Solar Cycle 25 Predictions and Chart | The Old Farmer's Almanac

Solar Cycle 25: Sun's Activity is Higher Than Expected

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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 growing increasingly active. Scientists now forecast that it may reach the peak of its current solar cycle—called the “solar maximum”—as soon as 2024. Here is the latest Solar Cycle 25 prediction from NASA—and how space weather affects life on Earth.

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. The activity of the Sun is associated with the number of sunspots, which are dark regions with heightened solar activity. Learn more about solar cycles.

By the middle of this approximately 11-year cycle, the Sun’s activity will grow very intense and stormy and it will reach its peak or “solar maximum.”  Think of the “solar maximum” like the height of our hurricane system (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 quiet down again until it reaches a “solar minimum” and starts a new 11-year cycle over again.

One of the many reasons why scientists track solar cycles is similar to why we track weather and climate on Earth—because it can be destructive if we don’t plan ahead. Space weather can change the launch of satellites, cause radio blackouts, influence astronaut activity, and affect other industries.

Also, The Old Farmer’s Almanac pays attention to solar science because it’s one of the disciplines employed in the making of our long-range weather predictions. See how The Old Farmer’s Almanac predicts the weather.

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 of 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 Northern Hemisphere and one sunspot in the Southern Hemisphere had the opposite magnetic orientation than sunspots in Solar Cycle 24, meaning that Solar Cycle 25 had started. 

Initially, scientists predicted that Solar Cycle 25 would peak in July 2025.

When Will Solar Cycle 25 End?

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

However, as of June 2023, experts believe the Sun may peak earlier than expected—possibly mid- to late 2024.

Solar Cycle 25 Predictions

Back in 2019, when Solar Cycle 25 began, scientists predicted that this would be a fairly average cycle, perhaps even below average. Here is the forecast from 2019

  • The prior Solar Cycle 24 was the weakest cycle in term of sunspot count in 100 years. Lengthwise, Cycle 24 lasted approximately 11 years, which is average, with the solar maximum occurring in April 2014. 

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

  • As at January 20, 2023, Solar Cycle 25 was already bigger than Solar Cycle 24, with +12% daily sunspots versus the same point into the cycle.

One reason why experts believe that the peak of the solar maximum may now occur by end of 2024 is because 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.

Solar Cycle 25 Sunspot Chart

This chart shows sunspot progression through August, 2023. See the latest chart on NOAA’s website.

Solar Cycle 25 Events

For those interested, here is a shortlist of the more interesting Solar Cycle 25 events which affected us on planet Earth.

Note: C-class flares are smaller flares; M-class flares are moderate; X-class flares are strong. Learn more about sunspots, solar flares, and coronal mass ejections (CMEs).

  • May 2021 introduced the first strong geomagnetic storm for Solar Cycle 25, caused by a CME that erupted on May 9. 
  • July 2021 brought the first X-class flare of the cycle, causing a strong (level 3) radio blackout.
  • October 2021 brought a second X-class flare on October 28, which caused a strong (level 3) radio blackout.
  • November 2021 erupted with a series of CMEs, causing the strongest geomagnetic storm to hit Earth since September 2017. Total days without sunspots was only 18%. The Northern Lights were seen as far south as California. 
  • January 2022 unleashed a series of CMEs which caused Earth’s atmosphere to overheat and caused 38 or 39 Starlink satellites to burn up.
  • April 2022 brought the largest solar flare yet in Solar Cycle 25 (as of March 2023). The X2 flare caused a level 3 radio blackout. 
Aurora on January 9, 2022 in Tromsø Norway. Credit: Credit: Andrei Andritcu. Learn more about the Northern Lights.
  • January 2023 started out with a 9-year high. The month had 144 monthly sunspots (0 days without sunspots), very close topping the Solar Cycle 24 which hit a monthly value of 146 in February 2014.
  • February 2023 brought the largest X-class flare so far in the cycle, a CME-induced magnetic storm, and more than 20 radio blackouts.
  • March 2023 exploded with the fastest CME in the cycle, which could have reached Earth in less than 20 hours; fortunately, Jupiter protected our planet. The end of the month brought the second severe geomagnetic storm (G4) in Solar Cycle 25 which disrupted electrical power in several states.
  • April 2023 brought the third severe geomagnetic storm (G4), following a CME eruption.
  • June 2023 showed increasing activity on the Sun. See below time-lapse of Solar Cycle 25.

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

Tracking Solar Activity

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.

Scientists including everyday citizen scientists will have an amazing opportunity to study the Sun’s behavior during the total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024! See a complete guide to the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse

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

As always, keep track of all things under the Sun with your copy of The Old Farmer’s Almanac!