Brrr! What's Happening to the Sun?

Article published on March 4, 2009
Article published on March 4, 2009
(As always, click on the picture to enlarge it; you will see it describes the years 1988 to 2008. Or click on to find the source of data and .) Some headlines scream: . Others, more moderate, predict at least a new " little ice age." The original Little Ice Age was the period 1645 to 1715 AD, known as . That was the time of Galileo and Kepler.
Crops across Europe failed, the river Thames froze in London, and the population of Germany dropped by a third. In the aftermath of the 30 Years War, bands of soldiers roamed the countryside and depopulated villages, searching for food. [1]. According to some websites, this may be our near future, just a year or a decade ahead.

c4s other detailsWhat are the causes of this temperature drop, according to the popular press, the lunatic fringe, and climatologists?

Global warming stopped!!!

New Ice Age Coming Soon

the Maunder Minimum

Here are a few examples:

The popular press: "Cold future lying in wait"

Dearth Of Sunspot Activity To Herald New Ice Age?

Science blog [sic]: Widescale [sic] Global Cooling

Cool Weather... Heralding a New Maunder Minimum & Ice-Age?

"Our own observatory at Armagh ... has shown .. that over the next two decades, global temperatures may fall by about 2 degrees C .. However, temperatures have already fallen by about 0.5 degrees C over the past 12 months and, if this is only the start of it, it would be a serious concern."

Reality check: Data from Armagh Observatory are on line, but predictions of Sun activity are nowhere to be found.

Newspapers do not provide sources, but refer to "researchers" somewhere having discovered this or that. One lone voice becomes "scientists." For example:

Victor Manuel Velasco Herrera of the Institute of Geophysics at the University of Mexico states that " In about ten years the Earth will enter a 'little ice age', which will last from 60 to 80 years and may be caused by the decrease in solar activity," according to a report in the major Mexican newspaper Milenio Diario.

(left) writes in a right-wing US magazine:

Lunatic fringe: Conspiracy theory of AGW

Philip V. Brennan

"A global warming militant a socialist? How can that be? Well, it can be because the whole purpose of the AGW scam is nothing less than a covert movement to create a world socialist order." .."The earth is now on the brink of entering another Ice Age, according to a large and compelling body of evidence from within the field of climate science. .. "

: If you think the word "lunatic" is too harsh, read Mr. Brennan's article which contains this insight:

Note Ice Age Cometh in Five Years

"It would seem that God created us step by step, with each extinction, followed by the appearance of a new and vastly improved humanoid species that lasted until a new extinction before the onset of an ice age..." Note : If you are familiar with Intelligent Design "theory," this is a new variant, Intelligent Design By Trial and Error :-).

c4s c4s . According to the ultra-conservative website FreeRepublic, Lord Monckton (left) published "a mathematical proof that there is no 'climate crisis' in a major, peer-reviewed journal; Physics and Society, a learned journal of the 46,000-strong American Physical Society..."

Reality check : Climatology is a natural science. There are no final "mathematical proofs." Hypotheses are validated or repealed by comparisions of theory with experiment. Incidentally, the article cited was neither peer-reviewed nor supported by the American Physical Society, which has this position on the issue: ... The evidence is incontrovertible: Global warming is occurring ...

In his other writings about what lies ahead, after Obama was elected the good lord also wrote: U.S. economy predicted to collapse under socialism. That prediction was made without the use of equations. :-)

A list of articles on "global cooling" listed at the bottom of this article gives a peek at the vast riches/rubbish on the web. There are 9,030,000 English pages for "global cooling" on the web, and about 3,370 for global cooling on Google News, as of Feb, 20, 2009. At times, the goal of this blog, to separate the wheat from the chaff, feels more like cleaning the Augean stables. Hercules, lucky guy, was able to divert a couple of rivers to do the job. (Is there a Web equivalent?)

While not as quick and efficient as a re-routed river, reasonably thorough debunking can be found here:

20 myths of GW deniers and here: Cooling? Myth # 2 Reference [2] provides more information on solar cycles and their effects. Climatologists Not all articles on global cooling are rubbish, of course. Some are simply struggling valiantly with the data. In others, climatologists are explaining that it is not possible to predict climate by extrapolating from short weather patterns.

For example, Washington state climatologist Phillip Mote says: " That would be like saying, 'Well, the stock market had a good week last week, so the recession must be over.' ..". Climatology is not about fitting trend lines through data. It is seeking explanations based on physical laws.

The graph on the right (c4s) is a continuation of a graph from our older post. Both show variations in the solar irradiance, the 11 year solar cycle. This one extends the data to the year 2008 and shows that we are now at the minimum point in the cycle. The current trough is longer and deeper than usual.

The picture on the left illustrates how the Sun looks when at the peak of its irradiance (left half, 2002, lots of sunspots) and at the minimum (right half, 2008, no sunspots).

It would be tempting to jump to the conclusion that the cold weather we are experiencing is caused by this short term decrease in solar irradiance. However, as we noted above, a hypothesis needs to be verified by comparing the measured temperatures to actual calculations of physical effects.

Dr Hansen (left) c4s has shown that the change of irradiance is too small, and far too recent, to explain the drop in temperature. He has shown that even if irradiance remained at the current low level indefinitely, the current growth rate of CO2 would compensate in seven years for that drop in temperature. Measurable warming would then continue, of course.

Searching for a different explanation for the temperature drop this winter, he looked at weather patterns and noticed the following: The past year (2007) witnessed a transition from a weak El Nino to a strong La Nina (the latter is perhaps beginning to moderate already, as the ocean waters near Peru are beginning to warm)... Undoubtedly, the cooling trend through the year was due to the strengthening La Nina, and the unusual coolness in January was aided by a winter weather fluctuation...

Scientists do not always agree, and rarely agree on everything [3]. For example Atmospheric Scientist Dr. Joanne Simpson, is skeptical: There is no doubt that atmospheric greenhouse gases are rising rapidly and little doubt that some warming and bad ecological events are occurring. However, the main basis of the claim that man's release of greenhouse gases is the cause of the warming is based almost entirely upon climate models... What should we as a nation do? Decisions have to be made on incomplete information. In this case, we must act on the recommendations of Gore and the IPCC because if we do not reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and the climate models are right, the planet as we know it will in this century become unsustainable...

Most, if not all, reasonable people agree that Earth is round and orbits the Sun. Its average temperature may go up or down as a result of changes in that physical system. When the second largest volcanic eruption of the twentieth century, of Mount Pinatubo, ejected vast amounts of ash into the atmosphere in 1991, it caused global dimming by 0.6 degrees C . The effect lasted two years, before the aerosol (dust in the air) settled.

If GW were a "new religion," as some right wing extremists assert, we might have several heretic sects, some believing that the Earth will freeze, some that it will boil. Science predicts neither. If the Sun's activity did not simply stay as low as it is today, but kept decreasing, we would experience global cooling after few decades and might, after a few decades, eventually enter a new ice age. How do we know this is not going to happen? Actually, we do not know, not with certainty. How we do know that Sun will rise tomorrow? We assume it will, and make our plans accordingly.

Common Sense - decisions under uncertainty WSB's Kirk Mellish , in a thoughtful blog essay, has this to say on the topic of Global Climate Change: "Borrowing from the author of Franklin and Winston I have tried only to make some small contribution to swelling the ranks of those in what Thomas Jefferson called "reasonable society" -- those willing to approach these questions with an historical sensibility, an analytical mind, and, at the risk of wistfulness, an open heart."

". . . the only hoax I am aware of is the claim of a hoax"..... "I see man-induced global warming as clear and present, and a potential danger for the future of man. But with too much that is not certain to be a clear and present danger."

In my future posts, I will no longer debate the issue "Is Global Warming'Real'." Having examined the issue in some detail, I conclude it is "real," and deserves careful attention. The way science operates in a free society [3] makes a global conspiracy of scientists unlikely, if not impossible. We will continue to receive more measurements from satellites like this one which will measure the distribution and effects of CO2. We will (almost) certainly not enter the new Ice Age in the next few decades. However, we cannot postpone all decisions and wait to see whether Mr. Brennan (above) is wrong.

It is time to set aside philosophical or metaphysical questions of absolute truth or certainty and address the pragmatic and the political.

E.U. Action Soon

The European parliament to be elected this June will prepare legislation addressing climate change that will profoundly affect our lives. Perhaps it will just waste billions of Euros on foolhardy projects, burdening us with new taxes and delaying recovery of economy. What we hope, of course, is that they will examine the possible courses of action and select the most effective, including those which will enhance long-term economic recovery.

There are 7 political groups of MEPs in the European parliament. Do you know where they stand on carbon issues, on the nuclear energy and other primary sources of energy? At this point, I don't, but I intend to find out. I am reading the reports [4] and I will share here what I find.

You can help: If you know, in addition to English, one of the 27 other EU languages, you may contribute translations of this blog. Do you have specific information about MEPs' beliefs and past actions on these climate change issues? If you can help, leave a comment with your email address.

References The Little Ice Age and the 30 Years War. History and controversy Possible causes of the Little Ice Age Kepler's Witch: An Astronomer's Discovery of Cosmic Order Amid Religious War ...‎ Kepler and religious strife Page 275: "... Where the Thirty Years' War begins with the Second Defenestration of Prague, and where Katharina Kepler is tried and convicted of witchcraft. .." More on the irradiance and models. Nasa research briefs Specifically: How do Solar Cycle Affect Our Climate? How does science actually work these days? At the end of this knol is a reference to a video and to a book on "the story of a search," a "gem of a book on ancient astronomy", showing how researchers compete, make mistakes, and cooperate, correcting their blunders and gradually, step by step, increasing our understanding of the world. June election 2009 and EU energy policies. A ‘green’ Europe by 2050 EU Parliament backs 80% emissions cut .. A spectrum of views Second Strategic Energy Review drafted by Anne Laperrouze (MoDem, France)