This is a new paper in Geophysical Research Letters by C. J. Schrijver, W. C. Livingston, T. N. Woods, and R. A. Mewaldt. WUWT readers may recognize Livingston as the creator of one of the datasets we regularly follow graphically on our Solar Data and Images reference page.
They reconstruct total solar flux all the way back to 1650, as seen below:
The implication is that in August-September 2009, when we saw such a dearth of solar activity, the sun dipped to a level similar to periods of the Maunder Minimum. Now that the sun is starting to rev up a bit, the question is: will it last? And, if it doesn’t will we see a cooler period on Earth as some suggest, or as the authors suggest, “drivers other than TSI dominate Earth’s long‐term climate change” dominate? Nature (not the journal) will eventually provide the final answer, all we can do is watch and wait.
Variations in the total solar irradiance (TSI) associated with solar activity have been argued to influence the Earth’s climate system, in particular when solar activity deviates from the average for a substantial period. One such example is the 17th Century Maunder Minimum during which sunspot numbers were extremely low, as Earth experienced the Little Ice Age. Estimation of the TSI during that period has relied on extrapolations of correlations with sunspot numbers or even more indirectly with modulations of galactic cosmic rays. We argue that there is a minimum state of solar magnetic activity associated with a population of relatively small magnetic bipoles which persists even when sunspots are absent, and that consequently estimates of TSI for the Little Ice Age that are based on scalings with sunspot numbers are generally too low. The minimal solar activity, which measurements show to be frequently observable between active‐region decay products regardless of the phase of the sunspot cycle, was approached globally after an unusually long lull in sunspot activity in 2008–2009. Therefore, the best estimate of magnetic activity, and presumably TSI, for the least‐active Maunder Minimum phases appears to be
provided by direct measurement in 2008–2009. The implied marginally significant decrease in TSI during the least active phases of the Maunder Minimum by 140 to 360 ppm relative to 1996 suggests that drivers other than TSI dominate Earth’s long‐term climate change.
I asked Dr. Leif Svalgaard about this paper, in particular this paragraph:
“Therefore, we argue that the best estimate of the magnetic flux threading the solar surface during the deepest Maunder Minimum phases appears to be provided by direct measurement in 2008–2009. If surface magnetic variability is the principal driver of TSI changes, then that same period yields a direct estimate of the TSI in that era, yielding values 140 to 360 ppmlower than in 1996 [Fröhlich, 2009; Gray et al., 2010].”
His response was:
Magnetic variability drives the variations of TSI on top of what the nuclear furnace in the core puts out. They are basically saying that there is no long-term background variations. There is a slight problem with the ~200 ppm lower TSI in 2008-2009 compared to 1996. I have shown that the lower estimates of TSI by Fröhlich in 2008 are likely due to uncorrected degradation of the instrument on which PMOD is based.
that shows the difference between PMOD and the best calibrated instrument we have [TIM of SORCE]. All indications are that TSI at the past minimum was not significantly lower than in 1996 and that that level probably also was typical of the Maunder Minimum, in other words this
is as low as the Sun can go.
You can read the full Schrijver et al paper here (PDF)