Before we explain what a Grand Solar Minimum is, we must first understand what a Solar Cycle is.

This visualization represents the constant changing of the Sun’s magnetic field over the course of four years. Video credit: NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio

Roughly every 11 years, the Sun’s magnetic field completely flips.

This means that the Sun’s north and south poles switch places. It then takes approximately another 11 years for the Sun’s north and south poles to flip back again.  The solar cycle affects activity on the surface of the Sun, such as sunspots which are caused by the Sun’s magnetic fields. As the magnetic fields change, so does the amount of activity on the Sun’s surface.

One way to track the solar cycle is by counting the number of sunspots.

The beginning of a solar cycle is a solar minimum, when the Sun has the least sunspots.

Over time, solar activity—and the number of sunspots—increases.

The middle of the solar cycle is the solar maximum, or when the Sun has the most sunspots.

As the cycle ends, it fades back to the solar minimum and then a new cycle begins.

Images of the Sun during one solar cycle. Solar maximum occurred during 2001 while 1996 and 2006 were near solar minimum. Image credit: NASA

Here is an image I have assembled using images from the SDO in Cycle 24:

© GSM 2019
A day in the life of our Sun

Now that you have the basic concept of what a typical Solar Minimum & Solar Maximum is in a Solar Cycle, let’s discuss a Grand Minimum.


This graph shows the number of sunspots seen each year for 400 years (from 1600 to 2000). There were almost no sunspots during the Maunder Minimum. During the Dalton Minimum, there were fewer sunspots than normal. Click on image for full size Image courtesy NASA

A Grand Solar Minimum occurs when several solar cycles exhibit lesser than average activity for decades or centuries. Solar cycles still occur during these grand solar minimum periods but are at a lower intensity than usual. Grand solar minima have shown some correlation with global and regional climate changes.

Click on the different Maximum & Minimums for more info below.

Historical Dates

Approximate Dates of
Grand Solar Minimums & Maximums
Homeric Minimum950 BC800 BC
Roman Warm Period250 BC400 AD
Medieval Warm Period9501040
Oort minimum10401080
Medieval maximum11001250
Wolf minimum12801350
Spörer Minimum14501550
Maunder Minimum16451715
Dalton Minimum17901820
Glassberg Minimum18801914
Modern Maximum19142007

Click on the different Maximum & Minimums for more info above.

Take a look at what we will be adding more of soon:

What is a Super Grand Solar Minimum?

Grand Minima & Climate

Where to live?

Prepping for a Grand Minimum?

and much more so stay tuned!

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