ARRL

ARRL Satellite Bulletin ARLS003 (2009)

SB SPACE @ ARL $ARLS003
ARLS003 Scientists Predict Solar Cycle 24 to Peak in 2013

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Space Bulletin 003  ARLS003
From ARRL Headquarters  
Newington, CT  May 12, 2009
To all radio amateurs

SB SPACE ARL ARLS003
ARLS003 Scientists Predict Solar Cycle 24 to Peak in 2013

Scientists predict that Solar Cycle 24 will peak in May 2013 with 90
sunspots per day on average. At the annual Space Weather Workshop
held in Boulder, Colorado last month, an international panel of
experts led by NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC)
predicted that Solar Cycle 24 will peak in May 2013 with 90 sunspots
per day on average. If the prediction proves true, Solar Cycle 24
will be the weakest cycle since Solar Cycle 16 which peaked with 78
daily sunspots in 1928, and ninth weakest since the 1750s, when
numbered cycles began.

The panel predicted that the lowest sunspot number between cycles --
the solar minimum -- occurred in December 2008, marking the end of
Solar Cycle 23 and the start of Solar Cycle 24. If December's
prediction holds up, at 12 years and seven months Solar Cycle 23
will be the longest since 1823 and the third longest since 1755.
Solar cycles span 11 years on average, from minimum to minimum.

An unusually long, deep lull in sunspots led the panel to revise its
2007 prediction that the next cycle of solar storms would start in
March 2008 and peak in late 2011 or mid-2012. The persistence of a
quiet Sun also led the panel to a consensus that Solar Cycle 24 will
be what they called "moderately weak."

Although the peak is still four years away, a new active period of
Earth-threatening solar storms will be the weakest since 1928.
Despite the prediction, the scientists said that Earth is still
vulnerable to a severe solar storm. Solar storms are eruptions of
energy and matter that escape from the Sun and may head toward
Earth, where even a weak storm can damage satellites and power
grids, disrupting communications, the electric power supply and GPS.
A single strong blast of "solar wind" can threaten national
security, transportation, financial services and other essential
functions.

The most common measure of a solar cycle's intensity is the number
of sunspots -- Earth-sized blotches on the Sun marking areas of
heightened magnetic activity. The more sunspots there are, the more
likely it is that solar storms will occur, but a major storm can
occur at any time.

"As with hurricanes, whether a cycle is active or weak refers to the
number of storms, but everyone needs to remember it only takes one
powerful storm to cause huge problems," said NOAA scientist Doug
Biesecker, who chaired the panel. "The strongest solar storm on
record occurred in 1859 during another below-average cycle." The
1859 storm shorted out telegraph wires, causing fires in North
America and Europe and sent readings of Earth's magnetic field
soaring, as well as produced northern lights so bright that people
read newspapers by their light, he said.

Biesecker cited a recent report by the National Academy of Sciences
that found if a storm that severe occurred today, it could cause
$1-2 trillion in damages the first year and require four to 10 years
for recovery, compared to the $80-125 billion of damage that
resulted from Hurricane Katrina.

The Space Weather Prediction Center is part of the National Weather
Service and is one of the nine National Centers for Environmental
Prediction. It is the nation's official source of space weather
alerts, watches and warnings. SWPC provides real-time monitoring and
forecasting of solar and geophysical events that impact satellites,
power grids, communications, navigation and many other technological
systems.
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