Dr. Leif Svalgaard on the New Scientist solar max story

An article in the New Scientist says:

But Dr. Leif Svalgaard, one of the worlds leading solar physicists and WUWT’s resident solar expert has this to say:

Solar max is a slippery concept. One can be more precise and *define* solar max for a given hemisphere as the time when the polar fields reverse in the hemisphere. The reversals usually differ by one or two years, so solar max will similarly differ. The North is undergoing reversal right now, so has reached maximum. The South is lagging, but already the polar field is rapidly decreasing, so reversal may be only a year away. Such asymmetry is very common.

Here is a link to the evolution of the polar fields as measured at WSO:


And here’s data all the way back to 1966, note there has not been a crossing of the polar fields yet in 2012, a typical event at solar max:


Here is a link to a talk on this: http://www.leif.org/research/ click

on paper 1540.

Dr. Svalgaard adds:

Solar max happens at different times for each hemisphere. In the North we are *at* max right now. For the South there is another year to go, but ‘max’ for a small cycle like 24 is a drawn out affair and will last several years. To say that max falls on a given date, e.g. Jan 3rd, 2013, at UT 04:15 is meaningless.


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mike about town

Fascinating! I wonder if this will lead to any cooling in a few years’ time? I know Leif doesn’t believe so (or at least his typical responses on these threads lead me to believe that), but what are some other thoughts? If so, how long will it take? Should we see cooling anyways during such a low “Max” for a cycle?

spangled drongo

Why would the Sun care which way is North? (Question)

I do not think there is any argument about solar influence on climate. It is the only external heat source available and heat drives climate. It is not CO2, that trace gas so valuable to plants that without it we would all die PDQ.
Solar hibernation will cause temperatures to fall here. It might kick the alarmists into reality.


I agree that solar max is a slippery and somewhat arbitrary concept. Even solar min is, albeit less so. I disagree that the center of the plateau (the peak) has been and gone. The SC 24 is a long cycle (weak) and the peak will be around 2013-15.

I use solar data, then do a bit of a ‘curve matching’ with the astronomical parameters
to me it looks as good as SC24max (see the inset)
September SIDC SSN count will be around 60


New Scientist has become unreadable on climate change – pure scaremongering. We had the impression that Arctic ice was lower this summer than in the last 3 million years recently! Must be some editorial pressure.

William Ballinger

I guess the unanswered question is what do we expect for the next sun cycle? Is there a known period of solar activity that matches the last few cycles that can serve a guide?
Related to some previous postings, do CMEs increase or decrease in conjunction with the level of solar activity?

Ben D

From NS….
“Such a large asymmetry between hemispheres could be a sign of big changes ahead, says Steven Tobias, a mathematician at the University of Leeds, UK, who models what drives the sun’s magnetic field. According to his models, such a situation precedes an extended quiet phase called a grand minimum. “Changes in symmetry are more indicative of going into a grand minimum than the strength of the cycle,” he says.”
I hope he’s right, it will provide a real opportunity for the experts to gain a better understanding as to the effect the sun has on the Earth’s climate.

Joe's World(progressive evolution)

Studying the suns cycle of activity is data gathering.
Any comments are just suppositions to the data gathered.
The sun’s cycle NEVER duplicates exactly to many variables that occur such as slow down and size change over the years.

I do wish people would leave out the “we”! As in
” In the North we are *at* max right now.”
“We” are not at lunar max either right now or ever. Neither are “we” located on the northern hemisphere of the sun.
Come on guys, let’s have a little more scientific rigour in the way propositions are stated.

Very interesting Leif. Thanks.
Med venlig hilsen fra Island.


Hi Leif
Are we saying it would be a New thing if there were Science in the “New Scientist” ? 🙂


That’ll teach me to buying that solar filter for my telescope.
Just to be clear, I bought it back in 2007…

Doug Huffman

Thanks Dr. S., the turning of my calendar begins my anticipation of the posting of the SSN.
Last winter was marked by little snowfall, but just previously I had to buy a roof rake to remove too much snow. What wonder will this winter bring?

Joe's World(progressive evolution)

There are many areas of science NEVER studied. But we have a consensus of the like minded to ignore anything NOT of their liking.
Compression is one area that has not been looked at which would account for the material of our sun to be able to keep producing it’s corona and spew out massive material.
Again, this is NOT data gathering and statistics.

It’s the New ‘s’cientist…what do you expect, accuracy?

David Ross

omnologos wrote:

Why would the Sun care which way is North? (Question)

He’s talking about the Sun’s North and South poles and hemispheres — not Earth’s. The Sun’s magnetic field is a lot more dynamic than Earth’s. Earth’s field flips every 200,000 to 300,000 years, the Sun every 11 years or so.

David Ross – my question is in fact…why would the Northern and Southern hemispheres of the Sun behave differently? What tells the Northern part that it is “North”, and the Southern “South”?
AFAIK gravity doesn’t care direction…

Yo, dudes at New Scientist. You need to spend more time reading stuff here. You did say something about Livingston and Penn, right?
Doug Huffman says:
September 28, 2012 at 5:09 am

Last winter was marked by little snowfall, but just previously I had to buy a roof rake to remove too much snow. What wonder will this winter bring?

From tracking snowfall and “snow depth days” around New England, it’s very clear that snow seasons really say very little about climate and how it’s changing. See http://wermenh.com/sdd/index.html They do say something about that particular season and the similarities and differences between here (Penacook NH) and Derry NH, 40 miles south are striking. Some years I’d have the same snow as them, other years the storm track often brought them rain and me snow.
I can say with great confidence that this winter will bring weather. I feel sorry for people who “have” to make seasonal forecasts for New England. OTOH, people who do it for sport enjoy a good challenge.

Jeff D

Wouldn’t it be nice to have an amateur global temperature network for the next 20 years to verify the ” Real Scientists ” data? Then again I would be happy with data from NASA or NOAA that doesn’t have someones finger on the scale.
Dr. Leif thanks for providing your input here. It does give balance to the conversation even though I personally believe that the big glowing thing in the sky does have some impact on the climate.

A small occasion for some, but important one for my graphs, at 13:48:33 (Friday, UK time) my stat counter recorded 150,000th visitor, who came from Columbia, Maryland, United States.
Thanks to all who followed my graphs during last 3-4 years, and my gratitude goes to Anthony and the WUWT for the hospitality and open-mindedness.


It is tempting to assume that this ‘hibernation’ that Dr. Svalgaard alludes to will lead to global cooling , because the last hibernation (“Maunder Minimum”) occurred during a cooling of the climate.
But I don’t believe that we’ve seen any causal evidence of this link. The typical explanations run “It has to be solar! What else could it be?” So, not much different than the typical “CO2 causes global warming” rationale.
But just to be sure, Dr. Svalgaard, is there any causal evidence to back up the claim that solar hibernation caused the Maunder cooling?

Steven Hill

Learning is a constant process…..my 2 cents

I’m usually in disbelief at people who dismiss how important our Sun is in regulating climatic conditions here on Earth and the Solar System, when the Sun is very active it can produce a lot of energy in the form of CME’s, Solar wind and geomagnetic activity, the Earth responds with storms and higher electrical activity, more Auroras and ENSO goes positive to form El Nino and temperatures have a tendency to rise, When activity is low on the Sun geomagnetic activity and Solar wind is low and there are less or no CME’s, the Earth has less energy to form large storms and there’s less electrical activity, less Auroras and ENSO goes negative to form La Nina and temperatures have a tendency to fall. There is a complex planetary relationship with the Sun and it should never be over looked or even dismissed, I think the overall activity of an 11 year cycle plays a much larger role than when solar maximum will be reached, so far this has been a weak cycle in terms of activity.
Also, just a thought! What is the current theory (if any) on the solar wind effecting comets? could a prolonged minim and low solar wind bring comets into the solar system? The C/2012 S1 comet (‘Ison’) is on it’s way in, coinciding with recent low activity, also Comet PANSTARRS will be in the sky in march 2013. It may be worth looking into.


@Vuk: Congratulations! 150,000 visitors following your graphs it´s a lot.

Bob Kutz

No, this study cannot be right;
Dr. James Hansen and Dr. Mike Mann conclusively eliminated the sun as a controlling factor in climate change or as having any influence on our climate at all.
Warming will proceed as our GCMs dictate!
\sarc off

Pamela Gray

Solar cycles are long enough to encapsulate many Earth-bound natural climate oscillations, causing some excitement surrounding possible teleconnections.
Now that you have read that statement, anyone who is nodding their head enthusiastically have fallen into the trap of correlation equaling causation. And here is the caveat. In the old days windshield wipers each had their own motors. These motors where tuned to swipe as closely as possible together. But anyone who has been in old trucks and buses will remember that over time, the blades would cycle out of sync. Not to worry. If you watched long enough, they would be back in sync, though still entirely disconnected to each other.
It is likely, during a long slow solar cycle, we will enter an Earthly cold period, but not because of any physical teleconnection to solar parameters.

Jan P Perlwitz

spangled drongo wrote in:

Ya must admit though, this correlation is better than ACO2:

What correlation? The correlation between two linear trends is Zero.
And why not show both time series, only the calculated long-term trends? Because someone could notice something?
What about following graph:
The sunspot number has been trending down since the mid of previous century, but the global temperature anomaly has been going up. No scaling factor is going to help you there. Applying a scaling factor of 5 makes is just more obvious.
Even if the 11-year solar cycle vanishes altogether and the sun activity stays at the minimum of the solar cycle, I predict global warming due to greenhouse gases will continue over the next decades, since greenhouse gases have become the dominant climate driver in the second half of the 20th century. The warming will just be delayed by a few years (by about 10 years based on mere energy balance considerations).

Jeff Alberts

Jeff D says:
September 28, 2012 at 6:05 am
Dr. Leif thanks for providing your input here. It does give balance to the conversation even though I personally believe that the big glowing thing in the sky does have some impact on the climate.

Who said it doesn’t??
If I may be so bold, I believe Dr. Svaalgaard says that the variability of the sun isn’t enough to account for all the “warming” in places where it has been warming, or to account for historic warming and cooling. That’s a far cry from “The sun has no impact on climate”, which is what you’re implying as his belief.

mike about town, you write “If so, how long will it take? ”
I dont think anyone knows, since no-one seems to understand the science behind any link between climate and the sun’s magnetic effects., L&P indicate that sunspots may disappear around 2020. The last time this happened was around 1645. The center of the LIA was around 1685.

John Marshall says:
September 28, 2012 at 3:51 am
I doubt it. The notion that CO2 drove temperature over any significant part of geologic time is absurd, yet very intelligent people choose to believe it. The science Ph.D.s I know who are believers already say “climate change” exclusively, a font of human superstition/judgement/sacrifice that has been flowing since the beginning of history.

Dr. Leif Svalgaard,
We often discuss the question of whether changes in the ~11 year solar cycles on a centennial scale can be shown to provide enough energy change in the earth-atmosphere system to explain the observed global temperature changes over the same centennial period.
A common argument wrt that question discussed here at WUWT and other venues is that the solar energy changes from ~11 year cycle changes on centennial scales is at least a factor of ten too small to directly cause the observed global temperature changes.
If the sun’s energy output variation is directly insufficient to cause observed earth global temp changes then that would imply it may be a necessary contributing cause but an insufficiently large enough direct one. Leif, can you comment? Thanks.

Tony McGough

There is a conjecture (see for instance the book “The Chilling Stars: A New Theory of Climate Change” by Henrik Svensmark and Nigel Calder) that low solar magnetic fields leave the earth open to the chilling effect of energetic cosmic rays, via the seeding of extra cloud cover.
Some experiments at CERN point to the viability of this conjecture, and are on-going. It would only take a 2% change in cloud cover to change the planet’s temperature by whole degrees centigrade, it seems.

Given that there are significant changes occurring at the source of Earth’s solar radiation (i.e, Sun), what does the IPCC say about it (via the FAR):
“Despite considerable effort since the TAR, uncertainties remain in the representation of solar radiation in climate models… Difficulties in simulating absorbed solar and infrared radiation at the surface leads inevitably to uncertainty in the simulation of surface sensible and latent heat fluxes,” – http://tinyurl.com/c3qox7t (link to IPCC FAR Working Group I notes).
So, then, how does the IPCC address these uncertainties in the models?
“The cosmogenic isotope records have been linearly scaled to estimate solar energy output in many climate simulations… Several new studies suggest that long-term irradiance changes were notably less than in earlier reconstructions [earlier means the TAR]… In the previous reconstructions, the 17th-century ‘Maunder Minimum’ total irradiance was 0.15 to 0.65% (irradiance change about 2.0 to 8.7 W m–2; radiative forcing about 0.36 to 1.55 W m–2) below the present-day mean… Most of the recent studies… calculate a reduction of only around 0.1% (irradiance change of the order of –1 W m–2, radiative forcing of –0.2 W m–2; section 2.7). Following these results, the magnitude of the radiative forcing… for the Maunder Minimum period is relatively small (–0.2 W m–2 relative to today),” – http://tinyurl.com/9ywez5m (link to IPCC FAR).
And in Section 9.2 of the FAR, the IPCC states, “that the amplitude of the large-scale pattern of response scales linearly with the forcing,” – http://tinyurl.com/9nd6xvj (link to IPCC FAR).
So, although the IPCC admits uncertainties abound in how to model solar radiation in the climate models, it ultimately preserves the notion of a solar constant and presumes that even if it’s not really constant, the impact from any change is too small to be relevant without invoking additional strong amplification mechanisms (e.g., aerosols). What’s troubling and often highlighted by CAGW skeptics is that this… presumption (this may be the wrong term – perhaps “fraud”) by the IPCC has been made with the full knowledge that changes in solar radiation certainly do matter and should be accounted for within the models. This has been asserted for over 15 years. But as the Climategate e-mails displayed in their open contempt for researchers linking the sun to climate change (http://tinyurl.com/bvxfcck – link to Climategate e-mail regarding the Soon and Baliunas paper), CAGW alarmists willing chose to subjectively manipulate aerosols (in defiance of Ockham’s Razor) to explain the absence of predicted warming in the solar constant models rather than address the more likely variable (solar radiation). But, mind you, they’re not the “deniers” in such an example. Yeah… right.

Eyes Wide Open

Jan P Perlwitz says:
September 28, 2012 at 7:02 am
“The sunspot number has been trending down since the mid of previous century, but the global temperature anomaly has been going up. No scaling factor is going to help you there
Jan, try this simple experiment at home and then get back to us.
1) Put a pot of cold water on the stove
2) Turn the burner to maximum
3) Take the temperature every 30 seconds
4) After 3 minutes,turn the burner to 3/4
5) Leave the pot on the stove for another 5 minutes taking the temperature every 30 seconds
6) Plot your results with time on the bottom axis, temperature on the left and stove setting on the right

F. Ross

Dr. Svalgaard:
It appears to me that your graphic “North South Solar Polar Fields [micro Tesla]” [above] is puzzling. It appears that the ghosted [South?] portion is just the mirror image of the non-ghosted [North] data. Is the South polar actually a mirror image of the North or am I just not reading the graph incorrectly?


I may be on the wrong tack here but surely the CLOUD and SKY experiments very clearly showed a link between a magnetically quiet sun and cooling (muons from space ‘seeding’ low clouds which in turn lead to cooler weather). Am I misunderstanding this?

Johanus says:
September 28, 2012 at 6:34 am
“It is tempting to assume that this ‘hibernation’ that Dr. Svalgaard alludes to will lead to global cooling , because the last hibernation (“Maunder Minimum”) occurred during a cooling of the climate.
But I don’t believe that we’ve seen any causal evidence of this link. The typical explanations run “It has to be solar! What else could it be?” So, not much different than the typical “CO2 causes global warming” rationale.
But just to be sure, Dr. Svalgaard, is there any causal evidence to back up the claim that solar hibernation caused the Maunder cooling?”
I think the Hypothesis on this topic here http://landscheidt.wordpress.com/ is too accurate to ignore. I’m not sure the cause is sorted out yet but …

PeterB in Indianapolis

@Jan P Perlwitz:
No, sunspot number has NOT been trending down since the middle of last century. We were at a solar grand maximum which had more sunspot activity in the 1980’s and 1990’s than any previous time in the 20th century. There was an article about this right here on WUWT not too long ago. Sunspot number has been trending down since the late 1990s, NOT the 1950s as you seem to be claiming.
Also, greenhouse gases did not become, never have been, and never will be the “dominant climate driver”.

D Böehm

Eyes Wide Open,
You won’t convince that jamoke of anything, since his primary motivation is to keep both front feet in the public trough, along side the mendacious self-promoter James “Coal Trains of Death” Hansen.
Perlwitz opines: “I predict… The warming will just be delayed by a few years (by about 10 years…” Perlwitz doesn’t seem to understand that there has been no global warming for the past fifteen years. He should revise his ‘prediction’ to more than 15 years, to avoid appearing even more clueless than usual.
From people like Perlwitz we get problems like this:

Jan P Perlwitz on September 28, 2012 at 7:02 am says:
The sunspot number has been trending down since the mid of previous century, but the global temperature anomaly has been going up. No scaling factor is going to help you there. Applying a scaling factor of 5 makes is just more obvious.

= = = = =
Jan P Perlwitz,
Your premise is faulty if your premise is that only TSI can possibly drive energy increases in the earth-atmosphere system and SSI cannot possibly do so.
Is that your premise?

F. Ross

Bad typing skills.
Is the South polar actually a mirror image of the North or am I just not reading the graph incorrectly?
For “incorrectly” please read “correctly.”

I would agree with Dr. S when he states that solar TSI variability is not large enough to account for periods like Maunder or MWP.
I think the most likely reality is:
– Energy in = energy out, but integrated across very long period of time
– Energy in is nearly constant and its variability can not account for natural variability in the Northern Hemisphere’s temperature of about 0.6 degrees during the last 5-6 decades
– Ratio of energy absorbed and energy reflected by oceans is the key variable.
It can be shown, at least numerically in an elementary way, that combination of the solar and the Earth’s activity (the Earth is not a passive bystander) can approximate natural variability
I suggest by regulating the oceanic absorption/radiation ratios through compromising integrity of the oceanic thermo-haline layers.
The required contemporaneous regulating energy comes from both the sun and the Earth, it is minute in comparison to what is required for the temperature change (analogue to the foot pressure on the car accelerator, or more appropriately to the grid voltage or base current in electronics).
Consider the 350 year long CET record:
Mid-summer temperatures (nearly constant, up-trend about 0.1C/century) due predominantly to the direct insolation
Mid-winter temperatures (average rise of about 0.4C/century) are ameliorated by the SST of the nearby Atlantic.
Any room for CO2? Very little.


Because the sun has a magnetic field, and magnetic fields have a north and a south.

Henry Clark

Eyes Wide Open:
Good analogy.
Just to add:
Also, the actual picture in solar activity is not a decrease over the past half-century as CAGW proponents claim. Rather:
Solar activity was relatively moderate during cycle 20 from 1964 to 1976 (the era of the global cooling scare in reality, although recently fudged temperature data hides the decline to make it appear to have happened for next to nil reason whatsoever). But then solar activity was substantially higher in cycles 21 and 22 which occurred from 1976 to 1996. That is seen, for example, in average inverted cosmic ray counts using data from http://cosmicrays.oulu.fi :
cycle 20: 1.000 for 1964-1976
(defining as baseline here)
cycle 21: 1.032 for 1976-1986
(more cosmic rays deflected by a stronger solar magnetic field, 3% less neutron count at monitors)
cycle 22: 1.032 for 1986-1996
Relative decline in solar activity occurred during cycle 23 onwards, of 1996 onwards:
cycle 23: 0.995 for 1996-2008
cycle 24 so far: 0.942 (where cycle 23’s figure would be 0.965 by this many months into it)
But, while influenced by other factors as well (such as the AMO), global temperatures have been at a plateau, flat to declining, from the 1998 El Nino through now:
Tony McGough:
Yes, indeed.
Also, while that is a great book, to add some relevant fully online links:
and others.
There is a series of attempts by the CAGW movement to discredit cosmic rays having an influence ( http://www.sciencebits.com/RealClimateSlurs , http://www.sciencebits.com/HUdebate , etc.), and a particularly common one is to claim such is disproven by divergence between the cloud cover trends reported by the ISCCP at Hansen’s GISS in recent years (unfortunately publicized in climate4you.com graphs using them as a source) and that expected from GCR trends. However, http://calderup.wordpress.com/2011/10/05/further-attempt-to-falsify-the-svensmark-hypothesis/ illustrates the “accidentally” uncorrected error from change in ISCCP satellite viewing angle occurring then, including a graph showing how other cloud cover trend datasets went in a different direction. The latter are less divergent from the picture suggested by albedo trends ( http://tallbloke.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/albedo.png ).
Hansen’s GISS (and the ISCCP headquartered at it) is a compromised untrustworthy source in general; a quick smoking gun illustration with temperatures is http://www.giss.nasa.gov/research/briefs/hansen_07/fig1x.gif versus http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/graphs_v3/Fig.D.gif where the former shows shows the 5-year mean of U.S. temperature in the high point of the 1980s was 0.4 degrees Celsius cooler than such in the 1930s but the latter is fudged to make the same less than 0.1 degrees Celsius apart. When people happily flock to employment at such an institution’s climate departments even now and rise to the top in the current political climate, fitting in, to expect them to be unbiased would be like expecting Greenpeace leadership to be unbiased.
I did a simple quick illustration myself of solar/GCR activity versus high-altitude specific humidity illustrating the matching four corresponding peaks each in data over the 1960s through now:
The top is from:
The bottom is from:

Henry Clark

Slight correction: The imagevenue.com link in my prior comment is broken, but this is what works instead in its place:


D Böehm: James “Coal Trains of Death” Hansen. Now you can see and hear our JH, at the official Iranian Government´s spanish TV channel:

Tim Walker

Thanks for this post of the New Scientist article. A carefull reading of it and what Leif had to say and not say is very interesting. The article seems to say that the asymmetry of the solar hemispheres is possibly greater than normal for this cycle. The article specifically said, as I quote here, “Such a large asymmetry between hemishpere could be a sign of big changes ahead,” and again here, “Changes in symmetry are more indicative of going into a grand minimum than the strength of the cycle,” Leif seemed to miss that, instead he commented on the fact that cycles regularly have asymmetry.
The Doctor Leif did supply some graphs and links, unfortunately he didn’t provide a graph that showed the differences in the level of symmetry. That was unfortunate. I really hoped that he would speak to the thrust of the article. Instead he seems to have just spoken to the thrust of his own thoughts.
The writer of the article did a great job of looking at different peoples thoughts and ideas. It is a balanced article that shows interesting information and gives us some ideas of what we can look for and think about.
We do seem to be living in interesting times. I am gratefull for people like Anthony Watts and the author of this article: Stuart Clark. I look forward to whatching with others for when the other half of the solar maximum happens. I know that Anthony will keep us abreast of the news.


Chances in cloudiness is the factor, TSI wont do it, Henrik Svensmark ‘s theory is partly proven allready. So cooling happens, but it is as slow as warming 50 years.