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NASA has gotten its solar forecast wrong, but others have got it right

NASA and NOAA predictions for the latest solar cycle haven't panned out, however, forecasts by others have proved more accurate.

@AdamHuntTT
Published Jun 30, 2022 9:20 AM CDT   |   Updated Sun, Jul 24 2022 9:46 PM CDT

A study predicting upcoming solar activity titled "Overlapping Magnetic Activity Cycles and the Sunspot Number: Forecasting Sunspot Cycle 25 Amplitude" was published in the journal Solar Physics.

NASA has gotten its solar forecast wrong, but others have got it right 01 | TweakTown.com

Astronomers have observed daily changes in the Sun's surface for centuries and began to record phenomena like sunspots in 1749. By the mid-19th century, astronomers realized they followed a cyclic behavior and that the Sun operated on a roughly 11-year solar cycle. Twenty-four cycles have been completed since records began, and the twenty-fifth is currently underway.

The cycles themselves vary from one to the next. Cycle 25 was forecasted by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to involve mild solar activity; however, the Sun has been much more active than expected. Now, cycle 25 looks like it could be one of the strongest cycles observed. Another team of researchers, however, made predictions in 2020 that are much closer to the current reality.

"We looked back over 140-plus years of data about the Sun's magnetic activity and its relation to the number of sunspots. And there was a pattern that shaped how large or small the upcoming sunspot cycle was going to be. We predicted the same pattern to take place before solar cycle 25. Based on that, we made a wild scientific guess that cycle 25 could possibly be as high as double the amplitude of cycle 24," Scott McIntosh, a solar physicist and deputy director of the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research, told Space.com.

NASA and the NOAA estimated 27 sunspots for December 2021 and 37 for May 2022, when 67 and 97 ended up occurring in either month, respectively, more than doubling estimates. This has led to intense solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs), that can threaten Earth's satellites and electronics.

"We don't know what is driving this strong solar activity. The Sun's behavior changes based on different cycles, from short cycles of 11 days to long cycles of 80 years. There are still a lot of unknowns, and we just don't have enough data points or knowledge to [accurately predict] solar activity," Tzu-Wei Fang, a space scientist at NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center told Space.com.

You can read more from the study here.

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NEWS SOURCES:space.com, doi.org

Adam grew up watching his dad play Turok 2 and Age of Empires on a PC in his computer room, and learned a love for video games through him. Adam was always working with computers, which helped build his natural affinity for working with them, leading to him building his own at 14, after taking apart and tinkering with other old computers and tech lying around. Adam has always been very interested in STEM subjects, and is always trying to learn more about the world and the way it works.

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