Is this an unusually active solar cycle?

Solar Cycle 25 is underway and the increased activity on the sun is responsible for geomagnetic storms causing the northern lights to be visible much further south than normal.

But is the activity we’re seeing unusual?

The National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service (NOAA) said Solar Cycle 25 has ramped up faster than scientists predicted, producing more sunspots and eruptions than expected. However, overall the cycle is expected to be average compared to other solar cycles in the past century, according to NOAA.

Animation from Northern Lights seen over Wisconsin in April 2023
Animation from Northern Lights seen over Wisconsin in April 2023(From original video submitted to WBAY)

“The timeless progression of the solar cycle marches on. Although the Sun is no more active than in previous generations, our society has changed,” said Dr. Mark Miesch, a scientist working with NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center. “With our increasing reliance on electric power, global telecommunications, satellite navigation and aviation, we are more sensitive than ever to the Sun’s changing moods. Stay tuned for more fireworks as we approach yet another solar maximum in 2024.”

Solar Cycle 25 began in December 2019 and is expected to peak between mid-2024 and 2025.

The timelapse above, created by NOAA, shows solar activity ramping up throughout the cycle.

On March 23, 2023, solar activity caused a G5 storm, the largest severe geomagnetic storm in approximately six years, allowing nearly half of the U.S. to see the aurora borealis. On April 21, a coronal mass ejection erupted form the sun causing a severe G4 geomagnetic storm.