Solar Physics

, Volume 151, Issue 1, pp 177–190 | Cite as

The shape of the sunspot cycle

  • David H. Hathaway
  • Robert M. Wilson
  • Edwin J. Reichmann


The temporal behavior of a sunspot cycle, as described by the International sunspot numbers, can be represented by a simple function with four parameters: starting time, amplitude, rise time, and asymmetry. Of these, the parameter that governs the asymmetry between the rise to maximum and the fall to minimum is found to vary little from cycle to cycle and can be fixed at a single value for all cycles. A close relationship is found between rise time and amplitude which allows for a representation of each cycle by a function containing only two parameters: the starting time and the amplitude. These parameters are determined for the previous 22 sunspot cycles and examined for any predictable behavior. A weak correlation is found between the amplitude of a cycle and the length of the previous cycle. This allows for an estimate of the amplitude accurate to within about 30% right at the start of the cycle. As the cycle progresses, the amplitude can be better determined to within 20% at 30 months and to within 10% at 42 months into the cycle, thereby providing a good prediction both for the timing and size of sunspot maximum and for the behavior of the remaining 7–12 years of the cycle.


Solar Phys Sunspot Number Previous Cycle Sunspot Cycle Solar Dynamo 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • David H. Hathaway
    • 1
  • Robert M. Wilson
    • 1
  • Edwin J. Reichmann
    • 1
  1. 1.Space Science LaboratoryNASA Marshall Space Flight CenterHuntsvilleUSA

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