Monday 13 July 2015

Solar Cycle 25 and Beyond

courtesy: SOHO (ESA & NASA)
Britains' Royal Astronomical Society has just announced yet another new model of the Sun’s solar cycle ... one that is producing unprecedentedly accurate predictions of irregularities within the Sun’s 11-year heartbeat.
If the model is correct,  the outlook for the next several cycles does not look good. The modelling describes the interaction of two levels of the sun ... one near the surface and one much deeper.

Prof Valentina Zharkova and her colleagues, of  Northumbria University, have:

"... found magnetic wave components appearing in pairs, originating in two different layers in the Sun's interior. They both have a frequency of approximately 11 years, although this frequency is slightly different, and they are offset in time. Over the cycle, the waves fluctuate between the northern and southern hemispheres of the Sun. Combining both waves together and comparing to real data for the current solar cycle, we found that our predictions showed an accuracy of 97%." 

Zharkova's team analyzed data from California's Wilcox Solar Observatory, covering three solar cycles worth of activity from 1976-2008. All of their modelling predictions and observations were closely matched.

"Looking ahead to the next solar cycles, the model predicts that the pair of waves become increasingly offset during Cycle 25, which peaks in 2022. During Cycle 26, which covers the decade from 2030-2040, the two waves will become exactly out of synch and this will cause a significant reduction in solar activity."

This is not great news for HF DXers and 6 meter diehards as it sounds like the present wimpy cycle (Cycle 24) may have been a monster in comparison to what lies ahead. The one bright light is the likelihood of amazingly good low band (160, 80, 40m) conditions for many, many winters.

I recall just how good conditions became on 160m during the solar-quiet winters between Cycle 23 and the eventual late start of Cycle 24. Night after night, the band opened to Europe like clockwork. Many nights the skip was so long that no signals from the U.S. could be heard at all ... just Europeans, often reaching 599 on my FT-1000's S-meter. At times I had to shake my head and double check that it was really 160m that I was listening to.

LF and MF conditions were equally enhanced as the lack of D-layer absorption from a very quiet sun made tuning through the NDB band sound like 20m CW during the Sweepstakes Contest ... truly once-in-a-lifetime conditions ... but maybe not if Zharkova's model is as accurate as she claims.

I guess we'll just have to wait a few more years to find out.

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