By John Rhodes
, 1997


As a forward, I wish to point out some relevant facts. By all indications, our sun in about to undergo major disturbances the likes of which have scientists excited and satellite owners worried beyond belief. According to all data reviewed to date, between now and the year 2003, we can expect increased lightening activity, thunderstorms, possible continent wide power black outs, weather shifts and even magnificent auroral displays ("signs in the sky".) 

Satellites may be killed by approaching  waves of highly charges particles. Communications (military, aviation, oceanic, television etc.) could  be disrupted for an unknown period of time. Other phenomena that is associated with solar flare activity will occur that could, in ways not immediately noticeable, effect each and every one of on the surface. Those people that are fortunate enough to be in an underground habitat, like FEMA, NORAD, etc. will be safe and secure from any disruptions. Everybody else, however, may have to fend for themselves if things get really bad. 

The following is quoted directly from the Solar Web Site (July 4, 1997) Listed as: All comments of researcher John Rhodes are in WHITE text. This author has increased the font size and bold typed important quoted material.

Solar Cycle Status Report


Everyone now agrees that we have finally observed the birth of solar cycle 23.  We have probably been immersed within this new cycle for some time.  According to sunspots, the minimum occurred in May 1996 with an as yet unofficial smoothed sunspot number of 8.1. Since then, we have observed a steady increase in the number of new-cycle sunspots having the proper new-cycle magnetic polarities.  At the time of this writing, most of the new sunspots which are appearing are new-cycle spots.

According to the number of days in which no sunspots appeared, the cycle minimum (or maximum number of spotless days) occurred in October 1996 when there were 26 spotless days.  This month also corresponds with the lowest monthly observed sunspot number of 2.3 (reported by SEC) and 1.8 (according to the International Relative Sunspot Number [RI]).

In addition, butterfly plots showing the emergence of new solar sunspot regions according to solar latitude indicates a clear separation in formation latitudes from old cycle 22 and new cycle 23.  There are also many other parameters which have shown that new cycle 23 is now firmly in-progress.

This conclusion is a mixed-blessing for industry.

Radio communicators can now begin to look forward to an increasingly productive reign of ionospheric radio communications.  In fact, higher-band high-frequency (HF) radio communications are already beginning to be observed.  By July of 1998 (within the next 12 months), the observed sunspot number should almost triple in magnitude from a current predicted smoothed value of 40 for June 1997 (predicted through regression methods) to 109 (plus or minus 25) by July 1998.  This will substantially increase the strength of the ionosphere.  The next year will therefore be an exciting one for radio communicators.


The predicted smoothed sunspot number over the next 9 years is predicted to follow this pattern:

Year Jan  Feb Mar Apr  May  Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
1997  019 022 027 030 034 040 044 050 054 060 066 071
1998 077 082* 088 093 099 103 109 113 119  123  128 131
1999 136 139 142 146 148 151  153 154 156 157 158 159
2000 160 160 160 160 159 158 157 156 155 154  152 150
2001 148 146 142 140  137  134 131 128 124 121 118 114
2002 111 107 103 100 097 093 089 086 082 079 076 072
2003  069 066 062  060  057 053 051 048 046 043  041 039
2004  036 034  032 030  028 027 024 023 021  020 109 017
2005 016 014 013 012 012 011 010  009 009 008 *** ***

* Feb. 26, 1998 Solar Eclipse  

(Note: These are the highest figures listed. Will  planetary alignment increase effects?)                         

   The predicted smoothed 10.7 cm solar radio flux values over the next 9 years is predicted to follow this pattern:

Year Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
1997 077 080 084 087 091 096 100 105 109 114 119 124
1998 129 134 139 144 149 153 158 162 167 171 175 178
1999 182 185 188 191 193 196 198 199 201 202 203 204
2000 205 205 205 205 204 203 202 201 200 199 197 195
2001 193 191 188 186 183 181 178 175 172 169 166 163
2002 160 156 153 150 147 144 140 137 134 131 128 125
2003 122 119 116 114 111 108 106 103 101 099 097 095
2004 092 091 089 087 085 084 082 081 079 078 077 075
2005 074 073 072 071 071 070 069 068 068 67 0 ***


Satellite operators and users of satellite technology are less impressed with the onset of this new cycle of activity.  The increased number of sunspots implies an attendant increase in the number of solar flares capable of spewing out particles that can charge and damage sensitive electronic componentsThe number of associated Earth-directed coronal mass ejections will also increase.  This all means that users and owners of satellite technology will have to be increasingly aware of potential Earth-bound interplanetary disturbances.  The death of the Telstar 401 satellite has been unofficially attributed to the arrival of such a disturbance, combined with the effects of higher-than-normal densities of energetically charged electrons. That particular interplanetary disturbance was about the size of a mouse when you think of what is yet to come over the next 4 to 6 years.

The largest interplanetary disturbances which we will observe during solar cycle 23 may be closer in size to an elephant than the small mouse we observed that may have contributed to the sudden death of Telstar 401The overwhelming message which should be sent to users of satellite technology during this new solar cycle is....

"be cautious."

 Electrical hydro operators have enjoyed several years of quiet conditions.  Nothing similar in magnitude to the events of March 1989 have been observed, where almost the entire electrical grid of electricity supplied to the province of Quebec collapsed within less than 2 minutes due to powerful electrical currents that were induced into Hydro Quebec's electrical power lines during one of the strongest geomagnetic storms on record.  Since most of the electrical power lines and companies interconnect their lines, this outage had impacts all across North America.  The additional load drawn from other power companies to compensate for the loss observed during the Quebec blackout brought many other power companies close to similar failure conditions.  If the situation was slightly worse, other blackouts across North America could have been observed - possibly making this a much larger continent-wide type of power blackout instead of a relatively localized province-wide Quebec blackout.

(Note: "Continent -wide type of power blackout"  =  No alarm systems, no lights, no traffic signals etc. This will entice rioting, theft and total disorder in the inner cities. If the grid isn't put online ASAP, the government would HAVE to put troops on the streets to control the chaotic situations. The worse fears of the "paranoid" like us would  become a reality.)  

     Oak Ridge National Laboratory studied the effects that a geomagnetic storm might have on the U.S. economy if the storm was only slightly larger than the one observed in March 1989.  Their estimate of the impact of such a disturbance to the Gross Domestic Product alone put total economic costs in  the U.S. in the $3 to $6 BILLION dollar range!  This assessment, along with reviews conducted by the North American Electric Reliability Council placed  the 1989 and 1991 geomagnetic storm events in a category equivalent to hurricane Hugo and the San Fransisco earthquake in its relative impact to the reliability of the electric power grids in North America.  That's a sobering thought for hydro operators and everyone reliant upon electricity!

(Remarks: If a geomagnetic storm, only slightly stronger than that of 1989, cost approximately 6 BILLION dollars in damage, what would the predicted  23rd solar cycle flares and coronal discharges cost the nation? What effects would strong storms have on the Power grid? I tend not to be an alarmist, but I do suggest that people PREPARE for the worst case scenario! GET A GENERATOR AND FOOD SUPPLIES etc. [there may be a run on what few supermarkets are open and ATM machines would most likely be shut down due to satellite failures, so store small $bills e.g. 5's, 10's, 20',s])

     The ability to predict conditions conducive to such large storm events will receive a considerable boost later this year when NASA's ACE satellite (Advanced Composition Explorer) is due to be launched.  This satellite will provide near-continuous sampling of the space environment upstream of the Earth.  It will provide as much as about 60 minutes of lead-time to the arrival of disturbances at the Earth.  This should be sufficient time to allow hydro operators to prepare and watch for the damaging conditions that can follow interplanetary disturbances.

(Note: How can we access this down linked information? Is there anybody out there that can figure out how we can monitor this  "Advanced Composition Explorer" data link, so we will call out a 60 minute alarm also? If anybody reading this knows how we can listen and interpret the incoming data from this satellite, please contact us with the information. )

     Predictions of geomagnetic activity show that the number of minor, major and severe geomagnetic storms will steadily increase.  The year with the maximum number of minor storm days is expected in the year 2005 during the decline of solar cycle 23 when the occurrence frequency of geoeffective coronal holes will reach a maximum.  Over 40 minor storm days are expected in the year 2005.  During the solar maximum year of 2000, coronal mass ejection induced minor storms  should number at about 30 during the year.  This is more than double the number of minor storm days expected during 1997. Major geomagnetic storming is expected to peak in the years between 1999 and 2002. Severe geomagnetic storming, which is very difficult to predict, should peak in frequency between the years 1999 and 2005 with the preferred year of peak severe storm frequency being 2002.

     People interested in observing aurora's will be happy to know that we are well on our way to seeing larger events. Over the next 3 to 6 years, we will see many very significant auroral displays that should cover much of the U.S. and all of Canada.  Activity observed during the last 3 years has been very miniscule compared to the events we can expect to observe during this new cycle.  The largest of these events should be sufficiently intense to produce visible auroral activity from as far south as Florida!  Although this is horrendous news for satellite users, radio communicators, navigators, surveyors and others, it is exciting news for those who love to watch for these awesomely powerful atmospheric displays of activity.

     The frequency and magnitude of solar flares is also expected to increase considerably over the next 3 to 6 years. Over the last few years, most of the solar flares we have observed have been very small and insignificant.  As we approach the new millenium, the influence and power output of solar flares could increase by several orders of magnitude. The largest solar flares of this new solar cycle will almost certainly be at least 10,000 times more powerful than the majority of smaller flares we have observed over the last couple of years. These rogue flares could begin to be observed as early as 1998 with a peak expected in the years between 1999 and 2003.

     Broken down, the number of M-class flares observed during an entire year should follow a pattern similar to this:

1997      1998      1999      2000      2001      2002      2003      2004
 15           40         220        530       370        540

     The number of X-class flares observed during an entire year should behave similar to this:

1997      1998      1999      2000      2001      2002      2003      2004
  1              5          15          40          30          50

     Major proton flare events capable of increasing proton densities in the near-Earth space environment are expected to reach a maximum between the years 1999 and 2003 with a double-maximum predicted for the years 2000 and 2002.  The number of predicted solar proton events is expected to increase slightly in 1998 and then more than triple between 1998 and 1999.  There could be a fairly copious number of solar proton events during cycle 23.  Estimates range from about 8 to as high as about 16 per year during the years of maximum proton flaring.

     These are just a few of the events we can expect to observe during this new solar cycle.

The new millennium should be ushered in a BANG!

Periods of solar activity will be observed that will be capable of literally shaking space!


(Authors Remarks: To help accommodate the increased demand for information during solar cycle 23, we have redesigned our web pages to serve more as a central hub for information.  Everything from current solar and geophysical indices to current auroral activity sighting reports, daily reports, alerts and  warnings, and much more can now be found at: )

**  End of Cycle Status Report  **

SEE ALSO: Effects of Solar Shock Waves On Biological Systems.