Solar Science

A blog of solar physics

David Hathaway: Mea Culpa

with 6 comments

I’m not going to add much more than to say that its enjoyable and refreshing to see a senior scientist admit that they were wholly wrong in their predictions.

How Long Will Our Sun Remain Quiet and Cosmic Rays Increase?

What Happened to 2006 Predictions of Huge Solar Cycle 24?


There were indications back then. I am writing a paper – it’s on my computer as we speak (laughs) – basically saying that I made a big mistake – myself and Bob Wilson – when we wrote a paper in 2006, suggesting Solar Cycle 24 was going to be a huge cycle based on conditions at that time. The problem we had with our prediction was that it was based on a method that assumes that we’re near sunspot cycle minimum.

We had just previously gone through three or four sunspot cycles that had been only ten years long each, so for the one in 1996 to 2006, it seemed like a reasonable assumption. But as we now know, we were off by at least two years. And if we take conditions on the sun now, it’s a completely different story. The conditions now – using even that same technique from 2006 – says that the next sunspot cycle is going to be half what we thought it was back in 2006.

Another big prediction in 2006 was based on a dynamo model – a model for how the sun produces magnetic fields – and it suggested a huge cycle.

But there also were people back at that time saying otherwise. A group of colleagues led by Leif Svalgaard, Ph.D., were looking at the sun’s polar fields and saying even at that point, the sun’s polar fields were significantly weaker than they had been before and those scientists back then predicted it was going to be a small cycle.

How Small Will Solar Cycle 24 Be?

…I’ve come around to that view now. I think there is little doubt in my mind now that we’re in for a small cycle. The big question now is how small? I think most of us are predicting small cycles. I think even the techniques I’m using now are suggesting HALF the size of the last three or four solar cycles, but my fear is that even that might be too big just from the fact that it’s taken so long for this Solar Cycle 24 to really get off the ground and start producing sunspots.

I have no doubt at this point that it’s going to be a little cycle. My current prediction is that it’s going to be about half of what we’ve seen in the last four solar cycles or so. But in my gut, I feel it’s going to be smaller than that! (laughs) It’s just so slow in taking off and the indicators that we see – both the polar fields and the geomagnetic indicators are lower than anything we’ve seen before.

So kudos to David Hathaway for writing a paper talking about how wrong his previous papers have been. Absolutely no sarcasm intended or implied.


Written by John A

October 31, 2009 at 2:58 am

6 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Thank you, David, for your candor.

    With kind regards,
    Oliver K. Manuel

    Oliver K. Manuel

    November 1, 2009 at 5:38 am

  2. I would have thought that solar experts would have picked up on the approximate 100 year cycle by simply looking at the peaks of the last few hundred years of 11 year cycles. There is a pattern there. The bottom of the current 100 year cycle is now due, meaning that the next few cycles will be small, similar to cycles 5, 6, 12, 13, 14. Solar cycle 19 represents the peak of the current 100 year cycle. Could mean good news though, “Global Cooling ?”.

    To predict the next cycle witth an amplitude of 150 plus would be well out of range.

    Peter S

    November 1, 2009 at 11:18 am

  3. […] post here. See larger here. Notice how this cycle is currently 13 years after the last minimum. in Cycle 21, […]

  4. Bravo. There’s a top scientist.


    November 3, 2009 at 6:32 am

  5. Do you have an updated movie of all David Hathaway’s predictions? I want to show it to my Galaxy Group as an example of Broken Science.

    This, I think, is a prime example of how much media publicity scientists can get for offering up scary predictions. David Hathaway has been consulted by newspapers, TV, magazines etc., like a seer, for years. His money is already in-the-bank. Now, a quick “sorry” is thought to be sufficient.

    This reminds me alot of the Marion Jones Sydney 2000 Olympics scandle! Grrrrr!


    November 3, 2009 at 9:08 am

  6. The wole trouble is Hathaway and friends at NASA have been dealing with models for their prediction. He was also wrong with his ‘dynamo model’ so there might be a sage move if he starts to think that models are not the way to go. There is a “law of the repetition of observations” that applies extemely well in astronomy. Analyzing ancient events and watching how solar cycles have been repeating a strange pattern, shows that we are due to a deep, very deep minimum by 2030-40, that could bbring a deep cooling lasting about 60-70 years.

    That prediction was made by astronomer Timo Niroma (passed away one month ago, unfortunately), but his amazing website still is in the internet where anyone can check the huge amount of valuable work he did in his short life.

    And all about sunspots:

    Eduardo Ferreyra

    November 5, 2009 at 1:28 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: