Friday, April 5th 2013, 6:41 AM EDT
The current prediction for Sunspot Cycle 24 gives a smoothed sunspot number maximum of about 66 in the Fall of 2013. The smoothed sunspot number has already reached 67 (in February 2012) due to the strong peak in late 2011 so the official maximum will be at least this high and this late. We are currently over four years into Cycle 24. The current predicted and observed size makes this the smallest sunspot cycle since Cycle 14 which had a maximum of 64.2 in February of 1906.
Predicting the behavior of a sunspot cycle is fairly reliable once the cycle is well underway (about 3 years after the minimum in sunspot number occurs [see Hathaway, Wilson, and Reichmann Solar Physics; 151, 177 (1994)]). Prior to that time the predictions are less reliable but nonetheless equally as important. Planning for satellite orbits and space missions often require knowledge of solar activity levels years in advance.
CLICK to see ALL forecasts on Solar Cycle 24 from David Hathaway and NASA made so far, they all point to a very low average Sunspot number and the peak being in the fall of this year, time will tell if this forecast is correct....more to follow