Ian Wilson: How planets could be modulating solar activity – The VEJ Torquing Model

Posted: April 29, 2013 by tallbloke in Astronomy, Astrophysics, Cycles, solar system dynamics, Tides

In advance of a more technical post about Ian Wilson’s new paper, this article from his blog lays out in the clearest possible terms the basics of the model he has developed in accordance with observations. Mainstream solar scientists don’t have any explanation for the longer term behaviours of the Sun. This model has both explanatory and predictive power, since the movement of the planets can be accurately pre-determined from first principles using celestial mechanics theory and the ephemerides created from it. The power of planetary tidal effects on the boundary conditions of the Sun are not yet known, but building a model which accords with observations is a powerful step along the way to a complete theoretical development.


As with any new idea there are many people who have contributed to its overall development. Listed here are just a few people who  have contributed to the evolution of the VEJ Tidal Model over the years:

J. P. Desmoulins
Ulric Lyons
C-C. Hung
Ian Wilson
Ray Tomes
P. A. Semi
Roy Martin
Rog ‘Tallbloke’ Tattersall
Paul Vaughan

However the first reference that we can find to this model [hat tip to Paul Vaughan) is that of:

Bollinger, C.J. (1952). A 44.77 year Jupiter-Earth-Venus configuration Sun-tide period in solar-climate cycles. Academy of Science for 1952 – Proceedings of the Oklahoma 307-311. who  illustrated the ~22 year JEV cycle  over 60 years ago — see the configurations illustrated in Table 1 on p.308.

The Venus-Earth-Jupiter (VEJ) Tidal-Torquing Model is based upon the following set of simple principles [1]: 
  • The dominant planetary gravitational force acting upon the outer convective layer of the Sun is that produced by Jupiter.
  •  Other than Jupiter, the two planets that apply the greatest tidal forces upon the outer convective layer of the Sun are Venus and the Earth.
  • Periodic alignments of Venus and the Earth, on the same or opposite sides of the Sun once every 0.7997 sidereal Earth years, produces temporary tidal bulges on opposite sides of the Sun’s surface layers (red ellipse in the schematic diagram above).
  • Whenever these temporary tidal-bulges occur, Jupiter’s gravitational force tugs upon these tidally-induced asymmetries and either slows down or speed-up the rotation rate of plasma near the base of the convective layers of the Sun.
  • It is proposed that it is the resultant variations in the rotation rate of the Sun’s lower convective layer, produced by the planetary tidal torquing of Venus, the Earth and Jupiter, that modulate the Babcock-Leighton solar dynamo.  Hence, we claim that it is this modulation mechanism that is responsible for the observed long-term changes in the overall level of solar activity. In addition, this mechanism may be responsible for the torsional oscillations that are observed in the Sun’s convective layer, as well.

The VEJ Tidal-Torqueing Model exhibits the following properties that closely match the observed properties of the Sun’s long-term magnetic activity cycle:

  •  It naturally produces a net increase in the rate of rotation of the outer layers of the Sun that lasts for 11.07 years (i.e. equivalent to the Schwabe cycle), followed by a net decrease in the rate of rotation of the outer layers of the Sun, also lasting 11.07 years [1], [2].
  • Hence, the net torque of Jupiter acting on the V-E tidal bulgehas a natural 22.14 year periodicity that closely matches the 22 year Hale (magnetic) cycle of solar activity [1], [2], [3].
  • The equatorial convective layers of the Sun are sped-up during ODD numbered solar cycles and slowed-down during EVEN numbered solar cycles [2]. This  provides a  logical explanation for the Gnevyshev−Ohl (G−O) Rule for the Sun [4].
  • This model naturally produces systematic changes in the rotation rate of the outer layers of the Sun that result in an apparent synchronization with the Bary-centric motion of the Sun about the centre-of-mass of the Solar System, as observed by Wilson et al. (2008) [5].
  • In all but two cases between 1750 and 2030, the time for solar minimum is tightly synchronized with the times where the Jupiter’s net torque (acting on the V-E tidal bulge) is zero (i.e. it changes direction with respect the Sun’s rotation axis) [6], [7].
  • If you consider the torque of Jupiter upon the V-E tidal bulge at each inferior and superior conjunction of Venus and Earth (rather than their consecutive sum = net torque), the actual magnitude of Jupiter’s torque is greatest at the times that are at or near solar minimum. Even though Jupiter’s torque are a maximum at these times, the consecutive torques at the inferior and superior conjunctions of Venus and the Earth almost exactly cancel each other out.
  • Remarkably, if the first minimum of Solar Cycle 25 occurs in 2021 ± 2 years, it will indicate a re-synchronization of the solar minima with a VEJ cycle length of 11.07 +/- 0.05 years over a 410 year period [6].
  • On these two occasions where the synchronization was disrupted (i.e. minima prior to the onset of cycle 4 (1784.7) and Cycle 23 (1996.5), the timing of the sunspot minimum quickly re-synchronizes with the timing of the minimum  change in Jupiter’s tangential force acting upon Venus-Earth tidal bulge [6].
  •  If the time frame is extended back to 1610, then the four occasions where the synchronization is significantly disrupted  closely correspond to the four major changes in the level of solar activity over the last 410 years i.e. the minima prior to the onset of cycle -11 (1618/19), marking the start of the Maunder Minimum, the minimum prior to cycle -4 (1698), marking the end of the Maunder Minimum or the restart of the solar sunspot cycle after a 60 year hiatus, the minimum prior to cycle 4 (1784.7), marking the onset of the Dalton Minimum and minimum prior to cycle 23 (1996.5), marking the onset of the upcoming Landscheidt Minimum [7].
  •  The main factors that influence the level of tidal torquing of Jupiter, Venus and the Earth upon the outer layers of the Sun are the 3.3 degree tilt in the heliocentric latitude of Venus’ orbit and the mean distance of Jupiter from the Sun. At times when the tidal torquing of Jupiter, Venus and the Earth reach its 11 year maximum, the long-term tidal-torquing is weakest when Venus is at its greatest positive (most northerly) heliocentric latitude and Jupiter is at its greatest distance from the Sun (≈ 5.44 A.U) [4].
  • Since 1000 A.D., every time the long-term peak planetary tidal torquing forces are at their weakest there has been a period of low solar activity known as a Grand Solar minimum [4].
  • The one exception to this rule, was a period of weak planetary tidal peaks centered on 1150 A.D. that spanned the first half of the Medieval Maximum from 1090−1180 A.D. The reason for this discrepancy is unknown, although it could be explained if there was another countervailing factor present during this period that was working against the planetary tidal effects [4].
  • The VEJ Tidal-Torquing Model has natural periodicities that match the ~ 90 year Gleissberg Cycle, the ~ 208 year de Vries Cycle, and the ~ 2300 Hallstatt Cycle [1].
[4]  Ian R. G. Wilson, Do Periodic Peaks in the Planetary Tidal Forces Acting Upon the Sun Influence the Sunspot Cycle? The General Science Journal, 2010.
[5] Wilson, I.R.G., Carter, B.D., and Waite, I.A., Does a Spin-Orbit Coupling Between the Sun and the Jovian Planets Govern the Solar Cycle?,
      Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia,  2008, 25, 85 – 93.
  1. Ian Wilson (aka Ninderthana) says:

    Again, many thanks for highlighting the VEJ Tidal-Torquing Model.

    I will be adding Paul Vaughan’s name to the bottom of the credit list on my blog because of his recent post on your blog. I believe that the discovery he has made in this blog post is one of the most important advances in the development of the VEJ T-T model.

    [Reply] I’ll edit to add him here too in that case.

  2. Richard111 says:

    Interesting reading, thanks. Now for silly layman question; is there any effect on the sun as the solar system moves through the gravitational plane of the galaxy? Could be cycle is too long to worry about but are there any indications in the geological past?

  3. @ Ian

    Expand question..
    Influence of Uranus….on the next minimum..
    what do you think?

  4. Ian Wilson (aka Ninderthana) says:

    Michele Casati,

    As a scientist, I have to say that I believe that the physical contribution of Uranus to the onset of the next minimum [as far as I understand, the next minimum is already underway] is minimal.

    That said, I believe that Geoff Sharp gives some pretty convincing evidence that some mechanism associated with the 171.3 year timing of Uranus-Neptune alignments seem to seems to synchronize with the onset of solar minimums. Geoff is convinced that the level of solar activity is controlled by angular momentum transfers between the orbital period of the planets and the rotation period of the Sun.

  5. Ian Wilson (aka Ninderthana) says:


    You might want to read this old post over at WUWT:


    Today the Royal Astronomical Society in London publishes Henrik Svensmark’s latest paper entitled “Evidence of nearby supernovae affecting life on Earth”. After years of effort Svensmark shows how the variable frequency of stellar explosions not far from our planet has ruled over the changing fortunes of living things throughout the past half billion years. Appearing in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, it’s a giant of a paper, with 22 figures, 30 equations and about 15,000 words.

    See the RAS press release at http://www.ras.org.uk/news-and-press/219-news-2012/2117-did-exploding-stars-help-life-on-earth-to-thrive

  6. vukcevic says:

    Dr. Wilson (including all the contributors) impressive article, but that doesn’t mean this ‘mini-consensus’ got it right
    Just a reminder, vukcevic’s elegance and simplicity of electro-magnetic feedback hypothesis gives all detail that the VEJ gravito-mechanical hypothesis doesn’t:
    I was a bit more subtle with Dr. Scafetta, but got a very robust response, so I don’t expect any less from you. 🙂

  7. Paul Vaughan says:

    “[…] it’s a giant of a paper, with 22 figures, 30 equations and about 15,000 words.”

    IMHO a classic paper:
    1) is no more than 4 pages long (5 absolute max).
    2) repeats nothing.
    3) is structured around a few quality illustrations that by themselves (i.e. without words) tell most, if not all, of the story.
    4) references lightly — e.g. just a few other classics &/or novel contributions.
    5) is lean — leaving readers a bit hungry to inquire, connect dots, and explore more deeply independently.
    6) brings a concise clarity that’s impossible with a longer paper.
    7) underscores clearly that “Less is more”.

  8. Paul Vaughan says:

    vukcevic (April 30, 2013 at 9:41 am) wrote:
    ” ‘mini-consensus’ “

    No such thing exists or need exist.

    What I see is exploration and the evolution of narrative to better match what’s observed as perception sharpens.

    For example, the following animation clarifies that there exists a need for narrative to evolve to become more sensible:

    Constituent images:

    Background info:

  9. oldbrew says:

    Ian W says:
    ‘Geoff is convinced that the level of solar activity is controlled by angular momentum transfers between the orbital period of the planets and the rotation period of the Sun’

    I believe he has a point if my calcs are correct. Re Bollinger’s 44.77 years: does the fact that 20 x Mars-Jupiter synodic of 2.23525 (Roy Martin’s figure) is 44.705 have any relevance?

  10. lgl says:

    “the model he has developed in accordance with observations.”

    To me Ians model seems to contradict observations. Since tangential force is the integral of the change of tangential force it will peak around solar rotation minimum.

    Shouldn’t it be more like the opposite?

  11. tallbloke says:

    Ian, thank you for this post which makes the case very clearly, and with useful references.

    Richard: Simple answer is, we don’t know. If Svensmark is right, you might expect more of an effect from having less density of surrounding stars when we are near the top or bottom of the stellar disc.

  12. Ninderthana (aka Ian Wilson) says:


    You are using out of date plots i.e. figures 1c and 1d from the post:


    This only shows Jupiter’s tangential force acting on the surface of the Sun for Venus-Earth Inferior Conjunctions. I have since updated the VEJ Tidal-Torquing Model to include the cumulative
    tangential force acting upon the surface layers of the Sun for consecutive Inferior and Superior Venus-Earth Conjunctions.

    You should be using the tangential velocity and acceleration data in my latest post:


  13. lgl says:

    Thanks Ian,
    a few numbers would also be interesting, for instance the difference in mm between the consecutive Inferior and Superior Venus-Earth Conjunctions tides.

  14. Ninderthana (aka Ian Wilson) says:


    The way that the Venus-Earth alignments affect surface layers of the Sun is a whole subject by itself. Its not just a question of the physical dimensions of the distortions of layers of plasma that are in some form of radial hydro-static equilibrium.

    Size-able areas at the base convective layer of the Sun are close to being neutrally buoyant. These are the convective cells that eventually bring bubbles of magnetic flux to the solar surface. These convective cell find themselves in a situation where the vertical upward force due to convective instability just exceeds the combined downward forces due to gravity acting upon the cell plus the weight force the overlying plasma. This is why the convective cells float up through the convective outer layer of the Sun.

    It is quiet possible that the very weak tidal forces produced by the combined gravity of Venus and the Earth have a magnified effect upon the depth at which the near-neutral buoyancy of a convective cell first occurs. When Venus and the Earth are aligned above the Surface of the Sun, the depth for near-neutral buoyancy (at the sub-alignment point in the surface layers of the Sun) is pushed further into the Sun compared to other regions of the convective layer of the Sun that are relatively unaffected by the tides.

    Under these circumstances, the actual “tidal bulges” that would be produced would be 90 degrees shifted in solar-longitude compared to the normal gravitational bulges:




    The sideways gravitational force of Jupiter acting upon these type of “tidal bulges” would be 90 degrees out of phase with simple VEJ Tidal-Torquing model. In this modified model, Jupiter’s main role would be in slowing down and speeding up the rotation speeds of the rising convective cells.

  15. vukcevic says:

    I vaguely remember Svalgaard calculating that Jupiter’s gravity force produces on the surface of the sun, tidal oscillations of either 2mm or 2cm. I presume the Earth and the Venus effect is of the similar magnitude (taking into account the lesser mass but closer proximity). This has to be considered in context of continuous vertical displacements of plasma of several km, i.e. greater by 4-5 orders of magnitude than the calculated tidal factor.

  16. tallbloke says:

    Vuk, the Sun’s gravity is strong and flattens the tide’s vertical component. But this means the horizontal component is more powerful, and Svalgaard will never ever discuss that.

  17. Ninderthana (aka Ian Wilson) says:

    in his treatise entitled: The planetary hypothesis revived
    31 JANUARY 2013 | VOL 493 | NATURE | 613

    said the following:

    “So, small changes in the Sun’s internal structure cause proportionally much larger changes in the amplitude of the solar magnetic cycle — have we now degenerated into astrological homeopathy? Not necessarily. The buoyant destabilization of sunspot-forming magnetic-field concentrations is definitely subjected to thresholds, and these are even incorporated in many extant dynamo models of the solar cycle. In principle, it should then be a simple matter to carry out dynamo simulations that include a small multi-periodic variation in these thresholds, to assess whether they yield amplitude modulations of the solar magnetic cycle commensurate with those observed in sunspot and proxy data,..”

    If one of the best solar physicists in the world is willing to consider the possibility – then why can’t we?

  18. vukcevic says:

    Dr. Wilson
    In this graph
    I have superimposed bi-decadal change in intensity of the Earths geomagnetic pole (geo-dipole, not same as the usually referred ‘dip needle’ magnetic pole, see http://www.geomag.bgs.ac.uk/images/polesfig2.jpg ) onto the Charbonneau’s graph from the Nature’s article.
    It closely follows both the sunspot and C14 /10Be variation.
    Important point here to consider is that variability of geomagnetic field is about two orders of magnitude greater than the heliospheric field at Earth’s orbit (see NASA’s McCracken papers) which modulates cosmic rays causing C14 & 10Be nucleation.
    The alternatives are:
    – ignore the above, or
    – consider that CRs are predominantly modulated by much stronger geomagnetic field, if so giving further sub-alternatives:
    – Earth’s field is somehow modulated by much weaker solar field
    – both solar and the geo-magnetic field are modulated by the same force.
    In addition the Earth field doesn’t frequently change polarity, so one problem less to consider.

    p.s. It is not my aim to obstruct either Scafetta’s or yours progress, but I am looking at it from the perspective of someone who spent three decades solving practical engineering problems, albeit in electronics not mechanics.

  19. Bart says:

    It’s possible, I suppose. I never thought I could really rule out tidal effects near the outer layers of the Sun. The planetary tidal forces are miniscule, but so is the density.

  20. Sparks says:

    Hi, I have a few questions regarding the VEJ model to help me understand it better. (hope you don’t mind).

    Has any one done a heliocentric graphic that I can look at? I’d like to understand the dates when the Tidal-Torqueing takes place and what the configuration of VEJ is, if you can give me some dates where the Tidal-Torqueing is calculated to be at it strongest and weakest influence, I can produce my own heliocentric graphic of the orbits in relation to the sunspot record by date.

    Is it calculated that the Tidal-Torqueing is at its strongest during solar maximum of the “11 year cycle” ?

  21. GS says:

    The VEJ tidal theory does look very convincing when looking at cycle length, and all the contributions further add to the theory. But I am not sure I am convinced that tidal theory can explain cycle modulation or grand minima. Having said that, as experienced in climate, sometimes more than one driver can combine to give an outcome.

    One driver I think is angular momentum, cycle modulation when keeping grand minima in mind follows the derived angular momentum curve of the Sun that is produced by Neptune and Uranus. When the AM is low so is the solar cycle and vice versa. The solar orbit around the SSB is made up of 2 loops, an inner loop and outer loop of around 10 years each. When AM is highest the outer loop travels further away from the SSB and when lowest (actual) the inner loop comes in closer to the SSB, we have maximum acceleration and deceleration. Understanding how high AM powers the outer loop and low (actual) AM the inner loop is fundamental, derived AM is the movement away from the centre line on Carl’s AM graph. By flipping the low values below the centre line the derived AM curve is produced.

    This cycle is broken up by one planetary configuration that causes the inner loop to travel outside of the Sun’s radius, it is a distorted inner loop that is trying to be an outer loop. Charvàtovà’ saw this disordered pattern over several decades but failed to understand it correctly. We can now observe the distorted inner loop and quantify the solar downturn by the amount of deviation of the orbit past the solar radius and the timing of such deviation. This can be done for current and future inner loops as well as all deviations that go back over the Holocene record. Carl’s AM graph can also be used to quantify the solar downturn in a similar manner. Understanding how grand minima interrupt the normal AM cycle is the key that many do not understand.

    The inner and outer loops of the Sun do not correspond with cycle timing or length. If VEJ are responsible for cycle timing that works with AM cycle modulation then a mismatch can occur. Ian Wilson has observed this when looking at J/S conjunctions and cycle max timings, I think the timing issue is important and it explains why sometimes (SC7) the full power of the grand minimum distorted inner loop is wasted. If the disruption (that only lasts a few years) happens near cycle max the full effect is not realized.

    The following diagram summarizes my points:

    I think the evidence for AM solar modulation is strong, but it may also be working in concert with tidal forces?

  22. GS says:

    Vuk, keep in mind the isotope records (INTCAL98) are adjusted for the movement in the Earth’s geomagnetic field that has been reducing on a sliding scale for thousands of years. The Earth’s field may have a greater impact but it is stable once allowing for the long term degradation.

    The movement seen in the isotope records is nearly all solar related, these movements in general follow the climate record over the Holocene, finding all the solar/climate links will take time.

  23. Paul Vaughan says:

    @ GS

    The geomagnetic waves are coherent with solar waves at multiple timescales, including Hale, multidecadal, & centennial, so I’ve found it curious that vukcevic continues trying to convince us that they should be considered as something independent of solar variations. However, I’ll quickly add that vukcevic has volunteered a handful of critically informative graphs that no one else ever bothered to share; without these contributions, we might remain ignorant of some of the dimensions of the coherence in multivariate space.

    As for JEV & solar cycle length (SCL):
    JEV does not by itself linearly explain observed SCL variations.
    (Note for anyone who wants to check firsthand: NASA JPL Horizons directly outputs osculating elements, so the calculations only take few seconds.)

  24. Ninderthana (aka Ian Wilson) says:

    Paul Vaughan said:

    “JEV does not by itself linearly explain observed SCL variations”

    This comes about because the VEJ tidal-torquing forcing is driving a (complex) solar magnetic dipole that has its own internal resonant cycle(s). The SCL variations primarily result from a phase-locked resonance between the solar magnetic cycle(s) and the VEJ tidal-torquing cycle.

  25. M Simon says:

    the minima prior to the onset of cycle -11 (1618/19), marking the start of the Maunder Minimum, the minimum prior to cycle -4 (1698), marking the end of the Maunder Minimum or the restart of the solar sunspot cycle after a 60 year hiatus, the minimum prior to cycle 4 (1784.7), marking the onset of the Dalton Minimum and minimum prior to cycle 23 (1996.5), marking the onset of the upcoming Landscheidt Minimum [7]

    It is unclear how cycle 11 (1618/19) happens before cycle 4 (1698) and (1784.7)

    I’m sure you know what you are talking about and I don’t. Clarification/consistent nomenclature is in order.

    [Reply] Check the minus signs in front of the cycle numbers.