near the beginning of our predicted range.”
Below is the ISES Solar Cycle Sunspot Number Progression plot: the red curve shows NOAA’s original predicted sunspot counts for Solar Cycle 25, with the orange curve showing the new best fit.
Note, the new cycle isn’t looking any stronger, it merely has its solar maximum arriving sooner.
If current trends hold, writes Dr. Tony Phillips of spaceweather.com, then SC25 could now peak as early as 2024, similar in strength to the relatively weak cycle (SC24) that preceded it.
“I’m not surprised that people are grumbling about SC25 being a dud,” continues Lisa Upton. “Weak cycles are typically preceded by stretches of spotless days, and they are slow to ramp up. All of this is consistent with our prediction.”
Indeed, NOAA have stuck to their guns for years (in saying SC25 will be comparable to SC24), but their forecast isn’t bold, it actually aligns with the majority of official forecasts (there are some outliers: NASA sees SC25 playing out some 30% weaker than SC24, while a paper from the UK, published in 2020, revealed SC25 would actually be historically strong).
Crucial to remember here though is that Solar Cycle 25 has never been the biggest cause for concern, because while a repeat of the historically weak SC24 will further weaken the jet stream, and further increase the prevalence of meridional flows and polar outbreaks (both admittedly very bad), it is Solar Cycle 26 where the real horror show is predicted to begin: NOAA data, as it stands, reveals that there will be no ramp-up into SC26 and shows all-but ZERO sunspots throughout the 2030s –when the cycle should be approaching its maximum– with the same also true for the 2040s –when SC27 should be awakening (click below for more on that):
Now the waiting begins, continues Dr Phillips.
As sunspot counts increase over the next year, forecasters will be able to tell if Solar Cycle 25 is *really* following the official prediction or doing something completely different.
Predicting the solar cycle is still an infant science, and much uncertainty remains; in other words, and as with most aspects of the modern sciences, while there is much boasting of state of the art tech and high-confidence predictions, no one really knows their ass from their elbow, and only time will tell…
As an example of a recent costly blunder, NOAA weren’t even able to forecast the weather for the coming month–even just a matter of days before its commencement. Below was the agency’s outlook for February 2021 (made Jan 21st) which called for a “warm month ahead” across the United States. But as we know, the month turned out to be the coldest February in more than 30 years, with children freezing to death in their beds in Texas.
NOAA’s Forecast for Feb, 2021:
Versus the Reality of Feb, 2021:
The COLD TIMES are returning, the mid-latitudes are REFREEZING, in line with the great conjunction, historically low solar activity, cloud-nucleating Cosmic Rays, and a meridional jet stream flow (among other forcings).
Both NOAA and NASA appear to agree, if you read between the lines, with NOAA saying we’re entering a ‘full-blown’ Grand Solar Minimum in the late-2020s, and NASA seeing this upcoming solar cycle (25) as “the weakest of the past 200 years”, with the agency correlating previous solar shutdowns to prolonged periods of global cooling here.
Furthermore, we can’t ignore the slew of new scientific papers stating the immense impact The Beaufort Gyre could have on the Gulf Stream, and therefore the climate overall.
Prepare accordingly— learn the facts, relocate if need be, and grow your own.
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Grand Solar Minimum + Pole Shift