Setting the Record Straight on Solar Activity

sunsetThere are valid reasons to conclude that long-term changes in solar output are a key driver of global climate. 

In fact, evidence for the influence of solar variability emerges rather clearly throughout the climate swings of the past 2,000 years. Heightened solar output correlates remarkably well with both the Roman Warm Period (250-400 AD) and the Medieval Warm Period (950-1250 AD). And, diminished solar activity corresponds equally well with the cooler climate of the “Little Ice Age” (1350-1850 AD).

However, in an effort to prove that only man-made emissions of carbon dioxide drive contemporary global warming, climate activists will sometimes refer to a graph of recent solar activity in order to dispel the notion of solar influence. Specifically, they cite a chart showing the sun and global temperatures moving in “opposite directions” over the past 35 years (see figure A.)

Fig. 1Figure A

Their argument goes something like this: If solar activity drove climate change, the graph in question should show an exact, continuous correlation between the trajectory of solar activity and global temperatures. But since their trajectories start to diverge, somewhere around 1980, this proves there’s no causal relationship.

Unfortunately, this assumption misses a key point about recent solar activity. 

There was a continuing net uptick in solar output from the latter portion of the 1800s, right up through the start of the 2000s. If one scrutinizes Figure A carefully, they’ll note that solar activity essentially plateaued at an incredibly high level from roughly 1950 into the early 2000s. This ongoing, high output helped to drive a continuing climb in temperatures.

More significantly, even accounting for the up-down variations seen since roughly 1960, the overall level has been unprecedented in historic terms (see Figure B.)

Figure 2Figure B

And even at the lower level marked for roughly 2010, solar output remained higher than seen in the early 1900s.

Overall, one could say that the sun put the pedal to the floor starting in the late 1800s, and powered a warming trend that lifted global climate out of the troubling cold era of the “Little Ice Age.”

Interestingly, the decline in solar activity at the start of the 2000s coincides rather intriguingly with the observed “pause” in global climate starting around the same time. One could ponder if this might also argue in favor of the overall impact of solar variability.

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Comments (15)

  • Avatar

    joe bastardi

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    IF there is linkage, then the increased solar activity would have to have that heat stored in the oceans, which are slow to warm and lag. The oceans area product of hundreds of years of outside influence and contain 1000x the heat capacity of the air. It makes perfect sense that the warmth of the oceans today and the corresponding warming is simply the lag one would expect. In addition, the initial drop off of the solar radiation may mean reduced easterlies in the tropics, which means enso events such as the past one are there to release that stored heat in the air. You dont get rid of the heat of 200 years of strong solar activity in 20 years. So the theory is simple and much more likely to be true given the power of the sun That the enhanced activity likely had a warming effect on the oceans over the longer period ( since the LIA). With the Pacific and atlantic going into their warm cycles in tandem, Pacific first in the 1980s, atlantic later, it would make perfect sense that the cyclical deck is stacked for warming, one that given the known lags that occur, would take time to turn around.

  • Avatar

    GR82DRV

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    [quote name=”joe bastardi”]…It makes perfect sense that the warmth of the oceans today and the corresponding warming is simply the lag one would expect…

    …it would make perfect sense that the cyclical deck is stacked for warming, one that given the known lags that occur, would take time to turn around.[/quote]
    Thanks Joe. from a less analytical perspective, it is only [u][b]logical[/b][/u] that the [u]first[/u] place we should look for long-term temperature shifts is to the sun! Simple! Instead, leftist ideologues twist like pretzels to force impossibly complex human-driven answers that best suit their political agendas.

  • Avatar

    Stevencap

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    Joe: I totally agree. I tried to keep the piece really brief. But I certainly considered all the side-areas of PSO and other cycles as having mitigating and “interrupting” impacts. (I just figured that I wouldn’t get into it in a such a short item. But you made the case for me– and you said it very well.) Thanks, steven

  • Avatar

    DMA

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    I just got to watch the video of Willie Soon’s presentation at ICCC 11 on Heartlands site. He has a compelling discussion of the TSI calculation methods and its correlation with Northern hemisphere temps. One of the very telling points he makes is that some previous TSI estimates ( including G.Schmidt and IPCC) use only sun spot numbers and are therefore grossly erroneous.

  • Avatar

    amirlach

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    The sCeptical UNscience graph is completely false. Temperatures have not increased as predicted.
    [img]http://lovingenergies.net/gfile/75r4!-!GJMDEK!-!zrzor45!-!PLFHISQH-LKML-HEGF-MPQI-GMOFEMFOGIHO!-!72y1nq/global_warming_20_years_no.jpg[/img]

    Notice how the graph completely erases the 20 year pause?

    USCRN, UAH, USA48, 49 and RSSUSA all show it.
    http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=USCRN%2c+UAH%2c+USA48%2c+49+and+RSSUSA&view=detailv2&&id=29D0358FDD3CAE90C87BC5F438D5884613DA3380&selectedIndex=0&ccid=6LRAF3Uu&simid=608033822400907423&thid=OIP.Me8b44017752e6c91f32fd092d10c68a4o0&ajaxhist=0

    Too bad the original .png has been removed.

  • Avatar

    David Lewis

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    Any temperature model that actually worked would primarily use solar activity. The Earth’s climate isn’t simple so other variables would have to be factored in. For future predictions, we would have to assume that the solar patterns are repeating and when they don’t do so, make the appropriate adjustments.

    With 138 climate models that don’t work, we desperately need one that does work. By working I mean predict temperatures that matched reality fairly closely from 1900 on. Such a model would not predict disastrous warming. The climate activists would mount a viscous attack but being the only model that is accurate when projected back in time it would be an elephant in the room impossible to ignore. The activists would still pursue their agendas but would have more and more trouble doing so.

    A while ago I contacted a professor who is an out spoken critic of the anthropological climate change theory. I’m sure he has the ability to construct an accurate climate model but I got no response.

  • Avatar

    Amber

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    Is there any dispute at all within the scientific community that the most influential natural climate variable is something other than the the sun ? If so what is it ? Assuming it is the sun and perhaps earths orbit in relation to the sun how is it scientifically possible to make claims that a trace gas (CO2 ) ,which is highly beneficial to life on earth demonized through defamation of slander and libel .

    Are there any scientific organizations (not lobby groups ) that claim and can prove
    that earth’s plants ,forests, marine life and animals are better off when the earth is in a cooling cycle ? If so who are they and where is their proof ?

    Do we have to wait till the sun goes out
    to figure out humans fraction of 1 % contribution of CO2 is virtually meaningless . In fact it is beneficial in
    it’s own minuscule way .

    Can’t we solve some real problems . It isn’t like we don’t have plenty to work on ?

  • Avatar

    David Lewis

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    [quote name=”Amber”]Is there any dispute at all within the scientific community that the most influential natural climate variable is something other than the the sun ? If so what is it ? Assuming it is the sun and perhaps earths orbit in relation to the sun how is it scientifically possible to make claims that a trace gas (CO2 ) ,which is highly beneficial to life on earth demonized through defamation of slander and libel .

    Are there any scientific organizations (not lobby groups ) that claim and can prove
    that earth’s plants ,forests, marine life and animals are better off when the earth is in a cooling cycle ? If so who are they and where is their proof ?

    Do we have to wait till the sun goes out
    to figure out humans fraction of 1 % contribution of CO2 is virtually meaningless . In fact it is beneficial in
    it’s own minuscule way .

    Can’t we solve some real problems . It isn’t like we don’t have plenty to work on ?[/quote]

    What is supposed to be the science departments in many if not most colleges and universities strongly assert that carbon dioxide is the main influence on climate and the sun has either little or no impact. My daughter graduated from Western Washington in Bellingham as an environmental science major and their view point totally supports the alarmists. From the very beginning of the movement CO2 was assumed to be sole driver of the climate change and that morphed into a “fact.” Yes Amber, there is plenty of dispute in what should be the scientific community.

    I know that some of the papers written about the harm that warming will or is predicted to cause to the natural habit have been written by college professors.

    As far as marine life, researchers working for the PMEL department of NOAA came up with the ocean acidification theory in one of the worst cases of scientific fraud in recent history. Though the study was flawed, there is one paper that says CO2 is bad.

    We can not solve real problems because the anthropological climate change movement not only consumes all of the resources, but also the awareness. Some researchers who believe in the alarmist stand also believe that fixed nitrogen pollution from excessive use of fertilizer is even a bigger threat. Whether this is right or not, it is a real problem. It could be solved or at least greatly reduced without hurting anyone, not even the farmers that are using the fertilizer. Perhaps it is because the solution doesn’t hurt anyone is why the environmentalists do not seem interested.

  • Avatar

    Stevencap

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    Advocates of anthropogenic warming essentially disregard solar variability as a factor in warming. That’s why it’s always interesting to ask people if they believe that long-term changes in solar activity can affect climate. When they answer “yes,” they are unknowingly contradicting the basic theory of man-made warming.

  • Avatar

    GR82DRV

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    [quote name=”David Lewis”]
    We can not solve real problems because the anthropological climate change movement not only consumes all of the resources, but also the awareness. [/quote]
    This sentence is worth reading again. Well said David.

  • Avatar

    amirlach

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    [quote]With 138 climate models that don’t work, we desperately need one that does work. By working I mean predict temperatures that matched reality fairly closely from 1900 on. Such a model would not predict disastrous warming. The climate activists would mount a viscous attack but being the only model that is accurate when projected back in time it would be an elephant in the room impossible to ignore. The activists would still pursue their agendas but would have more and more trouble doing so.[/quote]

    There are models that work very well. And your correct that they do not predict “disastrous warming”. In fact they show rising Co2 has almost zero effect.
    [quote]This is a CO2-free prediction model. The model was built from observational data from October 1988 till April 2011 of up to 1000 input variables with time lags of up to 120 months, which is a typical input space dimension for complex dynamic systems modeling.

    As of August 2013, the OUT-OF-SAMPLE prediction accuracy of the most likely prediction (solid red line) of the self-organized model is 73%. The accuracy relative to the prediction range (pink area) is 98% (fig. 1). [/quote] As you can see the self organized model has done very well up to present, while the invalidated IPCC models have diverged further and further away from reality.

    You are wrong on one point David Lewis. The alarmists have ignored this completely.
    http://climateprediction.eu/cc/Main/Entries/2013/10/7_Still_confirming_forecast_of_Apr_2011_at_73_accuracy._IPCC_forecast_at_10._What_drives_Global_Warming_(Update_2).html

  • Avatar

    amirlach

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    [quote]With 138 climate models that don’t work, we desperately need one that does work. By working I mean predict temperatures that matched reality fairly closely from 1900 on. Such a model would not predict disastrous warming. The climate activists would mount a viscous attack but being the only model that is accurate when projected back in time it would be an elephant in the room impossible to ignore. The activists would still pursue their agendas but would have more and more trouble doing so.[/quote]

    There are models that work very well. And your correct that they do not predict “disastrous warming”. In fact they show rising Co2 has almost zero effect.
    [quote]This is a CO2-free prediction model. The model was built from observational data from October 1988 till April 2011 of up to 1000 input variables with time lags of up to 120 months, which is a typical input space dimension for complex dynamic systems modeling.

    As of August 2013, the OUT-OF-SAMPLE prediction accuracy of the most likely prediction (solid red line) of the self-organized model is 73%. The accuracy relative to the prediction range (pink area) is 98% (fig. 1). [/quote] As you can see the self organized model has done very well up to present, while the invalidated IPCC models have diverged further and further away from reality.

    You are wrong on one point David Lewis. The alarmists have ignored this completely.
    http://climateprediction.eu/cc/Main/Entries/2013/10/7_Still_confirming_forecast_of_Apr_2011_at_73_accuracy._IPCC_forecast_at_10._What_drives_Global_Warming_(Update_2).html

  • Avatar

    Amber

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    Amirlach is absolutely correct .” The alarmists have ignored this completely . ” Well except for the fact they did the name rebrand from global warming to climate change when it just became too obvious that the climate models were full of hot air .

    $$ Billions of dollars in tax payer propped up ‘renewable ” companies are going broke after the big pigs at the trough have chowed down . Shareholders resent being taken to the cleaners . Pop there goes the scam .

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