How Much Is Earth’s Climate Determined By The Sun?

Below are quotes from various scientific papers and authors. Some of their findings lend support to the idea that global climate variations correlate in some manner with the Sun’s energy output. This begs the question: has mankind’s effect on the climate been overstated?

(Note: Sources are cited at the end of each quote.)

NasaSun

The Sun (Photo: NASA)

“Current concern over ‘greenhouse’ warming and possible human influence upon global climate has been countered by claims that recent advances in solar theory demonstrate a greater role than previously thought for solar forcing in recent climate change. This is still disputed for this century, but new evidence from a range of palaeoenvironmental indicators lends strong support to the notion that not only the long-term (105 to 103 years) climate changes of the Pleistocene but also short-term (101 to 102 years) climate changes in the Holocene may derive in large or small part from solar variability. (Palaeoenvironmental evidence for solar forcing of Holocene climate: linkages to solar science, Frank M. Chambers, Michael I. Ogle, Jeffrey J. Blackford, Progress in Physical Geography, December 2013: http://ppg.sagepub.com/content/23/2/181.abstract)

The Maunder Minimum (A.D. 1645–1715)

Early records of sunspots indicate that the Sun went through a period of inactivity in the late 17th century. Very few sunspots were seen on the Sun from about 1645 to 1715. Although the observations were not as extensive as in later years, the Sun was in fact well observed during this time and this lack of sunspots is well documented. This period of solar inactivity also corresponds to a climatic period called the “Little Ice Age” when rivers that are normally ice-free froze and snow fields remained year-round at lower altitudes. There is evidence that the Sun has had similar periods of inactivity in the more distant past. The connection between solar activity and terrestrial climate is an area of on-going research. (NASA: http://solarscience.msfc.nasa.gov/SunspotCycle.shtml)

sunspotactivity

“Therefore, the variation of GCR (galactic cosmic ray) flux associated with the multidecadal cycles of solar magnetic field seem to be causally related to the significant and widespread climate changes at least during the Maunder Minimum.” (Synchronized Northern Hemisphere climate change and solar magnetic cycles during the Maunder Minimum, Yasuhiko T. Yamaguchi, Yasuhiko T. Yamaguchia, Hiroko Miyaharad, Kenjiro Shoe, and Takeshi Nakatsukaf, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, November 30, 2010: http://www.pnas.org/content/107/48/20697.abstract)

The Current Solar Cycle: Cycle 24

“We are currently over five years into (solar) Cycle 24. The current predicted and observed size makes this the smallest sunspot cycle since Cycle 14 which had a maximum of 64.2 in February of 1906.” (From NASA’s website, updated January 2, 2014: http://solarscience.msfc.nasa.gov/predict.shtml)

“The incipient cycle 24 will probably mark the end of the Modern Maximum, with the Sun switching to a state of less strong activity.” (Solar Cycle Prediction, Kristóf Petrovay, December 27, 2010. Link provided by NASA website: http://solarphysics.livingreviews.org/Articles/lrsp-2010-6/)

 If we are entering another period of low solar activity, will it usher in a new “little ice age?

sunCycle22Cycle23Cycle24bigIt has been decades since parts of the Midwest experienced a deep freeze like the one expected to arrive Sunday, with potential record-low temperatures heightening fears of frostbite and hypothermia even in a region where residents are accustomed to bundling up.(Carson Walker, Associated Press, January 4, 2014:)

The 3 graphs below show the monthly averaged sunspot numbers from 1750 to the present. Note the downward trend of sunspot activity after the peak of Solar Cycle 19  around 1957.

sunspots1750.jpeg

“The solar cycle modulation of cosmic rays (Section 3.8) leaves its imprint in the concentration of the radioisotopes 14C in tree rings and 10Be in ice cores (Section 3.9). The connection between solar activity and radioisotope concentrations is complicated by the transport and storage of these radioisotopes. Nonetheless, estimates of solar activity levels over time-scales much longer than the 400-year sunspot record can be obtained (see Usoskin, 2008, for a review).  These reconstructions of solar activity reveal Grand Minima like the Maunder Minimum as well as Grand Maxima similar to the last half of the 20th century. The reconstructions suggest that the Sun spends about 1/6th of its current life in a Grand Minimum phase and about 1/10th in a Grand Maximum.” (The Solar Cycle, David H. Hathaway, March 2, 2010: http://solarphysics.livingreviews.org/Articles/lrsp-2010-1/fulltext.html)

monthlysunspot.jpeg

“After reviewing evidence in both the latest global data (HadCRUT4) and the longest instrumental record, Central England Temperature, a revised picture is emerging that gives a consistent attribution for each multidecadal episode of warming and cooling in recent history, and suggests that the anthropogenic global warming trends might have been overestimated by a factor of two in the second half of the 20th century. (Using data to attribute episodes of warming and cooling in instrumental records, Ka-Kit Tung and  Jiansong Zhou, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, February 5, 2013: http://www.pnas.org/content/110/6/2058.short)

“Different records of solar activity (Wolf and group sunspot number, data on cosmogenic isotopes, historic data) were analyzed by means of modern statistical methods, including one especially developed for this purpose. It was confirmed that two long-term variations in solar activity – the cycles of Gleissberg and Suess – can be distinguished at least during the last millennium. The results also show that the century-type cycle of Gleissberg has a wide frequency band with a double structure consisting of 50–80 years and 90–140 year periodicities. The structure of the Suess cycle is less complex showing a variation with a period of 170–260 years. Strong variability in Gleissberg and Suess frequency bands was found in northern hemisphere temperature multiproxy that confirms the existence of a long-term relationship between solar activity and terrestial climate. (Long-Period Cycles of the Sun’s Activity Recorded in Direct Solar Data and Proxies, M.G. Ogurtsov, Yu.A. Nagovitsyn, G.E. Kocharov, H. Jungner, Solar Physics, December 2002: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1023%2FA%3A1022411209257)

The Suess Cycle

Is the Sun about due to enter into another bicentennial minimum?

“One periodicity that arises in many radiocarbon studies of solar activity has a well defined period of about 210 years. This is often referred to as the Suess or de Vries Cycle (Suess, 1980).” (The Solar Cycle, David H. Hathaway, March 2, 2010: http://solarphysics.livingreviews.org/Articles/lrsp-2010-1/fulltext.html)

“The Earth as a planet will henceforward have negative balance in the energy budget which will result in the temperature drop in approximately 2014. Due to increase of albedo and decrease of the greenhouse gases atmospheric concentration the absorbed portion of solar energy and the influence of the greenhouse effect will additionally decline. The influence of the consecutive chain of feedback effects which can lead to additional drop of temperature will surpass the influence of the TSI (Total Solar Irradiance) decrease. The onset of the deep bicentennial minimum of TSI is expected in 2042±11, that of the 19th Little Ice Age in the past 7500 years – in 2055±11.” (Bicentennial Decrease of the Total Solar Irradiance Leads to Unbalanced Thermal Budget of the Earth and the Little Ice Age, 2012, Habibullo I. Abdussamatov.)

The dotted blue lines on the 2nd graph below show Dr. Abdussamatov’s prediction of lower solar activity. If this is correct it may trigger another “Little Ice Age” similar to the one experienced in Europe from 1645-1710 A.D.

sunpredictionminimum.jpeg

It sure will be interesting to see if Dr. Abdussamatov’s “prediction” comes true.

What if the Earth begins to cool again?

Let us hope that the world is prepared for a colder climate if that’s where we are heading. The Obama administration is basing it energy policy on an opposite scenario in which the Earth continues to warm due to man’s burning of fossil fuels. Many countries around the world have also formulated policies based on an assumption of continued warming, but some, like Australia, have begun to rethink their policies in light of the fact that global warming halted sometime around 1998 and contrary to the most widely accepted predictions.

“The scientific community would come down on me in no uncertain terms if I said the world had cooled from 1998. OK it has but it is only 7 years of data and it isn’t statistically significant.” — Phil Jones: July 5, 2005. Dr. Jones is Director of the Climatic Research Unit and a Professor in the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia. His work was featured prominently in both the 2001 and 2007 IPCC reports.

“The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t.” — Kevin Trenberth, 2009. Dr. Trenberth was a lead author of the 1995, 2001, and 2007 IPCC Scientific Assessment of Climate Change and is head of the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder Colorado.

“Average global temperatures hit a record high in 1998 — and then the warming stalled…..Although there have been jumps and dips, average atmospheric temperatures have risen little since 1998, in seeming defiance of projections of climate models and the ever-increasing emissions of greenhouse gases.” 
Jeff Tollefson, writing in Nature, the “International Weekly Journal of Science,” January 15, 2014

“William Herschel (1801) was the first to report correlation between a level of sunspot activity and a climate after his discovery of inverse interrelation between a wheat price and a level of cyclic variations of solar activity before and during Dalton minimum. When the Sun’s surface was covered with sunspots, the wheat prices were going down. When the number of sunspots dropped the prices went up. He supposed that variations of wheat prices are the consequence of the corresponding climate changes. However, he could not explain the physical nature of this phenomenon. Later Eddy (1976) was discovered interconnection between clearly determined periods of significant variations of the sunspot activity level during the last millennium and corresponding deep climatic changes in both phase and amplitude. During each of the eighteen deep minima of solar activity (of Maunder type) with a bicentennial cycle found in the preceding 7.5 millennia, deep cooling was observed, while during the periods of high maxima – global warming (Borisenkov, 1988). Recent studies (Bal, et al. 2011; McPhaden, et al. 2011) confirm our results (Abdussamatov, 2009a, b) concerning a common action of eleven-year and bicentennial cyclic variations of the total solar irradiance (TSI) (with some time-lag) on the change of state of the surface and subsurface layers (with the depth of tens and hundreds of meters) in the tropical part of the Pacific Ocean accompanied with appearance of warm or cold water (the cycles of La Niña or El Niño phenomena) which affects the climate change as well. Observed characteristics of El Niño during the last 31 years have been changing in the opposite direction with regard to predictions of the climatic models assuming predominant influence of the greenhouse gases.

“Since the Sun is now approaching the phase of decrease of bicentennial luminosity on the basis of observed accelerating drop in both the 11-year and bicentennial components of TSI from early 90s, we can forecast its further decline similar to a so called Maunder minimum….Hence, we can expect the onset of a deep bicentennial minimum of TSI in approximately 2042±11 and of the 19th deep minimum of global temperature in the past 7500 years – in 2055±11 (Fig. 4). In the nearest future we will observe a transition (between global warming and global cooling) period of unstable climate changes with the global temperature fluctuating around its maximum value reached in 1998-2005. After the maximum of solar cycle 24, from approximately 2014 we can expect the start of the next bicentennial cycle of deep cooling with a Little Ice Age in 2055±11. Thus, long-term variations of TSI (with account for their direct and secondary, based on feedback effects, influence) are the main fundamental cause of climate changes since variations of the Earth climate is mainly determined by a long-term imbalance between the energy of solar radiation entering the upper layers of the Earth’s atmosphere and the total energy emitted from the Earth back to space.” (Bicentennial Decrease of the Total Solar Irradiance Leads to Unbalanced Thermal Budget of the Earth and the Little Ice Age, 2012, Habibullo I. Abdussamatov.)

 “The ~200-year solar cycle (de Vries cycle) is commonly believed to be one of the most intense solar cycles.

“The quasi-200-year variations revealed in the palaeoclimatic reconstructions correlate well (R2=0.58–0.94) with solar activity variations (Δ14C variations). The quasi-200-year climatic variations have also been detected in climate-linked processes in Asia, Europe, North and South America, Australia, and the Arctic and Antarctica. The results obtained point to a pronounced influence of solar activity on global climatic processes.

“Analysis has shown that climate response to the long-term global solar forcing has a regional character. An appreciable delay in the climate response to the solar signal can occur (up to 150 years).” (The influence of the de Vries (~200-year) solar cycle on climate variations: Results from the Central Asian Mountains and their global link, O.M. Raspopov, V.A. Dergachev , J. Esper, O.V. Kozyreva, D. Frank, M. Ogurtsov, T. Kolström, X. Shao, 2006 http://www.issw.ch/info/mitarbeitende/frank/Raspopov_etal_PPP_2008.pdf)

The Obama administration is actively working to artificially increase the price of fossil fuel production and consumption. One example of this is that the Environmental Protection Agency has been increasing regulations on coal-fired power plants and has made compliance so costly that many  of these plants will simply cease to operate. If the world is about to enter a prolonged period of cooling, the Obama administration’s energy policies, which will necessarily lead to higher energy prices and fewer energy choices, will turn out to be one of the biggest policy blunders in modern history. Raising the price of energy during a time of increasing demand will have deadly consequences, especially for those at the bottom of the economic ladder.

Frotho

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