The Sun has a dimmer switch?


Here’s some “inconvenient” news. According to a new theory proposed by renowned astrophysicist Robert Ehrlich of George Mason University, Ice ages are not caused by planet Earth’s orbital variations as once thought, but by a “dimmer switch” inside the sun that causes its brightness to rise and fall on timescales of around 100,000 years which is exactly the same period as between ice ages on Earth,

Ehrlich modeled the effect of temperature fluctuations in the sun’s interior and showed that while the temperature of the sun’s core is held constant by the opposing pressures of gravity and nuclear fusion, slight variations are possible.

His research builds upon the work of solar physicists Attila Grandpierre and Gábor ÿgoston who calculated that magnetic fields in the sun’s core could produce small instabilities in the solar plasma inducing localized oscillations in temperature.

In an article appearing in the journal New Scientist, Ehrlich describes how some of these oscillations reinforce one another and become long lasting temperature variations, with the sun’s core temperature to oscillating around its average temperature of 13.6 million kelvin in cycles lasting either 100,000 or 41,000 years.

According to Ehrlich, random interactions within the sun’s magnetic field could flip the fluctuations between the two cycles which correspond to the Earth’s ice ages.

Over the past million years, ice ages have occurred roughly every 100,000 years and before that roughly every 41,000 years.

The currently accepted theories attribute the ice ages to subtle changes in Earth’s orbit, known as the Milankovitch cycles, one of which describes the way Earth’s orbit gradually changes shape from a circle to a slight ellipse and back again roughly every 100,000 years.

As I’ve always said, the sun is the “Big Kahuna” of climate change on Earth. Everything else is secondary, even though man’s opinion of his own self importance in the scheme of things often dictates otherwise.

If you have ever studied how the magnetic dynamo of the sun is so incredibly full of entropy, yet has cycles, you’ll understand this new theory proposed by Ehrlich. The sun’s magnetic field is a like a series of twisted and looped rubber bands, mostly because the sun is a fluid gas, which rotates at different rates between the poles and the equator. Since the suns magnetic field is pulled along with the gas, all these twists, bumps, and burps occur in the process as the magnetic field lines get twisted like taffy. You can see more about it in the Babcock model.

The Babcock model says that the differential rotation of the Sun winds up the magnetic fields of it’s layers during a solar cycle. The magnetic fields will then eventually tangle up to such a degree that they will eventually cause a magnetic break down and the fields will have to struggle to reorganize themselves by bursting up from the surface layers of the Sun. This will cause magnetic North-South pair boundaries (spots) in the photosphere trapping gaseous material that will cool slightly. Thus, when we see sunspots, we are seeing these areas of magnetic field breakdown.


Sunspots are cross connected eruptions of the magnetic field lines, shown in red above. Sometimes they break, spewing tremendous amounts of gas and particles into space. Solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CME’s) are some examples of this process. Sometimes they snap back like rubber bands. The number of sunspots at solar max is a direct indicator of the activity level of the solar dynamo.

Its been known for years that the sun has cycles, the shortest being 11 years…it only makes sense that far longer cycles exist. The point is, we are going through a cycle now, as shown below, indicated by sunspot counts.


Which looks a lot like earths temperature plots as we come out of the last little ice age.

Sometimes the sun is quiet, as during the Maunder Minimum, other times its much more active, such as now in the Modern Maximum. The next 11 year solar cycle is projected to be very large. So I have no doubt we’ll see a warm climate to go with it. You could think of it like the “rouge wave” phenomenon in the ocean. Smaller waves occasionally align to make larger ones, and sometimes huge ones. Be it waves or sunspot cycles the same thing can apply to almost any periodic event. Oscilation will eventually produce a big wave or bigger oscillation, which is usually followed by an immediate dampened reaction once the peak is hit. 100,000 years in the 10 billion year life of the sun is a blink, so it’s not at all surprising that this could be one of our long term climate drivers.

Of course, the folks who would have you believe that our climate is driven by increasing CO2 and nothing else, will continue to ignore the sun, as it serves their agenda to do so.

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Anita Berkow
February 6, 2007 9:54 am

Makes sense to me; and I’m looking forward to the Maunder Maximum – more sunspots to look at on Solar Sunday at the observatory! Go, Sun! My Favorite Star of all…

February 6, 2007 8:59 pm

Scientists offered cash to dispute global warming
Scientists and economists have been offered $10,000 each by a lobby group funded by one of the world’s largest oil companies to undermine a major climate change report due to be published today.
Letters sent by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), an ExxonMobil-funded thinktank with close links to the Bush administration, offered the payments for articles that emphasise the shortcomings of a report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
The AEI has received more than $1.6m from ExxonMobil and more than 20 of its staff have worked as consultants to the Bush administration. Lee Raymond, a former head of ExxonMobil, is the vice-chairman of AEI’s board of trustees,,2004397,00.html

February 6, 2007 9:48 pm

Hello Jim,
I’ve been aware of the article you cited for days, so what’s your point? Shall all scientists who might do research that may go against AGW theory now be ignored? The solar physicists are pretty far from the fray…show me that this scientist took a bribe. I sincerely doubt he did. Global warming isn’t even mentioned in the work, only ice ages.
I’m not at all surprised about the oil companies and AEI, but from the article you cited, this part makes a lot of sense.
“Right now, the whole debate is polarised,” he said. “One group says that anyone with any doubts whatsoever are deniers and the other group is saying that anyone who wants to take action is alarmist. We don’t think that approach has a lot of utility for intelligent policy.”
Making a broad stroke of assumption now for anything that doesn’t go along with the popular thinking is equally bad. I say that because you chose not to dispute the work, but rather sought to render the premise of the work inert by citing an example of a news article that likely may have no bearing.
Al Gore seems to be getting a lot of money over his role in the issue, couldn’t that also be argued to be wrong? I don’t care if he is, more power to him. I’d also point out that other organizations fund GW research, with clear expectations of outcome. Some of them are on the proponent side of GW, so there’s enough blame on both sides to go around.
But, we really ought to care more about the science, and less about the politics.
Science is the only place truth still exists but it’s under attack on both sides.

Joe Hill
February 7, 2007 8:29 pm

I’ve been saying that the Sun is behind the current extreme weather for over 5 years now! Trouble is, nobody has measuring the total increased output: infrared, high-energy UV & X-Ray, and Magnetic. I seem to be the only one that noticed the results of the satellite mapping of the Sun’s IMF and the conclusion that it is “pulsating” in micro-wave frequencies, which accounts for the protons (causes auroras) inbound speed to be about twice that CME alone. Yes, the Sun’s IMF acts just like those TOKOMAS of the Super Collider at CERN, got it? We have had spectacular aurora evens on an almost daily basis for over 5 years now; ever since the (so called) Solar Max. If you bother to haunt the ACE satellite site, as I do, you will notice that these high energy protons cause immense pole-to-pole voltages in the Themosphere (AKA Ionosphere). I’m not saying that the “Greenhouse Gasses Theory” is totally wrong. I’m just saying that theory does not account for the breath taking speed of the glacial and polar ice caps meltoff, as well as the depletion of the fisheries, and the extreme weather planet-wide. All of these eco-disasters are hitting us about 50 years earlier than the “conventional theory” predicts. I’ve been downloading the SOHO pictures, in the high UV, X-Ray, and Magnetic frequencies for the last 5 years, and when I run em as a slideshow, it is quite apparent that the Sun is “cooking”, baby!

February 7, 2007 10:29 pm

Hi Anthony, I recently heard this latest international report on global warming is really a summary written by, non-scientist government hacks, to explain what they think the scientific community consensus is and is still be compiled, which a bit like putting the cart before the horse and it likely has a political bias.
Next, earth doesn’t have a perfect orbit around the sun and it changes orbit slightly every year, so couldn’t this also have an impact on global warming?

February 8, 2007 11:51 am

Wow.. I didn’t realize how tired I was when posting earlier..I left out two words! lol Sorry.
My correct version should have said, the GW report is still being compiled…
The news agencies have been working off the GW “summary” and that may not be completely accurate as it’s subject to a lot of political influence, least IMHO.
*** Note from moderator:
No worries. I’ll have a blog entry in a few days covering the IPCC report which will likely address your questions. On the short term, lookup Milankovitch cycles which talks about earths orbital precession.

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