Radio blackouts, GPS problems, radiation exposure, all issues that come from a highly active sun. But scientists are getting closer to predicting when these problems could arise.
NASA just released its preliminary report of the next solar cycle. These solar cycles last eleven years.
That’s how long it takes for the sun’s magnetic fields to reverse. Meaning, the north and south poles switch positions.
Sunspots happen more in the middle of a solar cycle. These are areas of higher magnetic energy.
Higher sunspot activity is correlated with higher numbers of space weather events which can impact earth.
Whether it’s radio blackouts from solar flares, the Northern Lights from geomagnetic storms or solar
radiation storms which can harm passengers on high flying aircrafts at high latitudes, it’s all related to higher sunspot activity.
Space weather can also impact astronauts, satellites, GPS signals and even power grids on earth. You can see why this relatively new forecast is very important to everyday life.
The first panel of US solar scientists to come together and make a solar cycle forecast did so in 1989. This was the start of cycle number 22. We are now in cycle 24.
This is the sunspot activity over this current solar cycle.
It typically peaks in the middle and is the lowest at the beginning and the end. We are at a solar minimum now. While there isn’t an exact date for a solar cycle change, it is believed that this next solar cycle, number 25, will start sometime around July to September of this year.
Cycle 24 was certainly below average. This next solar cycle is predicted to be very similar with below average sunspots. This means the potential for low space weather activity like solar flares.
But NASA scientists say violent space storms are still possible and can do damage. It’s not as much about the quantity of these storms as it is about the magnitude they could have. NASA will release the predicted number of sunspots later this year.
Humans are largely protected by our atmosphere but we have some vulnerabilities to watch out for like our communication systems high in the sky.
You can learn more about this solar cycle forecast and what NASA does to prepare by clicking this link: NASA