Sunspots, We Don’t Need No Stinking Sunspots

A strange thing happened on the way to Solar Max for this cycle. We’ve gone back to no sunspots.

So what is that likely to mean? Is there any connection between sunspots and temperature?

A graph of the correlation between sunspots and sea surface temperatures

Sea Surface Temperatures vs Sun Spots

I came upon this image in a rather interesting, if slightly slanted toward the politically correct view of AGW, article at: with the provocative subtitle: “Did Sunspots Sink The Titanic”?

Hmmm.. So Now We’re Back At Zero


We have a pointer to this report:

Updated 2010 Apr 20 2201 UTC
Joint USAF/NOAA Report of Solar and Geophysical Activity

SDF Number 110 Issued at 2200Z on 20 Apr 2010

Analysis of Solar Active Regions and Activity from 19/2100Z to 20/2100Z: Solar activity was very low. No flares were observed during the last 24 hours and the disk remained spotless.

Solar Activity Forecast: Solar activity is expected to remain very low for the next three days (21-23 April).

Geophysical Activity Summary 19/2100Z to 20/2100Z: The geomagnetic field was quiet during the last 24 hours.

Geophysical Activity Forecast: The geomagnetic field is expected to be quiet to unsettled with a slight chance for isolated active periods for the next three days (21-23 April). The increase in activity is associated with several CMEs (observed on 15, 18 and 19 April) and a coronal hole high speed stream rotating into a geoeffective position.

We’re just not rising like we’re supposed to be…

In comments on WUWT a poster pointed at this image:

Graph showing present sunspots near zero

Sunspots going low.

I’ve unfortunately lost the comment so can not give proper attribution. One presumes it is “Jonas1”. If you recognize the person, please let me know so I can credit them here.

Graph courtesy of Mike Jonas. Thanks Mike!

At the end of the day, though, we seem to be in significant solar slump, and not getting better

Though, oddly, we might have another indicator of solar slump. The added cosmic rays are reputed to be causing problems for some computer chips. From:

Cosmic rays could be at least partially to blame for Toyota’s mechanical defects, scientists now say. And the problem could get worse in the future, as the increasing use of tiny computer chips — replacing mechanical parts — makes cars more and more vulnerable to space radiation.

More sensitive electronics

Federal regulators were prompted to look into the possible role that cosmic rays played in Toyota’s product recall fiasco after an anonymous tipster suggested the design of Toyota’s microprocessors, software and memory chips could make them more vulnerable to interference from radiation compared with other automakers. This is because Toyota has led the auto industry in its widespread inclusion of electronic controls in the manufacture of their various car models.

So as the sun continues to slumber and cosmic ray counts rise, we have chips starting to be a bit more flakey. Here we have cars potentially made unstoppable by cosmic rays modulated by sunspots and the potential contribution to sinking the Titanic. But folks claim it can’t influence clouds and through them, the weather…

So just watch the local Prius Crash Rate and see what the sunspot level might be…

What shall we call it? The Cosmic Prius Connection? Divine Retribution? Carma?


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...
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17 Responses to Sunspots, We Don’t Need No Stinking Sunspots

  1. Mike Jonas says:

    It was I that posted the graph.

    I must repeat that I don’t know how a solar cycle normally behaves, so I don’t know whether the pattern being displayed by this one is significant.

  2. E.M.Smith says:

    @Mike Jonas:

    Is it “OK” if I link to your graph?

    “Normal” is a jagged rise off the bottom. It’s possible that we had a blip down and have not headed back to zero for a longer stay, and will simply ‘lift off’ back to 70 or so… but normally you expect it to be more steady. Then again, this cycle has not been particularly normal…

    You can see some examples of patterns here:

    The pattern is looking like the very long low flat one of a grand minimum… not the touch and bounce of a more active period.

  3. anna v says:

    It was in the “missing heat thread” that the comment was made, and I gave the following talk by Leif that gives a context for the new cycle:

    Click to access Historical%20Solar%20Cycle%20Context.pdf

    Five days stasis, or a month,is not improbable for a low cycle, which this one seems to be.

    There has been some speculation if the next cycle might already be starting! This as when magnetic disturbances with the wrong polarity started appearing some months ago.
    It might be that the cycle has already peaked, we have to wait and see.

    As for cosmics, ULU looks steady at the moment,

  4. E.M.Smith says:

    @Anna V: Thanks!

    Yes, a low cycle. The question is just how low and long…

    I’ve sometimes wondered if the Major Minimum type events are a “confusion” event where cycles get a bit flat and confused. Something like when the heartbeat has a fibrillation event. There is a beat or pulse going on, but the process is scattered and different places are moving in different directions… then eventually something will get it all synchronized again..

    It will be interesting to watch.

  5. Mike Jonas says:

    I’m happy for you to link to the graph.

    The data for the graph is from USAF/NOAA

    I am counting 10 for each sunspot group, 1 for each sunspot (I believe that’s how sunspot number works), plotted daily. There’s no smoothing or other manipulation, except that to make the graph easier to look at I cut it off at a count of 10 [the only possible value below 11 is zero, which makes the graph a bit messy so I’m plotting zero as 10].

    I think I’m correct in saying the #24 sunspots are classifed “beta” though the data often shows a very small group (1 or 2 spots) as Alpha. The Alphas also have different “Modified Zurich classifications” like Axx, Hsx and Hxx, while the Betas have classifications like Bso, Cro, Dro and Dso. I don’t know what any of it means, I’ve just plotted the data out of interest to see how the cycle is progressing. If anyone would like to explain it all to me in words of one syllable I’d be very interested.

    A paper by Nguyen Sinh Hoa et al gives the following very helpful explanation : “The Modified Zurich classification scheme [3] is defined by a set of rules containing many complicated and unprecise concepts, which cannot be determined directly from solar images.”

  6. anna v says:

    A small spot is forming on the left top.

    One can go to SOHO movies, and see that in the corresponding period 12 years ago there were stronger spots, with a good penumbra and larger and more compact magnetic disturbances, and they were at higher latitudes.

    Possibly the Livingston and Penn effect as described in the link above by Leif.

    This cycle is different and interesting.

  7. tarpon says:

    The Maunder Minimum had periods of this in it’s whole record. So I don’t think it would be strange to see the sun wake up, lots of spots then return to zero.

    One thing to consider is our instrumentation is far better now, so we see spots that may not have been seen before.

  8. Mike Jonas says:

    Worth noting that probably no-one knows what the sun will do next.
    Dec. 21, 2006: Evidence is mounting: the next solar cycle is going to be a big one.
    Solar cycle 24, due to peak in 2010 or 2011 “looks like its going to be one of the most intense cycles since record-keeping began almost 400 years ago,” says solar physicist David Hathaway of the Marshall Space Flight Center. He and colleague Robert Wilson presented this conclusion last week at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco.
    NYT July 20, 2009
    A panel of 12 scientists assembled by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration now predicts that the May 2013 peak will average 90 sunspots during that month. That would make it the weakest solar maximum since 1928, which peaked at 78 sunspots. During an average solar maximum, the Sun is covered with an average of 120 sunspots.
    But the panel’s consensus “was not a unanimous decision,” said Douglas A. Biesecker, chairman of the panel. One member still believed the cycle would roar to life while others thought the maximum would peter out at only 70.
    WUWT Feb 2010
    The AGU Fall meeting has a session entitled “Aspects and consequences of an unusually deep and long solar minimum”.
    McCracken gave a paper … While he states that it is his opinion alone and not necessarily held by his co-authors, he comes to the conclusion that a repeat of the Dalton Minimum is most likely

  9. gcb says:

    @anna v
    A small spot is forming on the left top.

    Anna – actually thinks that spot is a “former sunspot”, not a forming one… See

  10. KevinM says:

    According to the chart, temperature has tended to be proportional to spots, and lagging by a few years.

    IF it were true AND spots were a larger driver than others in effect, THEN we could forecast cooling climate for a while.

    Is it possible that such an obvious correlating factor does not appear in climate models?

    Or is there reason to believe the chart is fudged? Why does it stop in 1985? I was disappointed in the dendros for ignoring their divergence problem, is there a divergence problem here too?

    IF the sun spot charts diverge from recent temp AND the tree rings diverge from recent temp, it would be fun to see if spots and rings correlate. Do trees react to extra sugar in their coffee?

  11. anna v says:


    They get a new number when they come around again. At the moment it is a pore, but it could pick up some strength and become respectable.

  12. E.M.Smith says:

    Well, we have a NOAA Panel “Consensus” but another group not in agreement, and reality not cooperating… gee, that sounds familiar…

    And we have settled science which is “defined by a set of rules containing many complicated and unprecise concepts, which cannot be determined directly …”

    And I thought Economics did a lot of making stuff up…

    Maybe I’ll go review my notes from Geometry … we started with , IIRC, a total of 3-5 givens or axioms and everything else was PROVEN based on the givens and prior proofs or you could not use it at the next step. I hated the first 2 weeks, and about week 4 was in love with Geometry. Wonderfully pure. By the end of the year we had, pretty much, recreated classical geometry. Again, IIRC, we started with 5 then later showed a couple could be proven, so moved from givens to proofs.

    You knew what you knew. You knew EXACTLY what was assumed and yet not known. Everything else was ‘not known’.

    Somehow I think that has colored my approach to ‘climate science’ in that I’m not willing to embrace things built on rampant unproven assumptions…

    Looks like sunspot science has some things to work on too ;-)

  13. Janet says:

    I often find it irritating that a mathematician is required to state all assumptions at the outset, while a science reporter is allowed to site a mathematical conclusion without ever acknowledging the assumptions that form its foundation. Mathematical logic is the purist of abstractions. Hence my favorite Einstein quote: “As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain, as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.”

  14. E.M.Smith says:


    I think the quote was ‘laws of PHYSICS refer to reality’…

    Would you like me to amend your comment?

  15. Luís says:

    This first streak of sunspots coincides with the first Desmoulin Tide of cycle 24:

  16. E.M.Smith says:

    I did a google of “Desmoulin Tide” and got 2 hits, but both the same “European Tribune” location. Without the quotes it pops p to 6000+ but with references to Desmoulin Lane and the Desmoulin snail ranking high on the hits…

    Closest I found was this link to an abstract:

    about tides being correlated with solar cycle.

    So, have you got a link / pointer to something non-paywalled where I could find out a bit more about “Desmoulin tides”?

    FWIW, this graphic is, I think, interesting:

    Well, while I’m wandering down this path… this article makes an interesting potential connection between solar rotation rates and sunspots:

  17. Janet says:

    Ah, here it is again…

    “As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.” -– As Quoted in Sidelights on Relativity (1983).

    REPLY:[ Interesting. A google had turned up the ‘physics’ version. Wonder if he said both? I could see it… -E.M.Smith ]

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