In the lead up to the solar maximum the sun’s magnetic field lines get tangled up, which generates more sunspots, solar flares and coronal mass ejections. (Image credit: NASA/SDO/AIA/LMSAL) 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.