Innocent sun

July 12, 2007 at 11:45 am | Posted in British press, California, Climate change, Framing science, Fröhlich, Lockwood, Media, My photos, Newspapers, Pacific, Photography, Public communication, Royal Society, Solar activity, sunset, TGGWS | Leave a comment

Around the time of Lockwood & Fröhlich’s latest publication, the (almost exclusively) British press presented the story under the following headlines:

Article

Author

Publisher

Date

Recent oppositely directed trends in solar climate forcings and the global mean surface air temperature Mike Lockwood & Claus Fröhlich The Royal Society 11 July 2007
No solar hiding place for greenhouse sceptics Q Schiermeier Nature 4 July 2007
Temperature rises ‘not caused by sun’ David Adam, Environment Correspondent The Guardian 5 July 2007
‘No Sun link’ to climate change Richard Black, Environment Correspondent BBC 10 July 2007
New analysis counters claims that solar activity is linked to global warming James Randerson, Science Correspondent The Guardian 11 July 2007
Solar activity ‘not the cause of global warming’ Steve Connor, Science Editor The Independent 11 July 2007
‘Sun not responsible for climate change’ Roger Highfield, Science Editor The Telegraph 11 July 2007
The sun is ‘in the clear on global warming’ Science & technology The Daily Mail 11 July 2007
The sun is not to blame for global warming, says study Science & technology The Daily Mail 11 July 2007
Sun ‘not behind climate change’ Agencies, Europe news AlJazeera 11 July 2007
Sceptics dismissed News in brief The Times 11 July 2007
Sun’s activity rules out link to global warming Catherine Brahic NewScientist Environment 11 July 2007
Solar variations not behind global warming: study Ben Hirschler, Science Correspondent Reuters 11 July 2007
Solar Radiation Didn’t Cause Recent Global Warming, Study Shows Alex Morales Bloomberg 11 July 2007
Solar activity cleared of global warming blame James Randerson, National News The Age, Australia 12 July 2007
Sun not global warming factor, according to UK & Swiss scientists William Atkins ITWire, Australia 12 July 2007
Sun Not a Global Warming Culprit, Study Says* Brian Handwerk National Geographic News 12 July 2007
Sun’s activity not to blame for climate change Lucy Sherriff, Technology News The Register, Yahoo! UK & Ireland News 13 July 2007

California Pacific sunset

Climate experts Mike Lockwood and Claus Fröhlich recently analysed changes in the Sun’s output and in Earth’s temperature. They found that relevant parameters for the Sun and Earth observed over the past twenty years show trends running in opposite directions.

In our two most recent decades, measures of the Sun’s output that contribute to changes in Earth’s climate—known as solar climate forcings—have declined while the global mean surface air temperature has risen.

Results of this recent research were published in the journal Proceedings A of the Royal Society on 11 July 2007. More specifically, the Lockwood & Fröhlich Journal Article ‘Recent oppositely directed trends in solar climate forcings and the global mean surface air temperature’ is online in several formats, accompanied by additional materials, via these two Royal Society Publishing pages:

http://www.journals.royalsoc.ac.uk/content/h844264320314105/

http://www.pubs.royalsoc.ac.uk/index.cfm?page=1086

This topic is well-summarised by tamino in his latest post ‘There Goes the Sun‘. He explains Lockwood & Fröhlich’s Figure 3. (showing trends in solar climate forcings) clearly:

Figure 3 Trends in solar climate forcings Lockwood & Fröhlich

Lockwood & Fröhlich draw these conclusions from their study:

5. Conclusions
There are many interesting palaeoclimate studies that suggest that solar variability had an influence on pre-industrial climate. There are also some detection–attribution studies using global climate models that suggest there was a detectable influence of solar variability in the first half of the twentieth century and that the solar radiative forcing variations were amplified by some mechanism that is, as yet, unknown. However, these findings are not relevant to any debates about modern climate change. Our results show that the observed rapid rise in global mean temperatures seen after 1985 cannot be ascribed to solar variability, whichever of the mechanisms is invoked and no matter how much the solar variation is amplified.

Please note their point on the relevance of various interesting studies to current conversations about climate change. There are plenty of interesting aspects, but we need to concentrate on the relevant points to have a chance of making good progress in combatting climate change.

Lockwood’s & Fröhlich’s findings directly challenge false claims made in The Great Global Warming Swindle (TGGWS) that current climate changes are the result of the Sun’s activity and other natural factors outside our control. In fact, this research adds further weight to the importance of the effects of human activity (e.g. industrial processes, mining, transportation, land use) on recent global rising temperature trends, and our need to deal with climate change honestly and urgently.

*P.S. For those of you who dislike my title, Innocent Sun, and tell me, “No way, Ho zay!” because the Sun is the source of 99% of our heat on Earth, I would politely respond that I am referring to its innocence in this particular case, in the same sense as Gavin Schmidt emphasises the current situation in his quote (discovered a week after choosing my title):


In the latest study, co-author Lockwood does report evidence for a past solar role in shaping Earth’s preindustrial climate.

“I even believe that you can detect in the climate record a solar influence up until about 1940,” he said.

“The trouble is that [in] about 1960 solar variability started to become dominated by fossil fuel burning and greenhouse gases.”

Gavin Schmidt, climate scientist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and an editor of the blog http://www.realclimate.org, agreed.

“Basically, there simply isn’t a trend in solar activity that would explain the rapid warming that has occurred in recent decades,” said Schmidt, who was unaffiliated with the study.

That isn’t to say that there isn’t a solar influence on climate change in the past, or that there isn’t still uncertainty in possible mechanisms, he added.

“But for what we are concerned about now, the sun is not too blame.

“Think of the sun as a criminal suspect who has a long record, but a cast iron alibi for the latest crime,” Schmidt said.

“And meanwhile, the fingerprints of CO2 are all over the murder weapon.”

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