Important new climate science articles

Just a few articles for your attention.  Geoscience and climate science may be among the most powerful forces shaping the early 21st century.  They deserve close attention, IMO — however unfamilar to those accustomed to (incorrectly) thinking of economic, political, and military forces as the major drivers of history.

Climate Science:

  1. Danger ahead as the Sun goes quiet“, New Scientist, 7 January 2009 — This is  a description for a general audience of the following article.
  2. For how long will the current grand maximum of solar activity persist?“, J. A. Abreu, J. Beer, F. Steinhilber, S. M. Tobias, N. O. Weiss, Geophysical Research Letters, 30 October 2008

(3)  The big news is a revision of solar cycle 24 forecasts by Dr. Hathaway of NASA.  (summary by Michael Ronayne, posted at the SolarCycle24 message board.  The significance:  increased odds of cooler weather during this 11 year solar cycle (think crop failures, possible famine).

On January 5, 2009 Dr. David Hathaway has again made revisions to his predictions for Solar Cycle 24. The new predictions for December 2008 were incorrectly identified as January 2008; I suspect that this error will be corrected shortly. Here is a summary of the changes which were made.

  • SC24 maximum was pushed back another 6 months to November 2012.
  • The mean Sunspot Number at solar maximum was reduced by 30 points to 105.
  • SC24 was extended to 2020.
  • The background Sun image was changed and is now less cluttered.

Dr. Hathaway’s latest predictions are starting to look a lot like the predictions which Dr. Leif Svalgaard made several years ago.  Here is an animation of Dr. Hathaway’s predictions.  Remember these tips to view the animation in IE:

  • To toggle the full screen between full and normal screen press the F11 function key.
  • If your graphic image is too small, use the magnifying glass pointer to expand it.
  • To stop the animation press the ESC key.
  • To restart the animation press the F5 function key.

For more information about Dr. Hathaway’s forecasts.

  1. Here is the current graphic prediction with the Sun background.
  2. Here is the detailed numbers for the most recent prediction can be found.
  3. Here is a less cluttered image of the most recent prediction.


(1)  Danger ahead as the Sun goes quiet“, New Scientist, 7 January 2009 — This is  a description for a general audience of the follow article.

THE sun’s ability to shield the solar system from harmful cosmic rays could falter in the early 2020s, just in time to threaten the health of NASA astronauts as they return to the moon.

As well as the 11-year cycle of sunspots and solar flares, the sun’s activity experiences longer-term shifts lasting several decades. The sun is currently in a long-term high, having been relatively active for nearly a century, but it is not known when this will end.

To find out, a team led by Jose Abreu of the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology in Duebendorf analysed 66 long-term highs from the past 10,000 years, as recorded in fluctuating levels of rare isotopes such as beryllium-10 in ice cores from Greenland. These are produced when cosmic rays break down the nuclei of oxygen and nitrogen atoms in the Earth’s atmosphere. Production of these isotopes peaks when the sun is inactive, as the weaker solar wind lets more cosmic rays enter the solar system, which hit the Earth.

Based on the duration of past highs, and the fact that the current one has already lasted 80 years, the team has calculated that its most likely total lifetime is between 95 and 116 years, and they suspect the high will probably end at the shorter end of this range.

(2)  For how long will the current grand maximum of solar activity persist?“, J. A. Abreu, J. Beer, F. Steinhilber, S. M. Tobias, N. O. Weiss, Geophysical Research Letters, 30 October 2008 — Abstract:

Understanding the Sun’s magnetic activity is important because of its impact on the Earth’s environment. The sunspot record since 1610 shows irregular 11-year cycles of activity; they are modulated on longer timescales and were interrupted by the Maunder minimum in the 17th century. Future behavior cannot easily be predicted – even in the short-term.

Recent activity has been abnormally high for at least 8 cycles: is this grand maximum likely to terminate soon or even to be followed by another (Maunder-like) grand minimum? To answer these questions we use, as a measure of the Sun’s open magnetic field, a composite record of the solar modulation function Φ, reconstructed principally from the proxy record of cosmogenic 10Be abundances in the GRIP icecore from Greenland. This Φ record extends back for almost 10,000 years, showing many grand maxima and grand minima (defined as intervals when Φ is within the top or bottom 20% of a Gaussian distribution).

We carry out a statistical analysis of this record and calculate the life expectancy of the current grand maximum. We find that it is only expected to last for a further 15-36 years, with the more reliable methods yielding shorter expectancies, and we therefore predict a decline in solar activity within the next two or three cycles. We are not able, however, to predict the level of the ensuing minimum.


If you are new to this site, please glance at the archives below.  You may find answers to your questions in these.

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).

For more information from the FM site

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

A few of the posts on the FM site about climate change:

  1. Worrying about the Sun and climate change: cycle 24 is late, 10 July 2008
  2. Update: is Solar Cycle 24 late (a cooling cycle, with famines, etc)?, 15 july 2008
  3. Solar Cycle 24 is still late, perhaps signalling cool weather ahead, 2 September 2008
  4. Update on solar cycle 24 – and a possible period of global cooling, 1 October 2008
  5. This week’s report on the news in climate science, 7 December 2008
  6. An important new article about climate change, 29 December 2008
  7. My “wish list” for the climate sciences in 2009, 2 January 2009
  8. About the recent conference ”Solar Activity during the onset of Solar Cycle 24″, 3 January 2009

7 thoughts on “Important new climate science articles

  1. The second article mentioned in the lead questions “how long will the grand maximum cycle of solar activity persist?” One of the links in your July 2008 post talks about the present a period of INactivity. Contradiction? Also, none of the articles I read explains the link between less solar activity and cooler temperatures.

  2. No contradiction, seneca. The grand maximum goes back over 8 solar cycles. The authors are slow to admit that all present signs point to an abrupt reversal, into a solar minimum. They simply do not want to make the admission. Scientists get stuck in thinking ruts, just like anyone else.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Scientists are “slow to admit” this because the data remains unclear, nothing like the near-certainty you express. To see a professional’s careful treatment of data where we have little understanding of the underlying dynamics, see the following. The first is a bit old, but the data has not substantially changed since then — that is, taking this cycle out of the range of “typical” cycles.

    * “What’s Wrong with the Sun? (Nothing)“, NASA, 11 July 2008

    * Presentations at the conference “Solar Activity during the onset of solar cycle 24“, sponsored by a number of organizations, 8-12 December 2008 — Esp note Hathaway’s.

  3. Probably no cooler than the 50s, but, keeping in mind that windmills are hazardous to birds, be wary of the unintended consequences of believing and contributing to the all-knowing environmental lobby groups.
    Water vapour is the most important green house gas followed by methane. The third important greenhouse gas is CO2, and it does not correlate well with global warming or cooling either; in fact, CO2 in the atmosphere trails warming which is clear natural evidence for its well-studied inverse solubility in water: CO2 dissolves in cold water and bubbles out of warm water. The equilibrium in seawater is very high, making seawater a great ‘sink’; CO2 is 34 times more soluble in water than air is soluble in water.
    Correlation is not causation to be sure. The causation has been studied, however, and while the radiation from the sun varies only in the fourth decimal place, the magnetism is awesome.
    “Using a box of air in a Copenhagen lab, physicists traced the growth of clusters of molecules of the kind that build cloud condensation nuclei. These are specks of sulphuric acid on which cloud droplets form. High-energy particles driven through the laboratory ceiling by exploded stars far away in the Galaxy – the cosmic rays – liberate electrons in the air, which help the molecular clusters to form much faster than climate scientists have modeled in the atmosphere. That may explain the link between cosmic rays, cloudiness and climate change.”
    As I understand it, the hypothesis of the Danish National Space Center goes as follows:
    Quiet sun → reduced magnetic and thermal flux = reduced solar wind → geomagnetic shield drops → galactic cosmic ray flux → more low-level clouds and more snow → more albedo effect (more heat reflected) → colder climate
    Active sun → enhanced magnetic and thermal flux = solar wind → geomagnetic shield response → less low-level clouds → less albedo (less heat reflected) → warmer climate
    That is how the bulk of climate change might work, coupled with (modulated by) sunspot peak frequency there are cycles of global warming and cooling like waves in the ocean. When the waves are closely spaced, the planets warm; when the waves are spaced farther apart, the planets cool.
    The ultimate cause of the solar magnetic cycle may be cyclicity in the Sun-Jupiter centre of gravity. We await more on that. In addition, although the post 60s warming period is over, it has allowed the principal green house gas, water vapour, to kick in with humidity, clouds, rain and snow depending on where you live to provide the negative feedback that scientists use to explain the existence of complex life on Earth for 550 million years. The planet heats and cools naturally and our gasses are the thermostat.
    Check the web site of the Danish National Space Center.

  4. Dear God. I simply have huge problems with this argument.


    (1) Yes Global warning is happening – and since the sun is cooling – then it MUST be by GG gases. BUT, it is ok, the sun IS cooling, so we are going to get colder (must be proposed by the coal companies this one .. ‘burn more coal to save the world’ .. right).

    (2) Global warming has not happened at all. The higher temperatures* has been by solar activity – BUT solar activity has gone down – so I don’t know where this argument even goes or makes any sense at all.

    (3) Either way, whatever the reason, if temps are rising and it will have (not fully worked out) but possibly quite nasty effects in many areas, does it not make sense to start taking mitigating actions? Or is this a fatalistic religious act .. GOD (sun, whatever) is raising temps, and there is nothing we can do .. except die in the face of it. What about Arthur C Clark’s idea, saving coal to moderate and control the climate? If it gets too cold we burn coal, if too hot we stop burning it.

    * Quick reality check. I, for fun .. yes I’m that wierd, downloaded the latest temp data (google it so I can’t be accused of bias) split into latitude zones.

    Looking carefully (by the way FM it would be great to be able to put up tables and graphs) I saw:
    (1) Southern hemisphere (mostly water) going up and down a lot, though the trend was steadily rising. The El Nino/La Nina impact is very noticable. In a cool phase right now (La Nina), some sites have the actual temp maps and you can see the coller areas in the Pacific.
    (2) The Northern hemisphere just goes up and up. Roughly 1C .. and 2007 was not a ‘cool’ year in the North, neither was 2008.
    (3) Far North, +2C (roughly).
    (4) The US, an oddball climate (see a great Australian’s book: Tim Flannery (2001), The Eternal Frontier: An Ecological History of North America and its Peoples), just like Australia another oddball climate (but in a totally different way – we are on the climate front line). La Nina impacts, plus others, not completely understood, brought the US back to the average.

    So if you are totally US centric (as so sadly so many US people are) it looks ok for the moment. Tough on the rest of us though. Though (read Tim’s book) the US’s climate ‘amplifier’ means that when we go back to El Nino and the solar cycle (in all probability) goes up again, then …… you will live in very ‘interesting times’… in one sense it is ok, you guys tend to do your best work when you panic. Though a bit rough on all the fture migrants from California though.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Here we see the next step in the evolution of the “greens”, as belief in global warming becomes an article of faith. In this bizarre mis-representation of the presentations reference here, OldSkpetic displays contempt for scientists who dare to question his faith, as he did in “High school science facts prove global warming! Skeptical scientists humiliated by this revelation!” He just knows they are wrong. No actual knowledge of solar science is necessary to dismiss their work.

    Two notes on this comment.

    (1) Analysis of data as variable as temperature requires long baselines and use of powerful statistical tools. This is basic, familar to anyone reading about the debate. If you can eyeball this data and draw robust conclusions, I suggest hiring yourself out as a human supercomputer.

    (2) Did you actually read any of these? Your rebuttal is odd, as the cooling scenario described in these articles — based on current solar activity — lies in our future, not past.

  5. Thank you, OldSkeptic, for perfectly summing up my feelings and research on the subject. I was considering writing a similar post but was pretty sure that I’d mess it up and make the situation worse rather than better.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Why not write to the scientists presenting at the Conference, explaining (as does OldSkeptic) that they are ignorant of basic science. The solar science community will be appreciative, as this will save them quite a bit of work.

  6. FM: I subscribe to the New Scientist, so I know the article which you have misquoted. So you have moved into ‘ad hominan’ arguments .. this is beneath you. Stop it now.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Those are serious charges. Do you have anything to back them up?

    (1) If you click on the link, you will see that I exactly copied the first 4 paragraphs of the article. Also, I provide the full abstract of the GRL article which the New Scientists describes.

    (2) From Wikipedia (slightly condensed):

    An ad hominem argument (Latin: “argument against the man”) consists of replying to an argument or factual claim by attacking or appealing to a characteristic of the source making the claim, rather than by addressing its substance or producing evidence against the claim.

    I don’t do anything remotely like that in this brief post.

  7. Oldskeptic posted the following comment on another thread:

    I should add: “Though shall not post when you are tired and cranky”.

    My comment, on a previous thread was silly, put it down to far too long a day and the joys(in the ‘interesting’ sense) of flying Qantas.

    The accusation of ‘misleading’ was wrong, and my point should have been that the New Scientists quote was incomplete. Normally, as you all well know I tend to the verbose, my terseness was in itself misleading.

    Apologies to all, including, of course, you FM.

    “Though shall not post when you are tired and cranky”.
    “Though shall not post when you are tired and cranky”.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Bizarre, as usual when Oldskeptic talks about science.

    The quote from the New Scientist was ‘incomplete” because it was copyrighted material. Nobody should post the full article. Oldskeptic knows this, which makes this 2nd accusation as bogus as the first. I showed the first 3 paragraphs, which gives what the reporter considers the most important material, plus a link to read the rest of the article.

    More importantly, I quoted the actual abstract in full. The authors are capable of adequately summarizing their own work.

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