Do solar scientists STILL think that recent warming is too large to explain by solar activity?

 

Guest post by Alec Rawls

Study of the sun-climate link was energized in 1991 by Friis-Christensen and Lassen, who showed a strong correlation between solar-cycle length and global temperature:

This evidence that much of 20th century warming might be explained by solar activity was a thorn in the side of the newly powerful CO2 alarmists, who blamed recent warming on human burning of fossil fuels. That may be why Lassen and Thejll were quick to offer an update as soon as the 1997-98 El Nino made it look as if temperatures were suddenly skyrocketing:

The rapid temperature rise recently seems to call for a quantitative revisit of the solar activity-air temperature association …

We conclude that since around 1990 the type of Solar forcing that is described by the solar cycle length model no longer dominates the long-term variation of the Northern hemisphere land air temperature.

In other words, there was now too much warming to account for by solar cycle length, so some other factor, such as CO2, had to be driving the most recent warming. Of course everyone knew that the 1998 warming had actually been caused by ocean oscillations. Even lay people knew it. (El Nino storm tracks were all the news for six months here in California.)

When Lassen was writing his update in mid ’99, temperatures had already dropped back to 1990 levels. His 8 year update was outdated before it was published. 12 years later the 2010 El Nino year shows the same average temperature as the ’98 El Nino year, and if post-El Nino temperatures continue to fall off the way they did in 99, we’ll be back to 1990 temperatures by mid-2011. Isn’t it about time Friis-Cristensen, Lassen and Thejll issued another update? Do they still think there has been too much recent warming to be accounted for by solar activity?

The most important update may be the discovery that, where Lassen and his colleagues found a correlation between the length of a solar-cycle and temperatures over that cycle, others have been finding a much stronger correlation to temperatures over the next cycle (reported at WUWT this summer by David Archibald).

This further correlation has the advantage of allowing us make projections. As Archibald deciphers Solheim’s Norwegian:

since the period length of previous cycle (no 23) is at least 3 years longer than for cycle no 22, the temperature is expected to decrease by 0.6 – 1.8 degrees over the following 10-12 years.

Check out this alarming graphic from Stephen Strum of Frontier Weather Inc:

Lagged solar cycle length and temp, Stephen Strum, Frontier Weather Inc.

The snowed in Danes might like to see these projections, before they bet the rest of their climate eggs on a dangerous war against CO2.

From sins of omission to sins of commission

In 2007, solar scientist Mike Lockwood told the press about some findings he and Claus Frohlich had just published:

In 1985, the Sun did a U-turn in every respect. It no longer went in the right direction to contribute to global warming. We think it’s almost completely conclusive proof that the Sun does not account for the recent increases in global warming.

Actually, solar cycle 22, which began in 1986, was one of the most intense on record (part of the 20th century “grand maximum” that was the most active sun of the last 11 thousand years), and by almost every measure it was more intense than solar cycle 21. It had about the same sunspot numbers as cycle 21 (Hathaway 2006):

Sunspot prediction, NASA-Hathaway, 2006

Cycle 22 ran more solar flux than cycle 21 (via Nir Shaviv):

Cycle 22 was shorter than cycle 21 (from Joseph D’Aleo):

Solar cycle length, from Joseph D'Aleo

Perhaps most important is solar activity as measured (inversely) by the cosmic ray flux (which many think is mechanism by which solar activity drives climate). Here cycle 22 is THE most intense in the 60 year record, stronger even than cycle 19, the sunspot number king. From the Astronomical Society of Australia:

Neutron counts, Climaz Colorado, with sunspots, Univ. of Chicago

Some “U-turn in every respect.”

If Lockwood and Frohlich simply wanted to argue that the peak of the modern maximum of solar activity was between solar cycles 21 and 22 it would be unobjectionable. What difference does it make exactly when the peak was reached? But this is exactly where their real misdirection comes in. They claim that the peak of solar activity marks the point where any solar-climate effect should move from a warming to a cooling direction. Here is the abstract from their 2007 Royal Society article:

Abstract There is considerable evidence for solar influence on the Earth’s pre-industrial climate and the Sun may well have been a factor in post-industrial climate change in the first half of the last century. Here we show that over the past 20 years, all the trends in the Sun that could have had an influence on the Earth’s climate have been in the opposite direction to that required to explain the observed rise in global mean temperatures.

In order to assert the need for some other explanation for recent warming (CO2), they are claiming that near peak levels of solar activity cannot have a warming effect once they are past the peak of the trend—that it is not the level of solar activity that causes warming or cooling, but the change in the level—which is absurd.

Ken Gregory has the most precise answer to this foolishness. His “climate smoothing” graphic shows how the temperature of a heat sink actually responds to a fall-off in forcing:

Gregory, climate smoothing, contra-Lockwood

“Note that the temperature continues to rise for several years after the Sun’s forcing starts to decrease.”

Gregory’s numbers here are arbitrary. It could be many years before a fall off in forcing causes temperatures to start rising. In the case of solar cycle 22—where if solar forcing was actually past its peak, it had only fallen off a tiny bit—the only way temperature would not keep rising over the whole solar cycle is if global temperature had already equilibrated to peak solar forcing, which Lockwood and Frohlich make no argument for.

The obvious interpretation of the data is that we never did reach equilibrium temperatures, allowing grand maximum levels of solar activity to continue to warm the planet until the sun suddenly went quiet. Now there’s an update for Lockwood and Frohlich. How about telling the public when solar activity really did do “U” (October 2005).

Usoskin, Benestad, and a host of other solar scientists also mistakenly assume that temperature is driven by trend instead of level

Maybe it is because so much of the evidence for a sun-climate link comes from correlation studies, which look for contemporaneous changes in solar activity and temperature. Surely the scientists who are doing these studies all understand that there is no possible mechanism by which the rate of change in solar activity can itself drive temperature. If temperature changes when solar activity changes, it is because the new LEVEL of solar activity has a warming or cooling effect.

Still, a remarkable number of these scientists say things like this (from Usoskin et al. 2005):

The long term trends in solar data and in northern hemisphere temperatures have a correlation coefficient of about 0.7 — .8 at a 94% — 98% confidence level. …

… Note that the most recent warming, since around 1975, has not been considered in the above correlations. During these last 30 years the total solar irradiance, solar UV irradiance and cosmic ray flux has not shown any significant secular trend, so that at least this most warming episode must have another source.

Set aside the other problems with Usoskin’s study. (The temperature record he compared his solar data to is Michael Mann’s “hockey stick.”) How can he claim overwhelming evidence for a sun-climate link, while simultaneously insisting that steady peak levels of solar activity can’t create warming? If steady peak levels coincide with warming, it supposedly means the sun-climate link is now broken, so warming must be due to some other cause, like CO2.

It is hard to believe that scientists could make such a basic mistake, and Usoskin et al. certainly have powerful incentive to play dumb: to pretend that their correlation studies are finding physical mechanisms by which it is changes in the level of solar activity, rather than the levels themselves, that drive temperature. Just elide this important little nuance and presto, modern warming gets misattributed to CO2, allowing these researchers to stay on the good side of the CO2 alarmists who control their funding. Still, the old adage is often right: never attribute to bad motives what can just as well be explained by simple error.

And of course there can be both.

RealClimate exchange on trend vs. level confusion

Finally we arrive at the beginning, for me anyway. I first came across trend-level confusion 5 years ago at RealClimate. Rasmus Benestad was claiming that, because post 1960’s levels of Galactic Cosmic Radiation have not been trending downwards, GCR cannot be the cause of post-60’s warming.

But solar activity has been well above historical norms since the 40’s. It doesn’t matter what the trend is. The solar-wind is up. According to the GCR-cloud theory, that blows away the GCR, which blows away the clouds, creating warming. The solar wind doesn’t have to KEEP going up. It is the LEVEL that matters, not the trend. Holy cow. Benestad was looking at the wrong derivative (one instead of zero).

A few months later I took an opportunity to state my rebuttal as politely as possible, which elicited a response from Gavin Schmidt. Here is our 2005 exchange:

Me: Nice post, but the conclusion: “… solar activity has not increased since the 1950s and is therefore unlikely to be able to explain the recent warming,” would seem to be a non-sequitur.

What matters is not the trend in solar activity but the level. It does not have to KEEP going up to be a possible cause of warming. It just has to be high, and it has been since the forties.

Presumably you are looking at the modest drop in temperature in the fifties and sixties as inconsistent with a simple solar warming explanation, but it doesn’t have to be simple. Earth has heat sinks that could lead to measured effects being delayed, and other forcings may also be involved. The best evidence for causality would seem to be the long term correlations between solar activity and temperature change. Despite the differences between the different proxies for solar activity, isn’t the overall picture one of long term correlation to temperature?

[Response: You are correct in that you would expect a lag, however, the response to an increase to a steady level of forcing is a lagged increase in temperature and then a asymptotic relaxation to the eventual equilibrium. This is not what is seen. In fact, the rate of temperature increase is rising, and that is only compatible with a continuing increase in the forcing, i.e. from greenhouse gases. – gavin]

Gavin admits here that it’s the level of solar activity, not the trend in solar activity, that drives temperature. He’s just assuming that grand maximum levels of solar forcing should have bought the planet close to equilibrium temperature before post-80’s warming hit, but that assumption is completely unwarranted. If solar activity is driving climate (the hypothetical that Schmidt is analyzing), we know that it can push temperatures a lot higher than they are today. Surely Gavin knows about the Viking settlement of Greenland.

The rapid warming in the late 90’s could easily have been caused by the monster solar cycle 22 and there is no reason to think that another big cycle wouldn’t have brought more of the same. Two or three more cycle 22s and we might have been hauling out the longships, which would be great. No one has ever suggested that natural warming is anything but benign. Natural cooling bad, natural warming good. But alas, a longer grand maximum was not to be.

Gavin’s admission that it is level not trend that drives temperature change is important because ALL of the alarmist solar scientists are making the trend-level mistake. If they would admit that the correct framework is to look at the level of forcing and the lapse to equilibrium then they would be forced to look at the actual mechanisms of forcing and equilibration, instead of ignoring key forcings on the pretense that steady peak levels of forcing cannot cause warming.

That’s the big update that all of our solar scientists need to make. They need to stop tolerating this crazy charade that allows the CO2 alarmists to ignore the impact of decades of grand maximum solar activity and misattribute the resulting warming to fossil fuel burning. It is a scientific fraud of the most disastrous proportions, giving the eco-lunatics the excuse they need to unplug the modern world.

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They need to stop tolerating this crazy charade that allows the CO2 alarmists to ignore the impact of decades of grand maximum solar activity
There has been no Grand Maximum. http://www.leif.org/research/AGU%20Fall%202010%20SH53B-03.pdf

Brian H

Yep. Once my spaghetti water has been brought to the boil on burner settings 7-9 (depending how impatient I am) I cut it back to 5 and the spag keeps boiling (as long as it’s partially covered).
Lesson: enough heat input is enough.

ignore the impact of decades of grand maximum solar activity
There were decades of high activity in the 1770-1800s and 1830-1880s and both were followed by cold decades [probably for non-solar reasons anyway], see also http://www.leif.org/EOS/muscheler07qsr.pdf and http://www.leif.org/EOS/muscheler05nat_nature04045.pdf

crosspatch

What I have found most interesting is the recently discovered change in spectral distribution of solar energy. This new information that solar UV has greatly decreased even though TSI hasn’t changed much could change everything. If the magnitude of the spectral changes are enough to explain the variation, then I believe it will result in a much better understanding of how the Sun drives our climate. Add to the spectral changes any changes in cloud cover due to increased GCR activity and bingo, there you have it.
This is going to be an interesting couple of years.

grienpies

We will see what the future will bring.
Since solar activity is down now we should see a drop in global temperature.
This drop should big enough that they can’t hide the decline…

Roger Knights

Typo?:

“Gregory’s numbers here are arbitrary. It could be many years before a fall off in forcing causes temperatures to start rising.”

Shouldn’t that be “stop rising”?

crosspatch says:
January 2, 2011 at 10:32 pm
This new information that solar UV has greatly decreased even though TSI hasn’t changed much could change everything.
Maybe not:
“Surface radiative forcing very small, direct surface response < 0.1 K in 11-year" from
http://lasp.colorado.edu/sorce/news/2010ScienceMeeting/doc/Session4/4.04_Cahalan_atmos_model.pdf
The total energy in the UV is very small and is absorbed high up in the atmosphere. If that energy is offset by infrared [to keep TSI constant], then since IR penetrates to the surface the net result [as the calculations showed] is very small [perhaps even the other way around, depending on the details].

Roger Knights

Check out this alarming graphic from Stephen Strum of Frontier Weather Inc:

Wow. The thought that brings to mind is, “Riding for a fall.”

maksimovich

grienpies says:
January 2, 2011 at 10:38 pm
Since solar activity is down now we should see a drop in global temperature.
This drop should big enough that they can’t hide the decline…

Solar activity has been decreasing for a couple of decades now, and so has global temperature. Am I wrong?

Mick

Leif: “…UV is very small….”
So way we get sunburn and skin-cancer?
Mick.

Mr. Alex

CO2 alarmists will continue to be in denial. Even if the next 20-30 years show a cooling trend and SC 25 is also a dud it won’t change their beliefs. Great article, well done.

Mick says:
January 2, 2011 at 10:56 pm
Leif: “…UV is very small….”
So way we get sunburn and skin-cancer?

The UV in question does not penetrate to the surface, so no worry.

HR

Leif Svalgaard says:
January 2, 2011 at 10:41 pm
“Maybe not”
I thought it was the possible indirect affects of UV rather than direct contribution to TSI that matters with these new solar spectrum measurements?
On another point Leif your first two replies here suggest to me you believe the long term correlation is poor. Is that the case?

“CO2 alarmists will continue to be in denial. Even if the next 20-30 years show a cooling trend and SC 25 is also a dud it won’t change their beliefs.”
Nah, of course they’ll change. They’ll say there’s a great global-cooling catostrophe, and we need to nationalize, and globalize, some aspect of the economy or other to prevent it, if not adapt to it.

HR

Alec,
This analysis tells us nothing about CO2 forcing so to completely dismiss a role for CO2 seems a little unscientific at this point.
It’s fairly easy to get the email for these scientists from their publications. Why not put this analysis to them (leave off the little rant at the end) and see what they have to say? I can’t see why they wouldn’t also be curious about a further update.

crosspatch says: What I have found most interesting is the recently discovered change in spectral distribution of solar energy. This new information that solar UV has greatly decreased even though TSI hasn’t changed much could change everything. If the magnitude of the spectral changes are enough to explain the variation,
I think you want to read this:
http://www.agu.org/news/press/pr_archives/2010/2010-28.shtml

Shrinking atmospheric layer linked to low levels of solar radiation
AGU Release No. 10–28
26 August 2010
For Immediate Release
WASHINGTON—Large changes in the Sun’s energy output may cause Earth’s outer atmosphere to contract, new research indicates. A study published today by the American Geophysical Union links a recent, temporary shrinking of a high atmospheric layer with a sharp drop in the Sun’s ultraviolet radiation levels.
[…]
The Sun’s energy output declined to unusually low levels from 2007 to 2009, a particularly prolonged solar minimum during which there were virtually no sunspots or solar storms. During that same period of low solar activity, Earth’s thermosphere shrank more than at any time in the 43-year era of space exploration.
The thermosphere, which ranges in altitude from about 90 to 500 kilometers (55 to more than 300 miles), is a rarified layer of gas at the edge of space where the Sun’s radiation first makes contact with Earth’s atmosphere. It typically cools and becomes less dense during low solar activity. But the magnitude of the density change during the recent solar minimum appeared to be about 30 percent greater than would have been expected by low solar activity.
[…]
The results showed the thermosphere cooling in 2008 by 41 kelvins (about 74 degrees Fahrenheit) compared to 1996, with just 2 K attributable to the carbon dioxide increase. The results also showed the thermosphere’s density decreasing by 31 percent, with just 3 percent attributable to carbon dioxide. The results closely approximated the 30 percent reduction in density indicated by measurements of satellite drag.
“It is now clear that the record low temperature and density were primarily caused by unusually low levels of solar radiation at the extreme-ultraviolet level,” Solomon says.

So those folks seem to agree with you (I’m also sure Leif will want to rake them over some of his coals… 😉

then I believe it will result in a much better understanding of how the Sun drives our climate. Add to the spectral changes any changes in cloud cover due to increased GCR activity and bingo, there you have it.

I speculate that IFF there is a solar driver here ( I *hate* the use of “forcing”) it is working via a UV modulation of atmospheric temperatures, not surface temperatures, and that drives the atmostpheric height that then drives the Polar Vortex and AO / AMO and the southern circumpolar winds (then to the circumpolar current and into ENSO / La Nina – El Nino).
It’s a long, and I again emphasize speculative, chain, but that’s what it looks like when you start running down “The shin bone’s connected to the, leg bone, the leg bones connected to the thigh bone…”
I connect some of the dots (or maybe dashes) here:
http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2011/01/02/the-arctic-shuffle/
with a bit on the potential special role of Drakes Passage here:
http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2010/12/22/drakes-passage/
and there are some French researchers finding the same solar pattern:
http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2010/12/26/french-research-its-the-sun/
So the (tentative) chain of events would be:
Solar shift in UV, upper atmosphere heat / thickness change, (and cosmic ray /cloud shift), AMO / AO and Polar vortex shift (similar shift in souther hemisphere but with more impact via water issues at Drakes Passage) leading to “loopy jet stream” and more cold flowing to lower lattitudes. At the same time, thinner atmosphere gets colder at shallower heights, so mountain tops, even at the Equator, get colder. (Reverse for warming).
Sidebar: Had a call from a friend in Ecuador. Said the locals in Quito are talking about the snow on the mountain tops. More of it, and lower down, than anyone ever remembers. Even at the Equator it’s colder.
Thinner atmosphere matters. And I’d speculate it matters a whole lot. TSI isn’t the issue… and looking at surface temperatures is just the wrong place to look. We’ve got a delta-T of 41 K in the air…

E.M.Smith says:
January 2, 2011 at 11:33 pm
We’ve got a delta-T of 41 K in the air…
In the termosphere where the density is millions of times smaller than at the surface…
and so is the heat content.

Laurence M. Sheehan, PE

UV is what causes sunburn at ground level, and causes the body to make vitamin D.
IR penetration is blocked from reaching the surface by cloud cover.
Surface water causes far more lag time than solids in the timing of the warming effects of solar radiation or cooling effects because of the lack thereof.
Don’t have to be a scientist to know the above.

Leif Svalgaard says:
January 2, 2011 at 10:41 pm
crosspatch says:
January 2, 2011 at 10:32 pm
This new information that solar UV has greatly decreased even though TSI hasn’t changed much could change everything.
Maybe not:
“Surface radiative forcing very small, direct surface response < 0.1 K in 11-year" from
http://lasp.colorado.edu/sorce/news/2010ScienceMeeting/doc/Session4/4.04_Cahalan_atmos_model.pdf
The total energy in the UV is very small and is absorbed high up in the atmosphere. If that energy is offset by infrared [to keep TSI constant], then since IR penetrates to the surface the net result [as the calculations showed] is very small [perhaps even the other way around, depending on the details].

Its ground hog day again. We are not talking about energy from UV or EUV but more about the atmospheric changes that are in lock step. Plus the variation is much larger that any TSI variation. Think smaller atmosphere.

stevenmosher

“I speculate that IFF there is a solar driver here ( I *hate* the use of “forcing”) it is working via a UV modulation of atmospheric temperatures, not surface temperatures, and that drives the atmostpheric height that then drives the Polar Vortex and AO / AMO and the southern circumpolar winds (then to the circumpolar current and into ENSO / La Nina – El Nino).
It’s a long, and I again emphasize speculative, chain, but that’s what it looks like when you start running down “The shin bone’s connected to the, leg bone, the leg bones connected to the thigh bone…”
#######
easy. put some real numbers on the “chain” and calculate.

Darell C. Phillips

Well done, “smart Alec.” I mean that in a good way of course.

HR says:
January 2, 2011 at 11:26 pm
On another point Leif your first two replies here suggest to me you believe the long term correlation is poor. Is that the case?
The whole premise for the article is that during the past 60 years [the Modern Grand Maximum] the Sun has been extraordinarily active. I presented analysis [and some links] to show that this is very likely not the case, so the conclusion of the article falls flat.

Al Gored

E.M. Smith – Very, very interesting post! The concept of a variable thickness of our atmosphere never occurred to me before but makes perfect sense. Yet another piece of this complex moving puzzle to consider.
This is so much more fascinating than the simplistic CO2 story that one must almost feel sorry for those trapped inside that boring box.
Look forward to the coming comments.

Baa Humbug

stevenmosher says:
January 2, 2011 at 11:53 pm

easy. put some real numbers on the “chain” and calculate.

That’s been done before Mosh. Let me demonstrate..
Step 1- We’ve known since Arhenius that CO2 is a GHG
Step 2- GHGs warm the atmosphere
Step 3- We are pumping gigas of the stuff into the air.
Step 4- We put some numbers on this chain and…..
Step 5- We are doomed I tell ya
Now IFF only these folks had o’ speculated a little more before running around waving their “crunched numbers” papers around……

“”ignore the impact of decades of grand maximum solar activity”
There were decades of high activity in the 1770-1800s and 1830-1880s and both were followed by cold decades [probably for non-solar reasons anyway]” LF
….or conversely [probably for solar reasons anyway!]

Cassanders

@Leif
Not a critique, rather a comment.
——————————————–beginquote
..
There were decades of high activity in the 1770-1800s and 1830-1880s and both were followed by cold decades [probably for non-solar reasons anyway], see also

———————————————endquote
I briefly leafed through the papers you referred to. Have you looked at the rather interesting mesured temperature data from e.g. Denmark( Copenhagen Rundetårn), Berlin (Tempelhof) , Sweden (Stockholm(GML)), Russia (Moscow) covering these periods? I assume some interesting comparisons could be made?
See e.g. http://www.rimfrost.no/
As far as I have understood, at least the Danish are considered to be of rather good quality (after they moved the measurement outdoors in 1761). They are incorporated into the DMI database.
I do acknowledge that these measurements are NOT global at all, but they should anyway be considered when applying e.g. 1860 as a starting point for trend calculations. The data series seems too long to just be a function of periodic phenomena (NAO) for N Europe like we have seen the later winters.
It can of course be argued that 1860 is an appropriate starting year, because before that decade few globally distributed measurements was available.
On the other hand, considering the few pre- 1860-data we have, quite a few of them indicates that the 1860’ies was close to a temporal minimum.
I would think this could have some implications for the causal relation between CO2w and temperature.
Cassanders
In Cod we trust

Buffoon

@Leif
“We can reasonably *correct* sunspot records by applying a scaling factor to old measurements. Ergo, we can rule out a maximum.”
Also, comment: If two quantity, sunspot number and cosmic ray flux do not show proportionality (cycle 19 vs. 22,) then sunspot number alone may be an inadequate proxy to encapsulate all solar factor?

Martin Lewitt

Leif,
Your dismissal of a grand maximum was based up sunspot number adjustments in the past. Do you have a similar analysis of Solanki’s proxy work, which also concluded that the latter part of the 20th century was a solar grand maximum, among the highest sustained levels in the last 7000 years.
You also appear to be doing a simplistic radiative forcing level dismissal of the relevance of much larger variations in UV. UV couples with a different vertical distribution and chemically via production of ozone, much of that ozone is in the stratosphere above the infrared radiative interface of the atmosphere. Similarly, the rest of the solar spectrum is also distributed and coupled to different parts of the climate system. Solar radiation couples far more strongly at the equator and several meters deeper into the ocean, while CO2 radiation penetrates mere microns. Albedo’s are different in different parts of the spectrum, which snow and ice being far more reflective in the visible than the infrared part of the spectrum. In a nonlinear dynamic system how can you just dismiss the solar hypothesis with a simplistic linear argument?
Most climate scientists believe climate models are needed for such a complex system. There is agreement that “high top” models (with a stratosphere) do a better job, and this was when the stratospheric variation was thought to vary less than recent UV measurements indicate. The climate smoothing chart above actually under represents the time to reach equilibrium with a new level of forcing, the climate commitment studies of Wigley, et al, and Meehl, et al, found the greatest response occurred in the first few decades due to the thermal capacity of the mixing layer of the ocean and the total response would take centuries for the deep ocean system. All of the solar variation since 1940 was probably above anything even the mixing layer of the oceans had adjusted to. The mid-century cooling probably requires a different explanation than variation in CO2 or solar forcing. Aerosols and multi-decade internal climate modes are probably the leading candidates.

Alec is right about his summation of the level being more important than the trend. The warmist argument that solar TSI or any other solar measure does not follow climate is a structured ploy to distract the pubic from the truth. Solar outputs by themselves are not enough to explain the world temperature trend, but when mixed with oceanic oscillations the picture becomes very clear. As long as the solar level of output is high when associated with warm ocean cycles the natural warming occurs. The higher level of solar output influences the positive atmospheric oscillations (AO,NAO), I dont think this is about heat, but more about spreading the cold.
SC22 had a high level of F10.7 flux which also means the EUV levels were high. The outer atmosphere would have been high at the same time as the warm PDO cycle.

E.M.Smith says:
January 2, 2011 at 11:33 pm
I speculate that IFF there is a solar driver here ..
It is a possibility.
http://www.vukcevic.talktalk.net/MF.htm
http://www.vukcevic.talktalk.net/LFC20.htm
http://www.vukcevic.talktalk.net/NFC1.htm

Cassanders

Commenting myself re Leif.
I wrote
—————————————-beginquote
I would think this could have some implications for the causal relation between CO2w and temperature.
—————————————endquote
I would like to elaborate. I do not claim that CO2 does not have an effect as a contributor to the “greenhouse effect”. My speculation relates to the calculation of trend-lines, and hence some of the inferences for climate sensitivity.
Cassanders
In Cod we trust

Leif Svalgaard says:
January 2, 2011 at 10:49 pm
grienpies says:
January 2, 2011 at 10:38 pm
Since solar activity is down now we should see a drop in global temperature.
This drop should big enough that they can’t hide the decline…
————————–
Solar activity has been decreasing for a couple of decades now, and so has global temperature. Am I wrong?

I would say way wrong. Isolating SC24, solar cycles since SC20 have maintained a high level of output. The F10.7 flux figures for SC21,22,23 are high, well in advance of the EUV levels required to maintain a high stable outer atmosphere. Factor in the the positive PDO of the era and all is sweet. Now we have a small atmosphere from low solar output that is coupled with a neg PDO. This is a very different place.
Think level of solar activity as the article explains.

EternalOptimist

I like this discussion. it’s stuff like this that makes me such a wuwt fan
thanks to all involved

Thanks to the author of this article, a very informative, logic and relevant approach to this important climate discussion!!
Even served in a language that manages to inform difficult scientific issues to a broad audience, perfect.
K.R. Frank

Ian Holton says:
January 3, 2011 at 12:13 am
“There were decades of high activity in the 1770-1800s and 1830-1880s and both were followed by cold decades [probably for non-solar reasons anyway]”
….or conversely [probably for solar reasons anyway!]

You are suggesting the cold caused solar activity…
Cassanders says:
January 3, 2011 at 12:13 am
On the other hand, considering the few pre- 1860-data we have, quite a few of them indicates that the 1860′ies was close to a temporal minimum.
Assuming you mean ‘temperature minimum, I’ll agree, and this happened at the a height of solar activity.
Buffoon says:
January 3, 2011 at 12:15 am
If two quantity, sunspot number and cosmic ray flux do not show proportionality (cycle 19 vs. 22,) then sunspot number alone may be an inadequate proxy to encapsulate all solar factor?
The comic ray flux is a poor proxy for solar activity being a couple of links of a chain away.
Martin Lewitt says:
January 3, 2011 at 12:20 am
Your dismissal of a grand maximum was based up sunspot number adjustments in the past.
I do not ‘dismiss’. I show by careful analysis.
Do you have a similar analysis of Solanki’s proxy work, which also concluded that the latter part of the 20th century was a solar grand maximum, among the highest sustained levels in the last 7000 years.
Yes, we looked at that. See line 77ff of http://www.leif.org/research/Comment%20on%20McCracken.pdf
Most climate scientists believe climate models are needed for such a complex system.
See: http://lasp.colorado.edu/sorce/news/2010ScienceMeeting/doc/Session4/4.04_Cahalan_atmos_model.pdf
“Surface radiative forcing very small, direct surface response < 0.1 K in 11-year"
The main problem is that the correlations are so poor. If they were good, we would not be discussing them any more. Hiding behind 'complex, non-linear' systems is just admitting that we don't know squat. An assessment based on energy [in this case, lack thereof] is always a good first cut if you don't understand what is going on. A linear treatment is also a good first cut as it involves a minimum of assumptions.
I'm all ears if someone can show me an engineer's 'back-of-the-envelope' estimate that makes sense energetically. I take a dim view of unknown forcings, unknown mechanisms, unknown feedbacks, unknown unknowns, etc.

Martin Brumby

@EternalOptimist says: January 3, 2011 at 12:41 am
I agree. And this is particularly the case when all the “solar” boys & girls come out to play with their latest theories.
Just reminds me of exactly how “settled” the science really is. And why it is such a good idea to shovel billions into carbon trading and building windmills.

Terry

Leif
You say “The whole premise for the article is that during the past 60 years [the Modern Grand Maximum] the Sun has been extraordinarily active. I presented analysis [and some links] to show that this is very likely not the case, so the conclusion of the article falls flat.” I accept that you are very likely correct w.r.t. maxima, flux etc.
But the graphs from Stephen Strum above http://icecap.us/images/uploads/SolarCycleLengthandGlobalTemperatureAnomalies1.pdf look pretty interesting to me.

Graham

In looking for a book present to myself, I came across this from Richard Feynman. It seemed highly relevant to the CAGW debate.
http://calteches.library.caltech.edu/51/2/CargoCult.pdf
Thank you Andrew and WUWT contributors for such knowledgeable and (generally) objective food for sceptical minds on both sides of the fence.
Graham

The main climate driver is hardly CO2 *OR* solar activity. The climate is complex. To prove the CO2 hypothesis wrong by showing that solar activity explains everything is a path leading nowhere. So is to prove the solar activity hypothesis wrong by showing that CO2 explains everything. To me it seems that either side is trying to prove the other wrong by making the same mistake: to think that there is one simple answer.

Keith Battye

Well said . . . simplistic responses to complex problems can only lead further into the mire.

Al Gored says:
E.M. Smith – Very, very interesting post! The concept of a variable thickness of our atmosphere never occurred to me before but makes perfect sense. Yet another piece of this complex moving puzzle to consider.

Glad you liked it. FWIW, I finally got a bit of time (family all asleep at 2 am 😉 to dig around for some hard facts on that Ecuador story. Found ’em. Looks like the “freeze level” is down from about 5-6000 meters in January (1959-1990 era) to 4500-5000 Meters now. Moving the freeze line down 1000 m globally is very likely to have a coldening impact on things, IMHO…
http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2011/01/03/freezing-level/
Yeah, it’s a first cut and needs a lot of work to turn an observed oddity into an actual defensible thesis. But as a “Dig Here!” I think it’s a very interesting one.

While I believe more in ocean cycles shaping the 20th century record (whatever drives them), truth is that when heating a pot with water you do not have to increase the gas flame to get the water boiling. Steady flame will do just nicely.

Cassanders

@Leif,
..well, what I really meant was temporal temperature minimum. 🙂
http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=temporal
Cassanders
In Cod we trust

1DandyTroll

Interesting to note that there’s as much of a no consensus in the field of solar science, and the suns effect on our daily weather and therefore climate, as it is amongst the usual suspects of climate hippies and their constant no consensus on everything from the accuracy of weather balloons to the accuracy of climate models.
But, of course, and essentially, in a climate where everyone, individually, believes they have the right of it, there can only be one consensus which is that there is no consensus.
What would the world look like if the engineers behaved with an equal tenacity of not trusting in what they observed and only make judgment based upon that observation? (My guess is probably bickering about if it is wise to invent the wheel or not. Still.)

Terry says:
January 3, 2011 at 1:33 am
But the graphs from Stephen Strum above http://icecap.us/images/uploads/SolarCycleLengthandGlobalTemperatureAnomalies1.pdf look pretty interesting to me.
Certainly has the potential of been falsified in the next couple of years if temps don’t fall 1C.
I think his argument: “Since net solar radiation is slightly higher during periods of heightened sunspot activity (and lower during periods of little sunspot activity), the combination of long solar cycles and low sunspot numbers results in cumulatively more months on a decadal time scale with below average net solar radiation” is wrong in its implication, namely that we will get less energy. Imagine a cycle of 10 years with sunspot number = 100, now stretch it to 20 years and lower the sunspot number to 50. We still get the same amount, namely 10*100 = 20*50 ‘sunspot-years’.

Cassanders says:
January 3, 2011 at 2:10 am
..well, what I really meant was temporal temperature minimum. 🙂
Everything is ‘temporal’…

Edouard

@Leif Svalgaard
The least we can say is that Solanki has a very different opinion on solar activity:
http://climatemedia.wordpress.com/2010/12/28/new-reconstruction-of-solar-spectral-irradiance-since-the-maunder-minimum/

1DandyTroll says: What would the world look like if the engineers behaved with an equal tenacity of not trusting in what they observed and only make judgment based upon that observation?
Roughly like it does now. There are regularly spectacular failures of engineered structures (Galloping Girdy? bridge?, Challenger, several dozen dams…). Because of that, most engineering designs for human occupation have about a 50% “fudge factor” put in to cover that “lack of trust”. Few engineers really believe they understand everything perfectly. That’s why you test materials samples constantly (and why sometimes whole sections of concrete are torn out when they fail spec…). And even then there are times when a parking garage collapses…
It’s very much a “trust but verify” business…

Alec Rawls (author of this post) seems to want it both ways. He presents 2 graphs one by Friis-Christensen and Lassen and the other by Stephen Strum. Both show a ‘tight’ correlation between SCL and temperature and both show a fairly immediate temperature response (i.e. little or no lag). However, when the correlation breaks down he appears to be arguing that this is due to a decades long lag.
Also his appeal for a review by Lassen on the SCL-Temerpature correlation isn’t a good idea. The fact that the temperatures for one La Nina year might drop to somehere close to 1990s levels isn’t going to rescue the correlation. According to UAH the mean temperature for the past 10 years (2001-2010) is at least 0.2 deg higher than the mean temperature for the previous ten years (1991-2000).

Edouard says:
January 3, 2011 at 2:46 am
The least we can say is that Solanki has a very different opinion on solar activity
Actually it is not really his ‘opinion’ [we don’t have opinions on these things]. They base their claim [or ‘result’ or ‘finding’] on the main input to their model, namely the Group Sunspot Number [GSN]. So, their model stands or falls with the GSN. It thus comes down to examining if the GSN is correct. By comparison with the effect of UV [assumed to depend on GSN] on the Earth’s ionosphere [a current is generated whose effect we can measure on the ground – even with 18th century instruments] we can check if the calibration of the GSN is correct, and we find it is not.