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An international panel of experts led by NOAA and sponsored by NASA has released a new prediction for the next solar cycle. Solar Cycle 24 will peak, they say, in May 2013 with a below-average number of sunspots.
"If our prediction is correct, Solar Cycle 24 will have a peak sunspot number of 90, the lowest of any cycle since 1928 when Solar Cycle 16 peaked at 78," says panel chairman Doug Biesecker of the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center.
Solar variations are of interest outside their own field primarily because of their potential impact on climate, although the scientific consensus is that solar variations do not play a major role in determining present-day global warming. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Third Assessment Report states that the measured magnitude of recent solar variation is much smaller than the amplification effect due to greenhouse gases.
review of existing literature published in Nature in September 2006 suggests that the evidence is solidly on the side of solar brightness having relatively little effect on global climate, with little likelihood of significant shifts in solar output over long periods of time.