Solar geomagnetic activity is at an all time low – what does this mean for climate?

I’ve mentioned this solar data on WUWT several times, it bears repeating again. Yesterday, NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center released their latest data and graph of the interplanetary geomagnetic index (Ap) which is a proxy for the activity of the solar dynamo. Here is the data provided by SWPC. Note the graph, which I’ve annotated below.

At a time when many predicted a ramp up in solar activity, the sun remains in a funk, spotless and quiet. The Ap value, for the second straight month, is “3”. The blue line showing the smoothed value, suggests the trend continues downward. To get an idea of how significant this is in our history, take a look at this data (graph produced by me) from Dr. Leif Svalgaard back to the 1930’s.

The step change in October 2005 is still visible and the value of 3.9 that occurred in April of this year is the lowest for the entire dataset at that time. I’m hoping Dr. Svalgaard will have updated data for us soon.

Click for a larger image

Click for a larger image

Why is this important? Well, if Svensmark is right, and Galactic Cosmic Rays modulated by the sun’s magnetic field make a change in cloud cover on Earth, increasing it during low solar magnetic activity, we are in for some colder times.

There’s a presentation by Jasper Kirkby, CLOUD Spokesperson, CERN, which shows what we currently know about the correlations between Galactic Cosmic Rays (GCR’s) and variations in the climate.

The CLOUD experiment uses a cloud chamber to study the theorized link between GCR’s and cloud formation in Earth’s atmosphere. Kirkby talks about the results from the first CLOUD experiment and the new CLOUD experiment and what it will deliver on the intrinsic connection between GCR’s and cloud formation. This is from the Cern, one of Europe’s most highly respected centers for scientific research.

Kirkby’s one hour video presentation is hosted here. It is well worth your time to view it.

h/t to Russ Steele


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Now if only they would divert 1/100th of the dough being thrown away on dendro, we’d actually be onto something relating to climate.
Great read. Thanks


Updated 2009 Dec 08 2201 UTC
Joint USAF/NOAA Report of Solar and Geophysical Activity
SDF Number 342 Issued at 2200Z on 08 Dec 2009
Analysis of Solar Active Regions and Activity from 07/2100Z to 08/2100Z: Solar activity was very low. No flares occurred during the past 24 hours. The solar disk was void of sunspots.
Solar Activity Forecast: Solar activity is expected to be very low.
Geophysical Activity Summary 07/2100Z to 08/2100Z: The geomagnetic field was quiet.
Geophysical Activity Forecast: The geomagnetic field is expected to be quiet for the next three days (09-11 December).

Julie L

After an Un.God.Ly hot summer in Tx, we’re all freezing our noogies off this December. If the trend continues, mid-January will be incredibly cold.
OOooooOOoooh. Goreble warming! More weather extremes! The sky is falling!

Cold ahead with a warming tax!

eric anderson

Thank you WUWT, for doing the Lord’s work. You and Blankfein at Goldman. LOL.
Unfortunately, looking at that graph, I feel colder already.
Massive blizzard, colder than normal temps here today in Iowa. But it’s only weather, not climate.


Would it be possible for the solar geomagnetic activity to affect the dynamo inside the earth by interacting with its magnetic field? Could it be possible that this reduced magnetic interaction be responsible for the increased tectonic activity during solar minimum? Is it just possible that a weaker interaction between the two magnetic fields could have the interior of the earth cool down slightly and this cooling would be responsible for the increased tectonic activity, because of a small volume change due to cooling?


I can see something is low but what exactly is ap and index of?
REPLY: more on the Ap index here

Amir Netz

In the last couple of years now the tempratures seems fairly stable and I kind of expected them start dropping visibly.
What is the expected lag between this reduced sun activity and until we actually get lower temps?


Looks like two simultaneous experiments – one tiny one called CLOUD and another much larger one.

Oh Crap! Now I’ll have glacier-side property!


Journalists: check the official solar predictions:
Do you still rely on model predictions? You see, the solar cycle is way out of sync, extremely strange! I would expect a similar temperature drop the start of this century exactly as we saw in the start of the previous century when Titanic unfortunately hit the ice berg. If we go Maunder, our civilisation may hit an “ice berg” too…


Is it an all time low, or merely the lowest on record. Either way it allows for an interesting opportunity to disconfirm Svensmark’s hypothesis. But let’s not lapse into warmist type hyperbole and confirmation bias.
That said I do worry it might be about to get a lot colder, and we are just not preparing for that scenario.

Adam from Kansas

Apparent Siberian blast set to strike Copenhagen and the Climate-Change summit
If this actually happens there will be some incredible irony as they wrap things up.


Thanks for the update!. Really chilling, as “The chilling stars”. This is real, all the rest, copenhagen etc. is forgettable monkey business.

George E. Smith

I take it that these two graphs are supposed to be plots of the same basic data but with different time resolutions, so the top one is a more smoothed version of what really looks like the bottom one.
Also I take it this data is Solely a property of the sun and its environs, at least as observed from earth; in other words, it is not subject to modifications by earth events (but may be a causal factor in those earth events.
That is pretty dramatic (to me anyway) change in something that we tend to think of as relatively immutable.
We sure are living in interesting times. I’m eager to see what Dr Svalgaard has to tell us about this ongoing decline; just don’t try “Mike’s Trick” on us Leif, we are up on that now.


Even a prolonged period of cooling will not put off the True Believers. They’ll just say that a cool sun is masking a runaway warming trend that’s all our fault, and it’ll shoot off again just as soon as the Scottish and Northern English ice-cap melts.


George E. Smith (11:01:23) :
Makes you wonder what the “Solar Constant” really means…

Peter Taylor

Anthony –
First – another big thank you for your work, most especially on the emails material and on the Darwin temperature record (when you add that to the Swedish professor’s comments on Fennoscandinavia I raises huge questions over the reality of global warming in the past 50 years).
However, in relation to the low AP, cosmic rays and climate – I have some comments:
* Svensmark and colleagues seem to have abandoned their work on cloud correlations in favour of cloud chambers – which is a shame – both are necessary, but the latter locks up all that expertise for several years underground, when just a fraction of the CERN millions would provide for a better surveillance of the satellite record on clouds and correlations with GCR flux;
* That correlative work was getting difficult after cycle 22 and was harder to establish for cycle 23 – we still don’t know why. In my own survey (reported in ‘Chill’) there seems to have been a break point around 2001 when cloud cover increased by 2% globally after falling by 4% over the period 1980-2000 (and allowing extra sunlight to the ocean – quite enough to drive all the late 20th century warming);
* GCR are not the only relevant factor related to a low AP – during the Little Ice Age/Maunder Minimum, there is evidence that the jetstream shifted southward, and Drew Shindell at NASA was working on correlations of the solar wind and UV-induced chemistry in the upper atmosphere to changes in the polar vortex which then affected the jetstream.
* the jetstream redistributes cloud cover – and a spatial change can be just as important as a percentage change – it also directs the vortices that suck heat out of the oceans upper waters and then dump it on land.
I suspect that when the AP low for several decades, the shifts noted above lead to a gradual cooling down of the planet – especially in the northern hemisphere where the oceans store heat at depth – and then as the AP recovers, so do the oceans, but slowly – as in ‘recovery from the LIA’ and the upward trend of the last 150 years.
Would love to get some feedback on this supposition. Leif did tell me he thought Shindell abandoned the work because of changes to the solar proxy – but that did not make a lot of sense, since it is the AP we are discussing, and the recent pattern would tell us that when sunspots disappear, the AP is low – as also does the be-10 and c-14 record (which Leif doesn’t trust either!). So – lots to discuss.


Oh! Hide the decline!!!!

Jack Green

The top graphs starts in 2000 the bottom graph in 1930 so they are different time series.
REPLY: Yes, so? This is clearly identified in the body of the post. Both are valid. – A


[snip – thread bombing]


Amir Netz (10:57:21): What is the expected lag between this reduced sun activity and until we actually get lower temps?
Possibly in the range from 3 to 9 years. Stephen E. Schwartz has estimated the characteristic time constant for our planet to be 8.5 years
Natural ocean cycles may “hide the decline” though… 🙂


I don’t really see any correlation with temperature. It was very warm in the late 90’s when the solar index was very low (yes due to El Nino, but still), and temperatures didn’t budge in the 2000’s when the solar index was very high. So why do we think we are in for a cold spell now?


You’ve just exposed my trump card that I was going to use on those AGW’ers.


“That said I do worry it might be about to get a lot colder, and we are just not preparing for that scenario.”
Therein–since Al’s quoting Shakespeare today–lies the rub, and you’ve put your finger right on the sore spot. Those who fail to plan for the future are less likely to have a satisfactory one.

Jeff L

Ray (10:53:30) :
“Could it be possible that this reduced magnetic interaction be responsible for the increased tectonic activity during solar minimum?”
Could you provide a link to a publication / data on the hypothesis of increased tectonic activity during solar minimum. I have heard that claim before but never seen any data to substantiate,
…. call me a skeptic, but I would like to see the data & let it do the talking

James F. Evans

The ionosphere is quiet with little magnetic disturbance.
Are any other physical properties within the ionosphere effected?
Does the height or thickness of the ionosphere change relative to the Earth’s surface?


The lack of solar activity has a number of effects on the earth including on the earth’s ionosphere. High frequency (15 MHz and up) radio activity has been very low or impossible in recent years due to the ionosphere. Thomas F. Giella, I believe he used to work for NASA, has been predicting an extended period of low solar activity for some time. He’s got some interesting stuff, if you can dig it out here
Dr. Svalgaard’s position makes a lot of sense to me. A lot more than poorly kept temperature records that have to be cooked to show warming.

But didn’t the UN just announce that this decade, right now, is the warmest decade evah in the history of the world? I’m so confused!
If the facts don’t fit, just fix the facts?

Amir Nitz writes “What is the expected lag between this reduced sun activity and until we actually get lower temps?”
I dont know the answer. During the Maunder minimum sunspots disappeared around 1645. The coldest temperatures were recorded in England in the mid 1680’s. L&P suggest sunspots may disappear around, but before 2020.


Copenhagen attendees are climategate conspiracy deniers.
I know our Sun is going to give them and the alarmists everything they deserve.


Doug (11:18:26) : I don’t really see any correlation with temperature.
Well, if we assume that HMF B influence cloud cover, it follows from the first law of thermodynamics that it is the time integral of HMF B that should correlate with temperature. So, if we integrate HMF B over time and compare with global temperature, we see the following curve (two parameter fit):
We note that the cooling has started. This model may be modified to also include radiation, but I am uncertain whether this is a good idea.

Doug in Seattle

adamskirving (11:00:13) :
“let’s not lapse into warmist type hyperbole and confirmation bias.”

I second that sentiment.


“The ranking Republican on the House Select Committee for Energy Independence and Global Warming said Tuesday he is going to attend the Copenhagen conference on climate change to inform world leaders that despite any promises made by President Obama, no new laws will be passed in the United States until the “scientific fascism” ends.”
Sensenbrenner to Tell Copenhagen: No Climate Laws Until ‘Scientific Fascism’ Ends

Jeff L

Peter Taylor (11:09:03) :
“GCR are not the only relevant factor related to a low AP – during the Little Ice Age/Maunder Minimum, there is evidence that the jetstream shifted southward, and Drew Shindell at NASA was working on correlations of the solar wind and UV-induced chemistry in the upper atmosphere to changes in the polar vortex which then affected the jetstream.”
For long time Accuwx pro subscribers, you might recall the busted winter forecast of 2001, when there was a 2nd unexpected spike in solar activity, which Joe Bastardi correlated with a strong zonal & northward shifted jet, which prevent much of any cold air getting into the core of North America. I remember at the time thinking that Joe made some very good points along the same line as quoted above.
Similarly, this year we are seeing a very blocky / non-zonal flow with what appears to me as an abundance of cutoff upper level lows – basically breaking off from the main flow. Much more than average it appears to me (although I have not tried to quantify). Anyway -this would also be consistent with the quoted hypothesis, I believe.

Adam from Kansas

For those who say it will get colder, oh it will probably get colder alright.
NOAA will have to extend the chart space downward if we’re going to see how low the AO index is now forecast to go
The NAO looks to be forecast to go through a similar nosedive downwards as well
Meanwhile the AAO index is forecast to go positive, a far cry from when it collapsed as seen in this link


Good Lord! This CO2 thing is worse than ever! Now the sun, too!


Secret Draft Leak Proves More Damaging Than ‘Climategate’ As Climate Talks Are Suspended

Stephen Wilde

This post is relevant to one of my articles which I’ve referred to a couple of times already so I won’t link to it again at this stage.
Suffice it to say that according to the SABER satellite it seems that a more turbulent solar energy flow actually increases energy loss from the stratosphere to space whereas a more stable energy flow seems to decrease energy loss from the stratosphere to space.
One has to set against that effect the fact that during a period of active sun there is a very slight increase in the power of the solar energy flow.
Consequently the current solar quietness would seem to be allowing the stratosphere and higher levels to settle down with a REDUCED flow of energy to space. Thus the change in the late 90’s when the stratosphere started to warm again following the cooling of the stratosphere during the previous period of active sun.
In contrast the more lively the sun the more energy gets into the oceans even if the change in solar power is only small.
Then the issue is as to when that solar energy is released back to the air by ocean SST variability.
The tropospheric temperature therefore depends on the balance between the rate at which solar energy is released from ocean to air (much more variable than was ever anticipated when the CO2 theory was proposed), the rate at which the hydrological cycle pumps energy from surface to stratosphere and then finally the rate at which energy is lost to space from the stratosphere.
The troposphere has warmed up a bit this year because the oceans are releasing energy a little faster due to the ongoing moderate El Nino event and the rate of energy transfer by the hydrological cycle is being slowed down a little by the quiet sun allowing the stratosphere to accumulate energy a little.
In the meantime the past strong La Nina is still working through to the polar oceans so the poleward air masses have cooled in both hemispheres allowing a greater contrast between equatorial and polar air masses, hence the large movements of air recently between the poles and the mid latitudes as exemplified by the cold air plunges over the US and so far relative mildness in parts of Russia.
I think the implications of the SABER findings for an analysis of the net global energy flow at any given time needs urgent investigation.
As I have suggested in my article at the implications appear to solve several longstanding observational puzzles.


Maybe if Obama only taxes us on warm days we’ll be OK.

Richard Sharpe

Thomas F. Giella, I believe he used to work for NASA, has been predicting an extended period of low solar activity for some time. He’s got some interesting stuff, if you can dig it out here

Wow, our firewall/proxy at work classifies that site as hate speech.


and from the Sydney Morning Herald:
“The computer models used to predict future climate change scenarios take these simple concepts and some other variables, such as solar activity, into account. ”
The elephant in the room is that at least solar physicists acknowledge somethjing is wrong with our understanding of the Sun.

Stephen Singer

Re: James F. Evans (11:26:50)
Yes. I saw a story in the last couple of days that under the current deep solar minimum that the earth’s atmosphere has shrunk down to about 260mi from a normal(?) range of about 400mi. Thus, much space junk that normally runs into the outer atmosphere and slowly crashes back to earth is suspended in place till the outer atmosphere again expands back out to its more normal distance.
Unfortunately I don’t recall right now where I saw the story. Might have been,, maybe even Nasa’s site.


OT in a way, but if the likely result is an increase in cloud cover and so a cooling effect, then what about the massive increase in aircraft contrails since the ‘sixties?
Do contrails have a warming, or a cooling effect? Can anybody point to work on their effects?


“Citizen-researchers—some of whom are, indeed, skeptics—have been after some of this information for years. CRU’s apparent obstruction of freedom-of-information requests, as revealed by the leaks, is only the tip of the iceberg. ”
The Tip of the Climategate Iceberg
The global-warming scandal is bigger than one email leak.'s_Most_Popular
I understand now, they see us as the big bad wolf.
Green Jello “Little Pig, Little Pig”


Is it just me, or do temperatures seem to lag the spikes in activity by about 5-7 years?
I’m just wondering if there is any correlation there. To my mind it looks as though we are due to have at least 3 more years of cooling after the step-down that occured in 2005.

P. Hager

Joanne (11:27:39)
You are correct about the effect on radio communications above 15MHz.
The HF band starts at about 2MHz and goes to about 50 MHz. The low solar activity is great for the 80M (3.75MHz) band and the 40M (7.00MHz) amateur radio bands because of reduced solar noise and less absorption in the ionosphere. It stinks on the higher end of the HF band in particular the 10M (28MHz) band because propogation is very poor.
For those brave souls that like to do long distance communications on VHF the lack of solar activity is a real problem.
Anthony has very kindly provided a widget on WUWT that shows the effect on HF radio propagation.

David A. Burack

Why is this sunspot scarcity so hard to undrstand? It’s clearly a CO2 forcing.


It seems to me from the second graph that in 1998 when we had relatively low Ap. That same year we had large El Nino event. As a predictor of global temperature, a record low Ap would not necessarily be a slam dunk indicator. Its not the only driver, but it would be hard to imagine it not being a contributing force.


ashes to ashes, funk to funky,
we know Major Tom’s a junkie,
strung out on heaven’s high,
and hitting an all time low.
– David Bowie