Solar cycles, weather and climate

Solar cycles, weather and climate

Summary: There's new research on the links between solar cycles on the Sun, and the weather here on earth. This work was done by American scientists and finds connection between the 11-year solar cycles and El Nino and similar weather events on earth.


There's new research on the links between solar cycles on the Sun, and the weather here on earth. This work was done by American scientists and finds connection between the 11-year solar cycles and El Nino and similar weather events on earth. The researcj used conputer models to correlate a century of soalr events with actual weather pattens in the Pacific Ocean.

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  • There we go...

    That's all I really wanted to see... some alternatives to the hyped/politicized CO2 warming theory. Solar output has never been studied in the long-term, and only as a earth-warming possibility in the last 10-20 years. There really is no known measurement for the amount of radiation put out by the sun and how it affects planet earth. However, in the time we have been studying the sun, it is apparent that a fluctuation in output as little as 0.1% changes the temperature of the planet. Increased or decreased solar activity definitely affects the Earth's heat budget. In fact, there is growing belief that this year is cooler than average (honestly, it is) because of the late start to the solar cycle increase and reduced solar output.
    • Data provided below

      I've just posted several decades worth of matching solar, and global temperature data for you below.

      Address it, if you dare.
    • A minor nitpick

      If I may nitpick a bit:
      The bit [i]"growing belief that this year is cooler than average (honestly, it is)"[/i]
      is inconsistent with the measurements: [b]"the January-June year-to-date tied with 2004 as the [u]fifth[/u] warmest on record."[/b] That's a global measurement, your local mileage may vary. In the northeast US, it was darn cool, so I too had trouble believing the news. But see
      That warming in Siberia is alarming. When that permafrost melts, the methane of multitudes of moldy mammoths will meander in a miasma across the maritimes most of the way to Mexico.
  • More proof of what we don't know

    I will not say the CO2 based global warming is a sham and warming is actually driven only by the sun and other solar radiation...but I will also not say that CO2 is the driving force behind global warming and solar radiation has no effect.

    The point is we are just beginning to understand the complex system that is our climate. I think we have begun to see a stream of research that will show us that any position on the extreme (it is only CO2 or it is only the sun, or whatever) is far from correct. The policy implication is, I think, that it is foolhearty for us to make drastic changes in our behavior before we really understand what drives climate change.

    We need more research like this, so we can make an informed decision about limiting our production of CO2.

    Thanks for posting this Harry!
    • the data exists

      Why remain ignorant? The data is readily available. I've just provided it below.

      Solar output for decades, and global temps for decades.

      What correlation do you see? Tell us all about it!
      • A part of the equation

        As a statistician I think it is impossible to measure correlation by eye sight. What I will say is that the sun cycle appears to explain (in a correlation sense) some of the fluctuations in the warming trend, but not the overall trend which appears to last more than 22 years. To really assess the impact of the solar cycle on climate change it would need to be analyzed in a system of equations (multivariate analysis) which encompasses all the factors we know/think impact global climate change. The cycles apparent simple correlation with our climate may be enhanced mitigated by other factors and those factors would have to be accounted for before gaining a clear understanding of the cycle's actual impact (something this study did).

        The problem to me usually comes back to the time frame chosen for analysis. Climate change is at least a millennia long process (we can see micro movements in a few centuries, but to really get the effect I think we need hundreds of thousands of years). To get a minimally accurate picture we need to look at 10-20 centuries, but we really only have reliable global temperatures for what, maybe two centuries? Many studies infer past temperatures from fossils, trees, sediment, etc. , but the variance in those readings is often larger than the changes in temperature they are measuring (this is an issue still hotly debated). To me this article does not explain global warming...but it does tell us we need to learn a lot more before we can build a real composite model that tells us what drives climate change (I think by definition it has to be hundreds of factors, solar winds, sun cycles, cloud cover, CO2, methane, fluctuations in earth's axis, etc.). Only then can we really assess our impact on the climate and, if needed, take appropriate action.

        PS - Not saying that I am not ignorant (my wife sure thinks I am...), but it is dangerous to assume someone you have never met and never engaged in deep conversation is ignorant of a topic. It puts the offended party on defensive, makes the accusser look like a tool and makes for a weaker debate as a whole.
        • so do some math

          As a "statistician", by all means - tell us what correlation you would find between two datasets where one gradually rises, and the other moves up and down in an 11 year cycle for a net gain of zero?
          • Are you that dense?

            Sorry but I am serious. You post two pieces of data from very
            different time scales and make a HUGE assumption:

            Solar variability is 100% based on sun spots.

            BRILLIANT!!!! I think you are ready for a Nobel prize.

            Do this. Take a longer basis of data (say 500+ years) and look at the
            same variability. If (using simple eye-sight analysis) you can not see a
            very strong connection (or correlation) between the Maunder
            Minimum and the Little Ice Age, you are a bit crazy in the head. Also,
            you will see a general trend of UPWARD in solar activity in the 1800 to
            the present. There is a strong average increase from 1900 to 1950
            with a general leveling off.

            What is missing in the Solar activity plot is the warming from the
            1970-2000 but there is also a general global cooling trend from 2000
            to present.

            Get back after looking at this data a bit.
          • sigh

            I had a guy here insisting that there was only 10 to 20 years of solar data.

            I presented 40 YEARS of it.

            I then presented 100 YEARS of global temperature data which could be used to compare to it.

            Are you having trouble with the refutation of the guys claim of only "10 to 20 years" of solar data, or with taking the section of global temps and applying it to the solar data and making a comparison?

            By all means. Give details. Where are you confused?
          • Did you read the chart or not?

            "solar variability is 100% based on sun spots."

            No, I'm sorry, but a "brilliant" person would not make such a mistake. The chart I provided plots solar irradiance in watts per meter squared, the solar flare index, and sunspot measures ALL of which make the exact same pattern.

            You and your boys wanted to pretend that we only had 10 to 20 years of solar data. Ooops, we have more. Now you demand that we look at several hundred years of solar data (wait, where did that come from?)

            Any time you like, bring your OWN data here which correlates actual SOLAR OUTPUT in the last several hundred years to the steady rise in global temperatures. I'm sitting on the actual data, and it looks really really simple. Sunspot, solar flares, and total solar irradience in the last 4 decades do NOT correlate at all to the ongoing rise in global temperatures. What interval would you like to pretend DOES correlate, and which measure would you like to use?

            Step right up!
          • how was that maunder min measured?

            I'm not sure which direction you'd like to take here.

            You first disparage measurements of sunspots as worthless, then talk about the "maunder minimum"... which was measured with sunspots.

            Um... what side of that one would you like to take?

            If you'd like to deal with actual sunspot data, then by all means, we have several hundred years of solar output data, which indeed shows that through the 1600's the sun really did drop it's output, with a corresponding drop in global temps aka "the little ice age".

            I did not make the moronic claim that solar irradiance can't have an impact on the planet.

            I simply said that the CURRENT BIG RISE in global temps DOES NOT CORRESPOND to any change in solar output.

            Confused? Blather mindlessly against these two longer term charts, which yes, show your maunder minimum (at which point you've accepted sunspot data - sorry kid, tough break). And oops, it also shows that we should have hit peak global warming around 1960, and been on a steady DECLINE since then, when in fact the OPPOSITE is happening. oops. dangit. Sucks to be you.

            Any more "brilliant" info for us?


          • No 100% sure, but I think it is more complicated that you propose

            In a previous post I knock the idea of using eye comparisions of charts/graphs to draw statistical inference (it really isn't good practice). But out of curiousity, since you bring it up:

            1. You claim the sunspot activity cannot explain the 'recent warming'.

            2. By the same logic, it cannot explain the warming from a little after 1750 until 1850.

            At first glance some might say this support the proponents of man-made global warmings, but I am not so sure. The issue is, if there was a 1:1 correspondence between sunspots and global temperature, then the earths temperature would react instantly to changes in the sun. If this were the case the global temperature would peak in around 1750 and decline/stabalize for the following century.

            But it didn't, and this time period is long enough before the industrial revolution to claim that CO2 is driving the warming. But what if there is a lingering effect (momentum). We know the earth absorbs tremendous amounts of energy (as previously posted by this blog). What if there is a level of cumulative effect were the increased sunspot activity built global temperatures between 1750 and 1850?

            I don't know if this is the case, but if it is remotely true it is difficult to say that global temperatures 'should' have peaked in 1960. If the effect has some level of persistence/momentum we might expect temperatures (if driven significantly by sunspots) to peak decades after 1960.

            My apologies for not being able to find the cite, but I have read several academic papers to this extent. I do not refute the fact that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, and that it contributes to global warming. But this is a complex relationship that has numerous causes. Yes, sunspots may not, with an eyeball comparision, explain all the 'recent warming'...but that doesn't mean they are not a significant contributor to current warming.
          • Ok

            First, without the exact numbers, an exact correlation cannot be calculated (can't do it off of graphs). But since correlation is an issue of change, two variables can be correlated even if they do not move perfectly together. You notice looking at the graph of global temperatures that inside of the upward trend is considerable variation up and down. It is very easy to see (as I pointed out in the previous post, if you read it) that there could be considerable correlation between the two graphs (i.e. an upward movement in the intensity of the solar cycle corresponds to an upward movement in global temperature, a downward movement in the intensity of the solar cycle results in a downward movement in global temperatures). It does not have to be a 1:1 relationship to say 'they are correlated'.

            But the problem, as I specifically stated earlier, is that simple correlation means nothing. Ever notice how ice cream sales increase in the summer...and how crime increases in the summer. Does that mean increased ice cream consumption causes more crime? The issue I possed previously, what I think the article referenced in this blog post reinforces, and something you completely disregarded in your reply is that there are multiple drivers of global temperatures.

            A multivariate regression, in essence, generates correlations which control for other variables. Considering I am 100% certain there are multiple drivers of global temperatures, before anyone could say there is or is not a correlation between solar cyles and global temperatures (before even addressing the causation issue) they would have to run such a multivariate regression. I do financial modeling for a living, and one thing I have learned is that when the relationship is know to have multiple 'causes', it is worthless to look at a graph. There is a reason statisticians started using computers a couple of decades ago...the human eye isn't really good at doing complex linear algebra.

            Next time you challenge someone to 'do the math' you might what to provide them with numbers. I don't know if they covered that in 3rd grade when you learned multiplication/division...but it is good to have numbers before doing math.
          • present anything you have

            300 words of blather... nothing of content.

            For the last 4 decades, the planet got warmer, and the solar output ran up and down every 11 years, getting slightly cooler in the most recent cycle.

            Start THERE with your "analysis" of two supposedly "correlated" datasets ANY TIME.

            What do you actually HAVE?
  • Help me see this?

    Here's the solar cycle, which yes, runs every 11 (actually every 22 years, with reversing polarity):

    Now here's the global temperature chart. Um... who thinks these two match?

    By all means. Address the data and respond.
    • Um....

      So I read spell-check-deficient Harry's post and the linked article.


      The point of the study was to try and determine if there was any correlation between solar events and El Nino and La Nina cycles to attempt to improve weather predictions.
      • yep

        I am totally aware that the linked article makes some modest correlations between El Nino and La Nina cycles, and the solar cycle.

        My reply is to the guys above insisting that this has something to do with the overall concept of global climate change being wrong, and that they're so excited to have this "new" data that somehow reverses what came before.

        Note the one blathering about how we've only looked at solar output for a few years - my post is an attempt to help him see that we've been looking for far longer than that, and we have plenty of info to demonstrate that the planet is not getting warmer simply because of 11 year solar cycles. In fact, the most recent 11 year cycle was milder than typical.
        • Extreme positions are rarely correct

          I never said that this proved global warming was caused solely by solar cycles. All I said is that it shows more evidence that the evolution and change of our climate is more complex than one or two variables (i.e. just CO2).

          Clever use of a straw man argument. You ignore my argument and say instead that the solar cycle cannot explain all global warming, so that means it does not cause global warming, so by default we (skeptics) must be wrong. Do I need to point out that a straw man argument is a logical fallacy...?

          If you are going to ask someone to go to the effort of addressing your argument (as you explicitly asked me above) I would please ask you be considerate enough to read the response and acknowledge your agreement or disagreement with the response (that is what you asked for). That is the purpose of a discussion (it involved two parties). I don't know if this is your normal opperating proceedure, and I won't say it is indicitive of all global warming supporters...but it seems normal for supporters to brandish their 'brilliant' arguments and then walk away, treating all objections and intellectually inferior and unscientific. The only way to every change someones mind is to educate them (if you are so confident in the rightness of your cause). So why not tell us how/why we are wrong?
          • I took no extreme position

            I responded to a couple guys who took an article about one researcher finding a vague relationship between 11 year solar cycles and the formation of localized El Nino conditions and wanted to dress it up to be way more than what it was.

            Specifically one of them immediately said "There we go - some alternatives to the hyped/politicized CO2 warming theory. Solar output has never been studied in the long-term, and only as a earth-warming possibility in the last 10-20 years."

            You yourself added: "We need more research like this, so we can make an informed decision about limiting our production of CO2" - again taking the angle that this research relates to long term global warming... which we both just agreed it doesn't.

            To address that specific line of reasoning, I presented the actual data on solar output (which oops, does go back way farther than the claimed 10 to 20 years) and the matching global temperature data and I simply asked what "correlation" or "alternative theory" you two saw in the data.

            At no point did I claim that Solar output does not have any impact. I said that it's blazingly obvious by simply looking at the data that solar output is not the _primary_ force at work causing the warming of the last several decades bacause during that time global temperatures went way up, while solar output oscillated on an 11 year cycle and actually went slightly down on the last one for a net rise of NOTHING.
          • Have you ever ran a study?

            I am not trying to say that because I have done academic research before that I know all...but my point is focused on the complete understanding of global temperature changes.

            Solar cycles do not have to be the 'primary' driver of global temperatures to 'matter'. In any study the goal is to control for as many mitigating factors as possible (even the small ones) to get as clear as possible a picture of the variable of interest (in this case, most researchers care about assessing the impact of CO2 on temperatures...but before that can be done controls must be made).

            What if the solar cycle isn't the primary driving force, but combined with sunspot activity and mircofluctuations in Earth's axis explain 20% of long term climate change. Is that not worth controlling for? Or what if those small changes in temperature, caused by those factors, causes a small change in ocean temperatures (as noted in the article) which reduce the ocean's ability to retain CO2, which releases into the air spurring warming not contributed by humans?

            Just because it is not the 'primary' driver doesn't mean it doesn't 'relate' to long term climate change. Please don't put words into my statement in interpreting the graphs you propose was not meant to rule out the solar cycle's impact on long term temperatures (we did not agree). I went on to clarify that the relationship cannot be acurately modelled by eyesight.

            PS - Yes, you took an extreme position by saying that because it is obviously not the primary driver it doesn't matter. Would you buy my position if I said that CO2 only drove 40% of global warming, therefore it didn't matter?