Grand Solar Minimum may lie ahead according to an article in Nature

(Image: NASA)

(Source: ARRL News)

juried research paper in Nature, “Oscillations of the baseline of solar magnetic field and solar irradiance on a millennial timescale,” suggests that a “grand solar minimum” — similar to the legendary “Maunder Minimum” — is approaching, starting as early as next year and lasting for three solar cycles. That would be bad news for HF enthusiasts, who are already struggling with marginal conditions.

As the paper’s abstract explains, “Recently discovered long-term oscillations of the solar background magnetic field associated with double dynamo waves generated in inner and outer layers of the Sun indicate that the solar activity is heading in the next three decades (2019–2055) to a Modern grand minimum similar to Maunder one.”

As propagation buff and contester Frank Donovan, W3LPL, observed, “It’s very uncertain if this forecast is correct, but as usual the forecasts of the next solar cycle are all over the map. Let’s hope these scientists are wrong.”

Click here to read this article via the ARRL News.

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9 thoughts on “Grand Solar Minimum may lie ahead according to an article in Nature

  1. Braden L Glett

    I wonder if there is any way for humans to excite the ionosphere artificially, so that we’re not so dependent on the sun and its whims?

  2. Bill Lee

    And by the way
    An active Sun throughout the Maunder minimum
    J Beer, S Tobias, N Weiss – Solar Physics, 1998 – Springer
    Measurements of 10 Be concentration in the Dye 3 ice core show that magnetic cycles
    persisted throughout the Maunder Minimum, although the Sun’s overall activity was
    drastically reduced and sunspots virtually disappeared. Thus the dates of maxima and …
    Cited by 391 Related articles All 8 versions

  3. Bill Lee

    The 12 page full paper at
    Oscillations of the baseline of solar magnetic feld and solar irradiance on a millennial timescale.

    The DOI, for those using SciHub to download any scientific paper

    A Google Scholar search yields 24,000 papers on the Maunder minium, sorted by Number of Citations,5
    If you use’s clever PoP (Publish or Perish) tool you can get the highest ranked 1000 and sort and explore by year, citation, author, sources, etc. etc. As BibTeX, CSV RTF. And explore the inner citation structures.

  4. 13dka

    If the newfound predictability of such an event turns out to be true in, let’s say 5 years, what would be the impact? Notwithstanding the effect on the climate (predictions are all over the place as well for that), what would that mean for our hobby?

    We already faced little to no signal enhancements through sun activity in the past few years, making the shortwave appear empty to many people in urban environments. It can’t get much worse than this (I hope!). I think the core issue is “SNR”, signals are decreasing and the noise level is ever-increasing at the same time. Man-made local noise has already turned many of us into some kind of nomads, looking for spots that promise better SNRs and we’re dabbling with antennas for ways to improve that even more to squeeze some fun out of the bands.

    I often brag about the great conditions I find at the North Sea shore, in close proximity to the water and I’m aware that this may be a bit annoying, particularly for people who don’t have an opportunity to go on “DXpeditions” all the time. But anyway, a grand minimum is one thing that sounds like ruining the hobby for us but I think the noise is even worse: Now that I’ve gained a few years of experience with that spot, under condx that went downhill at the same time, I find myself thinking “given the lousy condx, this is not bad at all” quite often. All the well-known mechanisms, band openings at certain times varying with the season, the Americas in the evening and VK in the morning, it’s all still there, working and fluctuating as always, albeit with lower signals . Due to the lack of noise, the condx appear better than they probably are.

    To put that some relation, when my interest in the hobby rekindled around 1990, we were right in the middle of cycle 22 and I was living in Hamburg, a 1.8 million people city. I had put up a Fritzel dipole antenna fairly high and my daily routine involved (it still does) checking WWV(H) and some VOLMETs to check the conditions. I remember pretty well that I was kind of disappointed that WWVH never showed up and how weak Ft. Collins or New York/Gander Radio were most of the time, despite high sun activity and the urban QRM still being quite acceptable. Yet I was enjoying myself a lot and even collected some nice QSLs.

    Fast forward almost 30 years into the current barren run of sun activity. Despite the antennas being not that high and not that big anymore, and often only using the whip on my radios at the beach/dike, I hear WWV better and more regularly on 10 and 15 MHz, Gander/NY Radio produces more stable signals with a better SNR, and on many days I can hear at least a hint of WWVH in the morning on 10 MHz, on the few days with a somewhat increased SFI even loud and clear on 15 MHz. I still hear QRP hams on 80 through 20m and there’s even sporadic-E activity on 11 and 10m. While the condx have deteriorated, my conditions have improved, better location with less noise, more sensitive radios, and that sums up to overall improved DX opportunities, even when the condx are way down.

    Admittedly, this is probably not a great time for spectactular QRP contacts or something, and there’s probably little hope to observe little yachts in the Pacific on their 20m nets with their 100W transceivers for a while (like I did around 2000) but since local QRM is chasing us away to quiet remote listening posts anyway and there still will be some increased sun activity every 11 years (even the Maunder minimum had that), this is probably not the end of our hobby, or taking *all* of the fun out of it. Achieving good results will be harder, requires mobility and research but for some this means actually *more* fun. 🙂

    1. Armozel

      For HF mostly it means we’ll need to really bend our ears and an our antennas as it were. For other things it means cosmic rays will hit the Earth with a bit more intensity but it won’t be a big problem. Satellites won’t be in much danger with solar radiation which is a plus. Over all, it’s just a classic six of one, half a dozen of the other situation.

  5. DanH

    Then again, maybe not. It’s a bit like the innumerable studies attributing or disproving health benefits from drinking a daily glass of wine.

    NASA studies are a little different on the subject of future solar cycles. “We expect Solar Cycle 25 will be very similar to Cycle 24: another fairly weak cycle, preceded by a long, deep minimum,” said panel co-chair Lisa Upton, Ph.D., solar physicist with Space Systems Research Corp. “The expectation that Cycle 25 will be comparable in size to Cycle 24 means that the steady decline in solar cycle amplitude, seen from cycles 21-24, has come to an end and that there is no indication that we are currently approaching a Maunder-type minimum in solar activity.”

  6. Andrew

    “However, if you can live to the year 2600, you can then experience the BEST propagation ever!”

    That is, assuming that, by then, we’ll won’t be back to stone age … all in all, we know how the war after the next one will be fought, Einstein knew it too

  7. TomL

    This is Zharkova’s actual presentation on the original research. Clearly says that the Sun’s 4 magnetic fields cancel each other out and this happens on a regular long term cycle.

    This probably has huge consequences based on what happened during the last GSM’s for not just HF frequency propagation but also extreme weather (floods AND droughts), food production, population migrations, etc. Just google the actual historical accounts of Wolf, Sporer, Maunder, and Dalton Grand Solar Minimums.

    However, if you can live to the year 2600, you can then experience the BEST propagation ever! 🙂


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