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Scientists finally acknowledge that they got their solar cycle predictions wrong, and that we are fast approaching the ... - Yahoo Life

Author: Yahoo Life

Source: https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/scientists-finally-acknowledge-got-solar-171327755.html

Image of Scientists finally acknowledge that they got their solar cycle predictions wrong, and that we are fast approaching the ... - Yahoo Life

Scientists forecasting solar weather have finally acknowledged that their prediction for the current solar cycle was way off.The researchers now say that we are fast approaching an explosive peak in solar activity.Earlier this year, Live Science reported that solar maximum will likely hit harder and sooner than predicted.The sun is constantly in flux.Roughly every 11 years, our home star cycles from a period of tranquility, known as solar minimum, to a peak of solar activity known as solar maximum — when dark sunspots cover the sun and frequently spit out powerful solar storms.The star then switches back again.The sun's current cycle, Solar Cycle 25, officially began in early 2019. At the time, the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration's (NOAA) Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) — an expert panel made up of NOAA and NASA scientists — predicted that Solar Cycle 25 would most likely peak at some point in 2025 and be underwhelming compared with average cycles, much like its predecessor, Solar Cycle 24.However, other solar scientists soon realized that the sun was not following the SWPC's predictions.And in June this year, Live Science revealed that solar activity had been ramping up quicker than expected and talked with several experts who forecast that the solar maximum would likely arrive before the end of 2024.On Oct.25, the SWPC finally issued a "revised prediction" for Solar Cycle 25 and acknowledged that its initial estimations were "no longer reliable enough for SWPC's customers," such as private space exploration and satellite companies.The new update states that "solar activity will increase more quickly and peak at a higher level" than initially predicted and that solar maximum will likely begin between January and October next year.Related: 15 dazzling images of the sunA graph showing predicted sunspot numbers vs observed sunspot numbersSeveral signs this year revealed that the solar maximum is going to arrive sooner and be more active than expected, including a 20-year sunspot peak, massive X-class solar flares, extensive aurora displays at lower latitudes and rising temperatures in the upper atmosphere, as well as the appearance of streaks of light, known as airglow, and the disappearance of noctilucent, or night-shining, clouds.It is unclear why SWPC's predictions were wrong or why it has taken this long for scientists to update their forecasts, despite warning signs coming for years. For instance, in 2020, a group of scientists led by Scott McIntosh, a solar physicist and deputy director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado, used historic sunspot and magnetic field data to predict the solar maximum would be more active and arrive sooner than expected.A more active peak in solar activity could create disruptions on Earth: If large solar storms smash into our planet they can cause radio blackouts, damage power infrastructure, irradiate airline passengers and astronauts and knock out GPS and internet satellites—some of which could actually fall from the sky.Thousands of sunspots cover the sun in a time-lapse image for the first six months of 2023A more active solar maximum therefore poses a "larger hazard for these critical technologies and services," NOAA representatives wrote in their updated forecast.Related: 10 solar storms that blew us away in 2022Wildlife experts have also warned that a more active solar maximum could disorient animals that rely on Earth's magnetic field to navigate, such as large whales and migrating birds.related stories—Mysterious 'sparks' on the sun could help scientists predict solar flares—1st mission to 'touch' the sun discovers a mysterious source of solar wind—Mysterious waves of magnetism may explain why the sun's atmosphere is hotter than physicists thought possibleTo prevent further confusion for the remainder of Solar Cycle 25, SWPC will now shift to a more flexible forecast system for the first time in its history, which will be updated at the start of every month."We expect that our new experimental forecast will be much more accurate than the 2019 panel prediction and, unlike previous solar cycle predictions, it will be continuously updated on a monthly basis as new sunspot observations become available," Mark Miesch, a solar physicist at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder and lead researcher at SWPC, said in the statement."It's a pretty significant change."

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