A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).


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The Solar Wind may be changing the surface temperature of the North Atlantic

Could it be the missing key? The solar wind blasts charged particles, electrons, stuff, towards Earth at 500 km a second  — that’s one to two million miles per hour. It speeds up, slows down and shifts in direction as it travels past the Earth and has its own magnetic field. The wind speed varies from 300 km per second up to 800 and the impact on Earth changes with our magnetic field and our seasons. You might think this kind of monster flow might have some effect on our climate. But modern climate models are 95% certain that none of this matters. Only crazy people would think that a electrons flying past at a million miles per hour could “do something” to our stratosphere, or ozone, or cloud cover.

Curiously, a recent study shows that when the solar wind is fastest, the North Atlantic is coldest on the surface. The NAO (North Atlantic Oscillation) appears to correlate. The effect is strongest in the northern winter months. Notably the modern expert climate models fail to predict any of the cycles within our major ocean basins. How immature is our understanding of space weather?

Could changes in the solar wind be [...]

Extreme solar storms hit Earth in 774 and 993AD — What would happen if one hit now?

August 31, 201. This coronal mass ejection just missed Earth, according to NASA

There were two mysterious sudden spikes in carbon 14 in tree rings around a thousand years ago. Now some researchers at Lund University say they’ve matched those to beryllium layers in ice cores from the Arctic and Antarctic. Some wild event made these changes across continents all over the world at the same time, and about the only thing that could  have done that was a massive solar storm (or two). There are estimates these extreme storms would have been ten times stronger than the biggest solar storms we have had in the last few decades. The two big bad storms are described as a few times bigger than even the largest solar storm in modern history, which was The Carrington Event in 1859. The radioactive spikes specifically show up in tree rings in 774/775AD and 993/994AD. It’s pretty cool that we can pin those years down so accurately, and as an aside, I imagine it makes a fairly handy calibration point for tree ring researchers now that we know it was global.

Unfortunately, if one of those happened now, it would not be fun. The [...]

Earth creates tides in the rock that is the Moon

Earth from the Moon | NASA

Thanks to the Earth’s gravitational pull, the Moon is slightly egg shaped. The closest part bulges out by 51cm towards the Earth, and here’s the weirdest thing, the bulge moves.  The same side of the Moon always faces Earth, but if you stood on the Moon, the Earth would appear to wobble around a particular patch of “moon-sky”. And like a tide of rock, the bulge in the surface, slowly rolls around on the Moon –  following the pull from the Earth.

The ball of rock called the Moon is  3,474 km in diameter. I’m guessing the Man-on-the-Moon would not notice the tide much.

Though I imagine it will be a right headache for future Moonville Skyscrapers.

Despite  the force required to deform a ball of rock that large, and from such a distance, climate models in their infinite wisdom know that the science is settled and the Moon has no significant effect on Earth.

You might recall that Ian Wilson has other ideas, and suggests lunar cycles set up atmospheric standing waves which may seed ENSO patterns.

And we wonder why those models don’t work?


Can the Moon change our climate? Can tides in the atmosphere solve the mystery of ENSO?

Image by Luc Viatour

The Moon has such a big effect — moving 70% of the matter on the Earth’s surface every day, that it seems like the bleeding obvious to suggest that just maybe, it also affects the air, the wind, and causes atmospheric tides. Yet the climate models assume the effect is zero or close to it.

Indeed, it seems so obvious, it’s a “surely they have studied this before” moment. Though, as you’ll see, the reason lunar effects may have been ignored is not just “lunar-politics” and a lack of funding, but because it’s also seriously complex. Keep your brain engaged…

Ian Wilson and Nikolay Sidorenkov have published a provocative paper, Long-Term Lunar Atmospheric Tides in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s an epic effort of 14,000 words and a gallery of graphs. As these atmospheric tides swirl around the planet they appear to be creating standing waves of abnormal air-pressure that slowly circle the planet, once every 18 years. If this is right, then it could be the key to finally understanding, and one day predicting, the mysterious Pacific ENSO pattern that so affects the global climate. Even at this early stage, brave predictions are on [...]

The Moons’ influence on the atmosphere over Australia

We know the moon changes our tides, but can it also change our rainfall? Could the moon also cause tides in the atmosphere? Some researchers have found such periodic movements in air above 3000m. Some have suggested that the moon drives the cyclical shifts in the Length of Day (LOD) that occur on a fortnightly and seasonal basis.

Ian Wilson has been scouring the data quietly for years, following these ideas, and has found a link between lunar cycles and the sub tropical high pressure ridge that occurs in summer over the East Coast of Australia. He noticed there were 9.4 and 3.8 year cycles which match periods in spring tidal cycles. What matters is how close the full moon is to perhelion (the  closest point Earth comes to the Sun).  It’s yet another piece of the puzzle that the IPCC favoured models ignore.

The lunar forces are, not surprisingly, smaller than the solar one, and as the abstract points out: “it is not so much in what years do the lunar tides reach their maximum strength, but whether or not there are peaks in the strength of the lunar tides that re-occur at the same time within the annual [...]