Among the issues most commonly discussed are individuality, the rights of the individual, the limits of legitimate government, morality, history, economics, government policy, science, business, education, health care, energy, and man-made global warming evaluations. My posts are aimed at intelligent and rational individuals, whose comments are very welcome.

"No matter how vast your knowledge or how modest, it is your own mind that has to acquire it." Ayn Rand

"Observe that the 'haves' are those who have freedom, and that it is freedom that the 'have-nots' have not." Ayn Rand

"The virtue involved in helping those one loves is not 'selflessness' or 'sacrifice', but integrity." Ayn Rand

26 June 2010

Is the Sun Betraying the Catastrophic AGW Hypothesis?

The sun undergoes a solar cycle of sunspot activity of about 11 years.  The comparative intensity of cycles varies and the sunspot minimum between cycles may vary in number of sunspots and in the time it takes for sunspots to start reappearing.  Usually, the sunspot minimum lasts about 1 year.  Sunspots are cool spots on the sun's surface, but more sunspots means that the sun has thrown off more energy.  Thus, more sunspots result in more radiation being received by the Earth.  Sunspot activity has been lower than usual for some time now.

Sunspots are generated by magnetic loops that form deep inside the sun and migrate outward through the surface in a burst of energy.  This leaves the cool spot on the surface called a sunspot.  Sunspot activity is affected by two large conveyor belts of gas that cycle through the sun's interior and out through its surface carrying material and magnetic fields.  This cycle has an average period of 40 years.  David Hathaway, a physicist at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, recently made incorrect predictions that the sun would return to normal activity.  Now he is reporting that the conveyor belt flow across the sun's surface has been speeding up since 2004.  Rachel Howe and Frank Hill of the National Solar Observatory in Tucson have determined that the internal flows of matter and magnetic fields have slowed down greatly.  The slow internal speeds and the fast exterior speeds are not understood by the solar models used by Hathaway to make his predictions that the sun would soon return to vigorous activity.

Sunspot activity slowed rapidly in late 2007 as the sun went into its solar minimum between active cycles.  2008 was expected to be a year of low sunspot activity, but it was free of sunspots 73% of the time, which was the lowest level of activity observed since the 1913 minimum with 85% sunspot-free time.  Hathaway predicted that 2009 would be a very active sunspot year.  Nothing happened until December 2009, when a large group of sunspots emerged.  The new cycle has finally started, but with much less activity than expected.

William Livingston, of the National Solar Observatory in Tucson, and Matt Penn have found that the average strength of the sunspot magnetic fields has decreased greatly since 1995.  That is the same year that significant global warming stopped according to Phil Jones, the disgraced former head of the Climate Research Group at the University of East Anglia and a long-time leader of the catastrophic AGW advocates.  Livingston claims that if the decrease in magnetic field strength in the sunspots continues, in five years those fields will not be strong enough to form sunspots at all!

Michael Lockwood, professor of space environmental physics at the University of Reading in England, has used the concentrations of isotopes of elements in ice cores and tree rings to find periods of similar solar inactivity over the last few thousand years.  He found 24 such events.  In two of these cases, the sunspot activity was nearly nil for decades.  In only one case did the sunspot activity come back to record levels.  In most cases, the sunspot activity remained low.  This implies that the chances are high that the high level of sunspot activity that characterized most of the 1900s is over.  That was also the period over which most of the warming claimed by the AGW alarmists occurred.

Lockwood also says that the unusually cold winter in Europe in 2009 - 2010 was likely due to the solar inactivity.  He bases this on records going back to 1650.  In 2008, Judith Lean of the Naval Research Laboratory published a paper showing that high solar activity has a disproportionate warming effect upon northern Europe.  I would expect both of these findings to be because the climate of northern Europe is highly dependent upon the Gulf Stream, whose temperature is dependent upon solar warming of the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.

If the sunspot magnetic fields continue to decrease in strength, sunspots may not be able to form by 2015 and we may be in for something like the Maunder Minimum of 1645 to 1715, during which sunspots nearly disappeared.  The effect in northern Europe was colder than usual winters and an average annual temperature drop of about 1 to 2C.  The Maunder Minimum caused one of the worst segments of the Little Ice Age.  Life in that time became notably more difficult.

These two articles from the Washington Post to which I have linked were written by Stuart Clark, who has a Ph. D. in astrophysics and wrote the book The Sun Kings.  These articles were first published in The New Scientist, where he frequently writes.  It is refreshing to find articles honestly presented in the Washington Post which question the idea that man's emissions of CO2 are about to boil the planet.


Anonymous said...

I have a Ph.D. in Geology. I earned it by working my way through school over a period of 15 years of post-graduate education. Moreover, I have read widely in earth sciences and both sides of the anthropogenic story since 1990. The most important learning?, “The moment you begin to believe your own hypothesis, you are a dead duck as a scientist.” As it stands now, it appears the story was dominated by demagogues with agenda we can only surmise. Obviously it is important to do everything in a conservative manner. I renew, reuse and recycle every day. I, however, realise that we currently live on a planet where prosperity is at its highest in human history and pre-history. There are demagogues and groups who say this is bad, and I have to shake my head.
As a geologist, because proofs are difficult, I have become very comfortable with the concept of multiple working hypotheses – It is necessary to read widely and to examine the other climate change ideas out there. I'd point out anthropogenic global warming is not a hypothesis. There is no scientific support whatsoever, only belief. It's a dangerously metastable belief, about to fall over of its own weight.
The important correlation between warming and cooling is not the actual number of spots; the correlation is best with the sunspot peak frequency. However, we all realize correlation is not causation. Sunspot peak frequency proxies for the rise and fall of the sun’s magnetic field, which shields earth from cosmic radiation. Cosmic radiation is currently at its highest ever measured because the sun and earth’s magnetic shields are down; climate is changing. We are in the transitional end of a 22 year cycle as the sun’s magnetic polarity shifts. The climate celebrities, however, are linking climate and the carbon economy
The third ranking gas is CO2 (0.0383%), and it does not correlate well with global warming or cooling either; in fact, CO2 in the atmosphere trails warming which is clear natural evidence it is not the cause. CO2 dissolves rapidly in cold water and bubbles rapidly out of warm water. CO2 has been rising and Earth and her oceans have been warming. However, the correlation trails.
What about the sun? Svensmark of the Danish National Space Center has experiments scheduled for the Hadron collider to test his basement experiment where cosmic radiation force instantaneous vapour nucleation. Elevated solar flux (> 10 protons per cc) appears to cause fog in the Great Lakes and clouds too.
A quiet sun allows the geomagnetic shield to drop. Incoming galactic cosmic ray flux creates low-level clouds, more snow, and more albedo effect as more is heat reflected resulting in a colder climate. An active sun, in contrast, has an enhanced magnetic field that induces Earth’s geomagnetic shield response. Earth has fewer low-level clouds, less rain, snow and ice, and less albedo (less heat reflected) producing a warmer climate.
That is how the bulk of climate change likely works, coupled with (modulated by) solar magnetism (sunspot peak frequency) there are cycles of global warming and cooling like waves in the ocean. When the waves are closely spaced, all the planets warm; when the waves are spaced farther apart, as they have been for this 21st century, all the planets cool.
Although the post 1960s warming period appears to be over, warming and attendant humidity have allowed the principal green house gas, water vapour, to kick in with more clouds, rain and snow depending on where you live to provide the negative feedback that scientists use to explain the existence of complex life on Earth for 550 million years.
We can likely kick much of the carbon economy sometime late the twenty-first century, but we must not rush to judgement for the wrong reason. The planet heats and cools naturally and our gasses are the thermostat. Nothing unusual is going on except for the Orwellian politics. In other words, it is probably not the heat; it is the humidity.

Charles R. Anderson, Ph.D. said...

Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

The scientific method commonly poses hyptheses for which further evidence is acquired and on which tests are performed. Once the hypothesis has a sufficient quantity of evidence and has passed a sufficient number of tests, it is reasonable to elevate its status to that of a theory. It is my contention that catastrophic anthropogenic global warming never made the transition successfully from an hypothesis to theory. This viewpoint upsets the AGW alarmists to no end. Catastrophic AGW is a failed hypothesis. But,there may have been a time when the hypothesis was worthy of further examination and testing. It has been clear for several years that it was a failed hypothesis and earlier than that, I thought it was a dubious hypothesis.

I agree that having a number of working hypotheses often makes sense, especially in a field as complex as climatology. It is a good idea to have several hypotheses in many cases so you can be keeping your eyes peeled for evidence for each hypothesis and because some phenomena are the result of several effects, rather than one overwhelming and dominant effect.

I have previously discussed the effect of the solar magnetic field on cosmic ray radiation on Earth a number of times. The effect of cosmic rays on low level clouds and the European experiments on high energy particle nucleation of vapor have been discussed. I have also discussed the general lag in the rise of CO2 relative to ocean temperatures and the huge amount of CO2 dissolved in the oceans.

We are generally in agreement on what are likely to be better hypotheses or theories for explaining the principal cycles in the Earth's climate than is the effect of CO2 and other man-made atmospheric gases.