Is the highest cosmic-ray flux yet to come?
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The recent 2009 solar-minimum period was characterized by a record-setting high Galactic cosmic-ray flux observed at Earth. This, along with the unexpected low heliospheric magnetic-field magnitude, caused this period to be characterized as unusual compared with previous minimum epochs. In this work, selected solar-activity proxies and corresponding cosmic-ray observations for the past five solar cycles are compared with each other, and we identify those that showed unusual behaviour during the 2009 solar-minimum modulation period. Using a state-of-the-art numerical-modulation model, the proton-intensity spectra for the past solar minima are reproduced to establish which of the transport processes might be considered the main cause of this unusually high cosmic-ray flux. It is found that diffusion was more prominent during 2009 so that drift effects on the modulation of cosmic rays in the heliosphere were less evident than during previous solar-polarity epochs. However, particle drifts still occurred and because of these drift effects, the proton spectrum is predicted to be even higher during the coming A>0 solar-minimum period