JoNova

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

Image by Luc Viatour  www.Lucnix.be

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 [...]

Study finds global warming over past 400 years was due to increased Solar activity

TODAY June 7th 2011: Phenomenal eruption on the sun (see the bottom of the post for more info).

Apparently previous studies of the sun-climate connection looked at the equatorial polar magnetic field which produces sun spots, but they did not consider the polar magnetic component of the solar dynamo. The polar fields are less strong than the equatorial fields, but it is claimed that the total magnetic fluxes of both fields are comparable. With proxy data they derive an empirical relation between tropospherical temperatures and solar equatorial and polar magnetic fields. The polar field could contribute about 30% as much as the equatorial field.

The paper, published in the Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics focused on the period 1844-1960 (but extended at least one graph back to 1600) and finds our current warming period is not that different from earlier episodes and that the increase in solar activity in the last 400 years explains the warming, without any need to invoke a man-made enhanced greenhouse hypothesis.

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If carbon didn’t warm us, what did?

Svensmarks Cosmic Ray Theory. TOP: If the sun’s magnetic field is weak it allows more cosmic rays, which may seed more clouds on Earth. BOTTOM: A strong solar magnetic field blocks the same rays and could mean less clouds and clearer skies.

People have known for 200 years that there’s some link between sunspots and our climate.  In 1800, the astronomer William Herschel didn’t need a climate model, he didn’t even have a calculator — yet he could see that wheat prices rose and fell in time with the sunspot cycle. Since then, people have noticed that rainfall patterns are also linked to sunspots.

Sunspots themselves don’t make much difference to us, but they are a sign of how weak or strong the sun’s magnetic field is. This massive solar magnetic field reaches out around the Earth, and it shields us from cosmic rays. Dr Henrik Svensmark has suggested that if more cosmic rays reach further down into our atmosphere, they might ionize molecules and help “seed” more clouds. As it happens, this year, the sun has almost no sunspots, but for much of the late 20th Century, the solar magnetic field was extremely active. If the theory is [...]