Tuesday, June 12, 2012

WORLD WAR III: The Syrian Passage to Iran and the Countdown to Armageddon - It Begins, Secretary Clinton Says Russia is Sending Attack Helicopters to Syria!

Russia is shipping attack helicopters to Syria’s Assad regime that is fighting to defeat a 15-monthlong uprising, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.  “We are concerned by the latest information we have that there are attack helicopters on the way from Russia to Syria, which will escalate the conflict quite dramatically,” Clinton said at a conference today in Washington. 

Annan has said Syria risks 'all-out civil war' if there is no pressure to abide by his six-point plan.
Pentagon spokesman Captain John Kirby said he couldn’t confirm Clinton’s information, although “we know that they are using helicopter gunships now to attack their own people.” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland declined to disclose the source of Clinton’s information or to elaborate on it.  In Syria, there are signs that government forces have been massing in the past day or two around Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and financial center, Clinton said.  “That could very well be a red line for the Turks in terms of their strategic and national interests,” she said. “We are watching this very carefully.”  Clinton said the U.S. supports the efforts by United Nations-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan to form a group of nations that includes Russia to develop a “road map for political transition” in Syria. 

While Russia has advocated including Iran in talks about a Syrian transition, Clinton said that would be a “grave error” because Iran has trained and supported both Syrian government forces and militias blamed for civilian massacres.  Clinton said the U.S. has a time line to see if Annan can be successful in efforts to quell the violence and initiate a shift that removes Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power.  The “outer limit” is mid-July, when the UN Security Council is to consider whether to extend the observer force, she said. Without “discernible” progress, she said, “it will be very difficult to extend a mission that is increasingly dangerous for the observers on the ground.”  Speaking at the same event, Israeli President Shimon Peres said the Arab League should take the lead on resolving the Syrian crisis. - Business Week.
WATCH: Kieran Dwyer, a spokesman for the UN peacekeeping office, discusses his office's assertion that Syria has entered into a civil war.

DELUGE OF STORMS: Australian Weather Anomalies Continue - Southern Half of Western Australia Braces For Second Cyclonic 125km/h Blast!

A storm bringing winds of up to 125km/h to Western Australia's South West could reach as far as Eucla near the South Australian border by Wednesday.

Fierce winds up to 125km/h are expected late on Tuesday for a large area south of Geraldton in the Mid West region, out to Laverton in the east, right down to the south-west tip of the state.  The worst conditions are expected to commence late afternoon or early evening in the Augusta/Margaret River area, reaching the Perth metropolitan area later in the evening.  Damaging winds are likely to develop overnight and extend to Kalgoorlie in the Goldfields by early Wednesday morning and through to Eucla, near the South Australian border, by midday WST on Wednesday.   
While there have been no reports of injuries resulting from other wild weather in the region on Thursday and Sunday, a 52-year-old man died on Monday night after falling through the roof of a building while trying to repair a storm-damaged garage in Furnissdale, south of Mandurah.  Police are investigating the death.  They urged people to be mindful of damage when attempting property repairs and to call the State Emergency Service on 132 500 for help with homes that had sustained severe damage.  Fire and Emergency Services Authority (FESA) of WA spokesman Allen Gale called for assistance from off-duty career firefighters in the metropolitan area to help deal with the storm and clean-up through to Thursday night.  About 45 schools in Perth, the South West and Wheatbelt stayed closed on Tuesday due to damage or disruption from the storm on Sunday.  Other schools let students leave early in anticipation of the coming severe weather.  Department of Education director general Sharyn O'Neill said schools would not open on Wednesday if they had experienced storm damage or were without power or water. - SKY News.

WATCH: High alert in Western Australia.

PLANETARY COLLAPSE: Economic, Environmental and Social - IMF Chief Christine Lagarde Warns of "Triple Crisis" Ahead of Rio Summit!

The world faces three threats – economic, environmental and social – that "feed off each other" and cannot be addressed in isolation, International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde said today, as she called for "decisive" action by European policy-makers to address the financial crisis.  In a speech in Washington looking ahead to the United Nations conference on sustainable development in Rio de Janeiro later this month – two decades after the first Rio earth summit that led to the Kyoto Protocol – Lagarde said the trio of challenges had to be tackled as separate "parts of a connected whole". 

Describing what she called a "triple crisis", she warned that policy-makers heading to Rio did "not face the best of circumstances". She explained: "The global economy is still rocked by turmoil, with uncertain prospects for growth and jobs. The planet is warming rapidly, with unknown and possibly dire consequences down the line. Across too many societies, the gap between the haves and have-nots is getting wider and strains getting fiercer.  Although distinct, these different threats feed off each other in an intricate interplay. We cannot address each in isolation. We need to generate a virtuous and avoid a vicious circle.  Policy-makers should strive for economic growth, environmental protection and social progress at the same time", the former French finance minister said.  The "first key step" towards sustainable development had to be financial stability – which should start with advanced economies "especially in Europe", Lagarde said. "Policy-makers need to take decisive steps to break free of the crisis." However, she also urged the rest of the world to do its bit.  "Most developing countries are doing relatively well right now, and are a source of strength and stability.

But if conditions in the advanced economies continue to deteriorate, these countries will face a cold chill." She said those countries with "fiscal space" should be prepared to use it.  However, Lagarde said economic growth had to be "on a different track" to before the crisis in order to meet the challenge of climate change. "The IMF is not an environmental organisation. But we cannot ignore the extensive human suffering and the misallocation of resources that leads us down the wrong path."  She said fiscal policy should be used to "make sure that the harm we do is reflected in the prices we pay", adding: "I am thinking about environmental taxes or emissions trading systems under which governments issue – and preferable sell – pollution rights. It is basically a variation of the old mantra: 'you break it, you buy it'." She said IMF staff were working on "actionable guidance" for advanced and developing countries on setting prices.  Lagarde said the Washington-based fund was also looking at "ways to spur both growth and jobs" so that "all share in the fruits of prosperity" and have the opportunity to fulfill their potential. "We all belong to this larger family of life," she said. "Economists, environmentalists, and social policy-makers. Public sector, private sector, civil society, and international organisations. We must all come together and work together." - PS Europe.

THE SYRIAN CRISIS: Prelude to a Military Invasion - United Nations Says Syria Now in a Full-Scale Civil War!

UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said Tuesday that Syria is now in a full-scale civil war as President Bashar al-Assad's military battles opposition forces around the country.

A UNSMIS image shows smoke rising following shelling from the
central flashpoint city of Homs on June 11.
Asked whether he believed Syria is in a civil war, Ladsous told a small group of reporters: "Yes I think we can say that. Clearly what is happening is that the government of Syria lost some large chunks of territory, several cities to the opposition, and wants to retake control. There is a massive increase in the level of violence," Ladsous said.  At least 36 people were killed in shelling and clashes across Syria on Tuesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.  Regime forces rained shells on rebel positions in the northwestern Latakia province, pounding the town of Al-Haffe for the eighth straight day as they appeared to be preparing to storm it, monitors said.   
The Observatory said troops also shelled rebel bastions in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor, the northern province of Aleppo and several parts of the central province of Homs.  At least 120 people have died in fighting in Al-Haffe over the past week, including 68 troops, 29 civilians and 23 rebels, with hundreds wounded, the Observatory says. Troops also stepped up attacks on the central city of Homs and its suburbs, pounding rebel positions.  Nationwide violence cost the lives of at least 111 people on Monday, including 79 civilians.  More than 14,100 people, most of them civilians, have been killed since the anti-regime revolt erupted in March 2011, according to the Observatory. - The Jakarta Globe.

GLOBAL ECONOMIC MELTDOWN: The Euro Zone Crisis - The EU is Considering Limiting ATM Withdrawals and Imposing Border Checks if Greece Leaves the Euro!

European finance officials have discussed as a worst-case scenario limiting the size of withdrawals from ATM machines, imposing border checks and introducing capital controls in at least Greece should Athens decide to leave the euro.  EU officials have told Reuters the ideas are part of a range of contingency plans. They emphasized that the discussions were merely about being prepared for any eventuality rather than planning for something they expect to happen - no one Reuters has spoken to expects Greece to leave the single currency area.  Belgium's finance minister, Steve Vanackere, said at the end of May that it was a basic function of each euro zone member state to be prepared for problems. These discussions appear to be in that vein. 

But with increased political uncertainty in Greece following the inconclusive election on May 6 and ahead of a second election on June 17, there is now an increased need to have contingencies in place, the EU sources said.  The discussions have taken place in conference calls over the past six weeks, as concerns have grown that a radical-left coalition, SYRIZA, may win the second election, increasing the risk that Greece could renege on its EU/IMF bailout and therefore move closer to abandoning the currency.  No decisions have been taken on the calls, but members of the Eurogroup Working Group, which consists of euro zone deputy finance ministers and heads of treasury departments, have discussed the options in some detail, the sources said.  As well as limiting cash withdrawals and imposing capital controls, they have discussed the possibility of suspending the Schengen agreement, which allows for visa-free travel among 26 countries, including most of the European Union.  "Contingency planning is underway for a scenario under which Greece leaves," one of the sources, who has been involved in the conference calls, said. "Limited cash withdrawals from ATMs and limited movement of capital have been considered and analyzed." 

Another source confirmed the discussions, including that the suspension of Schengen was among the options raised.  "These are not political discussions, these are discussions among finance experts who need to be prepared for any eventuality," the second source said. "It is sensible planning, that is all, planning for the worst-case scenario."  The first official said it was still being examined whether there was a legal basis for such extreme measures.  "The Bank of Greece is not aware of any such plans," a central bank spokesman in Athens told Reuters when asked about the sources' comments.  The vast majority of Greeks - some surveys have indicated 75 to 80 percent - like the euro and want to retain the currency, something Greek politicians are aware of and which may dissuade them from pushing the country too close to the brink.  However, SYRIZA is expected to win or come a strong second on June 17. Alexis Tsipras, the party's 37-year-old leader, has said he plans to tear up or heavily renegotiate the 130-billion-euro bailout agreed with the EU and IMF. The EU and IMF have said they are not prepared to renegotiate.  If those differences cannot be resolved, the threat of the country leaving or being forced out of the euro will remain, and hence the need for contingencies to be in place.  Switzerland said last month it was considering introducing capital controls if the euro falls apart.  In a conference call on May 21, the Eurogroup Working Group told euro zone member states that they should each have a plan in place if Greece were to leave the currency.  Belgium's Vanackere said two days after that call that it was a basic function of each euro zone member state to be prepared for any eventuality.  "All the contingency plans (for Greece) come back to the same thing: to be responsible as a government is to foresee even what you hope to avoid," he told reporters.  "We must insist on efforts to avoid an exit scenario but that doesn't mean we are not preparing for eventualities. - Business Insider.

EXTINCTION LEVEL EVENT: Tipping Point - Another Study Predicts Imminent Irreversible Planetary Collapse!

Using scientific theories, toy ecosystem modeling and paleontological evidence as a crystal ball, 18 scientists, including one from Simon Fraser University, predict we're on a much worse collision course with Mother Nature than currently thought.  In approaching a state-shift in Earth's biosphere, a paper just published in Nature, the authors, whose expertise span a multitude of disciplines, suggest our planet's ecosystems are careening towards an imminent, irreversible collapse. 

This composite image uses a number of swaths of the Earth's surface taken on January 4, 2012.
Earth's accelerating loss of biodiversity, its climates' increasingly extreme fluctuations, its ecosystems' growing connectedness and its radically changing total energy budget are precursors to reaching a planetary state threshold or tipping point.  Once that happens, which the authors predict could be reached this century, the planet's ecosystems, as we know them, could irreversibly collapse in the proverbial blink of an eye.  "The last tipping point in Earth's history occurred about 12,000 years ago when the planet went from being in the age of glaciers, which previously lasted 100,000 years, to being in its current interglacial state. Once that tipping point was reached, the most extreme biological changes leading to our current state occurred within only 1,000 years. That's like going from a baby to an adult state in less than a year," explains Arne Mooers. "Importantly, the planet is changing even faster now." 

The SFU professor of biodiversity is one of this paper's authors. He stresses, "The odds are very high that the next global state change will be extremely disruptive to our civilizations. Remember, we went from being hunter-gathers to being moon-walkers during one of the most stable and benign periods in all of Earth's history.  "Once a threshold-induced planetary state shift occurs, there's no going back. So, if a system switches to a new state because you've added lots of energy, even if you take out the new energy, it won't revert back to the old system. The planet doesn't have any memory of the old state."  These projections contradict the popularly held belief that the extent to which human-induced pressures, such as climate change, are destroying our planet is still debatable, and any collapse would be both gradual and centuries away.  This study concludes we better not exceed the 50 per cent mark of wholesale transformation of Earth's surface or we won't be able to delay, never mind avert, a planetary collapse.  We've already reached the 43 per cent mark through our conversion of landscapes into agricultural and urban areas, making Earth increasingly susceptible to an environmental epidemic.  "In a nutshell, humans have not done anything really important to stave off the worst because the social structures for doing something just aren't there," says Mooers. "My colleagues who study climate-induced changes through the earth's history are more than pretty worried. In fact, some are terrified." - Science Codex.

FIRE IN THE SKY: Major Solar System Disturbance - National Reports of "Fireball Objects" on the Increase Over the Past Year?!

Reports of orange colored or fireball-like objects over U.S. skies have been on the increase during the past year, according to incoming reports at both the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) and the National UFO Reporting Center (MUFORC).

Reports of orange colored lights moving silently across the sky have been on the increase in the
U.S. during the past year.  Photo credit: MUFON database.
MUFORC Director Peter Davenport has taken in so many cases recently of this same description that he posted a web site update explaining the situation. "Over the course of the last year, NUFORC has attempted to bring to the attention of the public the fact that there has been a substantial increase in the number of sightings of unusual 'fireball-like' objects," Davenport stated. "In some cases, the objects appear in small numbers, but they also are reported to occur in clusters of a dozen, or more. The colors reported for these objects are red, orange, yellow, or amber. In some cases, more than one color is reported by the witnesses.

"The reports submitted for sightings on the evening of Saturday, May 19, are a case in point. In particular, we would like to call your attention to the sighting reports of an estimated nine orange objects from both St. Peters, Missouri, located near St. Louis, as well as from Republic, Missouri, located in the southwest corner of Missouri, near Springfield. The events appear to have occurred within perhaps 20-30 minutes of one another, and we have no adequate explanation for them. Also, the reports from Beacon Rock State Park, Washington state, for Saturday, June 2, 2012, are illustrative of the phenomenon. - National UFO Examiner.

EXTREME WEATHER ANOMALIES: Rare Tornado Hits Italy - Buildings Damaged, Boats Capsized and Over 100 Trees Toppled in Venice!

At around 11am today, a tornado hit Venice in Italy.  Initial reports indicate that trees were damaged, market stalls overturned and some buildings were damaged. 

A Tree Brought Down by Today's Tornado in Venice.
No injuries have been reported,  One of the worst hit areas was the Sant’Elena island where an open air market was in progress.  The tornado caused terrified shoppers to dash for cover.  A water bus ticket office had its roof ripped off by the tornado which some reports stated was a waterspout.  A number of boats were capsized.  Around one hundred trees on Certosa Island were knocked down by the tornado and the outdoor dining area of the island’s restaurant was completely destroyed.  On Sant’Erasmo island, the roofs were removed from around a dozen houses, according to reports from emergency services in the area.  In the interests of safety, the cemetery on Sant’Erasmo island has been closed. - Italy Chronicles.
WATCH: Rare tornado hits Venice.

THE PRIEST CLASS OF THE MAGI: Vatileaks & the Fight to be Petrus Romanus - Former "God's Banker" Could Blitz Vatican With Cache of Secret Documents!

The former head of the Vatican Bank has become the Papacy’s Enemy Number One, after police discovered a trove of documents exposing financial misdeeds in the Holy See. The banker now reportedly fears for his life.  ­Earlier this week police conducted a dawn raid on the house and office of Ettore Gotti Tedeschi. Investigators say they were looking for evidence in a graft case against defense and aerospace firm Finmeccanica, which was formerly run by a close friend of Gotti Tedeschi.  Instead, as it turns out, police stumbled upon an entirely different find. 

Pope Benedict XVI talks to the former head of the Vatican bank Ettore Gotti Tedeschi (AFP Photo/Osservatore Romano).
They discovered 47 binders containing private communication exposing the opaque inner workings of the secretive Holy See.  They included financial documents, details of money transfers and confidential internal reports – all prepared by Gotti Tedeschi to build a convincing expose of corruption in the Vatican.  A renowned economics professor and head of the Italian branch of the giant Bank of Santander Gotti Tedeschi took what turned out to be a poisoned chalice of a job in 2009, when he became the President of the Institute for Works of Religion, the formal name for the Bank of Vatican. His brief was formidable – to introduce transparency to a lucrative enterprise that had become a byword for money-laundering and corruption.  After a tumultuous three years marked by in-fighting and public scandals, Gotti Tedeschi was unanimously dismissed from his post by a board of Vatican officials in May.  “I have paid for my transparency” the indignant banker said to the media, as he stormed off even before his dismissal hearing was over. The confidential minutes of the stormy meeting obtained by Reuters showed the banker accused of "progressively erratic personal behavior" and "exhibiting lack of prudence and accuracy in comments regarding the Institute".

But there may have been other reasons.  Aware that his crusade against corruption was failing, Gotti Tedeschi probably began to leak important documents to the media. The drip-drip of damaging revelations (alongside more personal ones presumably passed onto the media by the Pope’s own butler) has been dubbed 'Vatileaks', and has captivated Italy in recent months.  At the hearing, the board that dismissed the banker also indirectly accused Gotti Tedeschi of being behind some of the leaks, pointing to his "Failure to provide any formal explanation for the dissemination of documents last known to be in the president's possession."  While the leaks were a weapon with which to attack his enemies, Gotti Tedeschi was also preparing a last resort option if the battle was lost – a ‘suicide belt’ that would blow the lid off Vatican.  Several months ago, he reportedly told his friends that he began collecting an exhaustive dossier “in case something happened to him.”  It is this dossier that the police have now apparently discovered.  The Vatican is barely concealing its panic – and wants the folders handed back unopened.  “We have faith that the prosecutors and Italian judicial system will respect our sovereignty—recognized internationally—with regard to these documents,” said an official statement.  But there is little chance the Papacy will get its way this time.  Italian prosecutors have frequently been at loggerheads with the Vatican and have accused it of using its sovereignty as a shield against proper regulation.  If the documents do spark a legal firestorm, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi is sure to be a key witness in any trial. A former employee against his employers, and a conservative Catholic pitched against the Vatican itself.  Allegedly, Gotti Tedeschi keeps a list of personal enemies in the Vatican – people who he had felt would stop at nothing to prevent him from reforming the Institute for Works of Religion. His friends have told the media he is shaken and scared.  Police are now considering putting the whistle-blowing banker under armed protection. - RT.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Scores Feared Dead in Afghan Quake - Landslide Demolishes 20 Houses Across Five Districts, Many People Buried Under! UPDATE: Toll is Heavy in Afghan Landslide - As Many as 100 People Are Feared Dead!

Scores of people are feared dead in an earthquake and landslide that buried 20 houses in northern Afghanistan on Monday, officials said. 

Many are still missing in landslides triggered by powerful quake.
Details of the destruction were slow to emerge from the remote district.  Rescuers have so far pulled two women's bodies from the rubble of the landslide in Baghlan province and expect many others were buried, said provincial Gov. Abdul Majid. The U.N. confirmed one other death and said houses were destroyed across five districts. An earthquake measuring a magnitude 5.4 struck the Hindu Kush region Monday morning, followed by a 5.7 quake, the U.S. Geological Survey said. Both were felt as far away as the Afghan capital, Kabul, where buildings shook. 

Baghlan province's Burka district, the site of the landslide, is a remote collection of mountain villages. It takes more than two hours to drive the approximately 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the provincial capital of Pul-e-Khumri to the area. There are no medical clinics in Burka, said Dr. Salim Rasouli, so medics and ambulances were sent from the nearest city.  "Right now our doctors, nurses and ambulances are at the site, helping people. As there is no communication system there, we cannot get the latest information on the casualties right now," Rasouli said. - ABC News.

UPDATE: Toll is Heavy in Afghan Landslide - As Many as 100 People Are Feared Dead!

As many as 100 people are feared dead in an earthquake and landslide that buried more than 20 houses in northern Afghanistan on Monday, officials said.  Rescuers have pulled two women's bodies from the rubble of the landslide in Baghlan province, provincial Gov. Abdul Majid said. The U.N. confirmed one other death and said houses were destroyed across five districts.  A massive landslide of mud and rocks buried houses so deeply in the remote mountain village of Sayi Hazara that rescuers gave up trying to use shovels to dig through the buried buildings, said Jawed Basharat, a spokesman for the provincial police chief who was part of a team that examined the village after the slide. There were no visible signs of the buildings underneath.  "We need bulldozers or other machinery to remove all this earth and get the bodies out, or the survivors if there are any," Basharat said.  Officials knew how many houses were buried only from information provided by area residents, who said between 25 and 30 houses disappeared in the landslide.  An earthquake measuring a magnitude of 5.4 struck the Hindu Kush region Monday morning, followed by a 5.7 quake, the U.S. Geological Survey said. Both were felt as far away as the Afghan capital, Kabul, where buildings shook.  Baghlan province's Burka district, the site of the landslide, is a remote collection of mountain villages. It takes more than two hours to drive the approximately 25 miles from the provincial capital of Pul-e-Khumri to the area.  The police led a team of rescue workers and medics from Pul-e-Khumri, but discovered upon arrival that they could be of little use. The handful of people who survived the landslide had already been driven to clinics. - Philly.
WATCH: Landslide engulfs Afghan villages.

Click HERE for additional Details, Summary, Maps and Scientific & Technical information from the USGS.

GLOBAL ECONOMIC MELTDOWN: The Federal Reserve - The Recession Wiped Out 18 Years of Savings and Investments; Americans Saw Wealth Plummet 40 Percent From 2007 to 2010!

The average American family’s net worth dropped almost 40% between 2007 and 2010, according to a triennial study released Monday by the Federal Reserve.  The stunning drop in median net worth — from $126,400 in 2007 to $77,300 in 2010 — indicates that the recession wiped away 18 years of savings and investment by families.

(Photo credit: Thinkstock)
The Fed study, called the Survey of Consumer Finances, offers details on savings, income, debt, as well as assets and investments owned by American families.  The results, though more than a year old, highlight the marked deterioration in household finances brought on by the financial crisis and ensuing recession.  Much of the drop off in net worth — to levels not seen since 1992 — was attributable to a sharp decline in housing values, the Fed said.  In 2007, the median homeowner had a net worth of $246,000. Three years later that number had fallen to $174,500, a loss of more than $70,000 on average.  Families who reside in the west and south, where the housing market was especially hard hit by the recession, were worse off than their peers in the rest of the country. 

Making matters worse, income levels also fell during the tumultuous three-year period, with median pre-tax income falling 7.7% as earnings from capital gains all but disappeared.  The loss of income and net worth appears to have impacted savings rates, as the number of Americans who said they saved in the prior year fell from 56.4% in 2007 to 52.0% in 2010 — the lowest level recorded since the early 1990s.  At the same time, some families were able to escape from debt, as the share of families with debt decreased slightly to 74.9% over the three-year period. Credit card use was down, and the median account balance fell 16.1%. 

Meanwhile, families who did report carrying debt showed little change in the degree of indebtedness over the period.  Lower interest rates helped keep debt levels down, but the number of Americans who had fallen more than 60 days behind on debt payments still grew from 7.1% to 10.8% in 2010.  The report also indicated that families with more assets at the start of the recession were able to retain more of their net worth than less fortunate families.  Families in the top 10% of income actually saw their net worth increase over the period, rising from a median of $1.17 million in 2007 to $1.19 million in 2010.  Meanwhile, middle-class families who ranked in the 40th to 60th percentile of income earners reported that their median income fell from $92,300 to $65,900 over the same time period. - FOX News Stream.

MONUMENTAL SOLAR SYSTEM CHANGES: Solar Cycle 24 - NASA Predicts Lowest Sunspot Max in 100 Years!

The current prediction for Sunspot Cycle 24 gives a smoothed sunspot number maximum of about 60 in the Spring of 2013. We are currently over three years into Cycle 24. The current predicted size makes this the smallest sunspot cycle in about 100 years.  The prediction method has been slightly revised. The previous method found a fit for both the amplitude and the starting time of the cycle along with a weighted estimate of the amplitude from precursor predictions (polar fields and geomagnetic activity near cycle minimum). Recent work [see Hathaway Solar Physics; 273, 221 (2011)] indicates that the equatorward drift of the sunspot latitudes as seen in the Butterfly Diagram follows a standard path for all cycles provided the dates are taken relative to a starting time determined by fitting the full cycle. Using data for the current sunspot cycle indicates a starting date of May of 2008. Fixing this date and then finding the cycle amplitude that best fits the sunspot number data yields the current (revised) prediction.

© Hathaway/NASA/MSFC
Predicting the behavior of a sunspot cycle is fairly reliable once the cycle is well underway (about 3 years after the minimum in sunspot number occurs [see Hathaway, Wilson, and Reichmann Solar Physics; 151, 177 (1994)]). Prior to that time the predictions are less reliable but nonetheless equally as important. Planning for satellite orbits and space missions often require knowledge of solar activity levels years in advance.  A number of techniques are used to predict the amplitude of a cycle during the time near and before sunspot minimum. Relationships have been found between the size of the next cycle maximum and the length of the previous cycle, the level of activity at sunspot minimum, and the size of the previous cycle. Among the most reliable techniques are those that use the measurements of changes in the Earth's magnetic field at, and before, sunspot minimum. These changes in the Earth's magnetic field are known to be caused by solar storms but the precise connections between them and future solar activity levels is still uncertain. Of these "geomagnetic precursor" techniques three stand out. The earliest is from Ohl and Ohl [Solar-Terrestrial Predictions Proceedings, Vol. II. 258 (1979)] They found that the value of the geomagnetic aa index at its minimum was related to the sunspot number during the ensuing maximum. The primary disadvantage of this technique is that the minimum in the geomagnetic aa index often occurs slightly after sunspot minimum so the prediction isn't available until the sunspot cycle has started.

An alternative method is due to a process suggested by Joan Feynman. She separates the geomagnetic aa index into two components: one in phase with and proportional to the sunspot number, the other component is then the remaining signal. This remaining signal has, in the past, given good estimates of the sunspot numbers several years in advance. The maximum in this signal occurs near sunspot minimum and is proportional to the sunspot number during the following maximum. This method does allow for a prediction of the next sunspot maximum at the time of sunspot minimum. A third method is due to Richard Thompson [Solar Physics 148, 383 (1993)]. He found a relationship between the number of days during a sunspot cycle in which the geomagnetic field was "disturbed" and the amplitude of the next sunspot maximum. His method has the advantage of giving a prediction for the size of the next sunspot maximum well before sunspot minimum. We have suggested using the average of the predictions given by the Feynman-based method and by Thompson's method. [See Hathaway, Wilson, and Reichmann J. Geophys. Res. 104, 22,375 (1999)] However, both of these methods were impacted by the "Halloween Events" of October/November 2003 which were not reflected in the sunspot numbers. Both methods give larger than average amplitude to Cycle 24 while its delayed start and low minimum strongly suggest a much smaller cycle.

The smoothed aa index reached its minimum (a record low) of 8.4 in September of 2009. Using Ohl's method now indicates a maximum sunspot number of 70 ± 18 for cycle 24. We then use the shape of the sunspot cycle as described by Hathaway, Wilson, and Reichmann [Solar Physics 151, 177 (1994)] and determine a starting time for the cycle by fitting the latitude drift data to produce a prediction of the monthly sunspot numbers through the next cycle. We find a maximum of about 60 in the Spring of 2013. The predicted numbers are available in a text file, as a GIF image, and as a pdf-file. As the cycle progresses, the prediction process switches over to giving more weight to the fitting of the monthly values to the cycle shape function. At this phase of cycle 24 we now give 66% weight to the amplitude from curve-fitting technique of Hathaway, Wilson, and Reichmann Solar Physics 151, 177 (1994). That technique currently gives similar values to those of Ohl's method.

Note: These predictions are for "smoothed" International Sunspot Numbers. The smoothing is usually over time periods of about a year or more so both the daily and the monthly values for the International Sunspot Number should fluctuate about our predicted numbers. The dotted lines on the prediction plots indicate the expected range of the monthly sunspot numbers. Also note that the "Boulder" numbers reported daily at Spaceweather.com are typically about 35% higher than the International sunspot number.  Another indicator of the level of solar activity is the flux of radio emission from the Sun at a wavelength of 10.7 cm (2.8 GHz frequency). This flux has been measured daily since 1947. It is an important indicator of solar activity because it tends to follow the changes in the solar ultraviolet that influence the Earth's upper atmosphere and ionosphere. Many models of the upper atmosphere use the 10.7 cm flux (F10.7) as input to determine atmospheric densities and satellite drag. F10.7 has been shown to follow the sunspot number quite closely and similar prediction techniques can be used. Our predictions for F10.7 are available in a text file, as a GIF image, and as a pdf-file. Current values for F10.7 can be found here. - NASA.