Solar Cycle 25: Solar Maximum Is Predicted in 2024–2025

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Image of Sun at solar minimum
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The Latest Updates and Predictions for Solar Cycle 25

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The Sun is gaining strength as it nears the peak of its 11-year cycle, and the solar maximum is on the horizon! Get ready for more northern lights and an especially dramatic total solar eclipse. Here’s a quick update on Solar Cycle 25—and why this all matters.

What Is Solar Cycle 25?

We’ve now entered Solar Cycle 25, which is the 25th cycle of the Sun since record-keeping began in 1755.  The Sun goes through warming and cooling cycles every 11 years or so, which is driven by its magnetic field and the number and intensity of sunspots on its surface.

By the middle of this approximately 11-year cycle, the Sun’s activity grows very intense and stormy, leading to its peak or “solar maximum.” Think of the “solar maximum” activity as being similar to when a hurricane season is at its peak (except that the Sun’s storms last a few years!).

At this solar maximum, the magnetic north and south poles flip. Then, the Sun’s activity will begin to quiet down again until it reaches a “solar minimum” and starts a new 11-year cycle all over again.

Learn more about solar cycles.

Why Solar Activity Matters!

One of the many reasons that scientists track solar cycles is the same as why we track weather and climate on Earth.

  • Space weather can be destructive if we don’t plan. Intense solar storms can change the launch of satellites, cause radio blackouts, influence astronaut activity, and affect other industries.
  • On the positive end, Northern lights (aurora borealis) will be much more common and be seen further south! The Northern lights are dependent on solar activity. They are triggered when energized particles from the Sun’s solar winds slam into Earth’s magnetic fields, creating colorful, florescent, shimmering lights. Read more about where to see the Northern lights
  • With the total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024, a more active Sun may also provide new opportunities for studying the corona (the Sun’s upper atmosphere) to see the “streamers” or bright streaks of charged particles that the Sun ejects into space. See Bob Berman’s Complete Guide to the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse.

When Did Solar Cycle 25 Start?

According to the Solar Cycle 25 Prediction Panel, an international group of experts co-sponsored by NASA and NOAA, the new Solar Cycle 25 began in December 2019.

  • In 2019, 274 days went by without sunspots, the highest number of spotless days since 1913. Leading up to December, the Sun showed signs that its poles were going to reverse magnetic polarity.

At the end of December, two reversed-polarity sunspots appeared. One sunspot in the Sun’s northern hemisphere and one in its southern hemisphere had magnetic orientations opposite from those in similar locations during the preceding Solar Cycle 24, meaning that Solar Cycle 25 had started. 

When Will Solar Cycle 25 End?

Initially, Solar Cycle 25 was predicted to end around 2030. Scientists forecasted that it would peak, or reach the solar maximum, around July 2025  (+/- 8 months).

NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) estimates the peak between late 2024 and early 2026. 

However, as of June 2023, experts began to believe that solar maximum could occur earlier than expected— between mid-2024 and the end of 2025.

Truthfully, we won’t know the official solar maximum until well after it occurs by looking at the overall trends in sunspot numbers. Specifically, the maximum is considered by looking at the value of the six months prior as well as the six months following the solar maximum. 

Without the benefit of hindsight, there could be a false peak or some other pattern. 

Aurora on January 9, 2022, in Tromsø, Norway. Credit: Credit: Andrei Andritcu. Learn more about the northern lights.

Solar Cycle 25 Predictions

Back in 2019, when Solar Cycle 25 began, scientists predicted that this would be a fairly weak to average cycle. Here is the forecast from 2019. The prior Solar Cycle 24 had been the weakest cycle in 100 years in terms of sunspot activity. 

However, Solar Cycle 25—which began in December 2019—ramped up much faster than scientists had predicted, producing more sunspots and eruptions than had been forecasted. 

  • By January 20, 2023, Solar Cycle 25 had already become bigger than Solar Cycle 24 had been at the same point in the cycle, with 12% more daily sunspots.

By October 2023, NOAA was predicting a quicker, stronger solar cycle, with the peak coming by the end of 2024. One reason for this adjustment is that scientists have developed additional ways to track solar activity.

  • While sunspot counts are the main way to track solar cycle prediction, some researchers have also focused on tracking the magnetic activity that leads to sunspots, which provides information for a total picture and may lead to better forecasting.

Tracking Solar Activity

To keep track of Solar Cycle 25, see the NASA blog with monthly updates.

Teams at the Space Weather Prediction Center track solar activity and provide alerts in case Earth’s communications, satellites, power grids, and flight activity could be disrupted. To learn more, visit NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center.

Image: The TIMED satellite monitoring the temperature of the upper atmosphere.

Did You Know? The Old Farmer’s Almanac’s famous long-range weather predictions have always considered solar science! Learn how The Old Farmer’s Almanac predicts the weather.

About The Author

Catherine Boeckmann

Catherine Boeckmann loves nature, stargazing, and gardening so it’s not surprising that she and The Old Farmer’s Almanac found each other. She leads digital content for the Almanac website, and is also a certified master gardener in the state of Indiana. Read More from Catherine Boeckmann

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