Amateur Radio News

Scientists Forecast that Solar Cycle 25 Could Actually Be Epic for Ham Radio Operators

While predictions from solar physicists about the fate of Solar Cycle 25 have been categorically tepid up to this point, there may be more than just a ray of hope for Hams still suffering through the tail end of Cycle 24’s less-than-stellar sunspot performance.

This jolt of optimism comes from the recent paper, “Overlapping Magnetic Activity Cycles and the Sunspot Number: Forecasting Sunspot Cycle 25 Amplitude.” Published in late June by Scott W. McIntosh, Sandra C. Chapman, Robert J. Leamon, Ricky Egeland, and Nicholas W. Watkins, the document concludes that “…sunspot cycle 25 will have a magnitude that rivals the top few since records began. This outcome would be in stark contrast to the community consensus estimate of sunspot Cycle 25 magnitude.” The scientists predict “with 95% confidence that the Cycle 25 amplitude will fall between 153 and 305 spots,” and with 68% confidence that the amplitude will be 233 spots.

Why is this important to Amateur Radio enthusiasts? Generally speaking, a dearth of solar activity makes working the bands from 14-28 MHz (20 through 10 meters) and 50 MHz (6 meters) a challenge. More sunspots during a cycle’s solar maximum means better skip propagation, improved DXing, more log books filled with “never-thought-possible” QSOs, and happier Hams.

You can read the highly technical details of how the “Overlapping Magnetic Activity Cycles…” team arrived at their sunnier conclusion about Cycle 25 here. On the opposing side, here’s the latest from the NOAA’s Solar Cycle 25 Prediction Panel, which offered this dimmer view of what lies ahead: Cycle 25 will be much like Cycle 24, with a minimum peak sunspot number of 95 and a maximum of 130.

Will Solar Cycle 25 exceed all expectations or produce the same lackluster results as its predecessor? Only time will tell, but until then, our collective fingers are crossed.

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