Once more into the breach - Global Warming and the Sun (update) Posted by: mcq
on Wednesday, June 20, 2007
R. Timothy Patterson, a professor and director of the Ottawa-Carleton Geoscience Centre, Department of Earth Sciences, Carleton University has an extremely interesting article out in the National Post in which he discusses, you guessed it, the role of the sun in the earth's climate change.
But a couple of points first:
Climate stability has never been a feature of planet Earth. The only constant about climate is change; it changes continually and, at times, quite rapidly. Many times in the past, temperatures were far higher than today, and occasionally, temperatures were colder. As recently as 6,000 years ago, it was about 3C warmer than now. Ten thousand years ago, while the world was coming out of the thou-sand-year-long "Younger Dryas" cold episode, temperatures rose as much as 6C in a decade — 100 times faster than the past century's 0.6C warming that has so upset environmentalists.
So point one is that the earth's climate is under constant change. There isn't such a thing as a "stable climate" for this planet. Or said another way, expect change.
Climate-change research is now literally exploding with new findings. Since the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, the field has had more research than in all previous years combined and the discoveries are completely shattering the myths. For example, I and the first-class scientists I work with are consistently finding excellent correlations between the regular fluctuations in the brightness of the sun and earthly climate. This is not surprising. The sun and the stars are the ultimate source of all energy on the planet.
Point two is the sun, quite naturally, plays a huge role in our climate. For some that may come as a surprise.
So what Patterson does for the rest of the article is outline how the sun's activity and our climate changes correlate by using, ready for this, mud samples from Canadian fjords. He was initially searching for reasons that there were "fish productivity cycles" which seemed unpredictable and inexplicable. The findings are really quite fascinating and I'll ask you to read the whole thing.
In the sediment, diatom and fish-scale records, we also see longer period cycles, all correlating closely with other well-known regular solar variations. In particular, we see marine productivity cycles that match well with the sun's 75-90-year "Gleissberg Cycle," the 200-500-year "Suess Cycle" and the 1,100-1,500-year "Bond Cycle." The strength of these cycles is seen to vary over time, fading in and out over the millennia. The variation in the sun's brightness over these longer cycles may be many times greater in magnitude than that measured over the short Schwabe cycle and so are seen to impact marine productivity even more significantly.
Our finding of a direct correlation between variations in the brightness of the sun and earthly climate indicators (called "proxies") is not unique. Hundreds of other studies, using proxies from tree rings in Russia's Kola Peninsula to water levels of the Nile, show exactly the same thing: The sun appears to drive climate change.
And that, at least to me, comes as no real surprise. An acknowledgment of that fact and perhaps stepping back politically while we gather more scientific data before rushing ahead with ill advised schemes which might cripple economies, might just save us tons of money and encroachments on liberty though.
UPDATE: From a scientist responding to the post and article by email:
The money quote from the article you quote is: "For example, I and the first-class scientists I work with are consistently finding excellent correlations between the regular fluctuations in the brightness of the sun and earthly climate. This is not surprising. The sun and the stars are the ultimate source of all energy on the planet."
This is a no-brainer and is not something that is dismissed by climatologists, an opinion that can be inferred from many of the attacks made by those who disbelieve in a human effect on climate change('It's the Sun stupid' is a common refrain as if those working in the field had never stopped to consider it). The Sun IS the biggest driver of climate change, it is the source of all energy into the system - without it we would not have a climate. This is undisputed by scientists. In the past the changes in climate can pretty much be ascribed to changes in a) solar output (internal cycles) or b) power received by the Earth (orbital forcing).
Of course there have always been other factors such as volcanic activity (and it is factors such as these which make current predictions as hard as they are - can you tell us exactly when a volcano will erupt and produce a cooling effect?). Indeed climate changes in the past have been severe and abrupt through the time we can measure via whatever proxies we can find. The problem arises when trying to make the same argument for the current warming - the reason the climatologists get excited about the current warming is the simple fact that the initial parameters are so different than before.
This seems to be a difficult concept for many to understand and hence we often seem to get the 'it was hotter in the middle ages' or 'CO2 lagged heating!'arguments. Which in actual fact are not arguments at all since they do not address the current warming in which the CO2 does not lag the warming and the warming is a global average rather than a localised one.
Unfortunately the author veers off into speculation:
"Indeed, that is precisely what has been discovered. In a series of ground breaking scientific papers starting in 2002, Veizer, Shaviv, Carslaw, and most recently Svensmark et al., have collectively demonstrated that as the output of the sun varies, and with it, our star's protective solar wind, varying amounts of galactic cosmic rays from deep space are able to enter our solar system and penetrate the Earth's atmosphere. These cosmic rays enhance cloud formation which, overall, has a cooling effect on the planet. When the sun's energy output is greater, not only does the Earth warm slightly due to direct solar heating, but the stronger solar wind generated during these "high sun" periods blocks many of the cosmic rays from entering our atmosphere."
The Svensmark work is far from 'proven'. The initial correlations he discovered have been shown to not actually exist - and so he moved the goal posts in a following paper. Actually that is unfair of me as science needs to allow for shifting conclusions when new data appears.
His latest work is very promising but he has yet been able to translate his laboratory results out into the atmosphere; several meteorologists are sceptical over whether his mechanism can work with galactic cosmic rays as opposed to the charged aerosols used in the lab for reasons of size. In particular he cannot explain why his GCR-nucleation only works on low, heat-trapping clouds and not on the high heat-reflecting clouds.
Hopefully the new experiment at CERN will shed some light on this. Of course the biggest flaw in his argument is the GCR record itself; Svensmark postulated his mechanism for cloud seeding and then suggested that the level of solar activity would work as a proxy for shielding from the GCR. He then identified a trend in the amount of shielding - a topic which is hotly debated at the moment in terms of the amount of open magnetic flux from the sun; this argument is not based on the climate change issue but rather on the nature of the interplanetary magnetic field and coupling of energy throughout the solar system.
Svesmark's biggest problem arises when one looks at the GCR records: there does not appear to be trend to match what would be necessary for his mechanism to actually work. This is not an obscure proxy it is as close to a direct measurement of GCR as is possible. This means serious problems for the GCR-cloud-seeding theory. It needs resolving before it can be used as an explanation. To me, the amusing thing is that we are often told how the science is not settled and that it is arrogant to assume that CO2 is the cause when in the next breath I am schooled on how the true mechanism is likely to be GCR influenced, something that has less much, much less evidence than the greenhouse effect.
There's more, but that seemed to get to the heart of the matter. It seems a fair critique but again, another indicator, at least to me, that the science is far from settled.
Ok McQ. I’m in. This is one of the better series you’ve done. Informative and persuasive. Nice job.
Let us accept the premise hook, line, and sinker: Global warming is real, but it is not caused by man, it is caused by a natural variation in the output of the sun.
This still begs a really interesting question. We are now (as a planet dominating species) at a technological state where (for the first time) we can actually conceive of managing a natural global process of climate change (don’t ask me how, maybe giant inflatable mirrors/shades in syncronized orbit around the sun somewhere between here Mercury). What is a coherent libertarian response? Is it enlightened self-interest to let the natural solar variation take place with devastating consequences for some on the planet? Or is it enlightened self-interest to act and soliict voluntary coordinated global support in an effort to manage this natural process? In some ways,NASA Chief Michael Griffen was asking the right quesion:
"The NASA chief — whose agency has come under fire in Congress for cutting several programs designed to monitor climate change — also says it’s "rather arrogant" for people to take the position that today’s climate is the optimal one. I guess I would ask which human beings — where and when — are to be accorded the privilege of deciding that this particular climate that we have right here today, right now, is the best climate for all other human beings," he said during a National Public Radio interview Thursday morning."
A Laissez faire natural process? Even if it potentially may drown populated islands and devastate western economies? Or aggressive global action to moderate the change?
I honestly don’t know the answer. Curious what other small "l" libertarians think.
Okaaaay. How about a hypothetical? Lets say that we additionally determine through neutrino flux variation experiments a statistical probability that this solar variation - at maximum - presents a real possibly of incinerating and rendering virtually uninhabitable all exposed land up to a latitude around the Canadian border. Is "keep the government out of the way" really an adequate response? Even if one lives in - oh - lets say Crawford Texas?
The one point that this piece leaves unsaid is the the "inconvient truth" is that the positions taken by Al Gore et al have them very quickly looking more and more like the equivalent of modern day founders of the Flat Earth Society.
About 500 years ago, everybody knew the earth was flat .. it was settled science. LOL
"Lets say that we ... determine through neutrino flux variation experiments a statistical probability that this solar variation - at maximum - presents a real possibly of...Your hypothetical has already occurred in real life [see Gore, et al]. Stupid urban liberals are ready, willing and able to give money and vote for this. In the face of this ready money and potentail political power what logic or reality can head off the opportunists?
See timber, wetlands, spotted owl, assault weapons, snail darter, cassiopian cactus flower. etc.
I wonder when the drip who said there was no correlation between solar output and temperature will show up?
As soon as they get their marching orders and a slightly altered narrative to account for this.
If man’s input is negligible in proportion to natural inputs, like solar radiation, then does it make more sense to try and alter mans input radically, or change the natural inputs.
I still like the idea of solar shades floating in space. Add solar panels to the other side, and they can generate electricity, that can be beamed back to Earth (or used in Earth orbit industrial factories.)
I’ve said before, changes which increase efficiency and conservation make sense from an economic perspective. Becoming less dependent on one source of energy also makes sense.
We also need more research on mitigating the effects of severe weather, hurricanes, floods, and droughts.
by using, ready for this, mud samples from Norwegian fjords.
But from the National Post:
My research team began to collect and analyze core samples from the bottom of deep Western Canadian fjords. The regions in which we chose to conduct our research, Effingham Inlet on the West Coast of Vancouver Island, and in 2001, sounds in the Belize-Seymour Inlet complex on the mainland coast of British Columbia
This is a no-brainer and is not something that is dismissed by climatologists, an opinion that can be inferred from many of the attacks made by those who disbelieve in a human effect on climate change(’It’s the Sun stupid’ is a common refrain as if those working in the field had never stopped to consider it). The Sun IS the biggest driver of climate change, it is the source of all energy into the system - without it we would not have a climate. This is undisputed by scientists. In the past the changes in climate can pretty much be ascribed to changes in a) solar output (internal cycles) or b) power received by the Earth (orbital forcing).
You know, I’d have a little more sympathy to this contention if I had seen ANYTHING of the sort being said in the wake of the IPCC reports. If any of the AGW advocates had taken the time in their copius press releases to address such issues, I’d be less prone to think there is intellectual dishonesty at foot. But the truth is you never see such matters properly address. The emphasis seems to be to stay "on message" as if this were a political campaign and not a scientific endeavor.
The problem arises when trying to make the same argument for the current warming - the reason the climatologists get excited about the current warming is the simple fact that the initial parameters are so different than before.
So in other words, we are being asked to make all these changes to our lifestyle, throw a monkey wrench into our economy and so on, all because a group of scientists doesn’t understand something? We’re being asked to respond in panicked tones and hushed, alarming words and predictions, because they don’t KNOW?
(Alarm bells going off)
And, as Neo points out, what of the cure? Has the science been worked out so that we understand what we’re subjecting ourselves to by way of the cure? It seems unlikely, since they haven’t even nailed down all the variables for the cause, as yet.
And this, we’re told, is unarguable science ?
Finally, the political causes for this argument cannot be overlooked. Interesting for example that the vast majority of those who sign on to the ’man made global warming’’ argument are mostly those who have been seeking and working toward a way to limit the power and influence of the west for decades, now, while ignoring the pollution coming from places like China... who won’t sign on meaningfully to any treaty involving CO2 in any event, and who just yesterday was being reported as the leading CO2 producer in the world.while I believe that there are many who honestly hold such views, without political purpose, that can be said for any political movement. Mona Charen has an appropriate title to confer on such people.
And Neo speaks correctly yet again, when addressing the cure of just stepping back and letting things take their course. Clearly, the situation is destined to sort itself out, anyway... with or without the ’help’ of leftist pols.... And he has it right, here, when he suggests that the goal is to have the enviro-wacko creed written into the culture... something that they simply cannot do, if the situation takes care of itself.
Forgive me if I’m unimpressed with the guesswork... sorry... "science".... supposedly detecting the problem, much less the solutions being demanded. In short, we stand about as much chance of controlling our global environment, as I have of directing all Internet web traffic to my website, by use of my museum piece IBM XT computer.
And given the politics, I won’t even mention the honesty of the lot raising these arguments.
The whole government mandate, top down solution that many preach as THE solution to global warming, reminds me to much of the debate over "assault weapons."
Nibbling away at the periphery of a problem and not dealing with the root issues.
If we want a long term solution to pollution, we need to be increasing our efforts to truly educate the next generation of scientists and engineers. Not indoctrinating them into the gospel according to Gore, et al.
It would be refreshing to here top climatologists to say, the science isn’t completely settled, but we do have causes for concern. We don’t want to sound alarmist, but we ought to research this thoroughly and do what we can to lesson mans negative impact on the environment.
In particular he cannot explain why his GCR-nucleation only works on low, heat-trapping clouds and not on the high heat-reflecting clouds.
I believe this has in fact been explained. I don’t remember the exact details, but I remember seeing an explanation.
Anyways, I’m suspending judgment on the whole issue until we reach that solar minimum in 2020. Way too much junk science is being done with global warming, with everything from terrorism to stray cats being blamed on it.
i’ve heard that the science of evolution is hotly disputed by some people, including scientists at the Discovery Institute. Should this mean that the US govt shouldn’t fund original research into genomic-based medicine?
"Is ’keep the government out of the way’ really an adequate response?"
That depends entirely on what one calls "adequate".
There are tens of millions of morons who think that it’s inadequate to the problem of poverty, even though decades on end of government force brought to the problem has never solved it and, in fact, only makes things worse.
Is it enlightened self-interest to let the natural solar variation take place with devastating consequences for some on the planet?
Perhaps the best approach is to concern ourselves about those effected instead of worrying about how we can interfere with a natural process and then have to live with the unintended consequences of doing so. That, to me, would best address the ’enlightened self-interest’ aspect of the question.
And no, that doesn’t mean give the problem to government.
Or is it enlightened self-interest to act and soliict voluntary coordinated global support in an effort to manage this natural process?
Manage it in what way that you can be assured that the unintended consequences won’t be worse than the problem of climate change (if that really is a problem)? We’re still at that stage of questioning.
I believe that is what is being contemplated right now. The economic effect of our, at this point, unsupported action (in terms of a net positive effect in controlling the climate as we wish), will most likely cause more "devastating consequences" than the change of climate itself.