News from the conference on ”Solar Activity during the onset of Solar Cycle 24″

I mentioned this Conference before, but it deserves closer attention IMO:   ”Solar Activity during the onset of Solar Cycle 24″, a Conference sponsored by several prominent scientific organizations (NASA, etc), 8 – 12 December 2008.  Home page; copies of the presentations.

The main goals of the meeting were to assess our current knowledge of solar activity, in order to prepare for observations in the new Carrington Cycle 24, and to encourage the most effective use of these observations. The meeting thus had special emphasis on the coordination of ACE, Hinode, STEREO, TRACE/SDO, SOHO, RHESSI and Wind observations, among other space and ground-based instruments.

I esp recomment “Solar Activity Cycles – Past and Future“, David Hathaway (NASA) — This provides valuable insights  for laypeople about climate science, on several levels.

(1)  Much of this presentation (esp slides 1 – 19) provides a rebuke to laypeople who consider a solar cycle 24 a certain source of global cooling, as seen in the comments on this site.  As exemplified in this comment (humor, I hope) by M. Simon:

Climate change has already been solved. No sunspots today.

(2)  Esp note slide #47.  This cycle might tell us much about the dynamics of the solar cycle, as the major theories give radically divergent forecasts.

(3)  His discussion of models in slides 30 – 47  is (speaking as a layman) exemplary:  useful tools to be rigorously tested.  We would know much more if his advice on slide 42 was general practice:

Given these caveats, independent confirmation of the model is needed.

Attention critics! 

One of the many mysteries of the pro-AGW comments on this site is that they consider themselves to be speaking for “science”, yet I provide almost all the citations from mainstream science.  And not just mindlessly listing articles, but providing some description and context.

The extreme case of this is the recent comment by ex-PFC Chuck.  He refers to no scientific works, but has the audacity to say I rely on Stephen McIntyre and his website.  This is easily proven false, by the FM reference page Science & nature – studies & reports, listing the science articles mentioned on this site (it’s a long list).

Note the posts about the solar cycle, which cite the mainstream scientists in this field.

  1. A look at the science and politics of global warming, 12 June 2008
  2. More forecasts of a global cooling cycle, 15 July 2008
  3. Recommendations for your weekend reading, 31 August 2008
  4. Worrying about the Sun and climate change: cycle 24 is late, 10 July 2008
  5. Update: is Solar Cycle 24 late (a cooling cycle, with famines, etc)?, 15 July 2008
  6. Update on solar cycle 24 – and a possible period of global cooling, 1 October 2008
  7. Interesting reading for your weekend pleasure!, 22 November 2008
  8. Weekend reading recommenations, 13 December 2008

Here are some of the other posts on the FM site citing mainstream scientists about climate change:

  1. An article giving strong evidence of global warming, 30 June 2008
  2. Two valuable perspectives on global warming, 4 August 2008
  3. One of the most interesting sources of news about science and nature!, 27 October 2008
  4. Good news about global warming!, 21 October 2008
  5. This week’s report on the news in climate science, 7 December 2008
  6. The Senate Minority report is out: “More Than 650 International Scientists Dissent Over Man-Made Global Warming Claims”, 12 December 2008
  7. An important new article about climate change, 29 December 2008
  8. High school science facts prove global warming! Skeptical scientists humiliated by this revelation!, 31 December 2008


Please share your comments by posting below.  Per the FM site’s Comment Policy, please make them brief (250 words max), civil, and relevant to this post.  Or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).

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To read other articles about these things, see the FM reference page on the right side menu bar.  Of esp relevance to this topic:

7 thoughts on “News from the conference on ”Solar Activity during the onset of Solar Cycle 24″

  1. Thanks for doing so much homework, which seems pretty trustworthy when I check on it. So I haven’t felt like checking out most of the excessive pro-AGW (didn’t Obama claim there was no question about it?) stuff.

    Recent evidence of possibly some meteorite impact about 12,900 years ago, causing an immediate ice age (and killing off the woolly mammoth and the Clovis Indians) seems to me a fear to be more afraid of for the next 100 years.

    With your great work on AGW, I’m more comfy looking at the financial crisis and ignoring it until the evidence is of a more transparent kind.

  2. A comment from Leif Svalgaard (an expert in solar science) about relationship of solar cycles and Earth’s temperature — a caution to the confident voices on the Internet that the relationship is clear and simple (source):

    We don’t have good temperature records for the ‘Dalton minimum’, but what we have [Central England, Ireland, Central Europe] shows that the time of the Dalton minimum was a time with generally higher temperatures than the 30 years on either side of the ‘minimum’. Even if about a decade was hit with cold due to large volcanic activity [Mayon, Tambora, …]. Without the volcanoes, the Dalton minimum would have been significantly warmer. So, the ‘folklore’ about minimal solar activity and low temperatures doesn’t hold up very well. The really cold period during the 1900th century came in the 1840s and 1850s when solar activity was up to levels typical of the past 20 years.

    His current forecast for solar cycle 24:

    Since the solar polar fields have already been involved in making cycle 24 there is not much that can change. The polar fields have been very steady. Since my prediction [of 75] back in 2005, the polar fields have weakened a tiny bit, leading to a prediction that now stands at 71, but since that is not statistically different from 75, I do not foresee any change in my prediction. With emerging SC/24 flux, the polar fields are expected to weaken further, but that is just the normal way to their reversal, so no changes to the prediction.

    If SC/24 falls below, say, 65, my method will not be a very good predictor, although one can argue that it did forecast a low cycle. We don’t really know what the ‘error bar’ is on this one. If SC/24 is high, my method doesn’t work and is useless for prediction.

    ** A prediction of 65 for the sunspot cycle amplitude is on the low end of forecast ranges (suggesting a cooling Earth, ceteris paribus). In the Hathaway presentation discussed in this post, slide 47 describes 4 forecasts of ranging from 75 to 165.

    Note: I see no bio on Svalgaard. Leif Svalgaard’s Research Page has a wealth of technical data (not friendly to non-scientists). Here is is list of publications.

  3. When comparing models, especially when comparing how well each “predicts” the past, a starting point is to note the number of adjustable parameters that are used to fit the data. An old adage in science is “given enough parameters, a model can fit anything”. The most impressive model is one that fits the trailing data record using only physical constants of the universe and the equations of math physics.
    Fabius Maximus replies: This is an important point, and one of the major grounds for skepticism about current climate models.

    The following quote could be about climate science (it fits so well), from Freeman Dyson’s classic article “A meeting with Enrico Fermi“, Nature (22 January 2004) – “How one intuitive physicist rescued a team from fruitless research.” — Excerpt:

    There are two ways of doing calculations in theoretical physics”, he said. “One way, and this is the way I prefer, is to have a clear physical picture of the process that you are calculating. The other way is to have a precise and self-consistent mathematical formalism. You have neither.

    … In desperation I asked Fermi whether he was not impressed by the agreement between our calculated numbers and his measured numbers. He replied, “How many arbitrary parameters did you use for your calculations?” I thought for a moment about our cut-off procedures and said, “Four.” He said, “I remember my friend Johnny von Neumann used to say, with four parameters I can fit an elephant, and with five I can make him wiggle his trunk.

  4. An intesting special issue on climate science: Neatherlands Journal of Geosciences, October 2008 — Mostly subscription only.

    However, this is available to the public — and looks interesting: “Solar activity and its influence on climate” C. de Jager (Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research) — Abstract:

    Solar activity, as manifested by its many equatorial as well as high-latitude components of short-term variability is regulated by the Sun’s dynamo. This constitutes an intricate interplay between the solar toroidal and poloidal magnetic field components. The dynamo originates in the tachocline, which is a thin layer situated about 200,000 km beneath the solar surface.

    The dynamo is a non-linear system with deterministic chaotic elements, hence in principle unpredictable. Yet there are regularities in the past behaviour, such as the Grand Maxima (example: the recent high maximum of the 2nd half of the 20th century) the Grand Minima (e.g. the Maunder Minimum between 1650 and 1710) and the Regular Oscillations such as those between 1730 and 1923. Their occurrences are described by a phase diagram in which a specific point can be identified: the Transition Point. This diagram plays an essential role in determining the future solar activity.

    Guided by its quasi-regularities and by recent measurements of the solar magnetic fields we find that the Sun is presently undergoing a transition between the past Grand Maximum and a forthcoming period of Regular Oscillations. We forecast that this latter period will start in a few years and will continue for at least one Gleissberg cycle {70-100 years, see here} and that the next solar maximum (expected for 2014) will be low (Rmax ~ 68).

    We discuss the heliospheric drivers of Sun-climate interaction and find that the low-latitude magnetic regions contribute most to tropospheric temperatures but that also the influence of the – so far always neglected – polar activity is significant. Subtraction of these components from the observed temperatures of the past 400 years shows a residual series of relative peaks and dips in the temperature. These tops and lows last for periods of the order of the Gleissberg cycle. One of these is the recent period of global warming, which, from this point of view, is not an exceptional period.

  5. It is long past time for Hathaway, Svalgaard, and the others to admit that their predictions have failed, and they do not understand what the sun is doing this cycle. Starting from that honest foundation, perhaps it would be possible to add to the trifling knowledge we possess about our star.
    Fabius Maximus replies: In what sense have their forecasts “failed”, given the immature state of solar cycle?

    Hathaway’s forecast(s) for the start of cycle 24 have not been accurate (see here), but his overall view of a “strong” cycle 24 remains untested (only time will tell).

    Esp on what basis do you say Svalgaard’s forecasts have been wrong? Looking at his research page, I do not see any formal forecasts (casual opinions do not count in this game).

  6. Hathaway deserves our admiration for testable predictions and summarizing the predictions of the four major models (his slide #47). When I saw his slide #36 I immediately said “ohmygod, another place where Richard Feynman signed the guestbook and left”– imagine my surprise to learn that it was his younger sister Joan, who I knew from Gleick’s biography was in physics, but I had had no idea in what field.

    Now for my own work– as an amateur radio operator first licensed in 1956, I’ve been aware of sunspot cycles for a long time now (creak) and a science fact article by Hal Clement some time around 1961– “Gravity Insufficient” started me thinking about the two largest planets in the solar system: Jupiter (mass 318 x earth) and Saturn (mass 95 x earth); they line up every 20 years, in years divisible by 20, and are on opposite sides of the sky 10 years later. If you look at sunspot maxima vs. those conjunctions (and oppositions) for the last 250 years or so, you see that maxima that occur in phase with a year ending in 0 tend to be relatively high ones, and ones where the maximum occurs in a year ending in 5 plus or minus 1 are low ones. This predicts a relatively low maximum, around 2013 or so. . .
    I’m sure that somebody could make this a whole lot more quantitative and see if a “hindcast” can be made, but there’s a forecast.

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