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Tests of sunspot number sequences: 1. Using ionosonde data

Lockwood, M. ORCID:, Scott, C. J. ORCID:, Owens, M. J. ORCID:, Barnard, L. ORCID: and Willis, D. M. (2016) Tests of sunspot number sequences: 1. Using ionosonde data. Solar Physics, 291 (9). pp. 2785-2809. ISSN 0038-0938

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1007/s11207-016-0855-8


More than 70 years ago it was recognised that ionospheric F2-layer critical frequencies [foF2] had a strong relationship to sunspot number. Using historic datasets from the Slough and Washington ionosondes, we evaluate the best statistical fits of foF2 to sunspot numbers (at each Universal Time [UT] separately) in order to search for drifts and abrupt changes in the fit residuals over Solar Cycles 17-21. This test is carried out for the original composite of the Wolf/Zürich/International sunspot number [R], the new “backbone” group sunspot number [RBB] and the proposed “corrected sunspot number” [RC]. Polynomial fits are made both with and without allowance for the white-light facular area, which has been reported as being associated with cycle-to-cycle changes in the sunspot number - foF2 relationship. Over the interval studied here, R, RBB, and RC largely differ in their allowance for the “Waldmeier discontinuity” around 1945 (the correction factor for which for R, RBB and RC is, respectively, zero, effectively over 20 %, and explicitly 11.6 %). It is shown that for Solar Cycles 18-21, all three sunspot data sequences perform well, but that the fit residuals are lowest and most uniform for RBB. We here use foF2 for those UTs for which R, RBB, and RC all give correlations exceeding 0.99 for intervals both before and after the Waldmeier discontinuity. The error introduced by the Waldmeier discontinuity causes R to underestimate the fitted values based on the foF2 data for 1932-1945 but RBB overestimates them by almost the same factor, implying that the correction for the Waldmeier discontinuity inherent in RBB is too large by a factor of two. Fit residuals are smallest and most uniform for RC and the ionospheric data support the optimum discontinuity multiplicative correction factor derived from the independent Royal Greenwich Observatory (RGO) sunspot group data for the same interval.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:58513
Publisher:Springer Verlag


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