Sun's activity not to blame for climate change
All quiet on the solar front, research shows
People are a contrary bunch. Nothing demonstrates this more clearly than the recent fashion for dismissing global warming as a load of hot air. Indeed, it has become de rigueur to attribute recent increases in global temperatures to something other than human industrial activity and the consequent emission of various greenhouse gases, CO2 among them.
One suggestion much loved by the sceptics is that solar activity can explain away the warming planet. Indeed, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that long-term variations (over a century or so) in solar output can influence climate. The tabloid inference is that it is then quite alright to continue hunting baby pandas from turbo-charged Humvees.
Now, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory's Professor Mike Lockwood, and the University of Southampton's Claus Fröhlich have analysed the activity of the sun since 1985, to see if any of this "solar climate forcing" is detectable in recent data. They found that although we have witnessed a long period of intense activity, in the last 22 years solar activity has been on the decline, and cannot be used to explain the rapid rise of global temperatures.
Their findings will not surprise many in the scientific community, they say, but should be of interest to the producers of The Great Global Warming Swindle, a television program that aired in the UK this March. The makers questioned the existence of a scientific consensus on the causes of climate change, and put forward solar activity as an alternative explanation for our warming planet.
"That program was so bad it was almost fraudulent," Lockwood says. "[The subjects raised] made for a decent scientific debate 15 years ago, but the questions have since been settled."
He says that there are strong indicators that the activity of the Sun can influence climate. The pre-industrial climate does appear to have been influenced by the Sun: for instance data from ocean sediments and ice sheet samples show that over the last 5,000 years, the monsoon belt has shifted over periods that correlate with changes in cosmic ray flux, which in turn is related to solar activity.
"There are very stong indictors that there was solar control of the pre-industrial climate," he says, refering to changes in global temperatures over the last five to six thousand years. "There is even some, contentious, statistical suggestion that solar heating persisted into the 1940s or maybe even 1950s. But there is almost no evidence that it persisted beyond then."
"All the things we know of that could have influenced climate are going in the wrong direction."
What angers Lockwood more than almost anything is the idea that an interesting area of science was being misused, and that it could be discredited. He stresses that he is not saying that the Sun has no impact on the climate: quite the reverse.
"By falsely applying pre-industrial science to the modern day, the Great Global Warming Swindle risks discrediting a very interesting area of science," he said.
He adds that there are no grounds for suggesting that there is a lag between solar activity lessenning, and a corresponding drop in temperatures, noting that although the solar activity is declining, global heating is accelerating.
"1985 was the highest peak of solar activity in maybe 6,000 years. But the peak is over now, and still temperatures are climbing," he says.
Lockwood and Fröhlich's conclusion is that the global warming we see today cannot be ascribed to solar variability, whichever of the mechanism is invoked and no matter how much the solar variation is amplified. Whichever way you slice it, the overwhelming scientific consensus is that human activity is causing an overall warming of the planet. Yes, there is debate over the finer details of exactly how and how much, but the broad theme is clear.
"The Great Global Warming Swindle raised old debates that are going to be latched on to and used to suggest that we don't need to do anything about climate change. In that sense, it was a very destructive program," said Lockwood.
The paper Recent oppositely directed trends in solar climate forcings and the global mean surface air temperature is published in today's (Wednesday July 11th) edition of the Proceedings of the Royal Society. ®
Bootnote: Ofcom is in the initial stages of investigating a complaint into the scientific foundations of The Great Global Warming Swindle. It says complex investigations are normally completed within two months, so watch this space.
"Piers Corbyn on the Lockwood paper:
News 13th July from WeatherAction the Long Range Forecasters
"The Global warmers have played their last card. Professor Lockwood's attack on solar activity as a driver of Climate is a two-legged stool"
Piers Corbyn astrophysicist, speaking on BBC Radio 5 and BBC TV News24 TV on 11 July, attacked Prof Mike Lockwood for his ridiculous claims of evidence that solar activity did not drive climate change and described Lockwood's recent paper as "old news re-presented in a profoundly misleading manner".
On Radio 5 he slammed Prof Lockwood and other protagonists of man-made Global warming for describing light variations from the sun as 'solar activity' when the correct understanding of the term is the Sun's particle and magnetic effects. "This changing of the meaning of words is typical of state-sponsored faith systems and Professor Lockwood should be ashamed of himself" he said, as Professor Lockwood tried to shout over him.
Piers pointed out that the solar particle activity based forecasting system he uses had for example correctly predicted (and also announced at the Institute of Physics on 7th June) the period of intense heavy rain and flooding 24th-26th June and he taunted Prof Lockwood with the question "What did you forecast, Professor?"
On BBC TV News 24 Piers explained in an interview with Tim Wilcox: "To understand the effect of solar activity on the Earth you must consider how solar charged particles get to the Earth and that is governed by the magnetic cycle of the sun which is 22 years long. This solar activity magnetic link is why world temperatures have a main cycle of 22 years and no CO2 based theory can explain that. Geomagnetic activity which is the measure of solar particles hitting the Earth's magnetic field has been generally rising from 1910 to around 1990 or 2000 and rising temperatures over this period correlate very well with this ˆmuch better than they do with carbon dioxide." Solar activity effect, measured and estimated in a proper way (not by light) and geomagnetic activity are now declining and this (assisted by modulations through magnetic connections) is causing the decline in world temperatures since 2002/3*.
[<snip a bit>
He said that present CO2 changes are of no importance whatsoever because feedback effects mean changes in CO2 have no net driving influence on world temperatures and there is no evidence that they ever had over the last 100,000 years. On request from Tim Wilcox, he forecast "that UK and World temperatures will continue to fall for the next few years even though CO2 may continue to rise".
Nigel Calder who had appeared earlier on News24 also said that the reason for the present flatness or decline in world temperatures is the decrease in solar activity.
Later Piers said: "It is great that BBC Radio 5 and BBC TV News 24 carried our views, even briefly, but we are just tokens, the BBC is a Global warming hysteria brainwashing machine. It is totally unacceptable that their web site now carries floods of carefully prepared Global Warming pseudo-science yet not a peep or a link to the contributions from Nigel Calder or myself or anything critical*. It blandly claims that two scientists who would be critical of Prof Lockwood's attacks on science—Drs Svensmark and Friis-Christensen ˆ 'could not be reached for comment'. Strange the BBC Environment Correspondent Richard Black didn't say 'but Nigel Calder and Piers Corbyn were and this is what they said (etc)'!
<snip the rest of it>
Copies of Piers Corbyn's presentation material as made available at the Institute Of Physics on June 7th and also Prof Lockwood's paper are available: request by email: piers AT weatheraction.com"
Random response to Glenn
About water - fossil fuels are basically long chains of CH2, so complete combustion produces one molecule of CO2 and one of water per link. The water produced doesn't add to the existing greenhouse effect because it precipitates out of the atmosphere in a few weeks.
Cloud cover prevents heat loss from the Earth but it also prevents heat gain from the Sun. A lot depends on what type of cloud, where and when.
"Sending coal and oil up in smoke is short sighted and a waste that future generations will rue." A recent visit to a science museum produced this gem: we have 300 years of known coal reserves and coal currently accounts for 74% of global energy use.
This is what I KNOW. A cloudy night is warmer than a clear night. Hence water in the form of clouds must be a greenhouse gas. The result of burning fossil fuels is mainly CO2 and Water. There are many more water molecules produced than carbon molecules when it is burnt. Is water a greenhouse gas? Is there more of it in our atmosphere?
We should not be burning fossil fuels, my point has nothing to do with the weather. They are a finite resource and are used to manufacture everything from clothing, high tech equipment, furniture, motor vehicles, building materials and so on. Sending coal and oil up in smoke is short sighted and a waste that future generations will rue.
The human race will find a way of living with climate change, it will never be able to prevent it.