Well 2008 arrived last night and Sunspot Cycle 24 was absent. While we had a flurry of excitement a few week ago when a patch of reverse polarity showed on the Suns surface it soon faded. The Sun reverses polarity with each cycle change. As we have discussed in the past the length of the roughly 11-year sunspot cycle is correlated with temperature and a late arriving cycle can have some long term climate implications for us folks here on Earth.
The Cycle 23 solar minimum was at 1996.5, so with an average 11 year cycle we should have seen the new minimum in mid-2007. Here we are in 2008 and the next cycle is already six months late, and the defining minimum generally occurs 12-20 months after the first spot of the new cycle. This would indicate the ending minimum of Cycle 23 and the start of Cycle 24 will come in mid 2009, resulting in a 13 year cycle, the longest since 1784-1797. Interesting to note that this cycle started a long series - 13.6, 12.3, 12.7 years, which coincided with the cold period known as the Dalton Minimum. Stay tuned, these are going to be interesting times. Sun cycles indicate cooling and the politicians are trying stop global warming. We may need a little extra warming over the next thirty years.