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Sun Heating Up As Solar Cycle 24 Peaks

By: MAweatherboy1 , 11:54 AM GMT on January 05, 2013

The Sun is waking up as it approaches the peak of its roughly 11 year cycle. The past month (and really much of last year) was dominated by relative quiet despite the peak of solar maximum approaching. Most experts predict that solar maximum is peaking in the early to middle part of this year. While this is expected to be an unusually quiet solar max, that doesn't mean we won't see activity, and the Sun is making that clear now with the presence of three interesting sunspots. One of these is active region (AR) 1640, located in the Sun's northern hemisphere and rotating towards the west limb. A few days ago while it was near the center of the Sun AR1640 was a small, simple spot. However, it has grown rapidly for several days, and also developed into a magnetically complex spot that harbors energy for powerful flares. Surprisingly, however, this giant spot has produced only a smattering of relatively weak low-level C class flares. There certainly remains potential for this area to launch a stronger flare, but since it is nearing the western limb eruptions are unlikely to be Earth directed.

The two other sunspots I am watching are both now rotating into view off the NE and SE limb. The one coming over the NE limb was responsible for a moderate C class flare last evening, as well as our first M class flare in a while early this morning. Since this sunspot is just now rotating into view, this was not an Earth directed blast, but that could change in days ahead as the spot rotates towards the center of the solar disk. We will know more about it as it rotates further onto the disk; currently we can just see parts of its leader spots, not the entire active region. The other interesting spot is rotating over the SE limb, and it has been numbered AR1650. We can see more of this one than the NE limb spot, but its proximity to the SE limb still makes identifying specifics about the spot difficult. It does appear smaller than AR1640, but it also has the look of a sunspot that could be magnetically complex, with the potential to produce solar flares. As more imagery is examined, we will be able to tell if the spot is in a state of growth or decay, which will be important to determining the threat of future flares. We will also know more about its magnetic composition.

Figure 1: The visible solar disk early this morning. Giant sunspot 1640 is clearly visible as it rotates towards the west limb. The sunspot rotating over the SE limb, AR1650, is also visible, though not very clear yet. We are just beginning to see the region rotating over the NE limb. Meanwhile, several smaller, not magnetically complex spots are also transiting the disk.

Figure 2: Three day X ray chart. Note the numerous low level C class flares, mostly produced by AR1640, and the larger M class flare from last night produced by the region rotating in from the NE limb.

Figures 3 and 4: M1.7 solar flare off the NE limb early this morning.


Thank you for reading, and enjoy your weekend! If necessary, I will provide updates in the comments section for as long as these spots remain threatening.

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

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9. WunderAlertBot (Admin)
5:56 PM GMT on February 11, 2013
MAweatherboy1 has created a new entry.
8. kidsrus
2:40 AM GMT on January 14, 2013
looking forward to your next report on the solar flares
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
7. MAweatherboy1
1:43 AM GMT on January 10, 2013
The spot I mentioned the other day has rotated into full view and has been numbered 1654. As I suspected, it is a large region- huge actually- and is not particularly complex (it has been classified as a beta class region, not alpha as I thought it might be. These are more complex than alpha spots but still not generally capable of strong flares), magnetically speaking. Still, it has produced a couple C class flares and elevated X ray background levels to over the C1 threshold, even near the C2 level at times, which is insanely high. 40% chance of an M class flare tonight/tomorrow from 1654 or 1652.

Here's an updated image of the visible disk (this will update):

Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
6. MAweatherboy1
11:19 PM GMT on January 07, 2013
Another quiet day today. Daily SWPC report once again says 35% and 5% for M and X class flares tonight/tomorrow, with 25% and 5% for the following two days. Large sunspot 1640 is mostly out of view at this point. AR 1652, which produced an M class flare early Saturday morning, remains stable, though I haven't given up on it yet- it may be growing some. Finally, it appears a moderate to large size sunspot is coming over the east limb, I'm just barely beginning to see it on SDO color images. While it looks to be decent sized, I would also guess that it is likely magnetically simple, perhaps consisting of just one large spot, which would favor an alpha class magnetic classification. These types of spots don't produce solar flares. Background X ray levels remain high, indicating the potential is there for flares, even if things are quiet like they are now.
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5. MAweatherboy1
11:04 PM GMT on January 06, 2013
This solar cycle is almost as boring as the current CONUS weather pattern, lol. It's hard to tell what's worse- staring at a flat X-ray chart or a blank radar. There remain multiple sunspots of interest, but they're just not doing anything right now. Today's SWPC report keeps the odds of M and X class flares at 35% and 5% for tomorrow, with a drop to 25% and 5% for Tuesday and Wednesday as one of the sunspots of interest, AR1640, rotates over the west limb.

AR1652, which produced yesterday's M class flare, doesn't look particularly impressive as we continue to see it better as it rotates closer. It has the look of a sunspot undergoing change, either growth or decay. I'd lean towards decay based on its quietness for the past 36 hours.
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4. MAweatherboy1
1:21 AM GMT on January 06, 2013
We are starting to see a little more of the region coming in off the NE limb, it definitely looks like an area to watch, although it's been very quiet today. It has been numbered AR1652. AR1650 coming in off the SE limb appears stable, it may have grown a little today but that just might be caused by us seeing it clearer now. Meanwhile, 1640 continues to be a monster, but is very quiet and getting ever closer to the western limb.

Forecasters at the SWPC are estimating a 35% chance of an M class flare tonight and tomorrow, with a 5% chance of an X class flare, with 1640 and 1652 the most likely sources.

There are currently 14 separate sunspots on the visible solar disk- that's a ton! Most are small/stable, however, with no threat to produce flares.
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3. MAweatherboy1
4:34 PM GMT on January 05, 2013
Quoting maxcrc:
What is your opinion regarding the next cycle 25 ?
There are folks believing a new deep minimum is looming with several weak 11-year cycles to come.
Or perhaps you think the weak cycle 24 was just a temporary exception and the strong solar activity of the past century is going to follow ?

Great questions! I think this year and maybe even next year will be fairly active as SC 24, while much weaker than an average cycle, will still provide some excitement as it peaks. I am of the opinion that SC 25 will be even weaker than SC 24, that seems to be the most agreed upon idea by the experts, although there is some debate as these things are hard to predict. Regarding the potential for weak solar activity in the long run (next 100 years or so), I think it's definitely a possibility, although that's really hard to predict.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
2. maxcrc
4:29 PM GMT on January 05, 2013
What is your opinion regarding the next cycle 25 ?
There are folks believing a new deep minimum is looming with several weak 11-year cycles to come.
Or perhaps you think the weak cycle 24 was just a temporary exception and the strong solar activity of the past century is going to follow ?
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
1. MAweatherboy1
4:24 PM GMT on January 05, 2013
This is a one minute X ray chart, it will update. The biggest thing I'm noticing is that background X ray levels are near the C1 level, which is very high. No big flares since the M class event though.

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Average 20 year old weather nerd. Plymouth State University Meteorology, Class of 2018. NOAA Hollings scholar. Summer 2016 intern at NWS Boston.

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