New paper by Love et al suggests no prominent role for solar‐terrestrial interaction in global climate change. I’m providing it here for discussion.
We are not convinced that the combination of sunspot‐number,
geomagnetic‐activity, and global‐temperature data can, with
a purely phenomenological correlational analysis, be used to
identify an anthropogenic affect on climate.
Recent studies have led to speculation that solar‐terrestrial interaction, measured by sunspot number and geomagnetic activity, has played an important role in global temperature change over the past century or so. We treat this possibility as an hypothesis for testing. We examine the statistical significance of cross‐correlations between sunspot number, geomagnetic activity, and global surface temperature for the years 1868–2008, solar cycles 11–23. The data contain substantial autocorrelation and non-stationarity, properties that are incompatible with standard measures of cross-correlational significance, but which can be largely removed by averaging over solar cycles and first‐difference detrending. Treated data show an expected statistically significant correlation between sunspot number and geomagnetic activity, Pearson ρ < 10^−4, but correlations between global temperature and sunspot number (geomagnetic activity) are not significant, ρ = 0.9954, (ρ = 0.8171). In other words, straightforward analysis does not support widely‐cited suggestions that these data record a prominent role for solar‐terrestrial interaction in global climate change.
With respect to the sunspot‐number, geomagnetic‐activity, and global‐temperature data, three alternative hypotheses remain difficult to reject: (1) the role of solar‐terrestrial interaction in recent climate change is contained wholly in long‐term trends and not in any shorter‐term secular variation, or, (2) an anthropogenic signal is hiding correlation between solar‐terrestrial variables and global temperature, or, (3) the null hypothesis, recent climate change has not been influenced by solar‐terrestrial interaction.
Citation: Love, J. J., K. Mursula, V. C. Tsai, and D. M. Perkins (2011), Are secular correlations between sunspots, geomagnetic activity, and global temperature significant?, Geophys. Res. Lett., 38, L21703, doi:10.1029/2011GL049380.
One of the merits of using three separate data sets in a correlational analysis is that intercomparisons can be made. After treatment for removal of autocorrelation and nonstationarity through simple averaging and differencing, we find statistically‐significant secular correlation between sunspot number and geomagnetic activity. This is expected,
and it serves as important support for our analysis method. On the other hand, after making the same treatment to the global surface temperature, correlations between temperature and either sunspot number or geomagnetic activity are not significant.
We have not, in this study, considered derived proxy metrics of relevance to climate change, such as reconstructed total‐solar irradiance [e.g., Fröhlich and Lean, 2004] or
interplanetary magnetic field [e.g., Lockwood et al., 1999]. Still, we believe that our methods are general, that they could be used for other data sets, even though our analysis, here, is tightly focused on specific data sets.  From analysis of sunspot‐number, geomagneticactivity, and global‐temperature data, three hypotheses remain difficult to reject; we list them.
(1) The role of solarterrestrial interaction in recent climate change is wholly contained in the long‐term trends we removed in order to reduce autocorrelation and nonstationarity. This possibility seems artificial, but we acknowledge that our method requires a nontrivial time‐dependence in the data that is different from a simple trend. Still needed is a method for measuring the significance of correlation between data sets with trends.
(2) An anthropogenic signal is hiding correlation between solar‐terrestrial variables and global temperature. A phenomenological correlational analysis, such as that used here, is not effective for testing hypotheses when the data record a superposition of different signals. Physics is required to separate their sum.
(3) Recent climate change has not been influenced by solar‐terrestrial interaction. If this null hypothesis is to be confidently rejected, it will require data and/or methods that are different from those used here.
h/t to Dr. Leif Svalgaard