Solar Physics

, Volume 215, Issue 1, pp 111–126 | Cite as

Does solar flare activity lag behind sunspot activity?

  • M. Temmer
  • A. Veronig
  • A. Hanslmeier


Recently, Wheatland and Litvinenko (2001) have suggested that over the solar cycle both the flaring rate and the magnetic free energy in the corona lag behind the energy supply to the system. To test this model result, we analyzed the evolution of solar flare occurrence with regard to sunspot numbers (as well as sunspot areas), using Hα flare data available for the period 1955–2002, and soft X-ray flare data (GOES 1–8 Å) for the period 1976–2002. For solar cycles 19, 21, and 23, we find a characteristic time lag between flare activity and sunspot activity in the range 10≲τ≲15 months, consistent with the model predictions by Wheatland and Litvinenko (2001). The phenomenon turns out to be more prominent for highly energetic flares. The investigation of solar activity separately for the northern and southern hemisphere allows us to exclude any bias due to overlapping effects from the activity of both hemispheres and confirms the dynamic relevance of the delay phenomenon. Yet, no characteristic time lag τ>0 is found for solar cycles 20 and 22. The finding that in odd-numbered cycles flare activity is statistically delayed with respect to sunspot activity, while in even-numbered cycles it is not, suggests a connection to the 22-year magnetic cycle of the Sun. Further insight into the connection to the 22-year magnetic cycle could possibly be gained when a 22-year variation in the energy supply rate is taken into account in the Wheatland and Litvinenko (2001) model. The existence of a 22-year modulation in the energy supply rate is suggested by the empirical Gnevyshev – Ohl rule, and might be caused by a relic solar field.


Flare Solar Cycle Solar Flare Sunspot Number Sunspot Activity 
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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Temmer
    • 1
  • A. Veronig
    • 1
    • 2
  • A. Hanslmeier
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute for Geophysics, Astrophysics and MeteorologyUniversity of GrazGrazAustria
  2. 2.Institute for Geophysics, Astrophysics and MeteorologyUniversity of GrazGrazAustria

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