Solar polar fields

(last text update: 2017.09.24)

The development of the solar polar field strength throughout a solar sunspot cycle can be used to predict the magnitude of the next cycle and the peak of the current cycle. Polar field reversals typically occur within a year of sunspot maximum. It is not uncommon for the northern and southern polar fields to have significant differences in field strength and develop asynchronously over time. The Wilcox Solar Observatory has been collecting solar polar field data since 1975. Non-filtered data can be viewed in this plot. Below you will find a plot where only the filtered (by a 20 nHz lowpass filter) field strength data is displayed. Vertical lines representing field reversals and sunspot cycle min/max have been added to increase the potential usefulness of the plot.

The northern polar field changed polarity first in June 2012, then weakened and was near neutral in March 2014. The southern polar field reversed in July 2013. During the previous similar polarity reversal in 1989-1991 the northern polar field reversed 14 months prior to the southern polar field reversal.

As of April 2017 the strength and trend of the southern polar field hints at a cycle 25 with a magnitude close to that of cycle 24. The southern polar field peaked in December 2015 or January 2016, the average polar field peaked first in February-March 2016 and may get another peak late in 2017 or early in 2018 if the northern polar field continues to strengthen.

For a comparison of WSO and SDO/HMI data take a look at this presentation: http://www.leif.org/research/Comparing-HMI-WSO-Polar-Fields.pdf

Wilcox Solar Observatory data used in this study was obtained via the web site http://wso.stanford.edu courtesy of J.T. Hoeksema.