Revised Sunspot Numbers and the Effects on Understanding the Sunspot Cycle
Monday, 15 December 2014
While sunspot numbers provide only limited information about the sunspot cycle, they provide that information for at least twice as many sunspot cycles as any other direct solar observation. In particular, sunspot numbers are available before, during, and immediately after the Maunder Minimum (1645-1715). The instruments and methods used to count sunspots have changed over the last 400+ years. This leads to systematic changes in the sunspot number that can mask, or artificially introduce, characteristics of the sunspot cycle. The most widely used sunspot number is the International (Wolf/Zurich) sunspot number which is now calculated at the Solar Influences Data Center in Brussels, Belgium. These numbers extend back to 1749. The Group sunspot number extends back to the first telescopic observations of the Sun in 1610. There are well-known and significant differences between these two numbers where they overlap. Recent work has helped us to understand the sources of these differences and has led to proposed revisions in the sunspot numbers. Independent studies now support many of these revisions. These revised sunspot numbers suggest changes to our understanding of the sunspot cycle itself and to our understanding of its connection to climate change.