Statement of intent

Posted: February 8, 2011 by tallbloke in Astrophysics, climate, Energy, solar system dynamics

Over on Deltoid, things have been pretty unpleasant and noisy, so I’m answering Jeremy the snob here. 🙂

@290 Jeremy (who thinks you have to be C.ENG to merit being called an engineer and I.ENG isn’t good enough).

“How the heck do you get a link from that to measuring solar levels at the earth environment boundary and then observing the effect of solar actvity levels on the earth’s environment???”

Well Jeremy, there are several distinct engineering problems to be addressed here which I deal with at length in various posts around my blog. If you pick your way between the stuff people ridicule here because they can’t understand it or don’t appreciate sceptical humour, you’ll discover something about my investigations of this fascinating area of study.

Quick praisee(tm)
NASA scientists Wolff and Patrone posit a viable mechanism for the link between the motion of the Sun relative to the centre of mass of the solar system and the release of extra energy from overturnng convection cells inside the Sun which will modulate solar activity levels.

This is great because a small number of scientists have been searching for the mechanism for a long time. They searched for it because there are apparent relations between the motion of the planets which determine the Sun’s barycentric motion and the timing and magnitude of the solar cycles and activity such as flares and coronal mass ejections, but no physical mechanism could be found. Tides too small, Sun apparently in freefall etc.

So, if I can model the Wolff-Patrone mechanism and successfully hindcast the sunspot record, then we can predict future solar activity levels with some yet to be determined level of confidence, since the motion of the planets is well known.

The amount of solar energy arriving at the top of the atmosphere is known to within a watt per square meter or better, although there has been controversy within the field as to how well small intercycle variations can be used to project back to determine the secular variation over the period of record. Chief Solar physicist at the Planck Institute Sami Solanki thinks it’s around 1.5W/m^2 since the end of the little ice age. Dr Leif Svalgaard thinks it’s less from his study of geomagnetic records back to 1840.

Prof Nir Shaviv in his JGR paper on using the oceans as a calorimeter shows that the solar variation is amplified by some yet to be determined terrestrial mechanism by a factor of around seven to ten times. Engineering issues around OHC measurement prior to 2003 with XBT and 2003-2004 with ARGO float calibration means it’ll be some time before we have enough good data to settle the issue.

This means before too long we can potentially account for a good proportion of warming since 1710 with solar forcing and potentially predict future surface temperature levels give or take any co2 effect which might, eventually, be properly determined once the other major factors are correctly  accounted for.

I see investigating this as a good way forwards to better determining climate forcings and calming the debate down a bit so we can get on with proper science which produces objective outputs in a less highly charged environment again.

  1. Joe Lalonde says:


    I have yet to hear or see any data or recording of an object hitting the sun. Depending on the speed and mass, an object can penetrate pretty deep into the suns corona.
    Since the solar system is traveling at 300km/sec any object near stationary, would seem to be traveling at a high rate of speed.

  2. tallbloke says:

    Hi Joe,

    Things hit the sun all the time. Stray meteors, comets, the occasional chunks of stuff floating round in space.

    Thing is, the Sun is so big it doesn’t notice too much.

    At one time it was thought sunspots might be caused by impacts, but this is no longer a fashionable idea.

    Jupiter is almost like a mini Sun which doesn’t generate enough heat to start a nuclear furnace. It wasn’t too much bothered by the Shoemaker-Levy comet a few years ago.

  3. Roger Andrews says:


    Yesterday I posted a comment on your earlier solar thread and you responded (I think) by directing me here. But I can’t find anything here relative to my comment. Am I in the wrong place?

  4. tallbloke says:

    Roger, sorry,no, that was an automated ‘pingback’ from another thread. It’s been busy here. Thanks for your comment on the other thread I’ll respond in full soon, but have a look at
    and the comments there for now. I’d like to post your graph too if you fancy doing a bit of a write up and making a guest post here.


  5. Roger Andrews says:


    Yes, I’d be happy to do a bit of a write up – maybe something along the lines of “the solar-temperature relationship from a data-based perspective” (I’m no theoretician). But it could turn out to be more than a “bit”. Certainly there would be more than one graph.

    Anyway, if you are still interested I could probably have something to you within a week or so. I just need you to tell me where to send it.

  6. Tenuc says:

    From The Grauniad…“The sun’s cooling down…”

    "…'A new 11-year cycle started a year or two ago, and so far it's been extremely feeble,' says Nigel Weiss of the University of Cambridge. With Jose Abreu of the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology in Dübendorf and others, Weiss recently predicted that the long-term solar high we've been enjoying since before the second world war is over, and the decline now under way will reach its lowest point around 2020. Their prediction is based on levels of rare isotopes that accumulate in the Earth's crust when weak solar winds allow cosmic rays to penetrate the Earth's atmosphere.

    There's even a chance, says Weiss, that we might be heading for a low as deep as the Maunder minimum of the 17th century. Either side of that trough, Europe shivered through the Little Ice Age, when frost fairs were held on the Thames and whole Swiss villages disappeared under glaciers…"

    Not much doubt that climate is affected by changes in solar activity and that the positions of the planets have an effect on solar activity. However, because of the ways dynamic systems like climate can reconfigure themselves in response to changes of input, it can take several years before climate changes can be observed.

    We need to get a better understanding of our world's changing energy pool, rather than focusing so much on global average temperature (a poor proxy for our energy state). It is important that the physical mechanisms behind these changes are understood so that we can prepare to adapt should climate choose to either cool or warm.

  7. tallbloke says:

    Bang on the nail Tenuc. We need preparedness for whatever nature throws at us next. This is what I’ve been trying to get across to the people who need to listen for a long time.