For how long will the current grand maximum of solar activity persist?
Article first published online: 30 OCT 2008
Copyright 2008 by the American Geophysical Union.
Geophysical Research Letters
Volume 35, Issue 20, October 2008
How to Cite
2008), For how long will the current grand maximum of solar activity persist? Geophys. Res. Lett., 35, L20109, doi:10.1029/2008GL035442., , , , and (
- Issue published online: 30 OCT 2008
- Article first published online: 30 OCT 2008
- Manuscript Accepted: 30 SEP 2008
- Manuscript Revised: 26 SEP 2008
- Manuscript Received: 7 AUG 2008
- grand maxima;
- solar activity
 Understanding the Sun's magnetic activity is important because of its impact on the Earth's environment. The sunspot record since 1610 shows irregular 11-year cycles of activity; they are modulated on longer timescales and were interrupted by the Maunder minimum in the 17th century. Future behavior cannot easily be predicted – even in the short-term. Recent activity has been abnormally high for at least 8 cycles: is this grand maximum likely to terminate soon or even to be followed by another (Maunder-like) grand minimum? To answer these questions we use, as a measure of the Sun's open magnetic field, a composite record of the solar modulation function Φ, reconstructed principally from the proxy record of cosmogenic 10Be abundances in the GRIP icecore from Greenland. This Φ record extends back for almost 10,000 years, showing many grand maxima and grand minima (defined as intervals when Φ is within the top or bottom 20% of a Gaussian distribution). We carry out a statistical analysis of this record and calculate the life expectancy of the current grand maximum. We find that it is only expected to last for a further 15–36 years, with the more reliable methods yielding shorter expectancies, and we therefore predict a decline in solar activity within the next two or three cycles. We are not able, however, to predict the level of the ensuing minimum.