Ken Tapping: Still no sign of the next cycle
Previously on this blog, I’d mentioned my skepticism that one decent sunspot marked the end of the hiatus in the solar cycle we’ve seen for nearly two years. It might be my nature, but everybody has been wrong before.
As part of my public duty to actually ask real scientists monitoring the Sun, I wrote to Dr Ken Tapping of Canada’s National Research Council at the Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics in British Columbia:
Dear Dr Tapping
For the first time in a very long time, the Sun has managed to produce a sunspot (1024) which has lasted more than a few hours.
Is there any sign of an upswing in radio emissions indicating an end to the hiatus?
and Dr Tapping replied (with my emphasis):
Last weekend I saw a really nice sunspot group on the Sun, which could have been part of the new cycle. The solar radio flux went up a little while it was there. However now the flux has slumped back to low values again.
Some theorists have suggested the new cycle is currently under way, but that for some unknown reason we are not getting the spots to go with it. I’m not sure what that really means, so I am making no suggestion as to what is going on.
Being very conservative, according to the measurements being made under our Solar Radio Monitoring Programme, we have yet to see signs the next cycle is really under way.
Now this is what I’d thought, that the nice sunspot (1024) we’d seen did not presage a change in the behavior of the Sun: the solar wind speed remained subdued, coronal holes remained very small, there were no prominences to speak of.
It also baffles me how “some theorists have suggested the new cycle is currently under way, but that for some unknown reason we are not getting the spots to go with it”. If there are very few sunspots and the radio flux remains extremely subdued, on what basis are these theorists making their statements?
It could be that this is the first “radio quiet” solar cycle … anyone believe that?
So for solar physicists, it remains “interesting times” and probably a time to clear out some old theories and start again.
My thanks to Dr Tapping for the correspondence.