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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Is the Sun driving ozone and changing the climate?

In 2015 the hunt for clues continues…

The central mystery in climate science is the Sun. The direct energy from the 1.4 million-kilometer-wide flaming ball stays remarkably constant. The radiation pours down on us but the relentless sameness of the watts can’t be causing of the swings in temperature on Earth. Something else is going on with the Sun. For one thing, the total light energy coming off the Sun stays almost the same but the type of light changes — the spectrum shifts –  with more shorter wavelengths at one point in the cycle and longer wavelengths at the opposite part of the cycle. These have different effects. Shorter wavelengths (UV) generate ozone in the stratosphere and penetrate the ocean. Longer wavelengths don’t. But the Sun is also sending out charged particles and driving a massive fluctuating magnetic field, both of which affect Earth’s atmosphere.

But the tiny changes in total sunlight (TSI) may still be leaving us clues about other things going on with the Sun. David Evans’ notch-delay theory is that TSI is a leading indicator, and after solar TSI peaks, the temperatures on Earth follows with a peak roughly 11 years or so later (or one [...]

The North Atlantic jet stream correlates with Solar output over a millennium

A new paper (Moffa-Sánchez et al) reports that they looked at layers of dead plankton in ocean mud (otherwise known as foraminifera in marine sediments) and have reconstructed the temperature and salinity of a couple of spots in the North Atlantic between 818AD – 1780 with data on δ18O and the Mg/Ca ratios. One immediate thought, an aside, is that if this technique works, there is no shortage of ocean mud, surely, and perhaps we could drill and analyze more mud for solar correlations in other places. (I hear foraminifera live in the Southern Hemisphere too). Perhaps no one is looking for the connection with the sun?

Moffa-Sánchez et al find the big climate shifts (the 100-year variations) correlate with total solar irradiance (TSI). See especially that orange line black line track in the d graph below. I stress, correlations don’t mean causation and the mechanism is mere speculation. But I find the graph intruiging. There are a lot of turning points, and in pure “curve fitting” type of analysis, this is a better curve fit than the one with CO2. (Find me a turning point that matches with carbon dioxide!) I suspect we’ll be referring back to this paper, and I [...]

Paper suggests solar magnetic influence on Earth’s atmospheric pressure

 “…the role of the Sun is one of the largest unknowns in the climate system”

Meteorologists are already aware that changes in the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) can affect the polar regions of Earth. Now, for the first time Lam et al report the magnetic field appears to influence atmospheric pressure in the mid latitudes. Lam compared the average surface pressure at times when the magnetic field is either very strong or very weak and found a statistically significant wave structure similar to an atmospheric Rossby wave. They claim to show that this works through a mechanism that is a conventional meteorological process, and that the effect is large enough to influence weather patterns in the mid-latitudes. The size of the effect is similar to “initial analysis uncertainties” in “ensemble numerical weather prediction” (which I take to mean “climate models”).

They are suggesting that small changes in this solar influence on the upper atmosphere could produce important changes through  “non-linear evolution of atmospheric dynamics”.

Jo suggests that IPCC-favoured climate models don’t include any solar magnetic effect at all, which is just one of many reasons why they don’t work.

The large scale wandering convolutions of the jet stream [...]