Tag Archives: solar cycle

The quiet sun is getting a lot of attention. What are its effect on us?

Summary:  Skeptic websites are agog with confident statements that solar cycles drive much of the decadal variation in Earth’s climate.  Not only is there no clear physical mechanism, but recent analysis suggests that the historical correlation might not exist as well.  Both questions lie on the frontier of science.  Here are some recent papers, a selection from the vast and rapidly growing body of research on the frontiers of knowledge about this vital subject.   As past comments to thei series show, true believers on both sides of the climate wars react to real science like vampires to holy water.  This is the sixth in a series of posts; at the end are links to the other chapters.


This post looks at only the contrary research, that suggesting small solar effects.  This debate lies on the cutting edge of solar and climate sciences.  And it is a debate.  Unlike the child-like views of most websites discussing climate issues, where there are only skins and shirts, right and wrong views, the FM website helps you understand both sides in these debates.  Red emphasis added.

  1. Solar forcings of global temperatures: not big
  2. Solar forcing of global temperature: a small fraction of the total
  3. Solar trends effect on global warming: negligible
  4. Effect of a new grand minimum of solar activity on the future climate on Earth:  small
  5. On the other hand, there is another side to the debate
  6. Effect of cosmic rays on global temperatures
  7. Solar effects on global temperature: not supported by the data
  8. We cannot know the effects of solar variation since experts cannot agree on the solar record
  9. Variations in Solar Irradiance — and Climate
  10. Other chapters in this series
  11. For more information:  other posts about the solar cycle

(1)  Solar forcings of global temperatures:  not big

How Natural and Anthropogenic Influences Alter Global and Regional Surface Temperatures: 1889 to 2006″, Judith L. Lean and David H. Rind, Geophysical Research Letters, 16 September 2008 — Free copy here. Conclusion:

None of the natural processes can account for the overall warming trend in global surface temperatures. In the 100 years from 1905 to 2005, the temperature trends produce by all 3 natural influences are at least an order of magnitude smaller than the observed surface temperature trend reported by IPCC [2007]. According to this analysis, solar forcing contributed negligible long-term warming in the past 25 years and 10% of the warming in the past 100 years, not 69% as claimed by Scafetta and West [2008] (who assumed larger solar irradiance changes and enhanced climate response on longer time scales).

(2)  Solar forcing of global temperature:  a small fraction of the total

“Solar activity and the mean global temperature”, A D Erlykin, Environmental Research Letters, 20 January 2009 — Abstract:

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What can climate scientists tell us about future weather? Part two of two.

Summary:  This is a review of the climate science literature, giving a perspective different than that shown us by the news media.  This is just a selection from the vast, rapidly growing body of research on the frontiers of knowledge about this vital subject.  As past comments to thei series show, true believers on both sides of the climate wars react to real science like vampires to holy water.  This is the fifth in a series of posts; at the end are links to the other chapters.


These posts show a tiny sliver of the wide range of work conducted today in the climate sciences.  This gives a look at what’s happening on the cutting edge of research, so poorly reported by the general news media.

  1. Looking at the big picture:  drivers of the two-centuries-long warming
  2. Causes of the recent pause in warming
  3. We want good forecasts. Can we have them? Can scientists forecast climate trends?
  4. Other chapters in this series
  5. For more information

(1)  Looking at the big picture:  drivers of the two-centuries-long warming

To forecast what is to come we must understand what produced the past trend — warming over the past 2 centuries.

(a)  A clear summary of the situation, although written by an amateur:  “Understanding the Global Warming Debate“, Warren Meyer, Forbes, 9 February 2012

(b) Patterns of change: whose fingerprint is seen in global warming“, Gabriele Hegerl, Francis Zwiers and Claudia Tebaldi, Environmental Research Letters, 7 December  2011 — Excerpt:

Rigorous quantitative analyses of the patterns of change in the temperature of the atmosphere and ocean observed over the past half-century, incorporating all known uncertainties in the observations, in our knowledge of climate variability, and feedbacks, underpin the assessment that most of the warming of the past 50 years is ‘very likely’ (more than 90% likelihood) due to anthropogenic increases in greenhouse gases.

(c) Trends, change points & hypotheses“, Judith Curry posted at Climate Etc, 7 February 2012 — Excerpt:

Consider the following three hypotheses that explain 20th century climate variability and change, with implied future projections:

I.  IPCC AGW hypothesis: 20th century climate variability/change is explained by external forcing, with natural internal variability providing high frequency ‘noise’.

In the latter half of the 20th century, this external forcing has been dominated by anthropogenic gases and aerosols. The implications for temperature change in the 21st century is 0.2C per decade until 2050. Challenges: convincing explanations of the warming 1910-1940, explaining the flat trend between mid 1940′s and mid 1970′s, explaining the flat trend for the past 15 years.

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Update about the weather on the Sun. Perhaps coming soon to Earth, visible in your local supermarket.

Summary:  The current fad for “black swans” just reflects our disinterest in non-consensus thinking.  We prefer the clear stories the news media tells us about poorly understood things (both natural and social phenomena).  We would be less often surprised if we would only open our vision to see things on the borders of the known.  One example may be in front of our eyes right now:  extreme weather on the sun perhaps driving up food prices.

NOAA has posted January’s solar activity to its graphs.  The count of sunspots shows continued slowing.  If there is a connection between low solar activity and earth’s climate (see the previous post for details), then the Earth is due for years — perhaps even 2 decades — 0f cold weather and high food prices.

Although not a professional climate scientist, David Archibald forecast a slow cycle with a maxima of aprox 50 sunspots in “Solar Cycles 24 and 25 and Predicted Climate Response“, Energy and the Environment, March 2006.  A year later the first forecast from the NOAA Solar Cycle Prediction Panel predicted a cycle peaking at 90-140 sunspots.  And the winner is:  Archibald.  Mother nature does not care about credentials.  NOAA does not publish updated forecast, but NASA does.  Here is their latest prediction (3 February 2011):

Current prediction {sic} for the next sunspot cycle maximum gives a smoothed {13 month average} sunspot number maximum of about 58 in July of 2013. We are currently two years into Cycle 24 and the predicted size continues to fall.

More important, as Archibald predicted, so far cycle 24 tracks cycle 5 — the Dalton Minimum — as shown in this graph (source here; data through November 2010).  The years of cycle 5 were cold, although the causes remain unclear (volcanos contributed, perhaps like those erupting in Kamchatka now).    Continue reading