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Journal Articles SOLAR PHYSICS Year : 2012

On Solar Flares and Cycle 23


The anomalous character of Solar Cycle 23, which ended in the Summer of 2009, has been pointed out by many authors. It has even been proposed that the solar dynamo is undergoing a transition from a state of “grand maximum” to one of “regular oscillations”. We analyze the temporal distribution of the number and energy of solar flares, and the duration of intervals between them, over Cycles 21 to 23. We consider 32 355 flares of class C2 and larger (C2+) from the GOES catalogue. Daily values of X-ray flux (wavelengths 1 to 8 Å) have been computed by summing the energy proxies of the events. The series of daily numbers of C2+ solar flares are strongly correlated with their daily energy flux. The long duration of Cycle 23 (12.8 years based on sunspots, 13.2 years based on flares) and the long interval with no C2+ flare between the end of Cycle 23, and the start of Cycle 24 (466 days) are remarkable compared to the two earlier cycles. The amplitudes of extreme flares increase when the mean flux decreases. We have calculated running averages of energy flux over intervals going from 7 to 365 days. The singular shape of Cycle 23 is increasingly striking with increasing interval: in the first ≈ 70% of the cycle (displayed on a logarithmic scale) we see linearly rising maxima, whereas minima are aligned along a descending slope for the latter part of the cycle. The energy flux oscillates between these and takes the shape of a bifurcation, starting near 2002 (a time when it is suggested that photospheric fields were abruptly reduced). Inter-event intervals between successive C2+ flares undergo quasi-periodic (≈ 11 years) oscillations between two distinct states, which we call “active” and “quiet”, with extremely sharp onset and termination. The ratio of time spent in the active vs. quiet states ranges from 1.8 to 1.4 for Cycles 21 to 23, Cycle 23 having the longest quiet period. It has been proposed that anomalous Cycle 23 resembles Cycle 4, which was followed by reduced Cycles 5 and 6 at the time of the Dalton minimum in solar activity, often associated with a cooler global climate. It will be interesting to monitor the evolution of solar flares in Cycle 24, in order to further our understanding of solar activity during a sequence of possibly weak and decreasing cycles, but also of its potential relation to climate change.

Dates and versions

insu-03583367 , version 1 (21-02-2022)



Vladimir Kossobokov, Jean-Louis Le Mouël, Vincent Courtillot. On Solar Flares and Cycle 23. SOLAR PHYSICS, 2012, 276, pp.383-394. ⟨10.1007/s11207-011-9860-0⟩. ⟨insu-03583367⟩
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