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2006 News Releases




Solar cycle forecast breakthrough

Date : 18 / 03 / 2006
Author : Chris Jones - VK2ZDD

The next sunspot cycle will be 30-50 per cent stronger than its predecessor and will begin as much as a year later than previous forecasts, according to scientists from the US-based National Centre for Atmospheric Research. If the prediction is correct, the next solar maximum could be the most intense since the historic solar maximum of 1958.

The National Centre for Atmospheric Research scientists believe they have mastered the art of accurately forecasting solar cycles. They have developed a computer model that they claim has simulated the strength of the past eight solar cycles with an accuracy of more than 98%. This amazing precision is achieved by using the subsurface movements of sunspot remnants of the previous two solar cycles to calculate the strength of the next cycle. Mausumi Dikpati, the leader of the research team, said: "Our model has demonstrated the necessary skill to be used as a forecasting tool." The Sun undergoes 11-year cycles of activity, from peak storm activity to quiet and back again. But until now there was no precise method of predicting their timing and strength. Being able to accurately predict the sun's cycles years ahead could help society prepare for periods of intense solar storms, which can disrupt communications, slow down satellite orbits and crash power systems. Solar storms are thought to be caused by twisted magnetic fields in the Sun that suddenly snap, releasing huge amounts of energy. They usually occur near dark regions of concentrated magnetic fields known as sunspots.

Thanks to the RSGB


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