New study ties solar variability to the onset of decadal La Niña events

Posted: April 5, 2021 by oldbrew in Cycles, ENSO, Natural Variation, research, weather
Tags:
solar1

Solar activity [image credit: NASA]

What drives the weather can drive the climate. In this case the chances of non-correlation are said to be extremely low.
– – –

A new study shows a correlation between the end of solar cycles and a switch from El Nino to La Nina conditions in the Pacific Ocean, suggesting that solar variability can drive seasonal weather variability on Earth, Phys.org reports.

If the connection outlined in the journal Earth and Space Science holds up, it could significantly improve the predictability of the largest El Nino and La Nina events, which have a number of seasonal climate effects over land.

For example, the southern United States tends to be warmer and drier during a La Nina, while the northern U.S. tends to be colder and wetter.

“Energy from the Sun is the major driver of our entire Earth system and makes life on Earth possible,” said Scott McIntosh, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and co-author of the paper.

“Even so, the scientific community has been unclear on the role that solar variability plays in influencing weather and climate events here on Earth. This study shows there’s reason to believe it absolutely does and why the connection may have been missed in the past.”

The study was led by Robert Leamon at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, and it is also co-authored by Daniel Marsh at NCAR. The research was funded by the National Science Foundation, which is NCAR’s sponsor, and the NASA Living With a Star program.

Applying a new solar clock

The appearance (and disappearance) of spots on the Sun—the outwardly visible signs of solar variability—have been observed by humans for hundreds of years.

The waxing and waning of the number of sunspots takes place over approximately 11-year cycles, but these cycles do not have distinct beginnings and endings. This fuzziness in the length of any particular cycle has made it challenging for scientists to match up the 11-year cycle with changes happening on Earth.

In the new study, the researchers rely on a more precise 22-year “clock” for solar activity derived from the Sun’s magnetic polarity cycle, which they outlined as a more regular alternative to the 11-year solar cycle in several companion studies published recently in peer-reviewed journals.

The 22-year cycle begins when oppositely charged magnetic bands that wrap the Sun appear near the star’s polar latitudes, according to their recent studies. Over the cycle, these bands migrate toward the equator—causing sunspots to appear as they travel across the mid-latitudes.

The cycle ends when the bands meet in the middle, mutually annihilating one another in what the research team calls a terminator event. These terminators provide precise guideposts for the end of one cycle and the beginning of the next.

The researchers imposed these terminator events over sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific stretching back to 1960. They found that the five terminator events that occurred between that time and 2010-11 all coincided with a flip from an El Nino (when sea surface temperatures are warmer than average) to a La Nina (when the sea surface temperatures are cooler than average).

The end of the most recent solar cycle—which is unfolding now—is also coinciding with the beginning of a La Nina event.

“We are not the first scientists to study how solar variability may drive changes to the Earth system,” Leamon said. “But we are the first to apply the 22-year solar clock. The result—five consecutive terminators lining up with a switch in the El Nino oscillation—is not likely to be a coincidence.”

Continued here.

Comments
  1. craigm350 says:

    Reblogged this on WeatherAction News and commented:
    From the conclusion:

    We have tried to avoid discussion of causation, which, due to its controversial nature could lead to dismissal of the empirical relationship, and we want open a broader scientific discussion of solar coupling to the Earth and its environment. Nevertheless, independent of the exact coupling mechanisms, the question must be asked, why has the pattern occurred and reoccurred regularly for the past five solar cycles, or 60 years? We have only a few months at most to wait to see if this Terminator‐ENSO relation continues at the onset of the coming solar cycle 25. Should this next terminator be associated with a swing to La Niña then we must seriously consider the capability of coupled global terrestrial modeling efforts to capture “step‐function” events, and assess how complex the Sun‐Earth connection is, with particular attention to the relationship between incoming cosmic rays and clouds and precipitation over our oceans.

    https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1029/2020EA001223

  2. oldbrew says:

    The latest La Niña has already happened.

    Winter outlook 2020-2021: a look back
    March 25, 2021

    The winter outlook favored wetter-than-average conditions across the northern tier of the US and drier-than-average conditions over the southern tier. This pattern is similar to the precipitation patterns expected during La Niña winters. Which makes sense because we definitely had a La Niña this past winter.

    https://www.climate.gov/news-features/blogs/enso/winter-outlook-2020-2021-look-back
    – – –
    Re. The end of the most recent solar cycle—which is unfolding now—is also coinciding with the beginning of a La Nina event.

    Solar cycle 24 officially ended in December 2019.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_cycle_24

  3. JB says:

    “But we are the first to apply the 22-year solar clock.” Not from what I’ve read. None of this is new to me.

    “This study shows there’s reason to believe it absolutely does and why the connection may have been missed in the past.” It wasn’t. Others have observed the correlation.

    “the scientific community has been unclear on the role that solar variability plays in influencing weather and climate events here on Earth.” Because they’ve had solar flares in their eyes to see the oscillations .

  4. oldbrew says:

    Landscheidt was covering this 20 years ago…

    Solar Activity Controls El Niño and La Niña
    by
    Dr Theodor Landscheidt

    Click to access SolarActivityControlsElNinoAndLaNina.pdf

    And before that…

    El Niño and Global Temperature
    by
    John L. Daly (1998)

    After 20 years of satellite-measured global temperature data, it is now clear that the Southern Oscillation is the primary driver of year-to-year global temperature changes.
    http://www.john-daly.com/soi-temp.htm

  5. Stephen Wilde says:

    For a number of years I have been suggesting that long periods of high solar activity skew the balance of ENSO in favour of El Ninas for a warmer world whereas long periods of solar inactivity do the opposite.
    I have even proposed a mechanism:

    https://www.newclimatemodel.com/is-the-sun-driving-ozone-and-changing-the-climate/

  6. tallbloke says:

    I’ve been pointing out the link between solar cycles and ENSO here on the talkshop for the last decade. Looks like Scott might have been reading some old posts.

    All good

  7. Phoenix44 says:

    So perhaps there is a link between El Ninos and the clear longer lasting step ups in temperatures they cause and the sun’s activity. Which would mean CO2 isn’t a key driver.

    Oops.

  8. oldbrew says:

    The Sun’s climate role confirmed
    Date: 06/04/21 Dr David Whitehouse, GWPF Science Editor

    https://www.thegwpf.com/the-suns-climate-role-confirmed/
    – – –
    Low sunspots and longer solar cycles have replaced their opposites since early 2000s.

  9. stpaulchuck says:

    Impossible! Michael Mann and the other experts have shown on their computer models that the sun has nothing to do with Earth climate. /sarc

  10. NeilC says:

    “Even so, the scientific community has been unclear on the role that solar variability plays in influencing weather and climate events here on Earth”

    Well they obviously didn’t know anything about meteorology, but know how the climate works, idiots!

  11. oldbrew says:

    The Dynamics of Phase Locking [2005]

    Using a modified Cane and Zebiak (1985) model that includes the seasonal variations of the western Pacific wind anomalies and the basic-state thermocline depth, the peaks of La Niña seem to prefer the boreal winter, suggesting that the seasonal variation of the western Pacific surface wind anomalies and the mean thermocline depth are critical factors for the phase locking of the mature La Niña to the boreal winter (An and Wang 2001). [bold added]

    https://journals.ametsoc.org/view/journals/atsc/62/8/jas3507.1.xml

  12. […] The Sun’s changing activity is hard to model. There is a vast range of predictions out there from many researchers using different methods. Leif’s falls in the middle of the range; ours falls at the low end. Scott Mcintosh’s is at the high end. […]

  13. […] The Sun’s changing activity is hard to model. There is a vast range of predictions out there from many researchers using different methods. Leif’s falls in the middle of the range; ours falls at the low end. Scott Mcintosh’s is at the high end. […]

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