Solar cycle 24: implications for energetic particles and long-term space climate change
Owens, M. J., Lockwood, M., Barnard, L. and Davis, C. J. (2011) Solar cycle 24: implications for energetic particles and long-term space climate change. Geophysical Research Letters, 38. L19106. ISSN 0094-8276
To link to this article DOI: 10.1029/2011GL049328
The recent solar minimum was the longest and deepest of the space age, with the lowest average sunspot numbers for nearly a century. The Sun appears to be exiting a grand solar maximum (GSM) of activity which has persisted throughout the space age, and is headed into a significantly quieter period. Indeed, initial observations of solar cycle 24 (SC24) continue to show a relatively low heliospheric magnetic field strength and sunspot number (R), despite the average latitude of sunspots and the inclination of the heliospheric current sheet showing the rise to solar maximum is well underway. We extrapolate the available SC24 observations forward in time by assuming R will continue to follow a similar form to previous cycles, despite the end of the GSM, and predict a very weak cycle 24, with R peaking at ∼65–75 around the middle/end of 2012. Similarly, we estimate the heliospheric magnetic field strength will peak around 6nT. We estimate that average galactic cosmic ray fluxes above 1GV rigidity will be ∼10% higher in SC24 than SC23 and that the probability of a large SEP event during this cycle is 0.8, compared to 0.5 for SC23. Comparison of the SC24 R estimates with previous ends of GSMs inferred from 9300 years of cosmogenic isotope data places the current evolution of the Sun and heliosphere in the lowest 5% of cases, suggesting Maunder Minimum conditions are likely within the next 40 years.