NASA Goddard study suggests solar variation plays a role in our current climate

NASA Study Acknowledges Solar Cycle, Not Man, Responsible for Past Warming

Report indicates solar cycle has been impacting Earth since the Industrial Revolution

From the Daily Tech, Michael Andrews. (h/t to Joe D’Aleo)

Some researchers believe that the solar cycle influences global climate changes.  They attribute recent warming trends to cyclic variation.  Skeptics, though, argue that there’s little hard evidence of a solar hand in recent climate changes.

[NOTE: there is evidence of solar impact on the surface temperature record, as Basil Copeland and I discovered in this report published here on WUWT titled Evidence of a Lunisolar Influence on Decadal and Bidecadal Oscillations In Globally Averaged Temperature Trends – Anthony]

Past studies have shown that sunspot numbers correspond to warming or cooling trends. The twentieth century has featured heightened activity, indicating a warming trend. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Solar activity has shown a major spike in the twentieth century, corresponding to global warming. This cyclic variation was acknowledged by a recent NASA study, which reviewed a great deal of past climate data. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Solar activity has shown a major spike in the twentieth century, corresponding to global warming. This cyclic variation was acknowledged by a recent NASA study, which reviewed a great deal of past climate data. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Now, a new research report from a surprising source may help to lay this skepticism to rest.  A study from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland looking at climate data over the past century has concluded that solar variation has made a significant impact on the Earth’s climate.  The report concludes that evidence for climate changes based on solar radiation can be traced back as far as the Industrial Revolution.

Past research has shown that the sun goes through eleven year cycles.  At the cycle’s peak, solar activity occurring near sunspots is particularly intense, basking the Earth in solar heat.  According to Robert Cahalan, a climatologist at the Goddard Space Flight Center,

“Right now, we are in between major ice ages, in a period that has been called the Holocene.”

Thomas Woods, solar scientist at the University of Colorado in Boulder concludes,

“The fluctuations in the solar cycle impacts Earth’s global temperature by about 0.1 degree Celsius, slightly hotter during solar maximum and cooler during solar minimum.  The sun is currently at its minimum, and the next solar maximum is expected in 2012.”

According to the study, during periods of solar quiet, 1,361 watts per square meter of solar energy reaches Earth’s outermost atmosphere.  Periods of more intense activity brought 1.3 watts per square meter (0.1 percent) more energy.

While the NASA study acknowledged the sun’s influence on warming and cooling patterns, it then went badly off the tracks.  Ignoring its own evidence, it returned to an argument that man had replaced the sun as the cause current warming patterns.  Like many studies, this conclusion was based less on hard data and more on questionable correlations and inaccurate modeling techniques.

The inconvertible fact, here is that even NASA’s own study acknowledges that solar variation has caused climate change in the past.  And even the study’s members, mostly ardent supports of AGW theory, acknowledge that the sun may play a significant role in future climate changes.

NOTE: for those that wish to see the original NASA Goddard article which sparked both the Daily Tech and Science Daily news stories referenced above, you can read it here:

– Anthony


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“For the last 20 to 30 years, we believe greenhouse gases have been the dominant influence on recent climate change,” said Robert Cahalan, climatologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.”
So, this is only one more It-was-Sun-since-Bing Bang-until-1977 nonsense, that should only to additionally strengthen another, It-was-Man-since-1977, nonsense.

Richard deSousa

NASA is pathetic. It no longer commands a high respect from the scientific community unless one counts the pro-AGWers as scientists.

NASA’s recognition of Sun-climate correlation is climate science.
Its insistence that recent warming was mainly man-made is political science.

Frank Mosher

Anthony. Anything connected to NASA has a bad odor to it. That’s a shame. During the 60s, i had great pride in NASA, listening to the space launches, over the classroom intercom with schoolmates. It ia a shame that Hansen et al have brought so much discredit to a formerly highly respected agency. my 2 cents worth. fm

Leon Brozyna

Another “yes, but” study.
So any study of the sun’s impact on the climate is qualified with a “that was then, this is now” sort of statement. Anything to keep alive the myth that mankind is a driver of the climate.
Let’s all head on down to the seashore and order the waters to retreat…


I think its the ultimate hubris to assume you know how to fix the system, when you don’t even understand all of the sources or sinks of Co2….
By my figuring they don’t know where 20% of the carbon goes. So why are we so sure they know where 100% of it comes from, how long it lives in the atmosphere and how it is, or is not dispersed between hemispheres of our Earth. The ocean circulation model is about to fall.. I suspect we shall be seeing that happen on quite a few models in the next few years because what works for a warming climate, may not necessarily be true for a cooling one.
As far as this latest solar report. They are covering their behinds just in case this minimum continues and their models cant, or won’t predict cooling.. then we can blame it on the sun. Remember when it was warming the sun had no influence, or slight influence.. but let it cool down and the sun definately has a measurable effect? Parsel tongue is what that is ..

Adam from Kansas

What would happen if you combined those two graphs together, both by themselves may not be perfect renditions of the temperature, but it would seem you need more than just sunspot count to find the corralation, but the activity proxies as well.
NASA seems to be admitting that the sun controls the Earth’s climate, but their argument for AGW doesn’t make sense like the poster above, since 1977? CO2 was rising well before then and it didn’t cause any warming then!?


Caught a piece (circa 2007) on History Channel this afternoon where they were saying that any possible cooling from the current minimum would be outweighed by the man made contribution of CO2.
Guess they were wrong.

John F. Hultquist

Well, I went to the original. The first three lines make sense:
“The sun has powered almost everything on Earth since life began, including its climate. The sun also delivers an annual and seasonal impact, changing the character of each hemisphere as Earth’s orientation shifts through the year.”
After that it falls apart. For example, most of the statements have a nonsensical aspect to them such as this one:
“ Right now, we are in between major ice ages, . . ”
How do they know? Take some time to think about this.
Or this one:
“. . . extended absence of solar activity may have been partly responsible for the Little Ice Age in Europe and may reflect cyclic or irregular changes in the sun’s output.”
Anyone wish to parse this? History, logic, and wordsmithing all take major hits with this. Doesn’t anyone know how to play this game?

The report concludes that evidence for climate changes based on solar radiation can be traced back as far as the Industrial Revolution.
Industrial Revolution?? Looks like NASA has a very short memory.
NASA Finds Sun-Climate Connection in Old Nile Records 03.19.07
“[..]Since the time of the pharaohs, the water levels of the Nile were accurately measured, since they were critically important for agriculture and the preservation of temples in Egypt,” she said. “These records are highly accurate and were obtained directly, making them a rare and unique resource for climatologists to peer back in time.”
A similarly accurate record exists for auroral activity during the same time period in northern Europe and the Far East. People there routinely and carefully observed and recorded auroral activity, because auroras were believed to portend future disasters, such as droughts and the deaths of kings.
“A great deal of modern scientific effort has gone into collecting these ancient auroral records, inter-comparing them and evaluating their accuracy,” Ruzmaikin said. “They have been successfully used by aurora experts around the world to study longer time scale variations.”
The researchers found some clear links between the sun’s activity and climate variations. The Nile water levels and aurora records had two somewhat regularly occurring variations in common – one with a period of about 88 years and the second with a period of about 200 years.
The researchers said the findings have climate implications that extend far beyond the Nile River basin.[..]
I rather like that last sentence. Given that they were comparing Nile data with Northern Europe and Far East data, it would take a strange train of thought to even consider the possibility that the implications were limited to the Nile River basin.

Doesn’t appear to be anything new.

@ Leif Svalgaard:
What do you make of the, above, scientific evidence?
Svalgaard states (paraphrase): “The Sun is not a driver of world climate.”
While you have spent much time and effort, here, explaining why the Sun isn’t a “driver” of climate.
This evidence contradicts your position and is easy for the layman to grasp and understand.
When NASA states solar activity has an impact on climate (with some weasel words thrown in at the end), even the AGW proponents must shiver and quietly gnash their teeth in the private little hell of their own making.


But that Science Daily article is from May 12, 2008! Hardly “new”. And why does this fine site quote articles from Daily Tech?


Richard deSousa (16:10:07) :
“NASA is pathetic. It no longer commands a high respect from the scientific community unless one counts the pro-AGWers as scientists.”
Isn’t NASA primarily an engineering outfit? Doesn’t most of its budget go toward building stuff (satellites, manned space vehicles, etc.)?

I think the majority of readers of this blog attribute solar fluctuations as a big player towards climate fluctuations, the downstream processes might not be completely understood but the overall picture is clear. Now NASA is backing up and beginning to show signs of breaking away from the AGW camp.
Some of the readers here might be interested in a long term prediction of solar activity and speculate how our climate might be shaped in the next 200 years.
Here is a 200 year prediction of solar activity:

Ron de Haan

1. According to Ian Plimer the IPCC has left microbes (we find them in the first 400 meters of the earths soil cover and 85% of the earths volcanos out of the total CO2 flux equation.
Microbes, according to Ian Plimer are the world’s biggest emittors of CO2.
So, as the total CO2 flux is caused by not validated causes, the human emissions become a smaller part of the total flux.
2. A.O, Svensmark, Shaviv and Veizer link low solar activity to cosmic particles penetrating the earth’s atmosfhere resulting in cloud seeding nuclea causing in creased low cloud coverage responsible for enhanced cooling.
3. Earlier NASA articles about the Maunder Minimum mention


Okay, so after the 900 page climate bill is passed loaded down with goodies, NASA says that global warming is correlated to solar radiance. They couldn’t have presented this study when Congress was “considering” the bill?
I think I am having a personal Gore effect. Ever since we put in a pool in the backyard it has been cold and rainy. Sigh


Skeptics, though, argue that there’s little hard evidence of a solar hand in recent climate changes.
Now I’m confused. Do they mean skeptics as in deniers that are all in the pockets of big oil companies or skeptics that question the proposition that the current quiet period in solar activity is having any effect on current climate conditions?
I don’t think I’ve had such a serious identity crisis since the emergence of my first pubic hair.

Ron de Haan

3. Earlier NASA articles about the Maunder Minimum mentions the following possible causes of cooling:
If energy from the Sun decreased only slightly, why did temperatures drop so severely in the Northern Hemisphere? Climate scientist Drew Shindell and colleagues at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies tackled that question by combining temperature records gleaned from tree rings, ice cores, corals, and the few measurements recorded in the historical record, with an advanced computer model of the Earth’s climate. The group first calculated the amount of energy coming from the Sun during the Maunder Minimum and entered the information into a general circulation model. The model is a mathematical representation of the way various Earth systems—ocean surface temperatures, different layers of the atmosphere, energy reflected and absorbed from land, and so forth—interact to produce the climate.
When the model started with the decreased solar energy and returned temperatures that matched the paleoclimate record, Shindell and his colleagues knew that the model was showing how the Maunder Minimum could have caused the extreme drop in temperatures. The model showed that the drop in temperature was related to ozone in the stratosphere, the layer of the atmosphere that is between 10 and 50 kilometers from the Earth’s surface. Ozone is created when high-energy ultraviolet light from the Sun interacts with oxygen. During the Maunder Minimum, the Sun emitted less strong ultraviolet light, and so less ozone formed. The decrease in ozone affected planetary waves, the giant wiggles in the jet stream that we are used to seeing on television weather reports.
The change to the planetary waves kicked the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO)—the balance between a permanent low-pressure system near Greenland and a permanent high-pressure system to its south—into a negative phase. When the NAO is negative, both pressure systems are relatively weak. Under these conditions, winter storms crossing the Atlantic generally head eastward toward Europe, which experiences a more severe winter. (When the NAO is positive, winter storms track farther north, making winters in Europe milder.) The model results, shown above, illustrate that the NAO was more negative on average during the Maunder Minimum, and Europe remained unusually cold. These results matched the paleoclimate record.
By creating a model that could reproduce temperatures recorded in paleoclimate records, Shindell and colleagues reached a better understanding of how changes in the stratosphere influence weather patterns.
I know the Shindell theory is debunked but the current NASA publication is to pathetic for words.
NASA has become an AGW PR Bureau financed by the US tax payer.

David L. Hagen

The “new research study” refers to DailyTech May 12, 2008. Is this correct, or is there a 2009 NASA study?
REPLY: Joe D’Aleo sent me the link today, and I hadn’t covered it here before. – Anthony

When has NASA ever denied that solar variation plays a role in our current climate?
Visit the GISS website, and enter the term “solar variation” and observe the 100,000 + hits the search engine returns from the NASA domain.
This is not exactly new information.
What’s up with that anyways…

Pamela Gray

There is a difference between energy source and source of temperature variation. Given that, I sometimes think we are talking about the same thing…kinda. But let’s be sure. Can we agree on the following 4 points.
1. The Sun provides the warmth for an otherwise cold planet (good thing too). It varies only a little bit regarding its impact on Earth’s noisy temperature.
2. The noisy variations, as in gees its colder than a witch’s tit in Canada or Texas is on fire, are Earth bound.
3. But what about data trends? Can we cancel out the “weather” noise to find a different data signal, such as would be caused by CO2 or Sun variations?
4. The “data” refers to the observed historical temperatures, not the future modeled temperature.
When data is statistically smoothed or drawn in a linear trend line, are you looking at a statistical trend (which has no meaning in terms of a different cause), or an extracted (weather noise canceled out) signal different than weather noise? Depends on your algorithm. The trouble with canceling out weather noise is that it is not random. It has its own trends and cycles, long and short. So simply canceling weather noise out by creating a statistically derived smoothed trend or linear trend is not an extracted signal of CO2 or Sun. Until we understand the extent of oceanic oscillations on weather, we cannot say that a statistical trend of weather noise is related to something other than oceanic oscillations and its related weather noise. This holds true for both Sun and CO2.
If you disagree, tell me how the up or down trend, thought by you (the reader and whichever side you are on) to be CO2 or Sun, is anything other than a statistical artifact of noisy, long and short oscillating, weather? As I understand it, a linear line is nothing but a statistical trend of the noise, meaning weather, and the average is nothing but a statistical average of the noise, meaning weather. It cannot be anything else.

Well, at least they are starting the Derriere Cover… somebody knows they have a problem…
From the “Summer of 68” department:
It was 68F on my patio this afternoon. Again. In “summer”….
I’ve also noticed that it is very overcast in the mornings, clears off mid day, then we get high wispy clouds with a few lower cumulus again in the evenings. There is a daily cycle to the clouds that I don’t remember from before… By June, it was Clear Blue Sky and HOT. From first sun till last.
OK, so this is intensely anecdotal… but it does cause me to wonder if anyone has looked into the daily pattern of cloudiness? If it’s 10% or 20% more cloudy until 10am to 4pm but “normal” in the middle and the measurements only measure the middle, it will never show up in the numbers (but it will be a heck of a lot cooler mid day…).
So does the Svensmark theory testing look at average cloud all day, cloud at a point in time, cloud at high noon, what?
Still waiting for something to harvest from my garden… almost have a ‘summer squash’ big enough, but everything else is laughing at me (except for some winter onions and a bit of cabbage / kale left over from winter…)
And yes, I’m writing this from my living room since it’s too cold to sit out on the patio right now (at about 6 pm that ought to be beer and BBQ time…)


If NASA is willing to go to the effort to research the writings and history on climate, it means they are having a sort of internal debate going on.
I say give them a break, let them sort it out thier own way.
Throw Hansen a Tea Party.
The Nile, eh? Why, those clever Egyptians were into more than just Pyramids & Temples. Ra.


OT- but, sadly, relevant I think. I’m currently watching the BBC Parliament channel (Yup, I’m sad, move on)- and the debate is about Energy and Climate Change Questions. The Government bench (El Gordonistas) has about six or seven bodies present while the opposition (of all shades) have maybe 3 times that number.
Folks , we’re talking 30 out of about 650 elected “for the people and by the people” corpses who have deigned that the end of the world as we know it is worth turning up for! Mind you, I’ve more respect for these 30 corpses than the 620 blood-sucking zombies whose priorities (thanks to the Daily T) are divided between self-preservational, fiscal-audit obfuscation and sheer scientific ignorance.
Thank you, UK politicians for displaying to the world and prosterity that you’re a bunch of self-snips!!!


Pamela Gray (17:51:10) :
I’ll toss in tidal heating from Sun & Moon on Earth as a baseline candidate.
The temperature of the Earth at a depth sufficient enough to remove all external sources. Establish a gradient from suface down to baseline. Go from there.

Bob Wood

I’ve noticed that every evening when the sun goes down, so does the temperature. Maybe I should write a paper on that!

Mike Kelley

I am very frustrated with my government. They are planning to jack the cost of all our energy sources to slow “global warming”, and our forecast here in Montana calls for rain turning to snow on Saturday and Sunday. It may be time for a revolution.

Robert Wood

Frank Mosher @16:20:21
NASA lost its way a long time back, during the ’70s when the cut-backs were made and the space shuttle was developed. After the success of Apollo and Spacelab, they lost their way, aided by political interference.
However, the planetary exploration program is still a source of pride for NASA; and, given the right political leadership, they can re-scale the Moon and do good things there. Then to Mars. But, not with the current institutional bureaucracy and political leadership.

Excuse me, but 1.3 watts per square meter is 1% of 1361 watts per square meter, not 0.1%
Thats a order of magnitude difference in warming.

Robert Wood

John F. Hultquist @16:37:48
“. . . extended absence of solar activity may have been partly responsible for the Little Ice Age in Europe and may reflect cyclic or irregular changes in the sun’s output.”
“May have been partly responsible for the little ice age” apart from the Blue Parrot denial of this statement, it is an astounding admittal by NASA that ther WAS A LITTLE ICE AGE! This is osmething that the warmmonegers deny.
“..may reflect cyclic or irregular changes…” Well, talk about having cake and eating!! The changes were cyclic, or maybe irregular. Well, what else could they be??? Stochastic? No, that’s irregular. Seasonal; cyclic. They’ve just about covered all bases with this phrase.

Surely, the way the sun controls our climate is through it’s magnetic field.


Looks like using f17+f13 corrections satellite channels has resulted in a realistic correction to ice extent data. In fact Arctic ice has been within NORMAL SD since mid 2008! Maybe that massive correction done around mid 08 (subject of a post on WUWT) was a mistake after all…
reason NORSEX usually adjusts data very quickly if errors found. They haven’t for 48 hrs now…

That NASA page has a comment submission form at the end, but apparently they dont actually display any comments, despite stating moderation rules. Who are they moderating for?
Also, they continue to claim the LIA was restricted to Europe, when we know from speleotherms that the LIA happened as far away from Europe as New Zealand (A. Lorrey, 2008).
I would say this article is a typical piece of damage control spin.

Just Want Results...

Maybe certain people can ease up on Piers Corbyn and Henrik Svensmark now.

Craig Moore

There is SNOW forecasted for Montana this weekend. Where’s the warming?

Mike Lorrey says:
“Excuse me, but 1.3 watts per square meter is 1% of 1361 watts per square meter, not 0.1%
Thats a order of magnitude difference in warming.”
You may wish to check your math on this. Likely you will wish you had double checked before clicking submit comment.

Paul R

Geoff Sharp (17:09:54) :
I think the majority of readers of this blog attribute solar fluctuations as a big player towards climate fluctuations, the downstream processes might not be completely understood but the overall picture is clear. Now NASA is backing up and beginning to show signs of breaking away from the AGW camp.
I don’t see it that way, I see NASA producing a study in which the mathemagical variables have been adjusted to conclude that solar variation accounts for 0.1 of a degree Celsius in temperature change in the Earths climate. With this insignificant linear mathemagical result the finger is firmly pointed back at the political objective. AGW.

Gary Pearse

I wouldn’t be too heartened by this paper. I think this is a bit of sidewinding to be able to explain the temporary “interuption in rampant AGW”. It is not even a gradual change in direction, but rather a way to be able to pull this story out when we argue that the models aren’t working, CO2 is going up but its getting colder out. I’ve been noticing this shift for the last 2 years: HADCentre folks admonishing the press from getting too hyped up; Climate Change instead of Global Wqrming; moving from the “were all dead in 100 months” to “there could be a 20 year cooling period then we all drown” and even Monbiot now saying “get off the polar bears and ice caps already – there are already 300,000 people in poorer countries dying each year from global warming”.
Remember these guys have all been taking lessons from the advertising and image making agencies who are telling them “if you don’t get off the nutty edge, you won’t get your message across to reasonable people”,”don’t make hard deadlines like the crazy people who crop up every generation carrying signs telling us that the world is going to end in two weeks” “don’t use scary words, don’t say trainloads of death”. The annoying thing is it is going to take 30 to 40 years now before we can say “got ya”. And that is how this whole thing is going to go – the ground shifting, the goal posts moved, the rules changed, hell they may all tell us by 2050 that they’ve been trying to tell us for years that we would be freezing to death in July in both hemispheres.
Next time I want to find a post for discussing the problems with the “scale of things” and what should be done about it – I think that has to be cleared up in no uncertain terms (eg. replacing a coal-fired power plant with a solar panel on your privy)


Well, atleast they are not flat out denying now. Anyone know what’s going on in Europe. Is the “consenses” winning over there or is there hope? Not that I am less concerned here in America, but I think we have a little hope here. I have googling and can’t seem to find anything in mainstream media, even Fox, about the NIPCC’s latest meeting and it’s release of the full report/ summary report. I was wondering if any body has found anything?


When will Not Evil Just Wrong be released in full, as well as State of Fear movie?

Mike Abbott

Anthony, these Daily Tech articles you post continue to lose credibility. They always exaggerate what the underlying article or study actually says. To your credit, you posted a link to the actual NASA article so your readers can decide for themselves. In this case, the Daily Tech headline is deceiving. It reads, “NASA Study Acknowledges Solar Cycle, Not Man, Responsible for Past Warming.” I believe the NASA article actually says solar activity is only “partly responsible” for past climate change. That’s a significant difference from “responsible.”
Furthermore, the NASA article says the effect of solar activity is only 0.1 to 0.2 degrees C. That has been agreed upon by both sides of the debate for a long time. The bottom line is, I don’t think there is anything new here.

Mike McMillan

We’re asked to believe that although CO2 is an insignificant percentage of the atmosphere, it has a large positive “feedback” multiplier that lets it affect temperature to the tune of several degrees, yet the main, almost Only, source of heat on the planet, can’t make more than 0.1°C difference.
Back of the envelope figgerin’ says 1,361 watts/m² of solar energy gives us a temperature of roughly 288 K. A 0.1% increase of input should produce a 0.29 K increase in temp, almost three times what they’re offering.
Must be some hidden, unexplained cosmic constant Negative feedback in the equation somewhere. Darned if I can find it.


Per Cent is per one hundred, so of the thirteen hundreds, one and a third w/msq is 0.1%. This per stuff makes everything so confusing. Less than a millenia ago arabic numerals replaced Roman ones for accounts. They used abacuses and such like.

Mark Wagner

They only included TSI.
Even despite the tremendous evidence, they still don’t acknowledge indirect (magnetic) effects. It’s well documented that it affects cloud cover (even if we don’t know exactly how–yet) and well documented that cloud cover affects temperature. Even TAR and 4AR acknowledge indirect effects…right before they proceed to ignore it.
But let’s not let facts get in the way…

Evan Jones

“ Right now, we are in between major ice ages, . . ”
How do they know? Take some time to think about this.

They know because of the Milankovitch cycles, one thing they can actually predict.

Just Want Results...

“E.M.Smith (17:55:44) : It was 68F on my patio this afternoon. Again. In “summer”….”
And how about that cold wind here in the San Francisco Bay Area!


Robert Wood (18:43:16) :
Yes, NASA’s planetary exploration & science is a crowning achievement.
The planetary climates they found should help them to unravel some of the mysteries of our own planet’s climate. In the broader sense of the entire Solar System, I see no reason why they shouldn’t be doing that.
Unfortunately for NASA, Hansen jumped the gun.
That too can be corrected.

Just Want Results...

“”RoyFOMR (18:01:07) : The Government bench..about six or seven bodies… the opposition (of all shades) have maybe 3 times that number.
Folks , we’re talking 30 out of about 650 elected…””
Politicians are yawning at global warming just like the public is.