Solar Flares: Solar Maximum Expected To Occur In May

Tara Dodrill

Solar flares have been predicted to be stronger in 2013 due to the Sun reaching the peak of its 11-year cycle. A scientific panel recently noted that the Sun is currently experiencing its "deepest minimum" in almost 100 years. The researchers also indicated that the next solar maximum may occur in May. If expectations are accurate, solar flares which are weak now, could intensify as we head closer toward the summer months.

So far in 2013, solar activity has remained relatively low, News reports. Sunspots have also been below average values since 2011. The lack of solar flare activity has reportedly prompted some solar storm observers to ponder about the accuracy of scientific forecasts.

Goddard Space Flight Center solar physicist Dean Pesnell had this to say about 2013 solar flares:

"This is the solar maximum. But it looks different from what we expected because its double peaked. The last two solar maxima, around 1989 and 2001, had not one but two peaks. I am comfortable in saying that another peak will happen in 2013 and possibly last in 2014."

Solar activity traditionally swings like a pendulum back and forth. At one point in the cycle are a minor number of sunspots and solar flares. The other end of the solar storm pendulum boasts increased activity. The cycle encompasses and 11-year period. Solar maxima during any given cycle can reportedly be very strong, very weak, or somewhere in between.

The hemispheres of the Sun do not always enter the peak period at the same time. The southern hemisphere of the Sun is reportedly "lagging" behind the northern region at this time. If a second peak occurs, scientists anticipate the solar flares will be the result of the southern hemisphere "playing catch-up." In such a scenario, the solar activity will likely be south of the Sun's equator.

An excerpt from the NOAA/NASA Solar Cycle Prediction Panel's findings reads:

"The Solar Cycle 24 Prediction Panel has reached a consensus. The panel has decided that the next solar cycle will be below average in intensity, with a solar maximum sunspot number of 90. Given the date of solar minimum and the predicted maximum intensity, solar maximum is now expected to occur in May 2013."

The solar flare panel findings were reached by a "supermajority" and not a unanimous decision. If the most recent predictions of the solar storm researchers hold true, the end of 2013 could bring a lot more solar activity than the beginning.