Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Hathaway: Sunspot Cycle Will Be Smallest in 100 Years

NASA's Dr. David Hathaway predicts
that solar Cycle 24 will peak in mid-
2013 at around 75.
NASA solar physicist David Hathaway told hams at the Huntsville Hamfest in August that solar Cycle 24 will likely be the smallest in at least 100 years, in terms of maximum sunspot numbers. But he says it is too early to know if this cycle is a precursor to what some scientists are predicting to be "the death of sunspots" or a "little ice age."

In a talk titled "The Sky is NOT Falling," Hathaway explained why predictions of "killer flares" capable of causing massive disruptions are not likely to occur -- mostly because of too few sunspots. At the same time, he said, predictions of future cycles with no sunspots -- based on observations to date -- are premature because the "missing" activity is associated with the peak of the sunspot cycle, which is not yet here.

Hathaway's current prediction is that Cycle 24 will peak at a maximum of around 75 in mid-2013, the lowest peak in the past century. And while he says it is too early to write off Cycle 25 completely, he feels it could be even weaker than the current cycle. He admits, though, that "every time you come up with a model, you find a problem and you have to go back to the drawing board."