Note: The full PDF of this author manuscript was sent to me via an email contact of the author, Bob Foster. He says it has been published in E&E. Energy & Environment · Vol. 20, No. 1&2, 2009. Online now here and now in print.- Anthony
EDITORIAL – NATURAL DRIVERS OF WEATHER AND CLIMATE
Director, The Lavoisier Group, Australia
fosbob [- at -] bigpond.com
Will it be warmer or cooler? Policy-makers need to know; because human well-being depends on them being correctly informed. Confusingly, there are two plausible – but mutually-exclusive – hypotheses as to the direction of climate-change within the planning horizon of governments. Which will be proven right?
The scientific consensus invokes an autonomous Earth with a self-contained climate – stable and benign, until only now disturbed by people burning fossil fuels. In this people-driven-climate hypothesis, variability of external influences is minuscule – and in the policy sense, irrelevant. For planning purposes, Earth can be treated as if it were travelling in an empty Universe.
However, a substantial number of scientists disagree; and as the flow of satellite observations becomes a flood, their number grows apace. Contrarians assert that, at all human-relevant time-scales, factors external to our planet – some identified and, doubtless, some not – powerfully influence a climate that has always varied. The preindustrial Arcadia mourned by the scientific consensus is a myth. In this variable-Sun/Earth-connection hypothesis, external influences on weather and climate far outweigh those from people. Our climate is not self-contained.
If you find this double-issue to be an even handed treatment of the climate-change dichotomy, I will have failed. Indeed, it was my intention to select papers which cast doubt on the dominant paradigm of a people-driven-climate. I here set the scene by drawing on two from the legion of available examples of the solar-antipathy endemic among mainstream climate scientists.
For a mainstream assertion of the Sun’s irrelevance, I turn to Michael C. MacCracken1, the then President of the International Association of Meteorology and Atmospheric Sciences. The Sun is evaluated in his chapter “Uncertainties Emphasized by the Special Interests”:
3. Twentieth century warming is primarily a recovery from the Little Ice Age and results largely from natural changes in solar output (or changes in cosmic rays, or solar field strength, or the lengths of sunspot cycles, or whatever curve one can construct) rather than the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations. Most of these claims are based on little more than correlations rather than on causal mechanisms supported by high quality, or even any quantitative, data.
1From Dr MacCracken’s presentation “Uncertainties: How little do we really understand?” at Rice University Science and Technology Conference on 1-2 November 2003.
And, in further trenchant condemnation,
A number of these results would require overturning all that science has learned about global and planetary energetics while failing to explain how the Sun possibly knows to initiate its unique changes at exactly the same time that human activities start having an influence .
The Chief of Science is the Royal Society of London; and it leads the Sun-freeclimate campaign from the front.
Back in 1801, the Astronomer Royal (Sir William Herschel) had already noted the Sun-climate connection. Indeed, he enjoys a more-fulsome inscription in Westminster Abbey than does his lying-in neighbour, Charles Darwin. But sadly, the Sun set connection-wise in 1892, when William Thomson (aka The Lord Kelvin, President of the Royal Society) announced2 that he had done the calculations, and was forced to conclude that the conjunction between events on the Sun and events on Earth could be nothing more than mere coincidence:
This result, it seems to me, is absolutely conclusive against the supposition that terrestrial magnetic storms are due to magnetic action of the Sun; or to any kind of dynamical action taking place within the Sun, or in connection with hurricanes in his atmosphere, or anywhere near the Sun outside. … [W]e may also be forced to conclude that the supposed connection between magnetic storms and sun-spots is unreal and that the seeming agreement between the periods has been mere coincidence.
Was this a scientific world-first – when Kelvin ranked calculations above observations?
The Royal Society has not yet resiled from that implausible dogma. As recently as 10 April 2007, the Society released its immodestly-titled “Man made climate change: the real science”, condescendingly sub-headed “CLIMATE CHANGE controversies – a simple guide”. This topical, and very influential, analysis adopts the ‘straw man’ debating technique; saying:
…the Society – as the UK’s national academy of science – responds here to six arguments that are currently in circulation by setting out, in simple terms, where the weight of scientific evidence lies.
By far the most fundamental of those straw-men is:
Argument 4: It’s all to do with the Sun – for example, there is a strong link between increased temperatures on Earth with the number of sunspots on the Sun.
A swingeing demolition follows; and sadly, I can here quote it but in part:
While there is evidence of a link between solar activity and some of the warming in the early 20th century, measurements from satellites show that there has been very little change in underlying solar activity in the last 30 years – there is even evidence of a detectable decline – and so this cannot account for the recent rises we have seen in global temperatures.
2Here quoting from Soon and Yaskell 2003, “The Maunder Minimum and the variable Sun-Earth connection”, World Scientific, 278 p. They give their source as: Kelvin, Lord W.T. Nature, No. 1205, Vol. 47, December 1, 1892.
Doubtless, many hands created the people-driven-climate behemoth. But my memory of those distant days accords with that of US Federal employee Dr James E.
Hansen, from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Sciences in New York. His June 23, 2008 reminiscence “Twenty Years Later: Tipping Points Near on Global Warming” in The Huffington Post, says in part:
Today I testified to Congress about global warming, 20 years after my June 23 1988 testimony, which alerted the public that global warming was underway. Now, as then, frank assessment of scientific data yields conclusions that are shocking to the body politic. Now, as then, I can assert that these conclusions have a certainty exceeding 99 percent. The difference is that now we have used up all the slack in the schedule for actions needed to defuse the global warming time bomb. The next president and Congress must define a course next year in which the United States exerts leadership commensurate with our responsibility for the present dangerous situation. Otherwise it will become impractical to constrain atmospheric carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas produced in burning fossil fuels, to a level that prevents the climate system from passing tipping points that lead to disastrous climate changes that spiral dynamically out of humanity’s control.
It is catastrophism such as that above, which spurred me to select papers supporting the case that many influences, other than people burning fossil fuels, are crucial to future weather and climate. Indeed, there may be sufficient knowledge already available to predict some natural trends – in direction and timing, albeit not in quantitative regional detail. Surely, it is too early for policy-makers to “pick winners” on a topic so vital to humanity as is climate-change.
The rock on which this double-volume is founded is The Sun’s role in regulating Earth’s climate dynamics by Richard Mackey. Indeed, his paper could well have adopted the title assigned to the entire issue – Natural drivers of weather and climate. Furthermore, spare a thought for the obliging and knowledgeable referee who provided a comprehensive and supportive peer-review for such a long, wide-ranging, and complex epistle. It is not practical for me to here encapsulate its contents in a few words; suffice it to say, it builds on the before-his-time insights of Rhodes Fairbridge half a century ago. Chauvinist that I am, let me point out that author, reviewer and Fairbridge are from the Southern Hemisphere.
Nevertheless, those from above the equator need not feel disenfranchised. Sunclimate linkage now confirmed, by Adriano Mazzarella, deals specifically with the Northern Hemisphere – because far more observations are available there. He recognises a series of anti-correlations, over the past century and more, between geomagnetic activity (externally-driven) and atmospheric circulation in the 35-55 0N zone, between zonal wind and Earth’s rotation rate, and between length-of-day and sea-surface temperature. He describes SST as “the true thermometer of the atmosphere-ocean system”. I asked this author to prepare a (slightly) dumbed-down version of the text he published earlier in 2008, so that people like me could understand it – while preserving all its Figures. For this reason, it is not presented herein as a refereed paper.
Sunspot numbers, and the lengths of solar cycles, were signally disrespected in quotations presented earlier in this Editorial. But no matter. The paper Solar Cycle 24: expectations and implications by David Archibald, if its predictions come to pass, will restore their climatic relevance. He uses the long-drawn-out tail of Solar Cycle
23, and correlation with another long cycle immediately preceding the Dalton Minimum (1800-1820), to predict an impending look-alike of that Little Ice Age cold period. Planners beware!
Now is the time to introduce the more-fearsome Maunder Minimum (conventionally 1645-1715), when it is said a third the population of Europe died of plague, famine or wars about food. Finnish author Timo Niroma in Solar behaviour, and its influence on Earth’s climate, curtails it slightly to 1645-1700. He is in broad agreement with Archibald about climate expectations in the decades ahead – but he divides his attention between now and the 1600s.
This is hardly surprising, in view of how Finland suffered3 then: I here quote: Temperatures during the “bad” decades of the seventeenth century (the worst occurring in the 1690s) may have fallen to an annual average of 0.9 0C below the norms for the warmer years 1920-1960. Cold winters and poor summers brought famine, killing off seeds and crops and affecting Scotland, France, and Finland especially in the fatal decade of the 1690s.
Timothy Ball warns us, in Climate Change: dangers of a singular approach and consideration of a sensible strategy, that cooling is likely to be worse than warming. In his support, I again invoke the Maunder Minimum. A painting by Abraham Hondius (1630-95), in the Museum of London, shows stranded ice-floes on the banks of the Thames in 1677. Judging from clambering figures, those floes were thicker than 17th Century man was tall. Below4 is a modern evocation of 1709 in France:
On 12 January the cold came down. In four days the Seine, all the rivers and the sea on the Atlantic coast were frozen solid. The frost lasted for two months, then there was a complete thaw; as soon as the snow which had hitherto afforded some protection to the land, melted away, the frost began again, as hard as ever. The winter wheat of course was killed, so were the fruit, olive and walnut trees and nearly all the vines; the rabbits froze in their burrows; the beasts of the field died like flies. The fate of the poor was terrible and the rich at Versailles were not to be envied …
Enough doom and gloom? Almost – but not quite. Can we predict the next Indian mega-famine? entitles Ian Wilson’s innovative look at a much-studied topic. By correlating past famines with “kinks” in the Sun’s irregular orbit around the centre-ofmass of the solar system, he can put an orbitally-related time to famines. An abrupt asymmetry in solar orbit is currently underway; and ominously, he finds a one-in–four chance of the next famine in about 2018-2020 (the last was in about 1900). His plots of solar orbit are not to be missed; and interestingly, he also has found a long-term correlation between solar asymmetry and Earth’s (climatically influential?) length-of-day variability. There is still much to learn, it seems.
Now is the time for a digression. I was at Adelaide University during the last decade of the half-century struggle between the then-dominant paradigm of
3Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie 1967, “Times of Feast, Times of Famine: A history of climate since the year 1000”, (translated from the French in 1971), The Noonday Press NY, 438 p. (see pp.312-13).
4Nancy Mitford 1966, “The Sun King”, Sphere Books, 256 p. (see p.222).
Hutton/Lyell Uniformitarianism, and Wegener’s theory of Continental Drift. If we students had admitted we preferred continents that drift, we may well have been failed. (Ironically, the overthrow of Flood Geology – all sediments were either pre-diluvian or ante-diluvian – by uniformitarianism, had itself been a giant step forward.) Scientists are herd-animals; they revere consensus, and are protective of the status quo. Here quoting noted geologist (and contributor to this volume) Cliff Ollier:
R.T. Chemberlin said geologists might well ask if theirs could still be regarded as a science when it is “possible for a theory like this to run wild” …
Sir Harold Jeffreys disposed of continental drift as … “an explanation which explains nothing which we wish to have explained”.
Sadly, antipathy to new ideas is endemic in science. When John Maddox introduced peer-review to Nature, he found he had to exempt Fred Hoyle and Louis Leakey; because reviews of their papers were so trenchantly negative. Two of the authors I sought out for this issue suffered some (not all) negative reviews – to the point where higher authority has felt unable to grant them “Refereed” status. But, both papers survive – and both are interesting and thought-provoking.
The first of these “un-mainstream” works is by Oliver Manuel, entitled Earth’s heat source – the Sun. He asserts that the Standard Solar Model of a hydrogen-filled Sun cannot explain cycles of solar activity – a principal driver of Earth’s climate. Instead, he envisages that our Sun is the chemically-layered and iron-rich remnant of the
supernova which gave birth to our solar system. Discernible cycles arise on the Sun, because changes in solar inertial motion induce shifts in its heterogeneous internal structure. How plausible is this alternative to the SSM? I don’t know, of course. But my interest was piqued by the charts in Ian Wilson’s paper – showing abrupt asymmetries in the Sun’s irregular orbit. Surely, these would have a much bigger impact on a Sun with, say, an iron core than one which simply was a ball of hydrogen.
The other paper damned with faint praise was by Louis Hissink, entitled The Earth in an electric solar system. We may not have as long to wait for vindication of
Hissink’s championing of plasma, as might Manuel (above) for his objection to the Standard Solar Model. I here quote from an account5 of the Ninth International Conference on Substorms in Graz, Austria:
Geomagnetic substorms, responsible for creating brightly lit aurorae that can disrupt satellite communications and electric power grids, comprise a wealth of dynamic plasma processes. …
Meeting participants agreed that understanding will be further enhanced as new spaceborne and ground-based observational and computational capabilities evolve.
In his paper, Hissink quotes from a NASA press release at the Huntsville (Alabama)
Workshop6. Here is an extract from the Workshop (26-31 October 2008) Summary:
Complex processes govern magnetized plasma interactions between regions of differing magnetic fields. These boundary-layer interaction regions can be found at the Sun, at planetary magnetospheres, in the solar wind and in astrophysical plasmas. A variety of different processes … have been presented as mechanisms responsible for mass and energy transport across these boundaries, but the relative importance and interdependence of these process remain largely unresolved.
5R. Nakamura and W. Baumjohann 2008, “Tackling substorm problems: New observational and modelling
capabilities”, Eos v.89 no. 35, p. 324. (Conference 5-9 May 2008)
6″The physical processes for energy and plasma transport across magnetic boundaries”.
Plasma could be the Next Big Thing.
The paper by Adrian Kerton entitled Climate change and the Earth’s magnetic poles, a possible connection, notes a correlation between accelerating polar wander –
particularly for the North magnetic pole – over the past century, and a warming climate. Of course, correlation isn’t proof.
But there is at least a glimmer of a plausible underpinning for the observed correlation. Both magnetic poles have now moved out to sea. Furthermore, the observed auroral oval suggests that flux transfers from Sun to Earth enter the near- Earth environment near one or other magnetic pole. Is polar-wander yet another natural climate-related issue which should not be ignored?
A paper by Tom Quirk (one of his two), entitled The Australian temperature anomaly, 1910-2000, is of particular interest to me. I attended a lecture on 13 September 2007 by Dr Jim Peacock FRS from Australia’s CSIRO, while he served as Chief Scientist of Australia during the latter days of the Howard Government. Fortunately, this lecture – “The climate challenge”, at Royal Society of Victoria – was supported by a written abstract; otherwise, I may not have believed my ears. His abstract said:
The evolution of argument, discussion and data acquisition has established the reality of climate change, removing it from disbelief, debate, at least among rationally thinking people.
In the last 100 years the average surface temperature in Australia has increased by about one degree. Australia can expect average surface temperatures to rise by a further two to three degrees by the end of the century even if the world holds CO2 emissions. … We need urgent action to begin to reduce emissions and we need to prepare for the impact of the emission driven climate consequences that are already inevitable and with us whilst Australia attempts to reduce our footprint.
Happily, Quirk finds that much of that warming was associated with the Great Pacific Climate Shift – stemming from an abrupt reduction in upwelling of cold/deep water in the equatorial eastern Pacific in the mid 1970s. (This signal event appears unrelated to people burning fossil fuels; but instead, is related to an inflection-point in Earth’s ever-changing length-of-day – which, in turn, is related to an inflection-point in the change-of-radius of the Sun’s irregular orbit about the centre-of-mass of the solar system.)
Another ocean-related paper is Cooling of the global ocean since 2003 by Craig Loehle. He reports that up to 31% of the heat estimated to have been gained by the upper ocean (down to 900 metres) during 1993-2003, appears to have been lost in 2003-2008. Of interest is not just the trend he detects (which he warns may not be
real), but also a pronounced intra-annual cyclicity. This paper discusses a climatically important topic; and clearly, a longer run of good data is urgently needed.
The next several papers have at least some connection. Martin Cropp deduces, in his paper Earth-temperature/CO2-equilibrium prior to 1850, deviations from equilibrium in 150,000 years of Vostok ice-core records – between atmospheric CO2 concentration, and temperature. Martin Hertzberg builds on joint work with Prof. J.B. Stott (NZ), from as far back as 1994, in his paper Earth’s radiative equilibrium in the solar irradiance. I quote from his abstract:
Except for the influence of clouds on the albedo (ie. Earth’s reflectivity), no assumptions are needed regarding the detailed composition of the atmosphere in order to explain the observed small fluctuations in the 20th Century temperatures or the larger, longer-term, variations of Glacial coolings and Interglacial warmings.
Tom Quirk’s second paper, Sources and sinks of Carbon Dioxide, comes to the surprising, and perhaps important, conclusion that fossil-fuel-derived CO2 is mostly absorbed locally in its year of emission – implying that natural climatic variability is the main driver of increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations. David Douglass and John Christy present an analysis of very different method in Limits on CO2 climate forcing from recent temperature data. However, since the (ENSO-related) 1998 peak in the global atmospheric temperature anomaly, they also find only a small underlying positive trend that is consistent with CO2 climate-forcing.Cliff Ollier addresses a very different, but also topical, issue in Lysenkoism and global warming. This further quote from James Hansen (see more of it, above) sets the scene:
On June 23, 1988 I testified to a hearing, organized by Senator Tim Wirth, that the Earth had entered a long-term warming trend and that human-made greenhouse gasses almost surely were responsible. … CEOs of fossil energy companies know what they are doing and are aware of long-term consequences of continued business as usual. In my opinion, these CEOs should be tried for high crimes against humanity and nature. If their campaigns continue and “succeed” in confusing the public, I anticipate testifying against relevant CEOs in future public trials. His final words are particularly ominous. As Ollier tells us, the director of the Institute of Genetics at the USSR Academy of Science, Nikolai Vavilov, was a Mendelian theoretician of high-standing. But in1940, Vavilov was arrested; and after 11 months of interrogation, he and two colleagues were tried and sentenced to death. His sentence – only – was commuted; but he died in prison. Are we making too much of: these CEOs should be tried for high crimes against humanity and nature?
I certainly hope so.
When the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its Third Assessment Report at Shanghai in January 2001, Sir John Houghton (head of IPCC, formerly with UK Met Office) stood at a lectern backed by the blow-up of Figure 1(b) in his Summary for Policymakers. It was a reconstruction of Northern Hemisphere surface temperature during the past 1000 years – comprising 900 years of gentle cooling, succeeded by a 100 years of abrupt warming. This infamous “hockey-stick” graph is anathema to palaeoclimatologists like me.
First, the Mediaeval Warm Period doesn’t appear. The MWP was a period of active Sun when Norse grain-growers colonised Greenland. Also, the fearsome North Sea was easily-enough crossed then, that stone-masons from Trondheim could build
Lincoln Cathedral – the first edifice to exceed in height the Great Pyramid of Cheops. Indeed, both intellectually and economically, the IPCC-abolished MWP transformed Europe.
Second, the subsequent series of Little Ice Age cold periods doesn’t appear either; and neither does the 300-year warming trend from the Maunder Minimum quiet Sun to the Modern Era hyper-active Sun of the 20th Century. Indeed, in FIGURE SPM-2 of the (Paris, February 2007) Summary for Policymakers of IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report, the only listed “Natural” Radiative Forcing Component (since 1750) is a minuscule increase of “Solar irradiance” of 0.12 Watts per square metre. In stark contrast, “Anthropogenic CO2” is awarded a forcing (aka warming) of 1.66 W/sq.m. – thirteen times as large!
Did IPCC, by writing the Maunder Minimum out of history, lose credibility among mainstream scientists? No – not if this7 dithyramb is any guide:
Since its assessment process began in 1990, each of the successive reports of (IPCC) has summarized the rapidly improving understanding of the science and strengthened the findings that human activities are having an increasing effect on the global climate and that the future will bring even more rapid change. The IPCC is not some patched together international committee, but a means of bringing together hundreds of the world’s best scientists as authors and thousands of reviewers to generate truly authoritative technical reviews of scientific understanding.
While exceedingly time-consuming and intense, the process has, in a very real sense, worked miracles, producing documents that have been unanimously agreed to without dissent by all of the countries and all of the leading scientists serving as lead authors – and the agreement is not just about the main points and overall thrust, but with every word and phrase.
Finally, and with Pyongyang-like freedom from doubt,
If ever there was a process that should be viewed as providing authoritative results,
this was it.
But that “authoritative” process did not save the Maunder Minimum. Not all are convinced. In his paper Climate policy: Quo Vadis? a much-moresceptical view is adopted by Hans Labohm. He is also co-author of a book8 on this very topic. He tells us:
The IPCC is generally believed to be the single most authoritative body in the field of climate science; and its reports serve as scientific basis for climate policies of governments, which have profound implications for society. As such, the Panel occupies a quasi monopoly position. But, as its genealogy shows, it has been preconditioned by its mandate, in which ‘climate change’ equals man-made global warming…
Against this background, Europe should reconsider its position; (because) it is in grave danger of isolating itself from the rest of the world by its climate policy.
7Drawn from the “Background” section of Dr MacCracken’s Rice University presentation in 2003 (see
Footnote 1, above).
8Hans Labohm, Dick Thoenes and Simon Rozendaal 2004, “Man-made global warming: unravelling of
dogma”, Multi-science Publishing Co Ltd., 192 p.
Within the planning-horizon of governments, policy-makers are faced with mutually-exclusive hypotheses – warmer or cooler. We should know within a decade; but for now, the prudent course is monitor and analyse, but not commit to planning for just one of these two outcomes. Some papers in this issue present well-researched contrarian views as to what drives weather and climate. Others say it is premature to fight a threat which is as yet unestablished. I commend to you the papers herein, and thank all authors – and reviewers – for their hard work.