Solar Cycle 25 starting with a bang!
Will Solar Cycle 25 be strong or weak?
The sun has been active lately! Sunspots have peppered its visible face every day so far in 2022. We’ve had storms on the sun’s surface (aka solar flares) causing coronal mass ejections – great clouds of solar plasma – to leave the sun. And so we’ve seen more geomagnetic storms and displays of high-latitude auroras, or northern lights. Our sun follows an 11-year cycle of activity. And the current cycle, Solar Cycle 25, began in 2020. Since then, activity on the sun has ramped up quickly. So does that mean this cycle will be more active than the last? Not necessarily.
The graph below can help explain why we shouldn’t assume that an early and strong start to Solar Cycle 25 means a stronger cycle overall lies ahead. Ron Turner is an analyst at ANSER, a research institute in Virginia. He’s been studying the sun’s 11-year cycle for many years. He told SpaceWeather.com earlier this month that:
… It might be too early to anticipate a strong solar cycle … I took sunspot numbers from the early years of Solar Cycle 24 and overlaid them on Solar Cycle 25. They’re an almost perfect match.
And Solar Cycle 24 was the quietest (fewest sunspots) solar cycle in 100 years.
Will Solar Cycle 25 be like Solar Cycle 24? Or will it continue to ramp up, bringing with it more visible sunspots – more solar flares and prominences – and more Earth-directed coronal mass ejections and aurora?
It’s too soon to say.
Bottom line: Is the increased activity early in solar cycle 25 a sign of a busy peak to come? Maybe not, says an expert.