Archive for the ‘solar system dynamics’ Category

I’m delighted Ned Nikolov and Karl Zeller have chosen the Talkshop as the venue for the publication of this new open peer review paper on climate sensitivity. Scientific advance at the cutting edge has always been the most important aim of this blog, and I think this paper truly is an advance in our understanding of the climate system and the factors which support and modulate surface temperature on Earth and other rocky planets. 

The paper is mathematically rigorous, but is also accessible to everyone, thanks to Ned and Karl’s exemplary effort to fully explain their concepts and definitions in terms which can be understood by any interested reader who has some familiarity with the climate debate. Building on the bedrock of their 2014 and 2017 papers, this new work extends the applicability and validates the postulates of those previous papers by examining the causes of variability in planetary surface temperature and incorporating the previous findings in quantifying and deriving equations to model them. They find that Earth is sensitive to changes in cloud cover, which affects the amount of solar shortwave radiation reaching the surface, but not very sensitive to changes in Total Solar Irradiance arriving at the top of the atmosphere. They also find that the sensitivity to changes in CO2 levels has been heavily overestimated by current climate models. They show that a doubling of atmospheric CO2 concentration from 280 ppm to 560 ppm will cause an undetectable global warming of 0.004K.

A PDF of the paper can be downloaded here:  ECS_Universal_Equations.


Exact Formulas for Estimating the Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity of Rocky Planets & Moons to Total Solar Irradiance, Absorbed Shortwave Radiation, Planetary Albedo and Surface Atmospheric Pressure.
Ned Nikolov, Ph.D. and Karl Zeller, Ph.D.
April, 2022

1. Introduction

The term “Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity” (ECS) has become a synonym for the steady-state response of global surface temperature to a modeled long-wave radiative forcing caused by a doubling of atmospheric CO2 concentration with respect to an assumed pre-industrial level of 280 ppm. According to climate models based on the Greenhouse theory, an increase of atmospheric CO2 from 280 ppm to 560 ppm would produce a net radiative forcing (i.e. an atmospheric radiant-heat trapping) of 3.74 W m-2 (Gregory et al. 2004) resulting in a global surface warming between 2.5 K and 4.0 K with a central estimate of 3.0 K according to IPCC AR6 (see p. 11 in Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis. Summary for Policymakers). This implies an average unit ECS of 3.0/3.74 = 0.8 K / (W m-2) with a range of 0.67 ≤ ECS ≤ 1.07 K / (W m-2). Contemporary climate science and IPCC Assessment Reports do not discuss global temperature sensitivities to changes in cloud albedo, absorbed solar radiation or total surface atmospheric pressure. Consequently, no equations have been derived/proposed thus far to calculate these sensitivities. The reason for such an omission is the implicit assumption made by IPCC based on the 19th-Century Greenhouse theory (Arrhenius 1896) that the observed warming during most of the 20th Century and especially over the past 40 years was chiefly caused by an increase of industrial CO2 emissions, which are believed to trap outgoing long-wave radiation in the Earth’s troposphere and reduce the rate of surface infrared cooling to Space.

However, a plethora of studies published during the past 15 years have shown through both satellite and surface observations that the absorption of solar radiation by the Earth-atmosphere system has increased significantly since 1982 due to a decreased cloud cover/albedo, a phenomenon often referred to as “global brightening” (e.g. Goode & Pallé 2007; Wild 2009; Herman et al. 2013; Stanhill et al. 2014; Hofer et al. 2017; Pfeifroth et al. 2018; Pokrovsky 2019;  Delgado-Bonal et al. 2020; Dübal & Vahrenholt 2021;  Yuan et al. 2021). This implies a global warming driven by a rising surface solar radiation rather than CO2.


Trend or blip? The former looks more likely at the moment, but the sun can cause surprises.

April 5, 2022: New sunspot counts from NOAA confirm that Solar Cycle 25 is racing ahead of the official forecast–and the gap is growing:

See the complete labeled plot or play with an interactive version from NOAA

Sunspot counts have now exceeded predictions for 18 straight months. The monthly value at the end of March was more than twice the forecast, and the highest in nearly 7 years.

The “official forecast” comes from the Solar Cycle Prediction Panel, a group of scientists representing NOAA, NASA and International Space Environmental Services (ISES). The Panel predicted that Solar Cycle 25 would peak in July 2025 as a relatively weak cycle, similar in magnitude to its predecessor Solar Cycle 24. Instead, Solar Cycle 25 is shaping up to be stronger.

In March 2022, the sun produced 146 solar flares, including one X-flare and 13 M-flares. Auroras were sighted as far south…

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Something similar was also detected on Mars a few years ago. One researcher commented: “The sudden intensification of a ring current causes the main phase of a magnetic storm.” Coronal mass ejections from the sun were identified as a cause.
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An international team of scientists has proved that Mercury, our solar system’s smallest planet, has geomagnetic storms similar to those on Earth, says Science Daily.

Their finding, a first, answers the question of whether other planets, including those outside our solar system, can have geomagnetic storms regardless of the size of their magnetosphere or whether they have an Earth-like ionosphere.

The research by scientists in the United States, Canada and China includes work by Hui Zhang, a space physics professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute.

Their finding, a first, answers the question of whether other planets, including those outside our solar system, can have geomagnetic storms regardless of the size of their magnetosphere or whether they have an Earth-like ionosphere.


Solar cycle 25 is about to reach the interesting stage, when we find out what it’s really made of.

March 23, 2022: Solar Cycle 25 is intensifying–and Earth’s upper atmosphere is responding.

“The Thermosphere Climate Index (TCI) is going up rapidly right now,” reports Linda Hunt of Science Systems and Applications, Inc. “It has nearly tripled in the past year.”

TCI is a number published daily by NASA, which tells us how hot Earth’s upper atmosphere is. The thermosphere, the very highest layer of gas, literally touches space and is a sort of “first responder” to solar activity. Hunt created this plot showing how TCI has unfolded during the last 7 solar cycles.  Solar Cycle 25 (shown in blue) is just getting started:

“So far Solar Cycle 25 is well ahead of the pace of Solar Cycle 24,” notes Hunt. If this trend continues, the thermosphere could soon hit a 20-year high in temperature.

Before we go any farther, a word of caution: This does not mean Earth is…

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The Mystery of Orange Auroras

Posted: March 5, 2022 by oldbrew in atmosphere, solar system dynamics

Why now, we may ask. Either we didn’t notice them before or they weren’t there.

March 4, 2022: A recent display of auroras over Canada has experts scratching their heads. The mystery? They were orange. Pilot Matt Melnyk was flying 36,000 feet over Canada on Feb. 23rd when he saw the strangely-colored lights from the cockpit window:

“I have been chasing and photographing auroras for more than 13 years (often from airplanes) and this is the first time I have ever seen orange,” says Melnyk.

What’s so strange about orange? Joe Minow of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center explains: “Theoretically, nitrogen and oxygen (N2, N2+, and O2+) can produce emissions at orange wavelengths, but these are typically weak compared to stronger emissions from the same molecules at the red end of the spectrum. It is hard to understand how orange could dominate in an auroral display.”

Even so, Melnyk says “these appeared to be real auroras.” The orange fringe danced in sync with regular red…

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The Termination Event has Arrived

Posted: February 26, 2022 by oldbrew in Cycles, Solar physics, solar system dynamics

According to a new theory of solar cycles, that is.

Feb. 25, 2022: Something big just happened on the sun. Solar physicists Scott McIntosh (NCAR) and Bob Leamon (U. Maryland-Baltimore) call it “The Termination Event.”

“Old Solar Cycle 24 has finally died–it was terminated!” says McIntosh. “Now the new solar cycle, Solar Cycle 25, can really take off.”

The “Termination Event” is a new idea in solar physics, outlined by McIntosh and Leamon in a December 2020 paper in the journal Solar Physics. Not everyone accepts it–yet. If Solar Cycle 25 unfolds as McIntosh and Leamon predict, the Termination Event will have to be taken seriously.

Above: Predictions for Solar Cycle 25. Green would be average. Blue is the “official” prediction of a weak cycle. Red is a 2020 prediction based on the Termination Event.

The basic idea is this: Solar Cycle 25 (SC25) started in Dec. 2019. However, old Solar Cycle 24 (SC24) refused to go away. It…

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The Starlink Incident

Posted: February 10, 2022 by oldbrew in Geomagnetism, satellites, solar system dynamics

Looks like the risks were seriously underestimated if this was only a minor geomagnetic storm.

Feb. 9, 2022: As many as 40 Starlink satellites are currently falling out of the sky–the surprising result of a minor geomagnetic storm. SpaceX made the announcement yesterday:

“On Thursday, Feb. 3rd at 1:13 p.m. EST, Falcon 9 launched 49 Starlink satellites to low Earth orbit from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. … Unfortunately, the satellites deployed on Thursday were significantly impacted by a geomagnetic storm on Friday, [Feb. 4th].”

Two days before launch a CME hit Earth’s magnetic field. It was not a major space weather event. In fact, the weak impact did not at first spark any remarkable geomagnetic activity. However, as Earth passed through the CME’s wake, some sputtering G1-class geomagnetic storms developed. It was one of these minor storms that caught the Starlink satellites on Feb. 4th.

Geomagnetic storms heat Earth’s upper atmosphere. Diaphanous tendrils of warming air literally reached up…

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Credit: NASA

Compensating for the lost time may prove challenging for scientists, says Astronomy magazine. Turning the internet clock back one second implies a repeat of a computer-generated timestamp for example, which might confuse some vital systems not designed to handle that.
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Ever feel like there’s just not enough time in the day? Turns out, you might be onto something.

Earth is rotating faster than it has in the last half-century, resulting in our days being ever-so-slightly shorter than we’re used to.



Plate tectonics has always been good for a science controversy or two. This one throws some solar-planetary spice into the mix, putting a focus on the Earth-Moon barycentre.
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A study led by geophysicist Anne M. Hofmeister in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis proposes that imbalanced forces and torques in the Earth-moon-sun system drive circulation of the whole mantle, says

The new analysis provides an alternative to the hypothesis that the movement of tectonic plates is related to convection currents in the Earth’s mantle.

Convection involves buoyant rise of heated fluids, which Hofmeister and her colleagues argue does not apply to solid rocks.

They argue that force, not heat, moves large objects.


Jupiter’s cloud bands [image credit: NASA]

Scientist Rhodes Fairbridge noted in an essay that D.G. King-Hele had in the 1960s pointed out a pattern of solar-planetary significance:
‘King-Hele was able to identify a cyclical process referring to the return alignments of Jupiter, the center of the Sun, and the center of gravity of the Solar System (the barycenter).’

Although some of King-Hele’s conclusions may have been based on no longer used ephemeris data, the basic pattern is still there for us to see today.

The Solar Simulator shows that the Jupiter-Sun line passes through the solar system barycentre exactly 19 times every ~179 years, equivalent to 9 Jupiter-Saturn synodic periods of 19.865~ years each (aka the Jose cycle).


Solar Cycle 25 Update

Posted: January 12, 2022 by oldbrew in Cycles, data, solar system dynamics
Tags: ,

It’s still early in the cycle so let’s see what the next 1-2 years bring.

Jan. 10, 2022: Solar Cycle 25 is heating up. New sunspot counts from NOAA confirm that the young solar cycle is outrunning the official forecast. You are here:

Actual sunspot counts have now exceeded predictions for 15 straight months. The monthly value at the end of December 2021 was more than twice the forecast, and the highest in more than 5 years.

The “official forecast” comes from the Solar Cycle Prediction Panel representing NOAA, NASA and International Space Environmental Services (ISES). Using a variety of leading indicators, the Panel predicted that Solar Cycle 25 would peak in July 2025 as a relatively weak cycle, similar in magnitude to its predecessor Solar Cycle 24. Instead, Solar Cycle 25 is shaping up to be stronger.

Sky watchers have already noticed the change. “We are definitely seeing the effects on the ground in the Arctic!” reports Chad Blakley of the Swedish tour guide…

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Ned Nikolov, Ph.D.
Dec 30, 2021

There has been a long-standing belief in Paleoclimatology that orbital variations (a.k.a. Milankovitch cycles) have been responsible for the initiation and/or duration of glacial cycles (Ice Ages) over the past 800 Ky. Milankovitch cycles are often referred to as a pacemaker of the Ice Ages. This myth dates back to 1970s, when sediment cores revealed a weak correlation in the frequency domain between Earth’s 41-ky obliquity (axial-tilt) cycle and the periodicity of Ice Ages during the early Pleistocene (Quaternary). However, in the late Pleistocene, the frequency of glacial cycles better match the Earth’s 100-ky eccentricity cycle, which further fueled the confusion. Yet, no one has been able to demonstrate a meaningful relationship between glacial cycles and any of the Earth’s 3 orbital parameters obliquity, eccentricity and precession or combination thereof on a linear time scale. A physical causation requires a strong correlation between parameters in the time domain, not the frequency domain!


Over at WUWT, Willis has been up to his usual trick of mangling data in a vain attempt to discredit scientists who find strong links between the Sun’s variation and Earth’s weather and climatic patterns. This time it’s Le Mouel et al who get the treatment in his ‘analysis’ of their 2010 paper “Solar forcing of the semi‐annual variation of length‐of‐day

As usual, Willis gets things upside down and then sets up a straw-man argument. He asks: “So … is there a correlation between sunspots and zonal wind speeds?” The answer to which is no, and the paper’s authors never claimed there was. However, as Fig 1 of Le Mouel et al’s paper shows, there is a strong anti-correlation between solar variation and the semi-annual variation of Length of Day (LOD) which is itself well correlated with changes in zonal wind speeds. For obvious reasons, Willis doesn’t show his readers Fig 1, reproduced here for your academic study.

Figure 1. Long‐term variations in the amplitude a of the semiannual oscillation in lod (in blue). A 4‐yr centered sliding
window is used. (a) Comparison of the semiannual amplitude of lod with the sunspot number WN (red); WN is both
reversed in sign and offset by one year
(see text). (b) Comparison of the detrended semiannual amplitude of lod (blue) with
the sunspot number WN (red); WN is reversed in sign and offset by one year. (c) Comparison of the semiannual amplitude
of lod (blue) with galactic cosmic ray flux GCR (red); GCR is neither reversed in sign nor offset (see text).

Observing a recurring feature of the Earth’s ring current system.

Nov. 22, 2021: The biggest geomagnetic storm in years erupted this month when a Cannibal CME slammed into Earth’s magnetic field. Auroras spread as far south as California and New Mexico. Upon closer inspection, however, not all of those lights were auroras. Some were “SARs.”

SARs are pure red arcs of light that ripple across the sky during strong geomagnetic storms. Here’s an example from Finland in 2018:

“The SAR was visible to the naked eye for nearly 30 minutes and, after fading a bit, remained visible to my camera for another hour and a half,” recalls photographer Matti Helin.

On Nov 4, 2021, Earth experienced a veritable SAR storm. “We photographed SARs as far south as the McDonald Observatory in Texas,” reports Jeff Baumgardner of Boston University’s Center for Space Physics. “The bands of light swept over our cameras near Boston, then headed south. We knew something special was…

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November 19, 2021 lunar eclipse [credit: NASA]

For UK observers the best time to look will be about 7-8:00 am Friday morning (19th Nov.) depending on location, e.g. Manchester. [Click on image to enlarge the eclipse map]
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You can see the longest partial lunar eclipse in hundreds of years this week.

The “nearly total” lunar eclipse is expected overnight Thursday, Nov. 18, to Friday, Nov. 19, NASA said.

“The Moon will be so close to opposite the Sun on Nov 19 that it will pass through the southern part of the shadow of the Earth for a nearly total lunar eclipse,” NASA said on its website.

The eclipse will last 3 hours, 28 minutes and 23 seconds, making it the longest in centuries, reported.

Only a small sliver of the moon will be visible during the eclipse. About 97% of the moon will disappear into Earth’s shadow as the sun and moon pass opposite sides of the planet, EarthSky reported.

The moon should appear to be a reddish-brown color as it slips into the shadow, NASA reported.

Full article here.
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More from — Moon lighting: partial lunar eclipse to be longest since 1440

Diagram showing solid-body rotation of the Earth with respect to a stationary spin axis due to true polar wander. [Credit: Wikipedia]

The researchers say their finding ‘challenges the notion that the spin axis has been largely stable over the past 100 million years.’
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We know that true polar wander (TPW) can occasionally tilt whole planets and moons relative to their axes, but it’s not entirely clear just how often this has happened to Earth, says ScienceAlert.

Now a new study presents evidence of one such tilting event that occurred around 84 million years ago – when dinosaurs still walked the Earth.

Researchers analyzed limestone samples from Italy, dating back to the Late Cretaceous period (100.5 to 65.5 million years ago), looking for evidence of shifts in the magnetic record that would point towards an occurrence of TPW.

Bacteria fossils trapped in the rock, forming chains of the mineral magnetite, offer some of the most convincing evidence yet of true polar wander in the Late Cretaceous – and it may help settle a scientific debate that’s been going on for decades.


Nov. 4, 2021: Auroras in California? Believe it. On Nov. 4th, the glow of a strong (G3) geomagnetic storm spread almost to Los Angeles. Aurora chaser Hongming Zheng took this picture just outside Lincoln CA at latitude +39N:

“This was my southernmost aurora sighting yet!” says Zheng. “A red glow and occasional pillars were visible to the naked eye. I was very pleasantly surprised with this unexpectedly strong geomagnetic storm.”

More reds appeared in Joshua Tree, California (+34N). “I could not see them with my naked eye,” says veteran observer Don Davis, “but my camera recorded these rare SoCal auroras.”

The CME that sparked the display was a special “Cannibal CME“–that is, a mashup of multiple solar storm clouds striking Earth all at once. Cannibal CMEs contain tangled magnetic fields and compressed plasmas that often do a good job sparking auroras.

At the apex of…

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Fine summer weather [image credit: BBC]

How many millions of years might that be then? Two, apparently: CO2 level ‘is greater than at any time in at least the past 2 million years’. What about earlier times? The caption to the first photo in the article reads: ‘The near future may be similar to the mid-Pliocene warm period a few million years ago.’ So natural variation is confined to history, and/or dependent on volcanoes? The article asserts: ‘the last warm period between ice ages peaked about 125,000 years ago—in contrast to today, warmth at that time was driven not by CO₂, but by changes in Earth’s orbit and spin axis.’ Now orbital factors have also switched themselves off? And so it goes on: our climate models say…
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Many numbers are swirling around the climate negotiations at the UN climate summit in Glasgow, COP26, says

These include global warming targets of 1.5℃ and 2.0℃, recent warming of 1.1℃, remaining CO₂ budget of 400 billion tons, or current atmospheric CO₂ of 415 parts per million.

It’s often hard to grasp the significance of these numbers. But the study of ancient climates can give us an appreciation of their scale compared to what has occurred naturally in the past.

Our knowledge of ancient climate change also allows scientists to calibrate their models and therefore improve predictions of what the future may hold.



Quote: “the majority of [low Earth orbiting] satellites were temporarily lost, requiring several days of around-the-clock work to reestablish [their positions].” — Beware solar flares.

Oct. 29, 2021: Imagine waking up to this headline: “Half of Earth’s Satellites Lost!” Impossible? It actually happened on an October day in 2003.

Turn back the clock 18 years. Solar Cycle 23 was winding down, and space weather forecasters were talking about how quiet things would soon become when, suddenly, the sun unleashed two of the strongest solar flares of the Space Age. The first, an X17-category blast on Oct. 28, 2003, hurled this CME directly toward Earth:

Above: A CME heading straight for Earth on Oct. 28, 2003. The source was an X17-flare in the magnetic canopy of giant sunspot 486. Image credit: SOHO. Movie

Traveling 2125 km/s (almost 5 million mph), the cloud slammed into Earth’s magnetic field only 19 hours later, sparking an extreme (G5) geomagnetic storm. The storm had barely begun when the sun erupted again. An X10-flare on Oct. 29th created another…

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A year after I wrote the original ‘Why Phi’ post explaining my discovery of the Fibonacci sequence links between solar system orbits and planetary synodic periods here at the Talkshop in 2013, my time and effort got diverted into politics. The majority of ongoing research into this important topic has been furthered by my co-blogger Stuart ‘Oldbrew’ Graham. Over the last eight years he has published many articles here using the ‘Why Phi’ tag looking at various subsystems of planetary and solar interaction periodicities, resonances, and their relationships with well known climatic periodicities such as the De Vries, Hallstatt, Hale and Jose cycles, as well as exoplanetary systems exhibiting the same Fibonacci-resonant arrangements.

Recently, Stuart contacted me with news of a major breakthrough in his investigations. In the space of a few hours spent making his calculator hot, major pieces of the giant jigsaw had all come together and brought ‘the big picture’ into focus. In fact, so much progress has been made that we’re not going to try to put it all into a single post. Instead, we’ll provide an overview here, and follow it up with further articles getting into greater detail.