Sunspots, a Crucial Climate Indicator

Commenters on this blog (Julia LeVan on Human CO2 Snuffs Out Sun’s 10.7cm Band) have noted that anthropogenic carbon dioxide may be unlikely to affect conditions on the sun. This is an important insight which may have a lot of truth in it, notwithstanding the likely resistance of climate scientist and global warming pundit and businessman Al Gore. Particularly since conditions on the sun are seemingly of primary, if not dominant, significance in Earthly climate.

Dr. Willie Soon, a senior Harvard astrophysicist, has observed that “when sunspots are present, the temperature goes up; and when sunspots are absent, the temperature goes down.” It may be disputable I suppose, but I think Dr. Soon is referring to temperatures on Earth, actually.

Dr. Soon goes on to further ignore (or perhaps minimimize is fair) the importance of carbon dioxide in controlling Earth’s climate, in this most interesting article, Harvard astrophysicist: Sunspot activity correlates to global climate change

H/T: ICECAP ‘Curious’ Why the Sun Has Been So Dim Lately, under category Blogosphere

Further quoting Dr. Soon, and his explanation of three rather direct ways in which solar output could have dominant influence on terrestrial climate:

“When the energy input to the Earth from the sun is lower, you can easily imagine then what the first effect would be — heating less of the ocean’s surface. This promotes less evaporation of water vapor from the ocean, reducing what we all know to be the major green house gas, water vapor, in contrast to atmospheric carbon dioxide. Then, you would say that if the sun provides less energy to warm the ocean’s surface, and there is less of this water vapor and less of the water vapor greenhouse effect, then the Earth begins warming less so than you would normally have during the normal sunspot activity maximum when the sun gives off more light-energy to the planetary system.

“The second way to think about this is if the sun is giving less light to the ocean’s surface, then you will also give less energy to transfer the heat, or even the material itself, from the surface to the upper atmosphere. The connection between the surface and the upper atmosphere is less than it would be, including the circulation patterns of the weather and the oceans.

“And then one can think about it another way, if you give less energy to transfer energy from the surface to higher up in the atmosphere, as high as 5 or 8 kilometers, then the chance for the system to produce these so-called thin high-cirrus clouds is less. These are the clouds that are very, very effective as a greenhouse blocker, these thin high-cirrus clouds. This is the idea that Professor Dickenson from MIT has suggested, that the Earth system may act like an iris. If it’s too warm, then the iris opens, if it’s too cold it closes, so that this fixture can trap heat, providing a very efficient way to warm or cool the Earth system.

“During a solar activity minimum, imagine that you produce less of these high-cirrus clouds, then the ability of the Earth to shed heat itself is a lot easier, therefore the system cools. And then continuing, when you don’t have enough energy to bring all of this water vapor and the currents more than a few kilometers up, then it all accumulates at the bottom of the system, producing more of the low clouds. And on low clouds we know that they are very effective at reflecting sunlight. So again, it’s another way that the Earth system can cool.

“And even another way to think about it is less energy intercepted in the tropical region, from say 20 or 30 degrees north and south latitudes, then you are able to transfer less heat energy to the polar regions, resulting in the arctic regions getting slightly cooler in that sense as well.

“So these are some of the possible scenarios that we’ve reached which in sort of a low-sunlight scenario would affect the Earth’s weather.”

Dr. Soon does not give much notice to carbon dioxide of any kind. He is also not a strong advocate of the “chilling stars” theory of Dr. Henrik Svensmark and others apparently; but his thoughtful explanation of three distinct and very reasonable mechanisms by which solar conditions strongly influence Earth’s climate is very noteworthy.

“If this deep solar minimum continues and our planet cools while CO2 levels continue to rise, thinking needs to change.”

Or even if the deep solar minimum does not continue (but our planet continues to  cool while CO2 levels continue to rise).

Interesting WBZ-TV video here:  ‘Curious’ Why The Sun Has Been So Dim Lately.

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3 Responses

  1. Keeping in mind that windmills are hazardous to birds, be wary of the unintended consequences of believing and contributing to the all-knowing environmental lobby groups.
    The climate celebrities are linking climate and the economy. Yes, there has been warming since the Pleistocene. Climate is a multiple input, multiple loops, multiple output, and complex system. The facts and the hypotheses, however, do not support CO2 as a serious ‘pollutant’. In fact, it is plant fertilizer and seriously important to all life on the planet. It is the red herring used to unwind our economy. That issue makes the science relevant.
    Water vapour (0.4% overall by volume in air, but 1 – 4 % near the surface) is the most effective green house gas followed by methane (0.0001745%). The third ranking greenhouse gas is CO2 (0.0383%), and it does not correlate well with global warming or cooling either; in fact, CO2 in the atmosphere trails warming which is clear natural evidence for its well-studied inverse solubility in water: CO2 dissolves in cold water and bubbles out of warm water. The equilibrium in seawater is very high; making seawater a great ‘sink’; CO2 is 34 times more soluble in water than air is soluble in water.
    CO2 has been rising and Earth and her oceans have been warming. However, the correlation trails. Correlation, moreover, is not causation. The causation is under experimental review, however, and while the radiation from the sun varies only in the fourth decimal place, the magnetism is awesome.
    “Using a box of air in a Copenhagen lab, physicists traced the growth of clusters of molecules of the kind that build cloud condensation nuclei. These are specks of sulphuric acid on which cloud droplets form. High-energy particles driven through the laboratory ceiling by exploded stars far away in the Galaxy – the cosmic rays – liberate electrons in the air, which help the molecular clusters to form much faster than climate scientists have modeled in the atmosphere. That may explain the link between cosmic rays, cloudiness and climate change.”
    As I understand it, the hypothesis of the Danish National Space Center goes as follows:
    Quiet sun → reduced magnetic and thermal flux = reduced solar wind → geomagnetic shield drops → galactic cosmic ray flux → more low-level clouds and more snow → more albedo effect (more heat reflected) → colder climate
    Active sun → enhanced magnetic and thermal flux = solar wind → geomagnetic shield response → less low-level clouds → less albedo (less heat reflected) → warmer climate
    That is how the bulk of climate change might work, coupled with (modulated by) sunspot peak frequency there are cycles of global warming and cooling like waves in the ocean. When the waves are closely spaced, the planets warm; when the waves are spaced farther apart, the planets cool.
    The ultimate cause of the solar magnetic cycle may be cyclicity in the Sun-Jupiter centre of gravity. We await more on that.
    Although the post 60s warming period appears to be over, it has allowed the principal green house gas, water vapour, to kick in with more humidity, clouds, rain and snow depending on where you live to provide the negative feedback that scientists use to explain the existence of complex life on Earth for 550 million years. Ancient sedimentary rocks and paleontological evidence indicate the planet has had abundant liquid water over the entire span. The planet heats and cools naturally and our gasses are the thermostat.
    Check the web site of the Danish National Space Center.
    http://www.space.dtu.dk/English/Research/Research_divisions/Sun_Climate/Experiments_SC/SKY.aspx

  2. I have read that science is unable to conclude anything about climate from sunspots.

    Sunspots create mass coronal ejections that shut down our power grid. They could have long term impact on climate if these bursts of energy were strong enbough to torch plants or mutate life to extinction.

    How the Earth warms or cools is better understood from how many sweaters it has put on, and what the sweaters are made of.

  3. […] Sunspots, a Crucial Climate Indicator Posted on April 12, 2009 by chillguy33 […]

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