The current solar cycle (solar cycle 24) has confounded many observers, perhaps even the NOAA Solar Cycle Prediction Panel who had come to a consensus that the solar cycle presently underway would peak sometime during early 2013.
In fact, the current prediction model for this month of January, 2011, has it packed with between 50 and 55 new sunspots. The problem is… where are all the sunspots?
During early 2010 and again during mid 2010, it appeared as though the sunspot activity was rapidly increasing, even to the point of catching up with the current NOAA prediction model. During the last 4 months however, the sunspot activity has dramatically diminished.
Records indicate that only 14 sunspots (plus or minus depending on the chosen database) appeared during December 2010, while January 2011 has only produced 9 sunspots as of this writing (more than half way through the month), only 16 percent of expected!
Sunspot number prediction from http://solarscience.msfc.nasa.gov
There is a lag effect with the cause-and-effect of low sunspot numbers and cool weather. That affect, coupled with the current ‘La Nina’ underway in the equatorial Pacific ocean – affecting North America with colder weather this January, could be signaling a very cool Spring and Summer of 2011.
Time will tell of course, but if this becomes reality, it could badly affect the already dangerous situation of the current world food supply disruption from recent weather-related damaged crops (Russia, Australia, Brazil, Pakistan…).
This weather related food crop damage coupled with the specter of higher inflation, all point towards much higher food prices in our future.