Willie Soon brings sunshine to the debate on the solar-climate link

Posted: June 21, 2010 by Rog Tallbloke in solar system dynamics

One of the reasons the sun has been neglected in climate studies is because the amplitude of the sunspot cycles has been diminishing since the late 1950′s while global temperature has risen since the late 1970′s. This facile dismissal of the Sun’s importance is stupid, but there it is.

Now Willie Soon has produced a graph which takes into account the changing atmospheric modulation of incoming solar energy. It graphs sunshine hours in Japan against the surface temperature record in China.

sunshine hours vs temp

This should remove any doubts people had about a link between the Sun and our climates.

Let the arguments over how small changes in TSI and cloud cover can effect large changes in temperature commence. :-)

  1. Ulric Lyons says:

    Large changes in temperature affect cloud cover.

  2. tallbloke says:

    And large changes in cloud cover affect temperature too.

    Complicated isn’t it?

  3. Ulric Lyons says:

    Temperature drops would cause water vapour to condense into cloud. Hotter periods with less cloud cover can loose excess heat at night easier, cooler periods with more cloud cover would then retain more heat at night.
    A sustained cooler climate leads to less water vapour, and more drought, and also has much stronger negative and positive temperature spikes, as would be expected, this is well visible in all long European temperature series.

  4. tonyb says:

    I collected my son From Cambridge University on Sunday. As I passed close by Prof James and William Connely’s houses on the outskirts it was cool, overcast, with a bit of drizzle and temperature at 13.5C.

    Reporting my safe arrival to my wife she informed me that back in Devon it was hot and sunny at 23C.

    I wonder what could have been the difference factor in this little tale? I need lots of money to carry out a research project Tallbloke. Unless you have any suggestions? Doh!


  5. tallbloke says:

    Hi Tony, nice to see you here. Let’s throw another variable in to the mix.

    Air pressure.

  6. Tenuc says:

    tallbloke says:
    June 22, 2010 at 7:43 am
    “… Let’s throw another variable in to the mix. Air pressure.”

    I think your on the right track TB!

    Perhaps small changes to TSI along with other small changes in how the sun delivers energy to our climate system during the solar cycle work together to produce a big effect. Then, because of climate sensitivity to initial conditions, the various quasi-cyclic long-term weather oscillations are move towards different strange attractors.

    Trying to unravel this puzzle is the quest to find the holy grail of climate change. Worship of the sun/heavens form the basis of all religions, both ancient and modern. Perhaps we need to listen to what our ancient ancestors were trying to tell us and gain the illumination of wisdom about our climate so we can prepare.

    Here’s a wonderfully profound quote from the late, GREAT Jack Eddy, which I think summarises where climate science needs to explore…

    “Were God to give us, at last, the cable, or patch-cord that links the Sun to the Climate System it would have on the solar end a banana plug, and on the other, where it hooks into the Earth—in ways we don’t yet know—a Hydra-like tangle of multiple 24-pin parallel computer connectors. It is surely at this end of the problem where the greatest challenges lie.”

  7. tallbloke says:

    Tenuc, I agree. But one of the things I like about WIllie Soon’s graph is that it bypasses all the complicated stuff about TSI, climate sensitivity and the disentangling of the solar signal from the other climate variables hidden in the surface temperature record.

    It just says:

    “It’s the sun, stupid”

  8. tonyb says:


    You suggested we bring air pressure into the varables.

    Are we talking about barometric air pressure, which of course has been well documented for centuries?

    I can quite understand its more general effect on weather/climate in as much low pressure or high pressure will often bring in certain weather systems. In the summer high pressure-particularly in the right place is likely to bring in hot settled weather (as it is currently doing from the south). In winter it may bring in foggy cold weather or cold easterlies as it did last winter. Similarly low pressure can bring storms, clouds and the westerlies that generally bring in our warmth during the winter (I speak as someone from the South West of England).

    Is it the generality of air presure affecting our weather in this manner to which you refer, or is there some more subtle effect that you are alluding to?


  9. tallbloke says:

    Hi Tony,
    It may have “been well documemnted for centuries” here and there, but not much has been done in the way of systematic studies over long periods on a continental, ocean basin wide, hemispere wide or global basis as far as I know.

    Stephen Wilde keeps mentioning the northward and southwards movements of the jet streams as being a potential global scale regulator on the climate system. I think his comments are well reasoned and worth heeding for further investigation.

  10. tonyb says:

    Undoubtedly the jet stream is a huge factor in affecting weather systems and causing changes in air pressure which subsequently affects weather on a daily basis and climate if it becomnes a longer trend .

    Have you read any of Hubert Lambs books? He makes a lot of references to barometric pressure and there is a wealth of documented readings, certainly for Britain Europe and the North Atlantic. I can give you some book references if you are not familiar with his work. For example the Spanish Arrmada was destryed it appears because of the position of the jet streams and associated low presure systems.

    I would be fairly sure that large parts of the LIA were caused by the wind direction (combined with other factors to cause the most severe episodes)

    I have produced a composite graphic of one of Lambs wind directioin diagrams back to 1420 overlaid with LIA intervals. It isnt up on the web, but if you care to email me personally I could send it to you if you are interested.


  11. tallbloke says:

    Hi Tony,
    yes I would be interested, email incoming. And it’s noticeable this year in the UK that the sun is hotter, due to clearer skies during sunshine periods. The Jet streams have been heading back equatorwards and have moved south of us now. Which is why southern Europe has had a drenching this summer.

  12. tonyb says:

    You are right about the very clear skies at present during the sunshine.

    I see Austria had snow a few days ago and as you say there have also been floods in parts of Europe so seems like they are experiencing what we had the last two summers with regards to the jet stream being in the ‘wrong’ position (for them)


  13. tallbloke says:

    A nice demonstartion of the desirability of climate change. If the surface temp didn’t rise and fall, the system would stagnate and the jet streams would irrigate certain latitudes only.

  14. Paul Vaughan says:

    Good to see some distinction between irradiance & insolation. Spatial metrics is tricky business. Some simple jetstream spatial metrics might include fractal dimension (calculated from digital maps) and time-integrated variance of weather variables along a near-mean path. Quantification is necessary. Personally, I would put my money on insolation with 9:1 odds – and of course pressure is a core variable – (nothing new there). It’s not that irradiance is irrelevant, it’s just that smart gamblers don’t operate on the corollary of the Pareto Principle — i.e. not practical being penny wise, pound foolish.

  15. oneuniverse says:

    tallbloke, thank you, would it be possible to include a reference to Soon et al. 2009, or its title?

  16. tallbloke says:

    Hi, I’ve been hunting for it too. It’s probably buried somewhere on the SPPI website at http://scienceandpublicpolicy.org

    Let me know if you find it.

  17. tonyb says:


    Was it an actual paper or did the graph come from Soon’s presentatrion at Heartland?

    The link above can be followed and then click on ‘Articles and presentations’
    and the slide show/graphs is entitled;

    “Disconnects in Sun-Climate Studies: Removing Politics from the Science”,


  18. tallbloke says:

    Thanks Tony,
    I did find some similar graphs in that slideshow, but not the sunshine hours one. I like this one of TSI vs temp and co2 though!

    Soon - Arctic temp vs TSI vs Co2

  19. steven mosher says:

    You might do well to examine the data sources and methods behind charts before you triumphe their message. So many people have liked the HS because of its message, only to find out that the data and methods were suspect. Then they had to defend suspect data and methods.

  20. steven mosher says:

    tall bloke, if you want to look at C02 verus temps you have to do several things.

    1. look at C02 as a FORCING ( turn it into the correct units for christs sake)
    2. Look at ALL forcings, because to understand the role of C02 you have to understand
    that there are more forcings at play than C02.

    Heres a way to do that:


    And note of course that you get lower (luke warmer) sensitivitys when you do this.

  21. tallbloke says:

    Thanks Mosh. As far as I can see, the really important issue in the set of graphs in the first pdf at your link is the ocean heat content graph. See how Josh Willis doesn’t have as much of a big step in the curve at 2002-2003 as Levitus does? I’m pretty sure Sid has it wrong there. It’s a problem with the way the XBT data has been spliced to the ARGO data.

    Once it is understood that the sun does the heating of the ocean and the greenhouse effect affects the rate at which the ocean cools, rather than the misconception that back radiation heats the bulk of the ocean, we’ll be able to get a better idea of the true forcing of insolation at the surface. Please take a look at and comment on the quantified figures in this thread: http://tallbloke.wordpress.com/2010/12/20/working-out-where-the-energy-goes-part-2-peter-berenyi/

    The reduced cloud cover in the tropics 1980-1998 as measured empirically by ISCCP accounts for more of the ocean heating than the co2 driven model can accomodate on these figures. The aerosol forcing is likely wrong, and the co2 forcing needs to be reduced further to balance it.

    But we’ll meet somewhere in the middle, so it’s all good.


  22. Tenuc says:

    Steve, my gut feel is that there are inherent difficulties in using the idea of ‘forcings’ to determine the effects of CO2 on climate.

    A number of years ago I work for a multinational and as put in charge of a small multi-discipline team to develop a forecasting system which would improve supply chain efficiency all the way from raw materials at the factory gate to availability on the shelf for a range staple food brands.

    One of the methods we investigated was to use signal processing and the investigation stage gave some surprising results…

    Over 40 variables effected the system (excluding black swan events and human error).

    It was difficult to identify the signal for system variables having the biggest effect and almost impossible to find a signal in the rest.

    The system displayed non-linear quasi-cyclic behaviour.

    In view of the above we abandoned this approach and, after investigating other techniques, went on to develop an Intranet system which relied on input to the forecast using the expertise and experience of those responsible for each part of the chain.

  23. tallbloke says:

    Hey Tenuc,
    did the “quasi cyclic behaviour” involve Friday afternoons and big football match fixture dates? Four year signal on the world cup? :)

  24. Tenuc says:

    Yes Rog, lots of small ‘black swan’ events affect forecast accuracy. I got many comments back about this after the Distributed Forecast system went operational.

    One of the oddest was a complete failure for the tea forecast, which happened the during the 2nd week of September 1997 when sales doubled leading to shortages on the shelves.

    Took a bit of head scratching to work this one out, but a bit of tunnel vision and an understanding of the English psyche should help you guess this particular ‘black swan’ event???

  25. tallbloke says:

    Hmmm. India were playing Pakistan at cricket during that week… Maybe the prudent Brits thought it might start a war, so thought they’d stock up on tea in case the worst happened.

    Tea supplies disrupted. *THE END OF CIVILISATION AS WE KNOW IT* :)

  26. Tenuc says:

    Could have been the cricket, but not our choice of ‘black swan’.

    We surmised that the event was the suspicious death of Princess Diana in Paris. The English tend to turn to tea in a crisis and many took the death of Diana almost as if it was a family bereavement.

    The lag probably occurred because dry tea is a larder item and it was consumers replenishing their empty caddies that caused the extra sales.

  27. I know the COOP data base has gaps in the precipitation data after passage of hail events, until the older glass tubes got replaced, also lost a few during quick freezes after rain overnight.

    Some of the individual hand entered records I investigated had scribbled in notes to that effect.

  28. steven mosher says:


    The issue is the continued deceptive graphics that plot temperature and C02 on the same graph. You and I both know that is deceptive. As bad as Mann and Jones ever did.

    1. C02 has to be characterized as a forcing and be log transformed.
    2. All forcings have to be shown.

    Imagine if you would a plot of vehicle speed. Imagine as well that I plotted the movement of inches in the gas pedal. Of course you would see a bunch of things that didnt make sense. especially if the pedal was non linearly connected to the carb.

    And to really understand the speed youd wanna see the windspeed and direction. Oh, the car was headed into the wind at that point. and yes, youd wanna see if the brake was also depressed at certain times. Was the car going up a hill, down a hill, around a corner. Through the gravel? over pavement. is there a nitrous tank the driver released gas from.

    The climate is forced by many things. About 9 -10 forcing files in the typical GCM. Looking at how temperature and the PPM of C02 vary will not give you an accurate picture. Any more than looking at the position of the gas pedal will tell you about the velocity of a car in even the simplest of circumstances. except, that when one goes up the other generally goes up.


    “The reduced cloud cover in the tropics 1980-1998 as measured empirically by ISCCP accounts for more of the ocean heating than the co2 driven model can accomodate on these figures. The aerosol forcing is likely wrong, and the co2 forcing needs to be reduced further to balance it.”

    Question: Does everyone here accept the PHYSICAL MODELS that are required to produce the DATA PRODUCT produced by ISCCP.

    cloud cover is not measured. Cloud cover is a data PRODUCT. to produce this PRODUCT, raw sensor measures are TRANSFORMED by a PHYSICS MODEL. If you believe the cloud cover data product, then you place faith in the physics model used to produce it.

    If you place faith in that model, then your commited to core AGW.

  29. tallbloke says:

    Looking at how temperature and the PPM of C02 vary will not give you an accurate picture. Any more than looking at the position of the gas pedal will tell you about the velocity of a car in even the simplest of circumstances. except, that when one goes up the other generally goes up.M

    Mosh, next time we meet, I drive, ok?

    Now, I don’t think it would be hard to build a model where the ISCCP data would still show a drop in tropical cloud cover 1980-1998 whether co2 went up down or sideways, so I’m not going with you on this trip.

    I agree Soon shouldn’t have been a naughty scientist and taken the P out of the Team with his temp-co2 graph. TBH I’m more interested in the one on the left which shows a strong correlation without the need to fart around with unobserved aerosol forcings to get the desired result.

  30. kuhnkat says:

    You are right Mosh. How could someone graph a car with the accelerator floored and it is slowing?!?!?!?! Maybe it ran out of gas?? Maybe the connection between the accelerator and the throttle broke?? Maybe a sensor is feeding an incorrect signal to the model in the computer. Maybe that model has a problem that wasn’t found before production??


    “Cloud cover is a data PRODUCT. to produce this PRODUCT, raw sensor measures are TRANSFORMED by a PHYSICS MODEL. If you believe the cloud cover data product, then you place faith in the physics model used to produce it.”

    We don’t have to place FAITH in that model. It was VERIFIED against actual data unlike the garbage you are trying to promote!!!

    Did you ever stop to think how often you conflate things with little relationship trying to force your point??

  31. [...] than co2 is. The latest was Doug Proctor’s excellent study on the issue. My earlier post on Willie Soon’s far east study is worth a look too. Tim C has hinted recently in comments that he has a major post in preparation [...]

  32. [...] inverse complimentary phenomenon of decreasing cloud cover is increased sunshine hours. Willie Soon and Doug Proctor have been on the case [...]