### 4.5 Cycle shape

Sunspot cycles are asymmetric with respect to their maxima (Waldmeier, 1935). The elapsed time from
minimum up to maximum is almost always shorter than the elapsed time from maximum down to
minimum. An average cycle can be constructed by stretching and contracting each cycle to the
average length, normalizing each to the average amplitude, and then taking the average at
each month. This is shown in Figure 24 for cycles 1 to 22. The average cycle takes about 48
months to rise from minimum up to maximum and about 84 months to fall back to minimum
again.
Various functions have been used to fit the shape of the cycle and/or its various phases. Stewart and
Panofsky (1938) proposed a single function for the full cycle that was the product of a power law for the
initial rise and an exponential for the decline. They found the four parameters (starting time, amplitude,
exponent for the rise, and time constant for the decline) that give the best fit for each cycle.
Nordemann (1992) fit both the rise and the decay with exponentials that each required three
parameters – an amplitude, a time constant, and a starting time. Elling and Schwentek (1992)
also fit the full cycle but with a modified F-distribution density function which requires five
parameters. Hathaway et al. (1994) suggested yet another function – similar to that of Stewart and
Panofsky (1938) but with a fixed (cubic) power law and a Gaussian for the decline. This function of time

has four parameters: an amplitude A, a starting time t_{0}, a rise time b, and an asymmetry parameter c. The
average cycle is well fit with A = 193, b = 54, c = 0.8, and t_{0} = 4 months prior to minimum. This fit to the
average cycle is shown in Figure 25. Hathaway et al. (1994) found that good fits to most cycles
could be obtained with a fixed value for the parameter c and a parameter b that is allowed to
vary with the amplitude – leaving a function of just two parameters – amplitude and starting
time.