Has Solar Cycle 25 Already Peaked?

A G2 geomagnetic storm was forecast for the weekend, and it happened — but questions have arisen.

At least one coronal mass ejection (CME) was supposed to hit Earth’s magnetic field on Saturday, Sept 2, however solar wind data show no clear signs of an impact. Whatever the reason for the storm, it sparked strong mid-latitude auroras in the USA.

“Last night was absolutely epic!” said Ethan Hohnke who shot the below photo near Empire, Michigan:

Taken by Ethan Hohnke
 on September 2, 2023 @ Empire, Michigan (45th Parallel)

“Northern lights could be seen dancing over the waters of Lake Michigan before the bright Moon rose,” continued Hohnke. “I was standing near the 45th parallel when I took this picture.”

The lights spread even farther south than that, points out Dr Tony Phillips of spaceweather.com. The red glow of atomic-oxygen auroras were captured in Colorado (+38.9N) and Missouri (+38.6N), as shown below. In these southernmost locales, auroras were not visible to the naked eye, but were easily recorded by cameras with nighttime exposure settings.

Dr Phillips speculates that a CME did arrive on Sept 2, but that its weak impact was masked by an unsettled stream of solar wind already blowing around Earth. At this time of year, even weak CMEs do a good job sparking auroras–a result of the Russell-McPherron effect which boosts geomagnetic activity around the equinoxes.

While a number of Earth-directed sunspots are emerging, activity overall remains low [SDO/HMI]

And so to the crux of this article…

Has Solar Cycle 25 Already Peaked?

Compared to the preceding months, solar activity has fallen off a cliff. Output at the beginning of September is comparable to that of January 2022:

Speculation is rife that the maximum of Solar Cycle 25 is already behind us.

Even if this is the case, the cycle provided an impressive run-up, at least compared to its predecessor, the historically weak Solar Cycle 24 (the weakest cycle in more than a century) — the moving average of SC25 reached 117.9 in June, thus surpassing the maximum of SC24, the 116.4 recorded in April 2014.

Solar Cycles 24 and 25 [SWPC/NOAA]

While it is unlikely the max has been reached –not least because the inertial moving average will likely nudged SC25’s curve up a little further– it is certainly possible that the cycle has effectively topped.

We have many examples of solar cycles achieving their maxes early, such as cycles 15 and 18:

Solar Cycle 15
Solar Cycle 18

What is known is that solar activity has plunged of late.

Has Solar Cycle 25 peaked?

Time will tell.

I, personally, am hoping not.

Solar Cycle 26 is where I’ve long contended the chill of solar minimum gets underway, where the next ‘Grand Solar Minimum’ officially commences with all the struggles, strife and hardships such a period delivers, as per the historical documentation.

For us to already find ourselves on the downward-slope of SC25, well, that’s a concerning prospect.

Stay tuned for updates.

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