Fueling fears about the dimming sun, scientists are predicting that the current solar cycle is not only running a year or so late, but will also be the weakest cycle since 1928. Solar disaster!
The current cycle of activity, officially called Cycle 24, will peak somewhere around May 2013 with roughly 90 sunspots a day, the lowest level of activity since 1928's average of 78 sunspots per day (This comes after the cycle starting somewhere around 9 months late, in January this year versus the expected March 2008). This prediction - the work of an international panel of scientists - was announced by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Space Weather Prediction Center's Doug Biesecker on Friday, but that doesn't mean that we can expect less "space weather" as a result, he warned:
As hard as it is to predict sunspot number, it's even harder to predict the actual level of solar activity that responds to those sunspots.
Not everyone agrees on whether it'll be so quiet, however; Mausumi Dikpati from the High Altitude Observatory in Boulder, Colorado - who was one of the experts on the panel that came up with the conclusion she disagrees with - for example:
The panel consensus is not my individual opinion... It's still in a quiet period. As soon as it takes off it could be a completely different story.
That story, she says, will be a cycle 50% more powerful than the last, and something to silence those of us who're worried that the sun is slowly going out a la disaster movies, despite knowing better.
Solar cycle will be weakest since 1928, forecasters say [New Scientist]