Low Solar Activity – The Beginning Of A New Era?

Today an announcement was made at the annual meeting of the Solar Physics Division of the American Astronomical Society, which is being held this week at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. I’m going to directly quote today’s article on Space.com:

“Some unusual solar readings, including fading sunspots and weakening magnetic activity near the poles, could be indications that our sun is preparing to be less active in the coming years.The results of three separate studies seem to show that even as the current sunspot cycle swells towards the solar maximum, the sun could be heading into a more-dormant period, with activity during the next 11-year sunspot cycle greatly reduced or even eliminated.”

They’re saying that the next solar cycle, cycle 25, may not even happen at all.

Say what? Did I hear that correctly? Can you say that again please?

They’re saying that the next solar cycle, cycle 25, may not even happen at all.


As a 14 year-old teenager growing up in a village in England, I remember sitting in front of G4DSE’s beautiful Drake station. He had a cubical quad on a tower in the field behind his house. This would have been in late 1977 or early 1978, during cycle 21.  I don’t remember what band he was on, but I do distinctly recall him putting me on the microphone and letting me chat to a teenager in California.  The west coast. Wow. Amateur radio was truly wonderful! More recently during cycle 23, the FT-817, Buddipole and myself were able to work all over the globe with just 5 watts. Now with this news that we may be heading into a lengthy period of much-diminished solar activity, it means that I may never get to see a really good sunspot peak again.

Now I realize that all is not lost.  I know that things still happen on HF (particularly the lower bands) during periods of low sunspot activity. I know that all the weird and wonderful modes of propagation on the VHF bands are still in effect (a lot of folk have been having a ball on 6M recently) and there are incredible opportunities to do great things such as moonbounce (even more accessible now thanks to Joe Taylor’s JT-65 software).

The thing is that my view of ham radio is heavily HF-oriented. The HF bands are, for me, the mainstay of amateur radio. Those early memories watching local amateurs work the world with ease (and later doing so myself) are a core part of my amateur radio experience.

Now how can I get myself a 3 element beam and 1500W on 80M…..?

2 thoughts on “Low Solar Activity – The Beginning Of A New Era?

  1. I think you made the most salient point … if this comes to pass as predicted, and that’s a big “if”, but if it does, then amateur radio will become much less “HF-oriented”.

    A bigger concern is that we have been somewhat lax with respect to the spectrum that we squat on above 2 meters. When faced with band threats at 10GHz or thereabouts I think many of us tend to think to ourselves, “well, at least its not 20 meters so who cares”… We may find that we need all the spectrum we can get on the line-o-sight bands.

    Let’s just say that 20-10 meters becomes unusable for large chunks of time. The HF focus would shift entirely to 30-160 meters which means there would be considerable advantage for those who have more real estate than just a city lot – or less. And winter time would trump summer – night time would trump the day. This alone would require certain adjustments…

    I would think that “compact” antennas and portable excursions where we used to just toss a short wire over a tree branch would be impacted.

    It would require that we re-focus on other spectrum, operating times, and practices to a larger degree than we do now, that much is certain.

    Hopefully, these researchers will simply be wrong – though I think everyone with an interest in HF must admit that the bands have been in a funk for a long time now and things haven’t been “usual” on HF for at least a cycle and a half – maybe two. But who knows, if a Maunder event triggers another ice age then we may have much bigger worries than putting another DL in the log on 20 meters in the middle of the afternoon!

    73, Jeff KE9V

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