by Dr. Tony Phillips
from SpaceWeatherArchive Website
That was one of the predictions issued last week by an international panel of experts who gathered at NOAA's annual Space Weather Workshop to forecast the next solar cycle.
Researchers have been tracking the cycle since it was discovered in the 19th century. Not all cycles are alike.
Researchers are still learning to predict the ebb and flow of solar activity.
Forecasting techniques range from physical models of the sun's inner magnetic dynamo to statistical methods akin to those used by stock market analysts.
In recent years, the Internet has buzzed with the idea that a super-deep solar minimum such as the 70-year Maunder Minimum of the 17th century might cool the Earth, saving us from 'climate change' (aka "global warming"...)
That's not what the panel is saying, however.
Solar minimum will be deep, but not that deep. The panel predicts a "fairly weak" Solar Cycle 25.
What does that mean...?
Saying that a solar cycle is "weak" is a bit like saying hurricane season will be "weak." In other words, there may be fewer storms, but when a storm comes, you'd better batten down the hatches.
An equally "weak" Solar
Cycle 25 could do the same 3 or 4 years hence.
This is a widely misunderstood phase of the solar cycle. Many people think it brings a period of dull quiet. In fact, space weather changes in interesting ways.
For instance, as the sun's magnetic field weakens, holes open in the sun's atmosphere.
Emerging streams of solar
wind buffet Earth's magnetic field, sustaining auroras even without
solar flares and sunspots. Some observers believe that Solar Minimum
auroras have a distinctive palette, pinker than during other phases
of the solar cycle.
Energetic particles from
deep space penetrate Earth's atmosphere with a myriad of possible
effects ranging from changes in upper atmospheric electricity to
extra doses of radiation for people
This, in turn, causes the upper atmosphere to cool and contract. Aerodynamic drag that would normally cause satellites to decay is reduced; space junk accumulates.
This effect makes solar
minimum a terrible time to blow up satellites - although
people do it anyway.
Their April 5th
prediction was preliminary, and they plan to issue a refined
forecast by the end of 2019.