Astronomers have been monitoring sunspot numbers since 1700 and using them as an indicator of solar cycles since 1913. Today we know that peaks in sunspot numbers have an important influence on the Earth, increasing the amount of drag on satellites and contributing to telecoms and and power outages. Accurate forecasts of sunspot activity could help mitigate against these effects.
Ali Kilcik at Akdeniz University in Turkey and an international group of buddies have used a variety of techniques to analyse the data going back to the 1700s and use it to make predictions about the forthcoming maximum solar cycle 24, which we entered earlier this year.
Is prior performance a good guide to the future? It certainly hasn’t been in the past. Predicting the number of sunspots at the solar max has been notorioulsy unreliable.
That hasn’t stopped Kilcik and co sticking their necks out. They say solar cycle 24 will peak in December 2012 with 89 sunspots, a relatively small number considering that cycle 23 peaked with 170 or so in 2000.
Guess we’ll have to wait and see.
Ref: arxiv.org/abs/0811.1708: Nonlinear Prediction of Solar Cycle 24