Solar Physics

, Volume 291, Issue 6, pp 1711–1738 | Cite as

Flaring Rates and the Evolution of Sunspot Group McIntosh Classifications

  • Aoife E. McCloskeyEmail author
  • Peter T. Gallagher
  • D. Shaun Bloomfield


Sunspot groups are the main source of solar flares, with the energy to power them being supplied by magnetic-field evolution (e.g. flux emergence or twisting/shearing). To date, few studies have investigated the statistical relation between sunspot-group evolution and flaring, with none considering evolution in the McIntosh classification scheme. Here we present a statistical analysis of sunspot groups from Solar Cycle 22, focusing on 24-hour changes in the three McIntosh classification components. Evolution-dependent \(\ge \mathrm{C}1.0\), \(\ge \mathrm{M}1.0\), and \(\ge \mathrm{X}1.0\) flaring rates are calculated, leading to the following results: i) flaring rates become increasingly higher for greater degrees of upward evolution through the McIntosh classes, with the opposite found for downward evolution; ii) the highest flaring rates are found for upward evolution from larger, more complex, classes (e.g. Zurich D- and E-classes evolving upward to F-class produce \(\ge \mathrm{C}1.0\) rates of \(2.66\pm 0.28\) and \(2.31 \pm 0.09\) flares per 24 hours, respectively); iii) increasingly complex classes give higher rates for all flare magnitudes, even when sunspot groups do not evolve over 24 hours. These results support the hypothesis that injection of magnetic energy by flux emergence (i.e. increasing in Zurich or compactness classes) leads to a higher frequency and magnitude of flaring.


Active regions, structure Flares, forecasting Flares, relation to magnetic field Sunspots, magnetic fields Sunspots, statistics 



The authors thank Chris Balch (NOAA/SWPC) for providing the data used in this research. A.E. McCloskey was supported by an Irish Research Council Government of Ireland Postgraduate Scholarship, while D.S. Bloomfield was supported by the European Space Agency PRODEX Programme as well as the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 640216 (FLARECAST project).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Physics, Trinity College DublinCollege GreenDublin 2Ireland

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