Posts Tagged ‘Solar science’

New papers confirm solar effects could bring on little ice ages

October 10, 2011

There seems to be a renewal of interest in solar effects on climate change and especially on little ice ages. It would be too much to expect an early abandonment of the carbon dioxide hypothesis. Equally unlikely is any acknowledgement that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is of insignificant influence for climate. But the acknowledgement of solar influences on climate helps to redress some of the balance.

The UK Met office research referred to in yesterday’s Sunday Times article might well refer to this paper in Nature Geoscience published online yesterday which makes the link between UV radiation variation during solar cycles and cold winters in the Northern hemisphere. The authors are from the Met Office Hadley Centre, Oxford and Imperial College.

Solar forcing of winter climate variability in the Northern Hemisphere by Sarah Ineson, Adam A. Scaife, Jeff R. Knight, James C. Manners, Nick J. Dunstone, Lesley J. Gray & Joanna D. Haigh  Nature Geoscience (2011) doi:10.1038/ngeo1282

Sarah Ineson – Met Office Hadley Centre, FitzRoy Road, Exeter, Devon EX1 3PB, UK 

Abstract:An influence of solar irradiance variations on Earth’s surface climate has been repeatedly suggested, based on correlations between solar variability and meteorological variables. Specifically, weaker westerly winds have been observed in winters with a less active sun, for example at the minimum phase of the 11-year sunspot cycle. With some possible exceptions, it has proved difficult for climate models to consistently reproduce this signal. Spectral Irradiance Monitor satellite measurements indicate that variations in solar ultraviolet irradiance may be larger than previously thought. Here we drive an ocean–atmosphere climate model with ultraviolet irradiance variations based on these observations. We find that the model responds to the solar minimum with patterns in surface pressure and temperature that resemble the negative phase of the North Atlantic or Arctic Oscillation, of similar magnitude to observations. In our model, the anomalies descend through the depth of the extratropical winter atmosphere. If the updated measurements of solar ultraviolet irradiance are correct, low solar activity, as observed during recent years, drives cold winters in northern Europe and the United States, and mild winters over southern Europe and Canada, with little direct change in globally averaged temperature. Given the quasiregularity of the 11-year solar cycle, our findings may help improve decadal climate predictions for highly populated extratropical regions.

A sceond paper in Nature Geoscience also released online yesterday reports that simulations with a climate model using new observations of solar variability suggest a substantial influence of the Sun on the winter climate in the Northern Hemisphere.

Atmospheric science: Solar cycle and climate predictions by Katja Matthes Nature Geoscience (2011) doi:10.1038/ngeo1298

Katja Matthes is at the Helmholtz Centre Potsdam, GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, Telegrafenberg, 14473 Potsdam, Germany

Interestingly a paper from 2001 with Michael Mann and Gavin Schmidt  (of climategate infamy) as co-authors has similar findings:

Solar Forcing of Regional Climate Change During the Maunder Minimum by Drew T. Shindell, Gavin A. Schmidt, Michael E. Mann, David Rind and Anne Waple,  Science 7 December 2001: Vol. 294 no. 5549 pp. 2149-2152 DOI: 10.1126/science.1064363

Abstract:We examine the climate response to solar irradiance changes between the late 17th-century Maunder Minimum and the late 18th century. Global average temperature changes are small (about 0.3° to 0.4°C) in both a climate model and empirical reconstructions. However, regional temperature changes are quite large. In the model, these occur primarily through a forced shift toward the low index state of the Arctic Oscillation/North Atlantic Oscillation as solar irradiance decreases. This leads to colder temperatures over the Northern Hemisphere continents, especially in winter (1° to 2°C), in agreement with historical records and proxy data for surface temperatures.

Update! The BBC reports on this story here but takes great care to pay due respect to global warming orthodoxy with the statement “The researchers emphasise there is no impact on global warming”.

Of course not – It’s only the sun stupid! And what can the sun possibly have to do with warming the planet?!


Colder winters to come and solar influence on climate beginning to get its due

Is the Landscheidt minimum a precursor for a grand minimum? 

Major Drop In Solar Activity Predicted: Landscheidt Minimum is upon us and a mini-ice age is imminent

June 15, 2011

The stunning announcement made at the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society exceeded the expectations from the advance publicity!

The results of new studies were announced today (June 14) at the annual meeting of the solar physics division of the American Astronomical Society, which is being held this week at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. 

The results of three separate studies seem to show that even as the current sunspot cycle (SC24) moves toward the solar maximum, the sun could be heading into a more-dormant period, with activity during the next 11-year sunspot cycle (SC25) greatly reduced or even eliminated.

The indicators have been  growing for some time that we are in for a a new solar minimum – the Landscheidt minimum – which could be similar to the Dalton Minimum and may even approach the Maunder Minimum. This could mean a cooling period for the earth of 20 – 30 years or for as long as 60 – 70 years. In any event the signs will be unambiguous and inescapable within a decade.

It is reasonable to assume that climatic conditions over the next 20 – 30 years will resemble those prevailing between 1790 and 1820. But SC24 has a way to go yet and it could be that solar activity for SC24 and 25 will be even lower than during the Dalton minimum and perhaps closer to the Spörer minimum but perhaps not as deep as the Maunder minimum.

But in either case the solar activity to come following the Modern maximum may well resemble the 500 years of decline in solar activity which followed the Medieval maximum.

Solar activity events recorded in radiocarbon. Present period is on left. Values since 1950 not shown: Wikipedia

The three papers are: 

  1. “Large-Scale Zonal Flows During the Solar Minimum — Where Is Cycle 25?” by Frank Hill, R. Howe, R. Komm, J. Christensen-Dalsgaard, T.P. Larson, J. Schou & M. J. Thompson.
  2. “A Decade of Diminishing Sunspot Vigor” by W. C. Livingston, M. Penn & L. Svalgard.
  3. “Whither Goes Cycle 24? A View from the Fe XIV Corona” by R. C. Altrock.

 Spacedaily reports:

Major Drop In Solar Activity Predicted

As the current sunspot cycle, Cycle 24, begins to ramp up toward maximum, independent studies of the solar interior, visible surface, and the corona indicate that the next 11-year solar sunspot cycle, Cycle 25, will be greatly reduced or may not happen at all.

“This is highly unusual and unexpected,” Dr. Frank Hill, associate director of the NSO’s Solar Synoptic Network, said of the results. “But the fact that three completely different views of the Sun point in the same direction is a powerful indicator that the sunspot cycle may be going into hibernation.”

Hill is the lead author on one of three papers on these results being presented this week. Using data from the Global Oscillation Network Group (GONG) of six observing stations around the world, the team translates surface pulsations caused by sound reverberating through the Sun into models of the internal structure.

One of their discoveries is an east-west zonal wind flow inside the Sun, called the torsional oscillation, which starts at mid-latitudes and migrates towards the equator. The latitude of this wind stream matches the new spot formation in each cycle, and successfully predicted the late onset of the current Cycle 24.

“We expected to see the start of the zonal flow for Cycle 25 by now,” Hill explained, “but we see no sign of it. This indicates that the start of Cycle 25 may be delayed to 2021 or 2022, or may not happen at all.”

In the second paper, Matt Penn and William Livingston see a long-term weakening trend in the strength of sunspots, and predict that by Cycle 25 magnetic fields erupting on the Sun will be so weak that few if any sunspots will be formed. Spots are formed when intense magnetic flux tubes erupt from the interior and keep cooled gas from circulating back to the interior.

For typical sunspots this magnetism has a strength of 2,500 to 3,500 gauss (Earth’s magnetic field is less than 1 gauss at the surface); the field must reach at least 1,500 gauss to form a dark spot.

Using more than 13 years of sunspot data collected at the McMath-Pierce Telescope at Kitt Peak in Arizona, Penn and Livingston observed that the average field strength declined about 50 gauss per year during Cycle 23 and now in Cycle 24.

They also observed that spot temperatures have risen exactly as expected for such changes in the magnetic field. If the trend continues, the field strength will drop below the 1,500 gauss threshold and spots will largely disappear as the magnetic field is no longer strong enough to overcome convective forces on the solar surface.

Moving outward, Richard Altrock, manager of the Air Force’s coronal research program at NSO’s Sunspot, NM, facilities has observed a slowing of the “rush to the poles,” the rapid poleward march of magnetic activity observed in the Sun’s faint corona. Altrock used four decades of observations with NSO’s 40-cm (16-inch) coronagraphic telescope at Sunspot.

“A key thing to understand is that those wonderful, delicate coronal features are actually powerful, robust magnetic structures rooted in the interior of the Sun,” Altrock explained. “Changes we see in the corona reflect changes deep inside the Sun.”

Altrock used a photometer to map iron heated to 2 million degrees C (3.6 million F). Stripped of half of its electrons, it is easily concentrated by magnetism rising from the Sun. In a well-known pattern, new solar activity emerges first at about 70 degrees latitude at the start of a cycle, then towards the equator as the cycle ages. At the same time, the new magnetic fields push remnants of the older cycle as far as 85 degrees poleward.

“In cycles 21 through 23, solar maximum occurred when this rush appeared at an average latitude of 76 degrees,” Altrock said.

“Cycle 24 started out late and slow and may not be strong enough to create a rush to the poles, indicating we’ll see a very weak solar maximum in 2013, if at all. If the rush to the poles fails to complete, this creates a tremendous dilemma for the theorists, as it would mean that Cycle 23’s magnetic field will not completely disappear from the polar regions (the rush to the poles accomplishes this feat). No one knows what the Sun will do in that case.”

All three of these lines of research to point to the familiar sunspot cycle shutting down for a while. “If we are right,” Hill concluded, “this could be the last solar maximum we’ll see for a few decades. That would affect everything from space exploration to Earth’s climate.”

That last may be the understatement of the century!!!

A photo of a sunspot taken in May 2010, with Earth shown to scale. The image has been colorized for  aesthetic reasons. This image with 0.1 arcsecond resolution from the Swedish 1-m Solar  Telescope represents the limit of what is currently possible in te

A photo of a sunspot taken in May 2010, with Earth shown to scale.This image with 0.1 arcsecond resolution from the Swedish 1-m Solar Telescope represents the limit of what is currently possible in terms of spatial resolution. CREDIT: The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, V.M.J. Henriques (sunspot), NASA Apollo 17 (Earth)

Solar effects 6 times greater than assumed by IPCC

May 10, 2011

A new paper by A. I. Shapiro, W. Schmutz, E. Rozanov, M. Schoell, M. Haberreiter, A. V. Shapiro, and S. Nyeki in Astronomy & Astrophysics  – Total Solar Irradiance (TSI) Astronomy & Astrophysics 529, A67 (2011)  shows that

a total and spectral solar irradiance was substantially lower during the Maunder minimum than observed today. The difference is remarkably larger than other estimations published in the recent literature. The magnitude of the solar UV variability, which indirectly affects climate is also found to exceed previous estimates. 

We present a new technique to reconstruct total and spectral solar irradiance over the Holocene. We obtained a large historical solar forcing between the Maunder minimum and the present, as well as a significant increase in solar irradiance in the first half of the twentieth-century. Our value of the historical solar forcing is remarkably larger than other estimations published in the recent literature.

Climate Realists reports:

A recent peer-reviewed paper published in Astronomy & Astrophysics finds that solar activity has increased since the Little Ice Age by far more than previously assumed by the IPCC. The paper finds that the Total Solar Irradiance (TSI) has increased since the end of the Little Ice Age (around 1850) by up to 6 times more than assumed by the IPCC. Thus, much of the global warming observed since 1850 may instead be attributable to the Sun (called “solar forcing”), rather than man-made CO2 as assumed by the IPCC. 

article image

A voice of sanity in “climate science”

April 6, 2011

Prof. Dr. Vincent Courtillot Präsentation

This needs no comment but should be required watching for anybody who claims to be a “climate scientist” or wants to pontificate about global warming.

Dr. Vincent Courtillot is a professor of geophysics at the University Paris-Diderot and Chair of paleomagnetism and geodynamics of the Institut Universitaire de France.

In the recent lecture below he explains how solar cycles control the climate by influence on cloud formation (the cosmic ray theory of Svensmark et al) and via influence on ocean oscillations and length of day. Dr. Courtillot notes that IPCC climate computer models do not correlate with observations and that temperature trends vary substantially between North America and Europe (which is contrary to IPCC computer model predictions).

He also notes that while the total solar irradiance (TSI) only varies by about .1% over a solar cycle, the solar UV varies by about 10% and that secondary effects on cloud formation may vary up to 30% over solar cycles. The IPCC computer models dismiss the role of the sun by only considering the small variations of the TSI and ignore the large changes in the most energetic and influential part of the solar spectrum – the ultraviolet.

h/t wuwt

Nasa Glory mission fails again after launch

March 4, 2011
Top down view of Taurus XL carrying OCO

Top down view of Taurus XL carrying OCO: Image via Wikipedia

The US space agency’s (Nasa) attempt to launch its latest Earth observation mission has ended in failure. This is the second straight failure for the Taurus XL rocket, which appears to be connected to the rocket failing to release its payload. The Glory satellite lifted off from California at 0209 local time (1009 GMT), but officials became aware of a problem five minutes into the mission.

The Glory spacecraft was scheduled for launch today  Friday, March 4 after technical issues with ground support equipment for the Taurus XL launch vehicle led to the scrub of the original Feb. 23 launch attempt. Those issues were thought to have been resolved. Data from the Glory mission is expected to allow scientists to better understand how the sun and tiny atmospheric particles called aerosols affect Earth’s climate. The Taurus XL also carries the first of NASA’s Educational Launch of Nanosatellite missions. This auxiliary payload contains three small satellites called CubeSats, which were designed and created by university and college students.

From Nasa’s blog:

After Liftoff of Taurus XL Rocket, Fairing Fails to Separate

The Glory spacecraft and Taurus XL rocket lifted off this morning on time at 2:09:43 a.m. PST/5:09:43 a.m. EST.

About six minutes into the launch, a spacecraft contingency was declared by Launch Director Omar Baez. Data indicates the rocket fairing did not separate. More information will be provided at a news briefing later on NASA TV.

Project management for Glory is the responsibility of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. The launch management for the mission is the responsibility of NASA’s Launch Services Program at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va., is the launch service provider to Kennedy of the four-stage Taurus XL rocket and is also builder of the Glory satellite for Goddard.

Solar Cycle 24 forecast reduced yet again

February 10, 2011

We had a reduced forecast from NASA just a month ago and it has reduced yet again.

The peak is now expected in July 2013 but this could well slip a month or two. This Landscheidt Minimum continues to look like a Dalton Minimum.

December 2010 forecast smoothed sunspot number maximum of 64 in June 2013

January 2011 forecast smoothed sunspot number maximum of 59 in June/July 2013

February 2011

Current prediction for the next sunspot cycle maximum gives a smoothed 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.

The latest forecasts for sunspot number and 10.7 Radio flux and Ap progression are here:


Solar Cycle 24 is unusually quiet but not unprecedented

December 29, 2010

NASA has made a new reduced forecast for the peak sunspot number and the time of occurrence of the peak of Solar Cycle 24. The peak number has been reduced from 90 to 64 and the time of the peak is unchanged at June 2013.

I have superimposed the development of the forecast peak and time of the peak on the base forecast. This is not any criticism of the forecast. It only emphasises that the forecasts are about something which is not very well understood. So far the forecast development is only in the direction of reducing sunspot numbers and delays in the time of attaining the peak. As the peak actually approaches the forecasts should stabilise but there is still some room for further reduction. It is not inconceivable that the SC24 will not peak till early 2014 and will only achieve peak sunspot numbers around 55. Solar cycle 24 could well have a length of 150+ months instead of the nominal 132 months.


SC24 forecast development superimposed on NASA forecast (

That SC24 represents a very quiet sun and that taken together with SC23 this Landscheidt minimum represents a behaviour similar to the period leading up to the Dalton minimum is quite clear insofar as sunspot number is concerned. But the length of Solar Cycle 23 and its extended quiet period also has precedence.

Further similarities to SC4 and 5 were reported in

Agee, Ernest M., Emily Cornett, Kandace Gleason, 2010: An Extended Solar Cycle 23 with Deep Minimum Transition to Cycle 24: Assessments and Climatic Ramifications. J. Climate, 23, 6110–6114.
doi: 10.1175/2010JCLI3831.1

The extended length of solar cycle 23 and the associated deep quiet period (QP) between cycles 23 and 24 have been examined using the international sunspot record from 1755 to 2010. This study has also introduced a QP definition based on a (beginning and ending) mean monthly threshold value of less than 10 for the sunspot number. Features addressed are the length and intensity of cycle 23, the length of the QP and the associated number of spotless days, and the respective relationships between cycle intensity, length, and QP. The length of cycle 23 (153 months) is second only to cycle 4 (164 months), with an average of 132.5 months for the 11-yr cycle. The length of the QP between cycles 23 and 24 ranks eighth, extending from October 2005 through November 2009 (but subject to continued weakness in cycle 24). The number of spotless days achieved within this QP was 751 (and for all days within the transition from cycle 23 to cycle24, a record number of 801 spotless days had been observed through May 2010). Shortcomings of solar-convection-model predictions of sunspot activity and intensity are also noted, including the failure in the initial predictions of cycle-24 onset.

It would not be too surprising if SC24 only reached levels which were  lower than the Dalton minimum and perhaps even approaching the lows of the Maunder minimum.


Unsettled science?

October 9, 2010


History of sunspot number observations showing...

Image via Wikipedia


Within the space of two days there have been two scientific papers with entirely different conclusions about the effect of the active sun on climate. That there is a difference from two different studies is perfectly normal (and desirable if we are to learn), but what is obvious is the inanity of considering that the effects of solar variations on climate is a “settled science”. Solar Science and Climate are still in the realm of “where we don’t know what we don’t know”.

The first on October 5th, led to the conclusion that:

an increase in solar activity from the Sun actually cools the Earth

The second reported here comes to the conclusion that:

“The contribution of the active sun, indirectly via cosmic rays, to global warming appears to be much stronger than the presently accepted [IPCC] upper limit of 1/3.”




New Research – “A stronger sun cools the earth”??

October 6, 2010

New research and like all good research poses more questions than it answers. And the caveat is that the 3 year period of the research may not be very significant in the rythms of the sun. But it only emphasises to me that climate models which ignore the sun are not really worth very much. And climate models will only begin to become interesting when the sun’s influences and mechanisms by which they apply are far better understood.

From The Telegraph:

An increase in solar activity from the Sun actually cools the Earth, suggests new research that will renew the debate over the science behind climate change.

A stronger Sun actually cools the Earth

Stronger Sun actually cools the Earth??

Focused on a three-year snapshot of time between 2004 and 2007, as solar activity waned at the end of one of the Sun’s 11-year cycles, the new data shows the amount of light and heat reaching the Earth rose rather than fell. Its impact on melting polar ice caps, and drying up rivers could therefore have been exaggerated by conventional climate models during the period.

Scientists also believe it may also be possible that during the next upturn of the cycle, when solar activity increases, there might be a cooling effect at the Earth’s surface.

In the New Scientist:

Joanna Haigh of Imperial College London studied satellite measurements of solar radiation between 2004 and 2007, when overall solar activity was in decline.

Haigh’s measurements showed that visible radiation increased between 2004 and 2007, when it was expected to decrease, and ultraviolet radiation dropped four times as much as predicted. Haigh then plugged her data into an atmospheric model to calculate how the patterns affected energy filtering through the atmosphere. Previous studies have shown that Earth is normally cooler during solar minima.Yet the model suggested that more solar energy reached the planet’s surface during the period, warming it by about 0.05 °C.

An influence of solar spectral variations on radiative forcing of climate

by Joanna D. Haigh, Ann R. Winning, Ralf Toumi & Jerald W. Harder

(Nature, DOI: 10.1038/nature09426).

The effect is slight, but it could call into question our understanding of the sun’s subtle effects on climate. Or could it? Stefan Brönnimann of the University of Bern in Switzerland says Haigh’s study shows the importance of looking at radiation changes in detail but cautions that her the results could be a one-off. He points out that the sun’s most recent cycle is known to have been atypical

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