The Sun – Climate link: Brief Synopsis

Posted: February 2, 2011 by tallbloke in Energy, Solar physics, solar system dynamics

Just posted on Roy Spencer’s blog:

I wouldn’t write off solar variability as a cause yet Roy. Judy Curry and Peter Webster both say you were right to model the ocean down to 1000m despite what Pierrehumbert said. This means extra solar energy gets stored in the ocean on a multi-decadal timescale, because the energy stratifies in layers and can’t escape upwards while the sun is more than averagely active. The sunspot number has on average risen since the little ice age.

Logic says there must be a level of solar activity and cloud cover at which the oceans neither gain nor lose energy. My empirical data study says it is at around 40SSN or its TSI equivalent.
When you integrate the sunspot number as a running total departing from that ocean equilibrium value it tracks SST remarkably well, once you smooth out the internal oscillations in the PDO and AMO. The cumulative count directly represents the additional solar energy being mixed down deeper into the ocean by storms and tidal actions such as those caused by the Moon and Sun and changes in Earth’s length of day. This raises the ocean heat content and thus the sea surface temperature.

If Nir Shaviv’s peer reviewed paper (JGR) on using the oceans as a calorimeter is near the mark, the ~0.25W/m^2 increase in TSI since 1749 gets amplified to ~2W/m^2 (probably via the Svensmark effect of cosmic rays on cloud nucleation, which is solar modulated) and this is enough to explain most of the warming since the LIA, allowing for greater oceanic energy emission as SST rises. Bigger variations in UV may well account for atmospheric chemistry changes to ozone which will modulate the curve.

More discussion here:

  1. vukcevic says:

    I am putting my money on the Sun pumping electric current into the Arctic. Just look at correlation at both graphs 1860-prsent, ere of the good instrumental records.
    vuk nap

  2. tallbloke says:

    Hi Vuk,
    would you like to do a guest post on what you’ve found?
    I’d like to learn more about your NAP index. Am I right in thinking it’s composed of magnetic data,, and other stuff? 🙂

  3. R. de Haan says:

    Very interesting finds at least explaining a mechanism C. de Jager is looking for

  4. tallbloke says:

    Hi Ron,
    Thanks, I’ll take a look at that pdf when I’m through with understanding the Wolff-Patrone mechanism for planetary motion affecting solar activity levels…

    Feel free to send de Jager over here. 🙂

  5. P.G. Sharrow says:

    vukcevic says:: Vuk please,please, please explain your nomenclature for your beautiful graphs so those of us that are ignorant can fully enjoy them. 😉 pg

  6. P.G. Sharrow says:

    While TSI and IR change very little, the shorter wavelengths, UV and shorter change a great deal. UV has dropped 20% while TSI has dropped 2%. Energy is energy, water can easily change microwave to heat. Salt water can easily change magnetic energies to electric currents and heat. If the energy in does not match the energy out, then there is an error in measurement. Maybe the error is in concept of what is to be measured. Only 1.75 watts per meter squared is a very small error, 0.1%?. 😎 I would think it would be much larger. pg

  7. tallbloke says:

    Hi P.G.,
    As well as dropping 20% recently, UV increased 50% from the end of the LIA, according to Solanki, Krivova et al. I blogged on that recently. I’m sure there will be an effect, not in raw energy terms so much, as the wattage supplied by those short wavelengths isn’t a big part of TSI, but in changes caused in atmospheric chemistry, including ozone production.

    The TOA top of atmosphere energy balance is uncertain, with an error band of around 5W/m^2 I think.

  8. vukcevic says:

    Hi everyone.
    I think the science is correct on the TSI, providing the more or less constant input. The other solar factors can only be a trigger for natural events.
    Both UV and particle radiation (radiation is a function of solar activity and the strength of Van Allen belt via the Earth’s field strength) could have far larger indirect contribution by controlling plankton volumes and in turn changing the oceans’ clarity and CO2 absorption.
    High UV/radiation = reduction in plankton = clear water = deeper penetration, more heat absorbed further down and retained = warming.
    Low UV/radiation = more plankton = water less clear = only surface absorption and night time re-radiation = cooling.
    Plankton is largest CO2 absorber, but also oceans are largest CO2 emitters, so if CO2 happen to be an important factor than:
    High UV/radiation = reduction in plankton = less CO2 absorbed = warming.
    Low UV/radiation = more plankton = more CO2 absorbed = cooling.
    Solar magnetic input is via sunspots and magnetic storms , but they act only in the Arctic and Antarctic. Direct magnetic power input is insufficient for a global effect. However, there is an impact on the Earth’s field, which is about 500 + times stronger than the impacting solar
    GMF (geomagnetic field) in turn has enough power to affect in the long term circulation of the Arctic currents, and more immediately the Arctic and Antarctica stratosphere circulation, with a direct effect on the polar jet-streams:
    (note: NAP is related to the Arctic-North Atlantic currents)

  9. tallbloke says:

    Vuk, brilliant, thanks for the extra information and ideas. Looking at your curve, I particularly like the help your peak around 1920-1950 gives to my correlation. A combination of effects perhaps, though some of the 1940’s peak is probably an artifact of measurement error due to the introduction of engine intake sensors on warships. The latest Hadley dataset diminishes it a lot. Maybe we should work on this together at some point to produce a combined graph?

  10. P.G. Sharrow says:

    It occures to me that there is a part that no one discusses. The reduction of solar output over the last few years has allowed the atmosphere to shrink in thickness. When insulation looses thickness it gets less effective. A thinner blanket means colder nights. pg

  11. Tim Channon says:

    “High UV/radiation = reduction in plankton = less CO2 absorbed = warming.
    Low UV/radiation = more plankton = more CO2 absorbed = cooling.”

    This is measured at sea level and therefore there ought to be a lot of data.

    It also suggests there will be deposition records in sediment. Perhaps too, related to fish yields.

  12. Gerry says:

    NASA/SWPC has just released its February prediction for solar cycle 24:

    “Current prediction for the next sunspot cycle maximum gives a smoothed sunspot number maximum of about 58 in July of 2013. We are currently two years into Cycle 24 and the predicted size continues to fall.”

    If you click on their thumbnail image to get the full-size image, it is immediately obvious that the new, lower prediction is still too high because the prediction curve obviously does not fit the actual data shown for last month. Calling this sloppy work would be an understatement.

  13. Gerry says:

    Not only does the latest NASA/MSFC prediction not fit the last month of actual data, it does not even fit the data from November, 2010 to present, which actually has a downsloping trend:

  14. tallbloke says:

    Thanks Gerry. I reckoned 35-50 two years ago and stand by that. Max will be later though, mid late 2014 is my estimate. Who knows with this cycle though?

  15. Gerry says:

    “Who knows with this cycle though?” Yes the truth is that nobody really knows. Here’s an indication that the F10.7 solar flux may be maxing out now, however:

    As you can see, the dotted line is a very good long term polynomial fit to F10.7, adjusted to one AU I believe. I don’t agree with Leif about everything, but I think he is probably correct in saying F10.7 is a better characterization of solar activity than sunspot numbers. He seemed to get it wrong, though, when he predicted that the F10.7 trend would show that sunspots are vanishing (the L&P effect) while F10.7 would be ramping up more than sunspot activity.

  16. tallbloke says:

    Gerry, the proof of several Leif puddings look like they may come out of the oven undercooked.

    Tim, yes, and the old FAO docs show sixty year cycles in fish abundance.

    P.G. The shrinking ionosphere is a massive result no-one expected. There is no doubt it is having an effect on TOA energy balance.

  17. Gerry says:

    Here is another F10.7 plot that didn’t turn out the way Leif thought it would:

    Leif F10.7

    At the end of 2009 he was speculating that F10.7 would probably match the trend of the 1954 minimum plot within a couple of months. I do appreciate him maintaining this plot on his website, because it shows very dramatically how different the current minimum is from any previous one since the start of F10.7 data collection. He picked the 1954 minimum because it was one of the longer ones in the modern era.

  18. @P.G. Sharrow says:
    February 3, 2011 at 5:01 pm
    …and considering Vuk´s theories, it means that the dielectric (atmosphere) it´s thinner now.

  19. @Vuk, according to
    a Spörer like minimum ahead?

  20. Gerry says:

    I have to retract my statement that at the end of 2009 Leif speculated that F10.7 would probably match the trend of the 1954 minimum plot within a couple of months.

    He introduced the F10.7 comparison chart on June 29, 2009 with this piece in WUWT:

    Note that the plot shown currently for that old blog has been updated all the way to the present!

    In his blog, Leif did write “We will, of course, with excitement watch how the blue curve will fare over the next year or so, to see how the ‘ramp up’ will compare to the steep ramp up in 1955-1956.”

    I contributed this comment:

    Gerry says:
    June 30, 2009 at 11:16 am
    Fluffy Clouds (Tim L) (00:17:50) :

    well, by eye ball it looks like 6 more months to see if we ramp up or piddle out.
    I say we continue on low for at least 3 more months.
    tx leif
    My GUESS is that we will continue on low for at least 6 more months.

    Far too timid. I have since wished I had written:
    ‘My GUESS is that we will continue on low for at least three more years.’

  21. P.G. Sharrow says:

    Adolfo Giurfa says:
    February 4, 2011 at 5:18 pm
    Aldolfo, don’t you think that this looks more like the entry to the Oort? pg

  22. Tenuc says:

    Nice one PG!

    I’ll see your Oort and raise you a Younger Dryas…:-)

  23. Joe Lalonde says:


    The Antarctic is showing less pressure(more lower pressure anomalies). This increases evaporation cycle of water vapor in the atmosphere.

  24. Joe Lalonde says:


    Here is most of the northern hemisphere under ice and snow.

    That’s a WOW moment!
    snow NH 2011-1

  25. P.G. Sharrow says:

    Good point Joe. Lower vapor pressure means more then higher air temperature to evaporate water from the sea surface. pg

  26. P.G. Sharrow says:

    The heavy snows of this winter is a prelim to how continental ice sheets are created. the great ice sheets over eastern north america and northern europe were built in place. They did not sneak down from the north. If my experence in Prince William Sound Alaska is correctly read, about 20 feet of accumulated packed snow will survive the summer sun at the latitude of the Great Lakes or Scotland with no reduction in winter temperatures. Actually 32f or 0c brings the heaviest snows. pg

  27. P.G. Sharrow says:

    Tallbloke; I keep looking at the HADSST2GL/SSNC graph and it would appear to me that you may be looking at about a 90 year, heat residence in the ocean, timing. Also that 1910 weirdness is the time that ships changed from coal to oil and 8kn to 20kn speeds. pg

  28. Joe Lalonde says:


    Climate science still does not realize to generate precipitation, you need evaporation and where that comes from.
    Cannot put temperature numbers on water vapour due to the differing densities and their movement.

  29. P.G. Sharrow says:

    When air data is collected dewpoint / humidity is recorded as well as temperature. Has anyone looked into this information to recreate total energy levels in the atmosphere rather then temperature only? Just a thought. pg

  30. tallbloke says:

    P.G. Interesting point about change in ship speed. Wind chill on the bucket samples and thermometers? I have been aware of adjustment issues around the switch in WWII from bucket to engine cooling intakes (and back afterwars) for some time but hadn’t considered the 1900 period.

  31. P.G. Sharrow says:

    Tallbkoke; I was thinking more change in type of propulsion, hot medium pressure steam reciprecating engines changed to high temperature, high pressure steam turbines. A lot more heat in the engine / boiler rooms. The boiler rooms that I worked on in ships were very hot and the intakes and piping bare steel. The working level was 120f to 150f air temperature. Where the sea water piping ran was a bit cooler from the sinking of heat into the piping.

    The intake temperature is read at the inlet to the main condensers as this was important information to judge the operation of the condensers and the need to clean out fouling. So not exactly sea temperature. pg

  32. P.G. Sharrow says:

    Oh yes! The water from the intakes went through screens and then pumps first and then to the condensers. pg

  33. E O'Connor says:

    Two things:

    First: I’ve come across references to the ‘Jupiter Fluvius’ in 19th century newspapers in the Victorian era. Was this an expression meaning winter rain? It seems especially to be mentioned when the circus comes to town.

    Second: About sea temperatures and ship engines, do you know about

    and also

    The first site specifically examines the sea churning effects of 20th Century naval warfare.

  34. Tim Channon says:

    The matter of causality by war action is not addressed, nevertheless it is something to park in oddities.

    Incidentally, has anyone clearly identified what P Jones was worried about to do with 1945? Sure there are abnormalities then but which one.

  35. ArndB says:

    # E O’Connor says: February 6, 2011 at 1:15 am : “Second: About sea temperatures and ship engines,”

    The quoted reference has a lot to do with the ocean, salinity, SST, and the ships screw, but nothing with the ship engine. Screw driven vessels navigating the sea mix the upper sea level down to 10 meters and more, thus level out any temperature or salinity difference in the water column, which can be several degree, or per mille (e.g. after rain).
    That can matter a lot,
    a. The entire heat in the overlaying atmosphere can be contained in the top three meters of the oceans.
    b. Hence the heat required to raise the temperature of the atmosphere (10’000m) by 1ºC can be obtained from cooling the upper 3 meter of water by the same amount.

    As the relevance of the shipping, fishery, and other ocean use on weather since the invention of screw driven vessels is not easy to demonstrate, the two big naval wars during the last century are investigated instead at the quoted sites. Each time of the two World Wars a major climatic shift took place, more at the quoted sites, or in HMTL here:, and concerning the shift after WWI here: With regard to the first war winter 1939/40 see the paper (14 pages in PDF) : “A Large-Scale Experiment with Climate” at (left column, top).
    Thanks for interest.

  36. E O'Connor says:

    Thanks ArndB

    Sorry, I did phrase my comment poorly. I read your recent guest post over at Digging in the Clay.

    Glad you visited Tallbloke’s Talkshop. It reminds me of long Saturday afternoon Estonian Saunas where everything under the sun is discussed. No dried fish and beer at the end here though. 😉

  37. Joe Lalonde says:


    Multi-dimensional problem solving is currently beyond the concept of current science. So generalized theories are currently the norm.
    This is where science cannot possibly understand the complexity of a round planet, rotating, with different longitudes of circumference with different height variables, in an enclosed atmosphere.
    The slowing speed of the planet adds another dimension to a planet in constant change along with the slowly moving away from the sun plus the speed of the solar system moving in space.
    Add to this gases, chemicals, minerals and water in it’s many forms depending on heat or circumstances for evaporation to occur.
    You have to understand how this planet changed in the past from speed of rotation to chemical changes to understand how it is possible to have life today. Centrifugal force has been put into a pseudo-science category when plant and animal life need it to survive and grow.
    Salt changes on the ocean surface is a centrifugal force event that has always been present along with differing pressures.
    Rather than bickering and falling behind in our understanding of this planet for self gratification, we should work together for a much more better understanding in our knowledge of the planet and how it operates.

    Don’t you think?

  38. @Joe Lalonde says:
    February 5, 2011 at 4:30 pm
    BTW: Are we in a Solar minimum? 🙂

  39. tallbloke says:

    Joe, I have enough stuff to be getting on with that I have at least some chance of being able to quantify properly, so I’m sticking with that.

  40. Joe Lalonde says:


    I have yet to see the sun generate a cloud…have you?


  41. Joe Lalonde says:


    In todays science if you want to be in the norm of not being shunned then you have to follow the rules.

    Even if the rules on the field is grossly wrong.

  42. P.G. Sharrow says:

    At 6 to 8 knots the hull disturbs the water very little and requires little energy to move it. At 20 to 24 knots there is a good size wake and bow wave, the energy needed to move the hull is 4 to 5 times as much. At 28 to 30 knots the wake can be seen from space and the energy requirements go up 30 times. The screw has to suck the water from in front and push it back creating a great deal of mixing under the ship. The larger and faster the ship the greater the over temperature error. pg

  43. P.G. Sharrow says:

    Tallbloke: Before you please everybody else, You got to please yourself. 😎 pg

  44. tallbloke says:

    P.G. Yes, as turbulence increases, the effects of drag become more and more nonlinear. As with boats, so it is with cars moving through air, and even planets through the interplanetary medium.

  45. Joe Lalonde says:


    In turbines water flow is classed by friction cause by drag on materials.
    The turbulence you describe is friction of materials on a dense platform or going through semi-dense material.

    I once put a great deal of thought into braking the friction barrier under a ship as water wants to cling to the hull to generate drag. Each scenario either sunk the ship or it sat deeper in the water which is just as bad due to more mass being pushed out of the way.
    The only alternative was a paint similar to non-stick pans to break the cling but would this then sink and change the buoyancy?
    The next problem would be the friction of the water then would be like sand paper on the material.

  46. Joe Lalonde says:

    Something you said a few blogs ago on climate science wanting to change to be similar to the medical model.


    [Reply] That would be the right thread to post your comment in then. 😉

  47. Joe Lalonde says:


    The underground scientist is coming out in you. 😉

    [Reply:] Just caring for the blog. I have the text of your previous saved if you need it back to repost in the right thread.

  48. Ron Cram says:

    On Judith Curry’s blog you wrote that the energy balance error bands on measurements at TOA were three times the size of the proposed warming contribution from CO2. I have not seen this. Could you provide a link to a graphic or paper showing this?

  49. Roger Andrews says:

    I only just came across this thread, but the correlation between solar activity and SST is something that has intrigued me for a long time, so let me be among the last to post.

    First a few comments on data. The HadSST2 series in the second figure shows an abrupt downward shift of about 0.4C in 1946. This is an artificial shift that slipped through the cracks and didn’t get corrected out (Thompson et al. 2008). Removing it moves HadSST2 0.4C upwards after 1946, giving us 0.4C more warming to explain.

    The estimate of 0.25 w/sq m of TSI increase since 1750 seems very low. Most TSI reconstructions show much higher numbers (e.g. Wang 0.6, Krivova 0.8, Lean 1.6 w/sq m), and estimates of TSI increase during the 20th century are higher still (Hoyt & Schatten 1.9, Solanki 3.4-4.1, Beer close to 5 w/sq m).

    The integrated sunspot number plot shows no sign of the ramp-up in solar activity between 1900-1910 and 1955 (which coincided with a 0.7-0.8C increase in mean global SST). This may be a result of the integration process, but the number of sunspots averaged over the Schwabe cycle increased from 30 to almost 90 over this period.

    On general matters, I think the correlation between the increase in solar activity and the increase in SSTs during the 20th century is too close to be coincidental. However, I have been given to understand that a 2-3 w/sq m forcing increase during the 20th century would have heated the sea surface by only a few hundredths of a degree C. Is this right?

    Finally, and for what its’ worth, I get a pretty good correlation between SSTs and solar regardless of the variable (TSI, sunspots, solar cycle length, solar cycle amplitude, AA geomagnetic index). But the best correlation is with the geomagnetic index. So maybe Svensmark is on to something after all.

  50. […] workshop exposed: By…P.G. Sharrow on Lisbon workshop exposed: By…Roger Andrews on The Sun – Climate link: …tallbloke on Lisbon workshop exposed: By…Dave Smith on Lisbon workshop exposed: […]

  51. Tenuc says:

    P.G. Sharrow says:
    February 5, 2011 at 4:57 pm
    The heavy snows of this winter is a prelim to how continental ice sheets are created. the great ice sheets over eastern north america and northern europe were built in place. They did not sneak down from the north. If my experence in Prince William Sound Alaska is correctly read, about 20 feet of accumulated packed snow will survive the summer sun at the latitude of the Great Lakes or Scotland with no reduction in winter temperatures. Actually 32f or 0c brings the heaviest snows. pg

    Your on the money again PG 🙂

    The globe is very efficient at getting rid of long-term excess energy, which is absorbed by the oceans and lost from the poles via latent heat of melting ice and transport to space through radiation. However, it cannot deal so well if too little energy is coming in and over a couple of decades snow and ice start to accumulate again – NH first as less ocean. That’s why ice ages are the norm for Earth climate and warm climate optimums are rare.