Solar Cycle 25 Predictions
It has been notoriously hard to predict future solar cycles, but the science is improving all the time. Right now, the experts are predicting that solar cycle 25 will be very small indeed. Some think we are moving towards another Maunder Minimum when solar sunspots all but vanish for around 50 years. If so, most of us alive now will never experience “good” HF conditions ever again in our lifetimes. Experts can be wrong!
See http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/01/25/first-estimate-of-solar-cycle-25-amplitudesmallest-in-over-300-years/ .
On a positive note, poor solar activity often means the lower frequency bands are better. With some luck, we may have a new international contiguous band at 60m in a few years’ time. This depends on WRC2015.
Regarding cycle 24, it looks like the peak was Feb 2014.
See http://www.solen.info/solar/ .
Actually, best guess projections appear to indicate a “Clark [type] Minimum” which lasted about 40 years. Unfortunately, the majority of these minimums was accompanied by world-wide drops in temperatures but it’s highly unlikely that we will experience the “little Ice Age” phenomena of 1550-1850.
Thanks to science (and radiocarbon testing), we have been able to map every one of the named minimums with their approximate start and end years and affects on global temperatures fairly accurately from 1010 CE on.
If accurate this is depressing since I doubt that momentum will exist after 40 years to reestablish DX nets on 20, participate in HF contests, and the like. Possibly not much hardware will even exist then–antennas could be rare. It could help satellite communications and VHF/UHF, but darn it, that’s not the same as the fun of getting up real early and working an expedition in the Antipodes. Hopefully in the worst case we can limp along with some DXing till then.
Actually, this should spur on the development of weak-signal digital modes including ones for voice. In fact, most IARU countries only restrict Hams by band-width and not symbol (data rate) on HF and amazing things are being done with digital modes and SDRs receivers and software to go with the increasingly powerful computers. We are dong “stuff” now that we couldn’t do 10 or 20 years ago and the solar cycle be damned.
Adversity is the mother of invention, and if NASA can still communicate with the
Voyager probes billions and billions of kilometers from home (http://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/where), I don’t think that future Hams should have any problems communication at a lesser distance using technology that’s 50 years more advanced if we do enter a prolonged solar minimum. It’s like the difference between year 1900 Spark gap and year 1950 SSB.
IMHO, digital (HF) voice and data modes and SDRs are the only way to go and it’s about time we get rid of those 20th century analog transceivers and transmission modes! So, imagine what “they” will have and use in year 2050. “Solar cycle?! We don’t need no steenkin’ solar cycle!”
What about the almost complete absence of D-layer absorption. Could this lead to 160, 80 or 40 sounding more like 20, 15 and 10? I well recall the year-long dead quiet sun of the recent minimum producing nothing but Europeans on 160m from the west coast….night after night like clockwork….this after hearing just one or two Europeans , ever before. There might be some positives to a quiet sun.