Solar Science

A blog of solar physics

Solar Cycle 24: Do we count Tiny Tims?

with 7 comments

Another week of excitement as the second solar cycle 24 spot appeared…and then disappeared just as rapidly.

I can’t help feeling that with an unprecedented amount of high technology monitoring the Sun with ever higher resolution, the criteria by which a sunspot is defined has become radically weakened to such an extent that it all becomes meaningless.

On Climate Audit commenters noted that the criteria for naming hurricanes had become so weakened that practically any frontal wave in the Eastern Atlantic that persisted for more than a few hours got a name (the so-called “Tiny Tims” of the hurricane season).

So it appears to be with sunspots and Solar Cycle 24. Here is that second solar cycle 24 sunspot numbered for all to see:


Now in order to ascertain that there really is a spot there, I had to first make sure my laptop screen was really clean because it could have been hidden behind a rogue speck of dust and I could have missed it.

Can you spot it? If so, you’re better than I.

Here’s three views looking at the same spot. It may be there in the magnetogram showing the class signs of magnetic polarity reversal and there may be an associated phage (often the precursor of a sunspot) but is there a sunspot?


Meanwhile a few days later, yet another SC23 spot comes into view.

I can’t help but feel that this is all a little desperate. SC24 continues to surprise with its general unwillingness to make an unambiguous appearance.


Written by John A

April 19, 2008 at 4:20 am

Posted in Solar Cycle 24

Tagged with ,

7 Responses

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  1. With the delay of SC 24 comes the likelyhood of the end of global warming, anthropogenic style.What that will do to the climate change non-deniers will be devastating for them. Good for the rest of us.

    Kirt Griffin

    April 19, 2008 at 2:22 pm

  2. I don’t wish global cooling on anyone…well maybe George Monbiot, but not the third world poor who will starve while Monbiot is typing at his laptop about the horrors of global warming.

    John A

    April 20, 2008 at 12:21 pm

  3. I suppose this halting start to Cycle24 means that the NASA “experts” will have to predict an even higher and earlier peak at 160 in April 2010, only two years from now!

    The later the cycle starts in earnest, the earlier and higher the peak! Amazing the things you can learn by working at NASA!

    Al Fin

    April 20, 2008 at 4:05 pm

  4. A Few Comments On Solar Cycle 24 Sunspots #981 and #990
    (See instruction at the bottom to run animations)

    I used the NASA SOHO archives to download and examined the high resolution (1024×1024) Continuum and Mannetogram images for the first SC24 sunspot #981 which was first observed on 2008/01/04 and persisted for three days. Here are the results.

    Blink Comparator of images used in NASA Press release 2008-01-04 14:24 & 14:28

    Blink Comparator of best images from 2008-01-05 06:24 & 06:26

    In the image from 2008-01-05 there are three clearly desirable sunspots and three to four smaller sunspots.

    Note this little gem in the NASA press release,

    Solar Cycle 24 Begins…olarcycle24.htm

    “Sunspot 981 was small–only about as wide as Earth, which counts as small on the grand scale of the sun–and it has already faded away. But its three day appearance on Jan. 4-6 was enough to convince most solar physicists that Solar Cycle 24 is underway.”

    If Sunspot #981 was “small” how should NASA characterize Sunspot #990? Let’s look at Sunspot #990.

    In the following Blink Comparator analysis one sunspot was clearly visible. There is approximately a one hour difference in time between the two images which is why there is a small displacement.

    Blink Comparator for Sunspot #990 2008-04-13 21:26 & 22:24

    Load the following animation to see the event which occurred on 2008-04-14 between 16:05 and 16:15 where a second sunspot was attempting to form. I suspect that this was the event which earned Sunspot #990 a 12. Shortly after this Sunspot #990 disappeared from the 1024×1024 Continuum images.

    Blink Comparator for Sunspot #990 2008-04-14 between 16:05 & 16:15

    Clearly compared to Sunspot #981, Sunspot #990 is pathetic. It lasted a little longer than a day and the second spot may have been wishful thinking. Based on two data points Solar Cycle 24 is moving in the wrong direction. At this rate we will be lucky the reach solar minimum be the end of 2008, if then.

    Solar Cycle 23 sunspots continue to dominate. A SC23 Sunspot #991 emerged two days ago and then faded after 24 hours; the solar disk is again blank. If anything SC23 and SC24 activity continues to decrease in strength.

    I have additional posts over at on Sunspot #991.


    To view using IE press the “F11” key to toggle between full screen and the normal IE display. To stop the animation, press the “Esc” key. To restart the animation press “F5”. The solar image is best viewed in full size, if using IE pass the pointer over the image and click if a magnifying glass is displayed with a “plus” sign in the center. The blink speeds are one frame per second for all animations referenced here. Date/time stamps are in the lower left corner.

    Michael Ronayne

    April 21, 2008 at 12:35 pm

  5. I posted some comparisons on Solar Cycle 24 Sunspots #981 and #990 here.


    Michael Ronayne

    April 21, 2008 at 12:45 pm

  6. I’m sorry, could someone give me a length of the cycle 23 as of now? Feeling too lazy to slog through the gobbldy gook I would have to wade through with a google.
    Is it 12 year, 6 months, 29 days and counting – something like that?


    April 21, 2008 at 11:13 pm



    July 28, 2008 at 8:41 pm

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