Posted: October 20, 2012 by tallbloke in solar system dynamics

This is an excellent introductory article on solar variation.


Inform The Pundits!

Something strange, very strange, is happening on the sun. On October 8th, NOAA’s Solar Cycle Progression monthly update report came out.

Sunspot activity has dropped off to its lowest point in over 100 years, perhaps to its lowest since the Dalton Minimum of the early 1800s.

The sun is headed into a quiet phase. The evidence is mounting. Sunspot activity is down. Solar flux is down. The sun’s magnetic field is decreasing linearly toward zero by 2026. The long term trend points towards a less active sun.

Solar physicists believe a prolonged period of low solar activity lasting more than one cycle is coming.

This change in the sun’s behavior could have profound long-term implications for climate change over the next several decades.

What’s Happening on the Sun?

The trend for 2012 is set. According to NOAA, September’s sunspot number was 61.5.  After a giant hiccup in solar activity late…

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  1. caz says:

    “There is little doubt that human CO2 emissions have played a significant role in Earth’s current warm period. The Earth is about 1°C warmer than it was in 1880.”

    Where in the article is that conclusion proven?

    Can’t understand why the Sun is largely ignored in preference to CO2 as controlling our climate given that anyone living North and South of the Equator experiences seasons directly due to the amount of sunlight.

  2. caz says:

    Have to say most Daily Mail reporting has to be taken with a pinch of salt. It is interesting though that they have now decided to fight their corner over their claim that global warming has been paused for sixteen years.–triggering-bitter-debate-You-decide-real-facts-.html

  3. Entropic man says:

    “Will AGW or solar variation dominate climate change in the coming decades?”

    Nice of whatever adjusts the solar thermostat to set up the experiment for us.
    With a less active Sun and continued anthropogenic CO2 production, it will be interesting to see which way the temperatures go.
    If CO2 continues to drive we may see warming. If the Sun drives, we’ll see cooling. If their effects cancel out we’ll see stability. Alas, the usual problem of pulling trend or stability out of the noise means we’ll need 15-30 years before we can (95%) confidently accept any of them..

  4. azleader says:

    Caz… the article’s intention was not to prove or disprove AGW. It’s purpose was to indicated there are alternatives to the IPCC’s single-minded belief.

    Solar activity could very well have a much greater impact than AGW and, if so, then the Earth will get colder, not warmer, over the next few sunspot cycles or so.

  5. azleader says:

    tchannon… you are correct… the images from the May Talkshop article are related to this article. Those image are also in this article from this NASA Honjode mission reference from April 20th, 2012:

    Everything in this above article on northern hemisphere sunspots peaking already came from the NASA Hinode article.

  6. vukcevic says:

    Global magnetic field is about to change polarity, a bit late, otherwise I would say everything is progressing according to the plan.

  7. Tim Cullen says:

    The totally non-scientific “chartist” view:

    Solar Maximum occurred at the end of 2011.
    Solar Minimum will occur at the end of 2014 or early 2015.

  8. Joe's World(progressive evolution) says:


    Interaction in a very complex problem to wrap your mind around due to what we are taught is the theories which have been around for centuries. Considering the past NEVER had the technology of today.
    Atomic theory and the sun…never worked for me. You need space for atoms to slam into…The suns core is solid and it shrinks as the corona grows.

    What did work was pressurization.

    Except for the first two planets, the rest are in sequence to within a day of rotation.

    The sun when active, gives off massively more material.
    This then reinforces our atmosphere and gives it more protection compared to it being quiet.
    The suns greatest heat is in the equatorial region compared to the poles due to the mass difference and rotation.

  9. tallbloke says:

    AZleader, thanks for stopping by. I think your stance is a reasonable one to adopt. Whatever we think of the likelihood (or otherwise) of co2 having an effect, open dialogue is better served by keeping all possibilities on the table at the moment.

  10. azleader says:

    Tallbloke… Thanks. There is scientific reason to believe that anthro CO2 has been a contributor to the current warming. It is also reasonable to question just how much of the reported warming is actual and how much is data “correction” error. How much is real and how much is modeling error, after all, is a big concern.

    Other climate forcing mechanisms besides AGW, such as solar variation and ENSO and CO2 sinks, must also be more fully explored and understood as part of the process of forecasting future global climate changes.

  11. azleader says:

    Entropic Man… you are right, of course. Climate change is a deeply complex science with a lot of input variables. My astronomy background biases me toward the sun as the major player, 😉

  12. caz says:

    The MET office states:

    “Over the last 140 years global surface temperatures have risen by about 0.8ºC”

    So why has this article increased that rise by 25% and over a shorter period ?

    Too many “abouts” and “little doubts” for my liking.

  13. tallbloke says:

    Caz, the temperature dropped between 1880 and 1900. Hence 0.8C over 140 years but 1C from ~1900. The wording could have been better I agree.

  14. tallbloke says:

    Tallbloke… Thanks. There is scientific reason to believe that anthro CO2 has been a contributor to the current warming.

    CO2 has more temperature dependency than the IPCC admits:

  15. azleader says:

    caz… note the word “about” in the article… the latest number I’ve read kicked about these days is 0.75 degrees C. You are getting a bit hung up on minutia and losing the main point.

  16. Bart Leplae says:

    “Does the current Sunspot Cycle stagnate?” (Oct 2012) graphically depicts how the predictions have been adjusted downwards since the beginning of 2012 and is a follow-up of “Variations of the Sun Velocity correlate in various ways with the Solar Cycles” (Sep 2011)
    that concluded with a prediction of the current stagnation.

  17. tallbloke says:

    Bart, your article on the stagnation of the solar cycle is interesting. I’ll put up a separate thread for it soon.

  18. J Martin says:

    Tim Cullen said,

    “The totally non-scientific “chartist” view:
    Solar Maximum occurred at the end of 2011.
    Solar Minimum will occur at the end of 2014 or early 2015.”

    Interesting idea, certainly different from most peoples expectations that this cycle will be a long one.

    Can you tell us more ? and how the cycle after that looks.?

  19. oldbrew says:

    ‘Solar Minimum will occur at….’

    But if it’s become asymmetric we need 2 dates 🙂

  20. azleader says:

    Bart Leplae… thanks for the links.
    In the first link I see on a graph that the SIDC, ‘combined method’ and McNish and Lincoln all still forecast a peak of around 80 in July or August 2013.

    I wonder if that will come about given the low September sunspot number? It is only one month, but all three forecasts have diverged above it already. It would take a significant turnaround very soon to achieve their predictions.

  21. Entropic man says:

    1C of warming at Earth’s surface needs approximately an extra 3.7W/M^2 at the surface, and about twice that at the top of the atmosphere. If anyone has data correalating sunspot numbers with the input wattage to the Earth, it might be possible to estimate the temperature consequences over the coming cycle

  22. azleader says:

    Entropic Man… back of the envelope Wiki data calc…
    From 1902-1957 the solar constant was measured between 1.322 and 1.465W/M(squared). That averages to 1.393.

    Satellite measured variations in solar radiant energy has been between .1% and .2% from solar max to min over the last 3 solar cycles. Lets assume .15% for calculation purposes.

    That figures out to an up and down variation of 2.0 W/M(squared) over each of the last 3 solar cycles. That is slightly over half the change needed for a 1 degree change over a single cycle, assuming your 3.7 figure.

    No one knows the effect of multiple cycles of low or no solar activity. It is pure speculation, but conceivable that cooling could reverse all the warming since 1880 if we assume a sustained period of solar inactivity over a couple cycles or so.

  23. Tim Cullen says:

    J Martin says: October 21, 2012 at 5:06 pm
    Can you tell us more ? and how the cycle after that looks.?

    The longer term “chartist” view indicates declining solar activity until it “hits bottom” around 2030.

    The “chartist” fit between cycles 23 and 24 is surprisingly good.

    The fit implies:

    a) Sunspots are not a perfect proxy because the count doesn’t go negative.

    b) The underlying solar “engine” is very mechanical:
    b1) More “fuel” and the “engine” runs fast, long and noisy.
    b2) Less “fuel” and the “engine” runs slow, short and smoothly.

    c) The cyclical nature of the solar “engine” implies a cyclical “fuel” supply.

    Planetary and galactic alignment [above and below the ecliptic] regulates the “fuel” supply via the Parker Spiral [heliospheric current sheet].

  24. Entropic man says:


    Half a degree cooling sounds about right. It was enough to put the Northern Hemisphere into the Little Ice Age during the Maunder Minimum if this NASA data is accurate.

    If this is the new Grand Minimum that some solar physicists have been anticipating, it would be good news in the short term, stabilizing temperatures and postponing the IPCC’s predicted warming for up to a century. On the downside, it would give a false sense of security.

    It is also an opportunity for some fun. Here’s a chance to test Tallbloke’s hypothesis that CO2 follows temperature under all circumstances. If temperature stabilises and so does CO2, despite our continued fossil fuel burning, his stance gains traction
    If CO2 continues to increase, it would support my contention that fossil fuel burning etc is the driver. 🙂

  25. azleader says:

    Entropic Man…
    Because of all the attention the article got the last couple days I got introduced to Henrik Svensmark’s solar magnetic climate change theory.

    It provides an experimentally validated physical mechanism on climate change that is overlooked by the IPCC. It explains the cold of the Maunder and Dalton minimums as well as the warming during the Modern maximum and Medieval Warm Period.

    It sounds VERY convincing to me. It doesn’t depend on solar irradiance. It depends more on the solar wind and its effect on cosmic radiation which, in turn, affects lower troposphere cloud formation.

    There is a nice presentation of it here:

    I’m more convinced than ever that were are headed to a prolonged period of solar inactivity and global cooling.

  26. Entropic man says:


    Svensmark’s work so far presents some correalations and a hypothesis. Personally, I remain unconvinced. The correalations are interesting, but as has been said elsewher, do not prove causation. His proposed mechanism is still speculative, and I would regard it as inadequate to drive the scale of changes he suggests.
    The hypothesis has been taken seriously enough for an experiment to run at CERN over the next five years, looking for a coupling mchanism between cosmic rays and cloud formation.

    As with so many things in climate science, we’ll see what happens to CLOUD when the results are in.

    [Reply] The first round of results are already in, and are positive.

  27. Entropic man says:

    Interesting, indeed. CLOUD is showing a definate effect and a few oddities. The basic concept looks sound, though how this plays out in the atmosphere is still unclear.
    I noticed first the sulphuric acid production, which makes me wonder if the nucleation effect would be strongly affected by the amount of naturally or artificially generated sulphur in the atmosphere. Do volcanos increase sensitivity, and did our attempts to reduce acid rain desensitise the atmosphere to cosmic ray induced nucleation?
    The other item was Dr. Spencer’s prediction of a large drop in temperature in the 2000s due to this effect, which doesnt show in the temperature record.
    Lots of mileage for happy discussion in this one yet.

  28. azleader says:

    Unique about Svensmark’s concept is that it is the only climate change theory that has much experimental backing at all… that, in my mind, is what is compelling about it. Svensmark pushed CERN to start the CLOUD Experiment and he is listed as an author on its published papers. He isn’t a member of the 18 member CLOUD team.

    AGW, on the other hand, has no predictive value whatsoever. Heck, they can’t even predict the past! AGW dosen’t even have a strong theoretic model based on atmospheric physics backing it up.

    AGW’s whole thrust is, “Look, we’ve tweaked our calculation models to make the temperature history profile look like what we want, therefore it is good science”. Any sane person has to ask, “Where’s the beef?”

  29. Bart Leplae says:

    The sunspot number further decreased in October and the predictions have been downwards adjusted: