No solar hiding place for greenhouse sceptics

July 4, 2007 at 1:12 pm | Posted in Climate change, Nature, Sceptics | 31 Comments

Update: these clear graphs from the Met Office show:

  • levels of atmospheric CO2,
  • temperature changes ºC 1850-2000 observed and modelled for natural forcing with and without human activity
  • solar activity 1850-2000 showing solar irradiance and implied changes in global temperature ºC


Would any subscriber to Nature with Premium access care to tell me if this feature article has any new compelling points worth highlighting for sun-blamers?

No solar hiding place for greenhouse sceptics (subscription), UK – 2 hours ago
A study has confirmed that there are no grounds to blame the Sun for recent global warming. The analysis shows that global warming since 1985 has been

Climate change is a cocktail of many effects,” says Jasper Kirkby, a physicist at CERN, the European particle-physics laboratory near Geneva in Switzerland

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  1. i’d love to read that myself but my research institution doesn’t have a subscrition to nature and the that issue will take ages to get to the local library…

  2. Hi rui,

    Thanks for writing. I am pretty sure that a few of my visitors subscribe to Nature, so I shall wait patiently and see whether anyone has time to comment.

    You have chosen great images for your blog. Even though I cannot understand Portuguese, I can appreciate your topics of interest, and I am glad to see you have a link to the Natural History Museum—my world-favourite museum. (We were there a few weeks ago … there is never enough time!)

  3. The study itself is to be published by a Royal Society journal on Tuesday, and as well as being covered by Nature, it has also been covered by The Guardian – see

    As far as I can tell the study has nothing new to say: the fact that cosmic ray, solar and sunspot activity trends have all been going in the wrong direction for the past 30 years to have anything to do with global warming – during the precise period that temperatures have risen at by far the fastest rate this century and possibly ever – is well documented in the scientific literature. The only reason this study is newsworthy seems to me to be that it was carried out as a specific rebuttal to Swindle. But I’m glad it’s getting publicity.


  4. This is also covered on Wired here. The article links to a new paper which does seem to have really new information (but I haven’t read it yet).

  5. Hello Dave,

    Thank you very much! The Lockwood and Fröhlich paper ‘Recent oppositely-directed trends in solar climate forcings and the global mean surface air temperature’ must be the ‘in press’ one that Alan Thorpe mentioned during the Institute of Physics seminar a month ago.

    According to my notes Professor Thorpe was talking about ‘Weight of Evidence’, and this study shows that processes related to cosmic rays and total solar irradiance have been in the wrong sense to contribute to global warming since the latter peaked in 1985-87.

    Prior to this new paper, the article I have been directing doubters to is ‘Fake fights are not helping climate science‘ by Alan Thorpe, on the NERC website, while highlighting his quote:

    Scepticism is one thing; cynicism and conspiracy-theorising are quite another. These are the hallmarks of a recent attempt to discredit the widely accepted theory that human-made carbon dioxide emissions are causing global warming. A loose affiliation of scientists and writers is pushing the alternative idea that fluctuations in solar activity provide a better explanation for the rise and fall in the temperature of Earth’s atmosphere over the past few centuries.

  6. Thanks fermi!

    I skimmed the Wired article, and it covers a different separate study by Sloan and Wolfendale entitled ‘Cosmic Rays and Global Warming’, so that’s another paper to be aware of adding to the weight of evidence against solar-blaming sceptics’ claims.

    But T. Sloan from the University of Lancaster and A.W. Wolfendale from Durham University have looked carefully at the evidence and found it unconvincing. They published their results in a new paper called Cosmic Rays and Global Warming. Their research will be presented at the 30th International Cosmic Ray Conference, held in Merida Mexico from July 3 – July 11, 2007.

  7. Thanks everyone.
    Ok, so its nothing extremely new but at least this will keep all those cosmic/solar enthusiasts quiet for a while. That is until they come up with something crazier like underwater volcanism (I’ve seen hints of that somewhere…).

  8. Re. cosmic rays there’s also Realclimate at and; Jahnke (2005) at; Royer et al (2004) at; Rahmstorf et al. (2004) at (among others).

    Good article by Thorpe. One point he didn’t mention is that it is hardly in the interests of US climate scientists in particular to engage in the sort of “conspiracy” that the deniers claim that they are engaging in, given that their government has been making life difficult or impossible for them. See for instance the UCS at, and the US government memo at


  9. Thanks for all those links, Dave.

    You are right about the flaw in the deniers’ arguments. In simplistic terms, delusionists tend to use all the points that actually apply to themselves and transpose them to their opponents, without thinking through the specifics …

    Mike Lockwood just sent me his Royal Society reprint as a PDF, but I have not had time to read it, and I need to get some zeds now.

  10. BTW I’ve just read the Wired summary of Sloan and Wolfendale and I agree, it does seem to say more that’s (sort of) new than the other one does. I guess the strength of the Lockwood and Fröhlich one is the comprehensiveness of its analysis rather than there being anything new in it.

  11. Yes, my impression is that the paper by Lockwood and Fröhlich is ultra-copper-bottomed! Though I am not qualified to comment, so I shall leave that to expert witnesses.

  12. Also there’s another good Realclimate article on the subject at


  13. It is sad to see so many people being lead up the garden path by pseudo-science.

    I have a PhD in Astronomy {I mention this only because the first attack that I get is that I am not qualified to talk on such a technical subject]. Let’s just cut the chase.

    Solar irradiance and cosmic ray flux are not the only ways that the Earth’s weather can be affected from outside.

    We have overwhelming evidence that is about to come out in print [yes, that is a peer-reviewed journal] that shows that both the Earth’s climate as well as the level of solar activity are inertially driven by a spin-orbit coupling mechanism. This mechanism links deviations in the rate of the Earth’s and Sun’s spin rate to their orbital motion about the centre of mass of the solar system.

    We have strong evidence (spanning the last 400 years) that the muti-decadal anomalies in the Earth’s rotation set the phase of the Pacific Decdal Oscillation (PDO) which in turn determine the severity of the El Nino/La Nina events. Hence, these rotataion anomalies play an important
    role in setting the mean temperatures of the world’s oceans which play a crucial role in setting the World’s mean temperature.

    Our model does not rule out a direct link between the Sun and the Earth’s climate. What it claims is that BOTH the Earth’s climate and the Sun’s level of solar activity are driven by a similar underlying spin-orbit coupling mechanism.

    We believe that this is why there appears to be a general relationship between the level of solar activity and the Earth’s climate.

    Our modle predicts that the level of solar activity on the Sun will decrease significantly start in the late 2010′s and it will remain low until the mid 2040′s. Every time this has happened in the past the world has cooled by 1 – 1.5 C and it is about to do so again.

    So get out your woollies and enjoy the ride.

  14. Dear Ian Wilson,

    It is not only sad, but wrong and, worse still, dangerous to mislead people with pseudoscience.

    Your qualifications make it all the more important that you promote scientific truths based on the true weight of evidence, and you uphold the highest standards of scientific integrity.

    I would prefer to acknowledge my lack of knowledge on climate science and defer to scientists and the scientific community I trust, rather than listen to deluded scientists pushing misinformation. As an engineer, if I had based any of my designs on pseudoscientific theories, none of the products and solutions I designed that were built, installed and operational in the world would have worked. Engineers have to be able to detect the difference between science (which is usefully applied in the real world) and pathological science (which is at best a distraction from current problems and delays effective action).

    I am always sceptical when I hear a vague predictive claim such as yours, without names of authors, without name of publication, with a model that purports to have a single cause that affects climate (when the climate system is well-known to be much more complex than that), and that single cause being the scapegoat or holy grail that the rest of the world’s scientists have been unable to fathom. You did not even mention greenhouse gases in your blurb. Even if you were correct about your unique cooling forecast methodology, we humans are still causing the Earth to warm with our planet-aggressive actions, despite your proposed climate-favourable spin-orbit coupling mechanism, so your comments do nothing to diminish our responsibility to address anthropogenic climate change with gusto!

    You are not even talking cause and effect, with this statement:

    Our modle predicts that the level of solar activity on the Sun will decrease significantly start in the late 2010’s and it will remain low until the mid 2040’s. Every time this has happened in the past the world has cooled by 1 – 1.5 C and it is about to do so again.

    This is pure conjecture. It’s like my youngest son looking up at the sky and seeing a sheep chasing a whale in the clouds (because that’s what our white and grey clouds currently look like) and telling me that sheep always chase whales!

    Let me see if RealClimate have something for you to read … ahhh … gavin told you this almost a year ago:

    the lack of solar activity trend in recent decades makes it very difficult for any solar mechanism (even unknown ones) to account for the recent climate changes.

    If recent climate changes are not attributable to solar mechanisms, known or unknown, how can you predict future climate changes on the basis of solar activity models?

    The title of Lockwood and Fröhlich’s paper due to appear soon is, by the way:

    Recent oppositely-directed trends in solar climate forcings and the global mean surface air temperature

    Even if your model were able to correctly predict that the level of solar activity will decrease, that does not necessarily mean that we are heading for a cooling period, conveniently timed to match the likely lifetime of current proponents of this idea.

  15. The apparent link between changes in the rotation rate and changes in wind patterns (or vice versa) is very intriguing.

    Which is cause and which effect may be open to interpretation — but the link appears to be real, at least.

    In fact, this article says it might be a cascading kind of effect — one affects the other affects the other.

    By the way, here;’s what NASA has to say on the topic

  16. “We have overwhelming evidence that is about to come out in print [yes, that is a peer-reviewed journal] that shows that both the Earth’s climate as well as the level of solar activity are inertially driven by a spin-orbit coupling mechanism.”

    Isn’t that for others to decide once you’ve published?

  17. Dear George,

    There are many topics that are intriguing, and climate change sceptics can have a field day introducing new strands to an argument to knock a thread off course. We were talking about whether solar activity affects climate. I am not sure why you have introduced a NASA story written in 2003 about how wind affects changes in the Earth’s rotation at this point.

  18. My intention was not to do anything other than point out that the wind/rotation connection appears to be real.

    I myself made no claims that “rotation was driving winds” and certainly made no claim that “rotation is driving climate” (as were made above). I don’t believe I even insinuated as much (at least did not mean to).

    This is really the first i have read on the rotation subject and to be very honest, I am skeptical that rotation changes of the magnitude mentioned in the articles I linked to could be “causing” climate change. I think it more likely that winds are affecting rotation (as indicated by the NASA article that i linked to) than the other way around.

    But forgive me, I won’t comment any more on your blog.

  19. Sorry, george, for coming across as too harsh on you. Right after I answered Ian Wilson, I was too quick to respond impolitely to you, and I apologise for that. Here’s why I wrote that explanation:

    Students read my blog. Even if they do not comment online, I am not prepared to have us diverted off the main topic unless there is a good reason to do so. Rotation rates of our planet and wind patterns are not relevant to the “no grounds to blame the Sun for recent global warming” issue, beyond raising more questions than they answer.

    You are welcome to comment again.

  20. P.S. FYI. The spin-orbit coupling mechanism was suggested by Landscheidt many years ago, repeatedly, and the AGW-denying Association of British Drivers promoted that idea within the UK.

  21. If you had read the conclusions you would have found..

    “The dip in amplitude 1.3% of the low altitude CC(cloud cover) noted in reference [1]( Marsh, N. and Svensmark, H., Phys. Rev. Lett., 85, 5004 (2000). in solar cycle 22 has been seen also in this analysis. This dip correlates well in amplitude and shape with the observed mean daily SS (sunspot)number”

    ie solar not cosmic. I think you just shot yourself in the foot with this “smoking gun”

  22. You mean I should have said “adding to the weight of evidence against cosmic ray-blaming sceptics’ claims.”… ?

    Well, solar activity is implicated in the cosmic ray theories that sceptics promote as a natural (i.e. non-manmade) cause of climate change. Meanwhile, the weight of evidence indicates certain human activities are a primary cause for concern for the long-term health of our planet’s ecosystems.

    Alan Thorpe addressed these issues in his article for NewScientist ‘Fake fights are not helping climate science‘, and that Wired article ‘No Link Between Cosmic Rays and Global Warming‘ also articulates how sceptics explain the link between solar activity and cosmic rays:

    “Global warming skeptics explain the cosmic ray/cloud cover/global warming natural cycle as the interaction between the Sun’s 11-year cycle of solar activity and the magnitude of cosmic rays that reach the Earth’s atmosphere. As the solar wind increases, it buffets away cosmic rays that would reach the Earth’s magnetosphere.”

  23. Nope .I am saying you have no idea on what you are reading or talking about.

    There are a number of ways the sun effects climate.
    -A change in the solar constant of (wavelength) irradiance output.
    -Changes in ultraviolet irradiance that modulates temperature, atmospheric chemistry, and climatic dynamics such as precipitation and cloud formation .
    -Indirect and indirect influences by solar radiation and cosmic radiation(galactic)
    -Changes in magnetic and gravitational constants(solar).

    There are a number of flawed assumptions on the adequacy of GCM models to accurately reflect the exogenous variable forcings such as solar. The assumed parameters of solar variance are normally based on the infrared oscillations or the seasonal oscillations of direct heat(w/m2) and vertical energy transport. Measurements and analysis is usually undertaken on 1 or 2 parameters and the simplistic models used in GCM do not reflect the observations.

  24. Maksimovich,

    Thanks for cutting and pasting directly from your own post titled ‘The sun and climate‘.

    I am very aware that the climate system is more complex than many realise, and told you in the beginning that I am not a climate scientist, and I write primarily for middle school children. Nevertheless, I am not intimidated by your comments. You are deliberately trying to muddy the waters and waste my time.

    I posted an honest question that was answered by knowledgeable, helpful people who I would trust to clarify further points if necessary. By contrast, there is no reason for me to continue batting details back and forth with you when you have missed the point (or do not want to accept the point) of my original inquiry and have sought to undermine my confidence in asking a question in the first place.

  25. I see that inel is making sure that sure that no one will stray from the Gospel of Human-Induced Global Warming (GHIGW). He even warned the students who read his blog to cover their collective eyes, lest they may stray from the path of rightiousness.

    Wow! You guys are really starting a new religion!

    It’s always stunning to “true-science” at work.
    Let’s start out with the conclusion and then make sure the we only consider the facts that fit out pre-conceived ideas.

    For those who read this blog and still have an open mind, ask yourself the following questions:

    Why are the sea surface temperatures (and pressures) in the North Pacific (i.e. the Pacific Decadal Ocillation) and the North Atlantic (The Altlantic Multidecadal Oscillation) changing at times when there are assymetries in the motion of the Sun around the centre of the mass of the Solar system? How does the water in these oceans known about what is happening at the centre of the solar system?

    Any why have the speed of the meridional flow in the convective layer of the Sun and the polar magnetic field strength both started collapsing in the last few years? Could the Solar scientist at NASA be right in their predictions that sunspot cycles 25 and 26 will be substantilly weaker than past cycles.

    And why is it so heretical to doubt and ask questions?

  26. My thanks go to Dave Rado in particular for answering my original question. Also, nice to hear from you, rui and fermiparadox ;-)

    The remaining comments provide a nice compact case for students to study. If you imagine me as a consumer, seeking a solutiong to my question, this is how competitors pounced and tried to sell me an alternative to the answers I had just ‘bought’:

    Ian Wilson came in as ‘bad cop’, with an assault on technical matters, then George arrived (by chance, it seems) playing the part of ‘good cop’, with sypathy for Ian’s alternative theories about climate change causes. After that, maksimovich, obligatory expert, arrived on the scene to point out how ignorant I am and to belittle this conversation. Finally, Ian Wilson returned to play the religious card. These are classic tactics by denialists.

    The Guardian’s Science correspondent and the BBC’s Environment correspondentcover this story well.

    Yesterday’s publication of ‘Recent oppositely-directed trends in solar climate forcings and the global mean surface air temperature’ by Mike Lockwood and Claus Fröhlich in the Proceedings of the Royal Society A brings this discussion to a close.

  27. Ian Wilson,

    It is impossible to accept your pronouncements about spin-orbit coupling being the primary driver of both earth’s climate and solar activity, since your post is long on outlandish claims and short on details. Frankly, it sounds like a crackpot theory to me.

    But I’ll keep an open mind, and evaluate your work based on its merits. My Ph.D. is mathematics, my specialty is the statistical analysis of time series, I have a strong background in physics, and I worked for 10 years at an astrophysics research center. Please provide a link to a pdf of your soon-to-be-published-in-peer-review paper.

  28. Wake up everyone! All the honest non-government funded climate scientists know that the rise is average global temperatures CAUSES an increase in atmospheric CO2. It’s very simple:

    When the seawater warms up it releases CO2 into the atmosphere, which, when it is warmer, can absorb more CO2. Comversely, when temperatures drop, seawater can absorb and store more CO2, whereas the atmosphere cannot. Why all the panic? Ask yourselves who gains the most from all this alarmism. The oil companies? Maybe BP and General Electric (and Enron, had it not messed up its accounts).

    In any case, the fact that 75% or so of the “2500 scientists” the IPCC quotes as “agreeing” with the “human-produced CO2 causes global warming (and catastrophic climate change)” are not even climate scientists, and many of them are simply UN bureaucrats, is very suspect.

    I would suggest going to as a start.
    [Response: your idea that oil companies, BP, GE and even the former Enron (!) would possibly gain the most from "global warming alarmism" made me smile. So is the clear need to combat climate change yet another bad mark to add to the long list of current world problems blamed on large corporations or businesses you choose to dislike? That makes a change from blaming governments and scientists, I suppose. But, when all's said and done, pointing fingers at people or organisations is not an effective way to resolve problems. I would prefer to focus on problem-solving.]

  29. To add to my previous comment, since when can government consensus on a scientific issue be considered as fact? This is how the whole climate change issue is being treated. cf. church consensus in the Middle Ages on the geocentric theory and current church consensus on the Big Bang theory, which ties in nicely with religious dogma.
    [Response: government policy needs to be based on scientific evidence and must address climate change effectively; appropriate solutions need further incentives to be successful. Meanwhile, faith communities play a role in communicating, inspiring, and motivating members of the public to take action as individuals within collaborative environments.]

  30. Hellooooo!

    Has anyone kept up with 2008 temperature data and the solar magnetic field weakening? Remember that Ian Wilson said:

    “Any why have the speed of the meridional flow in the convective layer of the Sun and the polar magnetic field strength both started collapsing in the last few years?”

    Oh oh, and did anyone follow Met O’s prediction in January 2007? :)

    The sun’s magnetic field is now the weakest since measurements have been taken.

    Yes, yes… is all just masking the true science of AGW, but we must not get weary for the Big Warm is about to start any time now.


  31. Hello SW,
    Have you been keeping up with the 2008 Global Temperature in GISS Analysis by Hansen et al which was updated on 13 January 2009?
    According to the GISS analysis of surface air temperature measurements, 2008 is among the top ten warmest years since records began in 1880.
    Yes, yes… I realise that the first sentence of the paper began with the memorable line:

    Calendar year was the coolest year since 2000, according to the Goddard Institute for Space Studies analysis …

    … because it was written by scientists who chose to focus on the most recent decade. By contrast, PR staff would have chosen to highlight the results of the past 12 years in terms of the bigger picture, extending over more than a century, to emphasise the fact that

    the ten warmest years all occur within the 12-year period 1997-2008.

    Also, I am aware that the Composite Total Solar Irradiance (as studied by Fröhlich and Lean) recorded through November 2008 is at its lowest since satellite measurements began (1978 or 1979?) so provides a negative forcing relative to the mean, and the continuation of this negative forcing is something which some people like to speculate about. Of course, solar irradiance is not inconsequential—it has an effect on global temperature that is not small enough to be ignored, but the degree of change it is responsible for needs to be put into perspective. As I understand the relative influences, continually increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere do still cause changes in global temperatures that outweigh the effects of changes in the sun’s magnetic field.

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