"Sunspots do not occur randomly," Scherrer noted. "They are concentrated above and below the solar equator."
Spots that appear in the northern hemisphere are mirrored by spots in the southern hemisphere, he added.
Most sunspots occur in pairs -- a leading spot, which carries the same magnetic polarity as the magnetic pole; and a trailing spot, which has the opposite charge. For example, if the Sun's north magnetic pole is positive ("+"), then all leading spots north of the equator will be positive ("+") and all trailing spots will be negative ("-").
According to satellite data, the giant loops observed in the study only formed connections between magnetic poles and trailing spots located in the same hemisphere.
"These loops never crossed the equator," Scherrer said.
Because the magnetic pole and the trailing spot carried opposite magnetic polarities, each loop generated an incredibly intense flow of electricity. As the 2000 solar maximum approached, the number of trailing sunspots and loops increased creating numerous magnetic links that may have been strong enough to contribute to the magnetic pole reversal.
"We believe these direct magnetic links can accelerate the process of the polar field reversal and create the starting conditions for the next solar cycle, " Kosovichev explained.