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« Two-sided conversation | Main | Matt Ridley on wind »
Monday
Mar052012

New solar paper

A new paper by Gareth Jones, Mike Lockwood and Peter Stott says that future reductions in solar output will have a limited impact on global warming projections, based on the output from their climate model.

During the 20th century, solar activity increased in magnitude to a so-called grand maximum. It is probable that this high level of solar activity is at or near its end. It is of great interest whether any future reduction in solar activity could have a significant impact on climate that could partially offset the projected anthropogenic warming. Observations and reconstructions of solar activity over the last 9000 years are used as a constraint on possible future variations to produce probability distributions of total solar irradiance over the next 100 years. Using this information, with a simple climate model, we present results of the potential implications for future projections of climate on decadal to multidecadal timescales. Using one of the most recent reconstructions of historic total solar irradiance, the likely reduction in the warming by 2100 is found to be between 0.06 and 0.1 K, a very small fraction of the projected anthropogenic warming. However, if past total solar irradiance variations are larger and climate models substantially underestimate the response to solar variations, then there is a potential for a reduction in solar activity to mitigate a small proportion of the future warming, a scenario we cannot totally rule out. While the Sun is not expected to provide substantial delays in the time to reach critical temperature thresholds, any small delays it might provide are likely to be greater for lower anthropogenic emissions scenarios than for higher-emissions scenarios.

I hope they have made suitable caveats about the validation (or lack of it) of their computer model's ability to project future global warming.

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Reader Comments (140)

Would this be the same climate model that ten years ago was predicting wet winters and flooding? I only ask because there has just been an urgent DEFRA summit to discuss the droughts of the last three years....

Mar 5, 2012 at 9:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterCharlie


While the Sun is not expected to provide substantial delays in the time to reach critical temperature thresholds, any small delays it might provide are likely to be greater for lower anthropogenic emissions scenarios than for higher-emissions scenarios.

That has to be a keeper, one to be repeated constantly in the next decade.

Mar 5, 2012 at 10:06 AM | Unregistered CommenterLord Beaverbrook

Isn't Climate Science (tm) wonderful stuff, not only does it now acknowledge a "so-called" grand maximum, but the same week we get to see a a paper with a clear millennial Solar Impact throughout the Holocene, climate science (tm) can tune out future solar impacts via more models.

There is no stopping this gravy train.

Mar 5, 2012 at 10:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterFrosty

We don't really know the magnitude or profile of historic variations, nor do we know the mechanisms whereby they affect the climate, nor yet how they interact with other influences. But here's a guess which confidently predicts a future in line with the scare we support.

I'm afraid this set off my BS alarm.

Mar 5, 2012 at 10:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterRhoda

Projection, projection, projection. Is this a new "reality" TV show?

Mar 5, 2012 at 10:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Are models the new crystal balls?

Mar 5, 2012 at 10:18 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

Am I getting the gist of this correct: He is saying that changes in the suns output will have no effect on the future climate and consequently they will generally ignore it in the models they use?

Well, that....err.. inspires confidence.

Mar 5, 2012 at 10:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterHenry Brubaker

Ooh, ooh, I love a 'critical temperature threshold', it sounds so final.
Have they published what any of these 'critical tempreature thresholds' are, if so, can we stop worrying once we pass one, as, being critical it would signal that any further mitigation would be a waste of effort thereafter.

Mar 5, 2012 at 10:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterSteveW

I get it: no matter what new research of naturally occurring phenomena show, the point remains that only we, with our CO2 footprint, are influencing the global climate.
So shut up and pay up, it's BAU as far as the warmistas are concerned.

Ideology trumps science every time.

Perhaps we ought to be grateful that we're not yet living in societies where dissent is 'rewarded' with prolonged stays in GULAGs, as during the reign of Lysenkoism ...

Mar 5, 2012 at 10:42 AM | Registered CommenterViv Evans

They might have added, "between 0.06K and 0.1K unless Svensmark is right in which case the market for woolly underwear will skyrocket".

Mar 5, 2012 at 10:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterBrent Hargreaves

SteveW:

Ooh, ooh, I love a 'critical temperature threshold', it sounds so final.
Have they published what any of these 'critical tempreature thresholds' are, if so, can we stop worrying once we pass one, as, being critical it would signal that any further mitigation would be a waste of effort thereafter.

You misunderstand the concept entirely. The critical temperature threshold is always just above the current running mean. Quite simply it's our last chance to act to save the planet. Always.

Mar 5, 2012 at 10:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

In Summary: Reading between the lines.

A 0.1C reduction in global temps - nothing to worry about.

A 0.1C increase in global temps - planetary disaster.

This paper is just more politically correct science.

Mar 5, 2012 at 10:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterMac

Another day, another climate model projection ... do they know that a Playstation can model better projections ?

Mar 5, 2012 at 11:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterStreetcred

So...its just another guess...from a simple climate model.
Why couldn't I have been a climatologist. I would never have been out of work...

Mar 5, 2012 at 11:02 AM | Unregistered Commenterconfused

Almost missed it in my initial haste to fire up the PLAYSTATION. The authors are all from the bastion of credibility, the Hadley Centre /sarc.

Mar 5, 2012 at 11:05 AM | Unregistered CommenterStreetcred

Henry Brubaker asks:

He is saying that changes in the suns output will have no effect on the future climate and consequently they will generally ignore it in the models they use?

They're not really saying that. They are saying that given the amount of variation in TSI historically, then projecting that forward, even with somewhat greater variance in TSI, will not have a significant effect on temps compared to the CAGW factor.

But that's no surprise - TSI is so stable is was called the "solar constant" for a long time. But the sun has many more variables up it's sleeves than just TSI, and if the major variables are in UV or are magnetic, then this study has simply ignored them.

Mar 5, 2012 at 11:07 AM | Registered Commentersteve ta

It seems to me that climatologists, like economists spend most of their time guessing from simple models. They have the ability to ignore the large herbivore standing in front of them but always notice the mouse. Few economists predicted the recent economical turmoil, and few where held to account for this astonishing lapse. Similarly few climatologists can see the miniscule effect that raised CO2 will have on the climate and none of then will be held to account for the econmic damage we all suffer. Esecially thos in the developing countries.

If these people were paid by results we would see the true utility of these 'oracles'

Mar 5, 2012 at 11:14 AM | Unregistered Commenterconfused

I think basically, reduced to allegory, what they are saying is that if a large truck is bearing down on you, the registration plate stays the same.

Mar 5, 2012 at 11:21 AM | Unregistered Commentersimpleseekeraftertruth

Because we underestimate solar activity, our climate models are going to do that too.

Mar 5, 2012 at 11:23 AM | Registered CommenterVieras

Activist scientists, feeding at public teet, find model they built confirms their activist views. Is that it?

Mar 5, 2012 at 11:47 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

VI (vagueness index) count:

Sentence 1 - 'so-called'
S.2 - 'probable'
S.3-'whether', 'could', 'could'
S.4-'possible'
S.5-'potential'
S.6-'likely'
S.7-'if', 'potential', 'cannot totally rule out'
S.8-'not expected', 'might', 'likely'.

Yadda yadda yadda. Almost every sentence. Tea-leaves, anyone?

Mar 5, 2012 at 11:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterBarbara

Obtw, they're also selling Y10K software insurance. Money back even.

Mar 5, 2012 at 11:56 AM | Unregistered Commentercedarhill

During the 20th century, solar activity increased in magnitude to a so-called grand maximum.

I shall add to my AGW Miracles list the coincidence of a solar grand maximum happening just as the planet warmed up.

Mar 5, 2012 at 12:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterMaurizio Morabito

Sears Roebuck, the great American retailer, suffered a protracted decline, producing dismal financial results year after year.

It has been said that the one certain recipe for rapid career progression within the company headquarters was the ability to present declining sales and profits in a way that made it seem that a corner has been turned and the future now looked positive, with good reasons for optimism.

It's quite hard to believe that a Met Office researcher whose investigations revealed that the effect of carbon dioxide had been over-estimated and that, in fact, other effects dominate climate change would progress rapidly within its hierarchy, no matter how rigorous and innovative their analysis.

Mar 5, 2012 at 12:18 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

steveta wrote:

...TSI is so stable is was called the "solar constant" for a long time. But the sun has many more variables up it's sleeves than just TSI, and if the major variables are in UV or are magnetic, then this study has simply ignored them.

I agree. This is the crux of the matter - and the weakness of this paper. Like the IPCC, this paper only considers total solar irradiance (TSI) and ignores other variables of the Sun's climate. NASA classifies the Sun as a variable star because of its activity in the extreme ultra violet (EUV).

"If human eyes could see EUV wavelengths, no one would doubt that the sun is a variable star," says Tom Woods of the University of Colorado in Boulder.

Of course, climate science completely ignores this and concentrates on the area where the Sun is at its most stable.

Mar 5, 2012 at 12:18 PM | Registered Commentersolarmax

M. L'Eveque d' écossais


I hope they have made suitable caveats about the validation (or lack of it) of their computer model's ability to project future global warming.

The most suscinct phrase yet. The answer ? NO certainly

Mar 5, 2012 at 12:21 PM | Unregistered Commenterstephen richards

Is this paper timed for AR5 in order to over-ride all literature suggesting the opposite? What's the betting this will be top of the solar citation list?

Mar 5, 2012 at 12:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterJonathan Drake

Ultraviolet radiation from the Sun may be quite variable (and dangerous to living tissue), but it is only 8% of the Sun's power output, and is almost entirely absorbed in the stratosphere (causing the distinctive, positive temperature lapse rate there), above the troposphere and our own, (yes) protected, environment. This circumstance is not merely convenient for us, and all the life on Earth, it is indicative of design. The bottom line is, climate science is today a fool's science, and the stable Standard Atmosphere rules, not "runaway climate". Science and the world have simply been on the wrong track, and miseducated for generations, by the belief in a climate that can periodically, even routinely, crash into a global "ice age" (so why not, they childishly thought, an equally catastrophic global warming?). The vain public debates over climate science, and revelations of its fundamental incompetence, are all just a matter of false dogma, bred and raised to a destructive level worldwide, now biting everyone where it hurts the most.

Mar 5, 2012 at 1:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Dale Huffman

"a scenario we cannot totally rule out": because we're only demi-gods.

Mar 5, 2012 at 1:13 PM | Unregistered Commenterdearieme

Observations and reconstructions of solar activity over the last 9000 years are used as a constraint on possible future variations to produce probability distributions of total solar irradiance over the next 100 years.
The creaking noise you can hear is the models being tweaked.
Again.

Mar 5, 2012 at 1:36 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

I remember back in the 70s when BBC Horizon programmes did science, they did one on the Sun & Sunspots, plotting human behaviour patterns matching them, Beatle-mania, the heights of hemlines, etc. It was fascinating what could be made to match Sunspot activity!

"We don't really know how Element A (Sun) affects Element B (Climate), but we know for sure that Element C, (manmade CO2) overpowers Element A!" Simples.

Mar 5, 2012 at 1:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

Perhaps we ought to be grateful that we're not yet living in societies where dissent is 'rewarded' with prolonged stays in GULAGs, as during the reign of Lysenkoism ...
Mar 5, 2012 at 10:42 AM | Viv Evans>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Have you seen the attempts to make sceptical comment illegal in Australia??

Mar 5, 2012 at 2:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterRKS

Observations of uncertain reliability over the last 2000 and reconstructions speculations for the previous 7000 years of solar activity over the last 9000 years are used as a constraint on possible future variations to produce probability distributions of total solar irradiance over the next 100 years.

FTFY

Mar 5, 2012 at 2:51 PM | Unregistered Commenterfnord

BTW...there is no need to speculate about past solar activity. It's all written in the Moon's soil (all 4+ billion years of it) and perhaps if NASA wasted a little less money than it does, we would've sent people or even just a rover to read it.

Mar 5, 2012 at 2:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterMaurizio Morabito

I have to ask -- would you buy a used car from these "climate scientists™"?

Mar 5, 2012 at 3:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

(I love the vagueness index! Thanks Barbara.)
Did you all notice the three different charts of TSI? Perhaps all three are wrong? Never mind all the solar influences besides TSI that can affect the temperature. MY BS detector burned out on this one.

Mar 5, 2012 at 3:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterEd Caryl

Mar 5, 2012 at 12:18 PM | solarmax

Of course, climate science completely ignores this and concentrates on the area where the Sun is at its most stable.

Hi solarmax,

Actually no, we don't ignore UV as a driver of climate, see this paper here, which the Bish had a talk on when he came here the other week.

Cheers

Richard

Mar 5, 2012 at 4:01 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Betts

Mar 5, 2012 at 11:51 AM | Barbara

Hi Barbara

Surely the "vagueness" as you call it is better than over-stating the certainty....?

Cheers

Richard

Mar 5, 2012 at 4:04 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Betts

Mar 5, 2012 at 12:18 PM | Martin A

It's quite hard to believe that a Met Office researcher whose investigations revealed that the effect of carbon dioxide had been over-estimated and that, in fact, other effects dominate climate change would progress rapidly within its hierarchy, no matter how rigorous and innovative their analysis.

I've spent years publishing papers saying that land use needs to be given more consideration (including several in collaboration with Roger Pielke Snr) and that the effects of CO2 on vegetation water use efficiency can partly offset increases in meteorological drought, and it doesn't seem to have done me any harm - I was one of the youngest people to reach the position of Scientific Strategic Head (one down from Director, and equivalent to Professor in academia).

OK I don't go as far as to say that other effects dominate, at least not on long timescales (I think the evidence is pretty strong that CO2, with its long lifetime and high rate of emissions, is important) but I do think that (a) land use has been largely overlooked and (b) the other (non-greenhouse) effects of CO2, which in some cases can be beneficial, have also been overlooked.

If someone here did come up with conclusive evidence that CO2 was of relatively small conseqeunce, I can honestly say that it wouldn't threaten our programme in the slightest. As I've said before, the main focus for developing climate models these days is to work towards informing adaptation planning, by ensuring that we can advice on future climate change and variability from whatever cause. Of course the models remain highly uncertain for this, so it ends up as an excercise in scenario planning as opposed to prediction, but we are making progress..... :-)

Mar 5, 2012 at 4:16 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Betts

Richard, if in my former life as an engineer I was so vague about a project I would have been sacked. Now I know the climate as a chaotic system is not easily followed or forecast so they is more uncertainty but is it progressing science if you release a paper which essentially says nothing.

Mar 5, 2012 at 4:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterBreath of Fresh Air

Mar 5, 2012 at 12:51 PM | Jonathan Drake

Is this paper timed for AR5 in order to over-ride all literature suggesting the opposite?

Hi Jonathan

Please can you list the key papers suggesting the opposite?

BTW Did you review the WG1 First Order Draft? I know Paul Matthews did. That was an opportunity to ensure that key papers were cited in the sections that discussed solar effects (both TSI and galactic cosmic rays) in the Radiative Forcing and Clouds and Aerosols chapters. If you didn't review the FOD, then I strongly encourage you to sign up to review the SOD and make your opinions known (backed up by papers, if the relevant ones are not already cited).

Cheers

Richard

Mar 5, 2012 at 4:21 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Betts

@ Viv Evans

Perhaps we ought to be grateful that we're not yet living in societies where dissent is 'rewarded' with prolonged stays in GULAGs, as during the reign of Lysenkoism

Perhaps not for long. Some ecofascists are very keen to imprison those who disagree with them. Others just think we should be killed.

Mar 5, 2012 at 4:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka

Mar 5, 2012 at 4:20 PM | Breath of Fresh Air

Richard, if in my former life as an engineer I was so vague about a project I would have been sacked. Now I know the climate as a chaotic system is not easily followed or forecast so they is more uncertainty but is it progressing science if you release a paper which essentially says nothing.

That's the difference between engineering and science. In engineering you need a firm answer. In science it is perfectly appropriate to say "this is what we think so far on the basis of the limited evidence we have available" and then refine your conclusions later if and when more evidence comes in.

Of course, this make it difficult for policymakers, who generally want certainty so they can make a decision in confidence. Unfortunately we usually can't give them certainty, so they have to make a judgement call.

Mar 5, 2012 at 4:24 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Betts

Richard,

What exactly do you mean by "meteorological drought"- what percentage reduction?- because it will have to be in excess of 30-40% to offset the reduced transpiration in a high CO2 world.

And can you explain what you mean by CO2's "long lifetime" (in the atmosphere)?

Mar 5, 2012 at 4:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

Mar 5, 2012 at 2:55 PM | Maurizio Morabito

BTW...there is no need to speculate about past solar activity. It's all written in the Moon's soil (all 4+ billion years of it) and perhaps if NASA wasted a little less money than it does, we would've sent people or even just a rover to read it.

Hey, that sounds pretty cool. Anyone else know about this kind of thing? Since NASA justified much of their satellite programme on Earth Observation for environmental change information, I'm surprised they missed such a cool excuse to go to the moon again.

Mar 5, 2012 at 4:42 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Betts

Going only by the thumbnail graphs below the abstract, it appears the global mean temperature (if that is what is shown in green represents), is already perilously close to breaking out to the low side of their uncertainty envelope for all scenarios.

This solar hockey stick is thus already so close to another embarassing decline of requiring considerably rather verbal and graphical gymnastics to hide than famous forerunners.

It is rather surprising that the authors, in particularly Lockwood who is well aware of the still rudimentary state of knowledge of solar physics and the magnetic cosmic sun paradigm, to stake all and jeopardize their reputations so rashly in a formal paper.

I've said before that the prudent climate advisor will have prepared an impact scenario for a cooling case, however unlikely he may deem it, in his hip pocket, just in case (Richard??)

Mar 5, 2012 at 4:43 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

Of course the models remain highly uncertain for this, so it ends up as an excercise in scenario planning as opposed to prediction, but we are making progress..... :-)

Mar 5, 2012 at 4:16 PM | Richard Betts

And always will !! sadly. It's like modelling economics: Just when the model seems to be working the reality changes.

Mar 5, 2012 at 4:49 PM | Unregistered Commenterstephen richards

Mar 5, 2012 at 4:37 PM | Don Keiller

"Drought" is usually locally-defined relative to the observed variability - driest X% of the time, where X varies according to whether you are defining moderate, severe or extreme drought. As you imply, the extent to which increased transpiration due to CO2 may offset decreased precip varies according to local background conditions - see my 2007 paper in Nature for our study of this (climate modelling again, I'm afraid!). Note that we do say:

This suggests that freshwater resources may be less limited than previously assumed under scenarios of future global warming

So five years ago I clearly said "It may not be as bad as we thought" and didn't get the sack :-)

Mar 5, 2012 at 4:50 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Betts

The next question. Why are you encouraging our idiot politicians to spend a fortune of our money planning anything against what is an uncertain scenario. Oh, and please do not say 'precaution'.

Mar 5, 2012 at 4:50 PM | Unregistered Commenterstephen richards

Mar 5, 2012 at 4:16 PM | Richard Betts


"Of course the models remain highly uncertain for this, so it ends up as an excercise in scenario planning as opposed to prediction, but we are making progress..... :-)"

Your candor deserves praise once again. However, if the authors of the article under discussion shared your candor then they could not or would not have published the article. If AGW proponents shared your candor there would be no backing for AGW from scientists.

Mar 5, 2012 at 4:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheo Goodwin

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