AP at 1 – well that is not good

Sleeping Sun, AP Index Hits 1

Sleeping Sun, AP Index Hits 1

Original Image

Well that’s not very good…

Ap Index at 1, Sun Sleeping

OK, as I understood it, the AP Index was supposed to be about as low as it could go at the 2 to 3 range. Now we hit ONE?

Perhaps this has something to do with all the cold and frozen in the world right now…

With a sun activity index like this, as close to zero as that, I have to wonder: Is it time to worry about a little ice age yet?

The Brutal Winter is Starting to Change Minds

Cold Changes Attitudes

Cold Changes Attitudes

Original image from this UK Daily Mail article about the impacts of snow in the U.K.

And when people start to turn, it shows up first in humor, as in the cartoon above.

About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
This entry was posted in AGW and Weather News Events and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to AP at 1 – well that is not good

  1. Tonyb says:

    Hi EM

    Greetings from a very cold UK-this is the most extended period of cold weather since 1981 so I enjoyed the cartoon!

    I am looking at the location of various weather stations to try to determine where they are now, where they USED to be and what, if any, UHI factor is included.

    First up is Plymouth UK- I think it used to be at Mount Batten-a former weather station in a remote location on the coast. Great site for a weather station. However it closed around 10 years ago and there now appear to be four candidates, all of them much closer to the expanding city.

    Second up is Bologna Italy -photo below of what I believe to be the official weather station location-at an airport.

    Are you able to confirm the location of the official sites, plus history/UHI factor?

    Thanks and a happy New year!


  2. Raven says:

    I remember Leif Svalgaard pointing out that solar data needs to be adjusted for the eccentricity of the earth’s orbit and you can’t compare adjusted to unadjusted values.

    IOW, you would need to make sure you are comparing apples to apples before speculating on the significance of the AP index.

  3. Here’s what the agency said about the data;
    :Recent_Solar_Indices: RecentIndices.txt
    :Created: 2010 Jan 05 2142 UTC
    # Prepared by the U.S. Dept. of Commerce, NOAA, Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC).
    # Please send comments and suggestions to swpc.webmaster@noaa.gov

    # Source Ap: GeoForschungsZentrum, Postdam, Germany
    # Prior to January 1997, Institut fur Geophysik, Gottingen, Germany
    # Source Ap for final month is Estimated Ap: USAF, AFWA, Offutt AFB, Nebraska.
    # Data not yet available or not calculable: -1.0
    # Values for most recent 6 months are considered preliminary.

    So, they are hedging.
    Anyway, thanks for awakening me to yet another fine resource.
    Have been sending mails with files, cheif…

  4. David says:

    Hey E.M. Smith. I just read your extended comment comparing economics to climate, and I loved it. I’ve studied economics, and while I am no trader, you still did a good job at making the ablexxive understandable. Thanks for your comment; it was very, very good.

    REPLY: [ You are most welcome. -E.M.Smith]

  5. Squidly says:

    Hi E.M Smith,

    I was wondering if you would be so kind as to take this opportunity to explain to me a little bit about what the AP-Index is and what your graph means. I have a pretty good grasp of sun spots and solar flux, but I don’t really understand what the AP-Index means as I haven’t come across a good, succinct explanation anywhere.

    I thank you for your consideration…

  6. KuhnKat says:


    using the TSI index as a proxy, we are at the closest point in our yearly orbit.


    Earth distance TSI is 1407 which is about the max. Since we are at the closest point that 1 is significant!! Solar TSI at one AU is currently 1360.7148. (actually I think these are about 1 week lagged)

  7. twawki says:

    Why isnt this front page news!

    Aaaah the MSM has a lot of explaining to do!

  8. Harold Vance says:

    Paging Penn & Livingston… paging Penn & Livingston… ;-)

    See also Lief’s interesting AGU presentation:

    Solar Radio Microwave Flux and Sunspot Numbers, 2009

    Click to access AGU%20Fall%202009%20SH13C-03.pdf


  10. E.M.Smith says:

    Squidly: I was wondering if you would be so kind as to take this opportunity to explain to me a little bit about what the AP-Index is and what your graph means. I have a pretty good grasp of sun spots and solar flux, but I don’t really understand what the AP-Index means as I haven’t come across a good, succinct explanation anywhere.

    Well, I’ll do what I can. Don’t expect this to be an exactly correct explanation, but do expect it to have the basic idea right.

    The sun spits out a lot of stuff. Light. Charged partcles (solar wind), CME’s (coronal mass ejections), magnetic fields. All sorts of enegy and material. That stuff then eventually reaches the earth and whacks into our magnetic field. (Some of the particles and energy flow down the mag field to the poles of the planet and make the Aurora Borialis and Aurora Australis – the Northern Lights and the Southern Lights)

    It would be nice to have a way to measure all this stuff, and as you might guess, scientists set out to do so and invented WAAAYyyy to many ways to do it. (Hey, everybody needed a new paper to publish, so… ;-)

    And they gave them alphabet soup names like “K” and “A” and the sons and daughters of A: “Aa” and “Ap”.

    From this page:


    you can get the whole laundry list. One of them, “K”, is:

    K indices isolate solar particle effects on the earth’s magnetic field; over a 3-hour period, they classify into disturbance levels the range of variation of the more unsettled horizontal field component.

    Or how much that “stuff” whacks and wobbles our magnetic field over a 3 hour period.

    Further down, we find “A” is defined as a specific translation of “K”. So somebody won the measuring group with their paper, and somebody else won the reporting folks with their paper, and we need to translate the “K” to “A”:

    a index: A 3-hourly "equivalent amplitude" index of local 
    geomagnetic activity; "a" is related to the 3-hourly K index 
    according to the following scale:
    K = 0 1 2 3  4  5  6   7   8   9 
    a = 0 3 7 15 27 48 80 140 240 400
    A index: A daily index of geomagnetic activity derived as 
    the average of the eight 3-hourly a indices.
    Ap index: An averaged planetary A index based on data from a set of specific Kp stations. 

    So A and Ap are still measures of how much our magnetic field is being bounced arround by the sun, but with the numbers scaled to a bigger value, and with Ap being from a specified set of measuring stations.

    Bottom line: An active sun wobbles our mag field around a lot, while a quite sun wobbles it very little. And right now we’re headed for near nothing.

    The Sun is being Very Very quiet, and very inactive.

    A very inactive sun implies less heat, light, etc. And that implies we are going to continue to get colder. (Though some folks contest the link between solar activity and how much we get warmer or cooler, asserting that the change of solar output “TSI” is not big enough to matter. But others assert that the low solar wind and magnetic field let cosmic rays in that make clouds, so we get much more cold than expected just from the change of light levels.)

    OK. Pretty clear. Low Ap means quiet sun and we might see some cooling effects.

    But wait, there’s more:


    A low Ap index is often followed by a very low maximum sun spot number in the NEXT 11 year solar cycle. What an Ap of 1 is saying is “Don’t expect the sun to come roaring back real fast for at least 10 more years.”

    This site has a pretty good write up of what is going on and what this means:


    Notice that this Ap index is the lowest ever seen in all recorded history. Not good. (But we don’t have all that much history, so maybe not a great catastrophe; but you do want to be a little more concerned when in “never seen before” land with something like the prime driver of all life and warmth on the planet 8-}

    To quote the “punch line” from that article:

    This Ap index is a proxy that tells us that the sun is now quite inactive, and the other indices of sunspot index and 10.7 radio flux also confirm this. The sun is in a full blown funk, and your guess is as good as mine as to when it might pull out of it. So far, predictions by NOAA’s SWPC and NASA’s Hathway have not been near the reality that is being measured.

    The starting gate for solar cycle 24 opened ayear ago today, when I announced the first ever cycle 24 sunspot. However in the year since, it has become increasingly clear that the horse hasn’t left the gate, and may very well be lame.

    Not exactly a “warming” thought…

    For even more information, you can see here:


    that explores the relationship between low Ap and low sunspots in following cycles. It predicted (then) that we would not drop below “3”. Now we’re at “1”…

    So at the end of all this, what does it “mean”?

    That the sun is in a slow dull state, does not show signs of waking up, ought to stay that way for about another decade, and that we have every chance of entering a “grand minimum’ such as the Maunder or Dalton. The Dalton minimum had “1800 and Froze to Death” or “the year without a summer” when New England had snow in Summer after a big volcano let loose in 1816 (IIRC) or so. So we are “1 volcano away” from a major disaster in terms of crops and food.

    And there has been a tendency for more volcanic activity during solar grand minimums (though the data are a bit poor and no causality is known, so it may just have been a statistical fluke.)

    So if we are very lucky, it means we will learn something about the sun and past solar / volcanic relationships will be broken showing it to be an accident of statistics. And if we are unlucky we get snow in July and not much to eat. And in both cases “we live in interesting times”.

    So does that do it for you?

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  12. David says:

    Der Sir

    You articulate well, it takes an educated lay person to make something clear to another lay person, less well read. Leif S wrote a fairly long comment on Anthonys blog on this, well beyond my ability to grasp. My question is what did you get out of his comment.

    REPLY: [ Mostly that it was a bit unprecidented and would be very interesting, but that we ought to not assume too much from it. Sun is “slow” but not time to worry about 2012 Mayan predictions ;-) and that the statisitcal manipulations left it a bit imprecise at the low end so a “1” vs. a “2” might not mean much. (Though IIRC, a “1” headed down compared to a “3” was beyond the limits discussed in the thread last time ap came around…) -E.M.Smith ]

  13. Geoff Sharp says:

    Nice explanation on the Ap index Chief,

    I did some plotting of the adjusted F10.7 flux today and noticed the same “step change” that the Ap index displays around 2005.

  14. E.M.Smith says:

    @Geoff Sharp

    Nice graph. So, it looks like we’re actually starting to get a bit of F10.7 radio activity! Still way low compared to the past, but maybe the ‘next’ sunspot cycle is starting. Unfortunately, if it HAS started, we’re still not getting much from it here…

    (For those unfamiliar with it, the Sun also puts out radio signals. The F10.7 measures one of those frequencies and looks for how strong it is as an indicator of how much ‘other stuff’ is being made by the sun too. Ham Radio (Amature Radio) operators in particular watch it because it determins how far away they can hear and be heard (how much “skip”).


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