Solar Cycle 25 has been underway since April 2019. Ever since the cycle began, the sun has become more active, unleashing solar flares, coronal mass ejections, and geomagnetic storms, with at least one scientist warning solar maximum could arrive ahead of schedule, and that's not great news for the digital economy here on Earth.
The current solar cycle has a forecasted peak sometime in 2025. In December 2022, the total number of sunspots was at its highest in eight years, indicating solar activity was ramping up. Earlier this year, scientists observed twice as many sunspots -- red flags that solar maximum could be nearing.
Another indication of increased solar activity is the number and intensity of solar flares:
In 2022, there were fivefold more C-class and M-class solar flares than there were in 2021, and year on year, the number of the most powerful, X-class solar flares is also increasing, according to SpaceWeatherLive.com. The first half of 2023 logged more X-class flares than in all of 2022, and at least one has directly hit Earth. (Solar flare classes include A, B, C, M and X, with each class being at least 10 times more powerful than the previous one.) -- Live Science
Over the years, we've explained solar flares can spark geomagnetic storms and cause disruptions to satellites and even power grids.
Risks Solar Storms Pose On Modern Economy
What's concerning is a solar physicist at the University of College London, Alex James, told Live Science that the sun's increase in solar activity is a warning sign the solar maximum could arrive by the end of this year. He said the initial forecast was for 2025.
All this evidence suggests that Solar Cycle 25 is "going to peak earlier, and it's going to peak higher than expected," James said.
Other solar physicists have told the science publication very similar forecasts. They warned: "We are poorly prepared."
The federal government became increasingly serious about potential grid-down events produced by solar storms with a 2016 executive order signed by the Obama Administration titled "Coordinating Efforts to Prepare the Nation for Space Weather Events."
And remember, "Solar Storms Can Devastate Entire Civilizations."