Can't Blame the Sun for Global Warming, Says Study

Some skeptics of man-made global warming have pointed to the sun as being responsible, at least in part, for the recent warming of the planet. One recently advanced theory suggested that the sun's magnetic activity modulates the amount of cosmic rays reaching the earth. The basic idea is that cosmic rays affect cloud cover--the more cosmic rays, the more cloud cover and the cooler the temperature. The theory suggests a stronger solar magnetic field deflects cosmic rays which would lead to fewer clouds and higher temperatures.

Two European researchers are now publishing a study in the Proceedings of the Royal Society A which look at data for the sun's irradiance, the incidence of cosmic rays and the like on the earth's recent climate. What do they find?

There is considerable evidence for solar influence on the Earth’s pre-industrial climate and the Sun may well have been a factor in post-industrial climate change in the first half of the last century. Here we show that over the past 20 years, all the trends in the Sun that could have had an influence on the Earth’s climate have been in the opposite direction to that required to explain the observed rise in global mean temperatures.


One of the researchers tells the New Scientist:

"The upshot is that somewhere between 1985 and 1987 all the solar factors that could have affected climate have been going in the wrong direction. If they were really a big factor we would have cooling by now."

Of course in areas that are prey to big uncertainties, no study is definitive. However, as the evidence for man-made global warming continues to accumulate, policymakers and citizens should turn our attention to what should be done about it. See some of my thoughts on the carbon taxes vs. carbon markets here.

Disclosure: Just in case any H&R readers missed it, I am a former skeptic of man-made global warming. See my mea culpa here.

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  • ||

    Some skeptics of man-made global warming have pointed to the sun as being responsible, at least in part, for the recent warming of the planet

    How recent? This morning?

  • Milli Vanilli||

    That's a relief, cuz I've always Blamed It on the Rain

    [ducks. runs off]

  • ||

    Taktix: Recently--that is, since 5:30 AM here on the east US coast--temperatures probably warmed by about 20 degrees so far today. ;-)

    Recent in this case means the average global temperature since the 1970s.

  • ||

    Some skeptics of man-made global warming have pointed to the sun as being responsible

    You don't say.

  • ||

    Taktix® made me laugh.

  • ||

    Ronald, any thoughts on what to make of studies this year that have shown Mars and Neptune warming in recent decades? I think one explanation for Mars is that storms have increased dust in the air and reduced albedo (reflectiveness), but that strikes me as inconclusive and wouldn't explain Neptune. Solar influences would explain both, though.

    (I remain agnostic on the causes of terrestrial warming, but think the smart thing is to treat it as human-caused.)

  • ||

    Recent in this case means the average global temperature since the 1970s.

    I understand, but the joke was hanging out there Ron, I couldn't resist.

    P.S. This makes two recent times I've been correct by a staffer for a smart-ass comment. I must be on a roll.

  • ||

    So all of the climate change before the industrial revolution was caused by the sun but now the warming trend is caused by humans.
    I'm glad they straightened that one out.

    They say we should be in a cooling period now.
    I have hot and I've been cold but hot is better.
    Let me go fire up the BBQ and upgrade to a hummer.

  • ||

    Ron:
    So the New Scientist, which already has several articles calling Sun activity a myth of global warming deniers has finally found a study to support their preconceived beliefs in man made global warming.
    I was almost afraid there might be some science here.

  • stuartl||

    Limiting the study to the last 40 years seems flawed*. Sunspot activity has been going up for a much longer time, is it possible that the underlying sunspot trend is causing longer-term increases in temperature?

    *I am not challenging that the earth is warming, nor that man causes some part of the warming.

  • ||

    I'm actually glad to think global warming is man-made by the way--it means humans can (at least in principle) do something about it.

    If on the other hand global warming is just Mother Nature being a bitch--randomly warming and cooling the earth for no clear reason beyond, perhaps, amusing herself--we really are in trouble. We can't do much about the sun!

  • ||

    So, any bets on the next "Hey, look over there!" argument?

    The smart money is on volcanoes, but urban heat island development is running a strong second.

    I wonder what deniers will be reduced to blaming global warming on in ten years. Raccoons?

  • ed||

    Now as before, the question really is not whether the climate is changing for the worse (or better) but whether that change will be so gradual as to be meaningless 100 years from now. Who 100 years ago could have predicted the technology of today and our ability to manage our environment, to cope with both disaster and everyday climactic concerns?

  • ||

    This theory is well-known enough now that Discover ran a piece on it in the current issue. Personally, I don't know enough science to comment intelligently on whether or not it makes sense. And, since I haven't RTFA, I'm not going to imply that there was no actual science involved in the New Scientist study.

  • ||

    I think the most constructive thing this study effectively points out is that a consistent and continuous rise in average global temperature cannot be attributed to the sun's magnetic activity. This mostly takes this theory off the table for the deniers if they actually want to find the cause of global warming, rather than simply denying that it exists.

    *I too do not claim to know the exact source of global warming, however I believe in this particular case, we should err on the side of caution with respect to the environment.

  • uncle sam||

    What is the hysteresis factor due to the oceans?

  • ||

    This study was supported by and endorsed by James "Climate Change has been very, very good to me" Hansen.
    Please, if you are going to write off common sense and science please get some more credible sources.

  • D.A. Ridgely||

    The only way to make sure is to send a manned party to the sun to take better readings. I know what you're thinking -- it's too hot, they'd die!

    Easily solved. They go at night!

  • ||

    Shelby: Hmmm. Take a look at a 1998 MIT report on Triton warming (a moon of Neptune) which concluded:

    The 5 percent increase on the absolute temperature scale from about minus-392 degrees Fahrenheit to about minus-389 degrees Fahrenheit would be like the Earth experiencing a jump of about 22 degrees Fahrenheit.

    I further direct you to Russell Seitz's excellent blog where he posts on the topic which notes:

    So a 1 degree increase in Neptune's temperature requires a vastly greater change in solar output than does warming the Earth by 1 degree. About 29% to be exact.

    That has clearly not occurred.

    On the other hand, an April 2007 report in Geophysical Research Letters looking at concurrent Earth and Neptune warming concluded:

    If changing brightnesses and temperatures of two different planets are correlated, then some planetary climate changes may be due to variations in the solar system environment.

  • ||

    Reinmouse and Shelby
    Well if you want to endorse the precautionary principle every time a liberal gets a wild hair up their bottem, we will be living in the dark ages. But don;t worry we'll still have ESR to fall back on.

  • ||

    I like the term denier. It's the only word I can think of with a built-in sneer.

  • ||

    Is it possible that the Earth, after absorbing extra radiation from the sun for decades, is now re-emitting it, and thus continuing to warm the atmosphere?

    It's like when you shut off an electric stove, the air around the range doesn't immediately begin to cool.

  • ||

    Art -
    I have no interest in endorsing liberal proposals to combat climate change (which, we all know, have no chance of actually combatting climate change while leaving our economy still largely intact).
    I prefer to look at it from the standpoint of having other policies that make fosil fuel consumption cheaper to the consumer at point of purchase while using tax money to create that false market...

    or are you one of those "libertarians" who thinks that means "leave everything the way it is, but let me carry a gun?"

  • ||

    People are missing an important point...

    Regardless of the reason for global warming, if it is going to have bad effects for humanity, humanity should do something to address it. Knowing the actual cause gives a better indication of what to do to address it, but does not in and of itself tell us whether to address it or not.

    The more interesting question is, Can global warming be reduced for a cost lower than that of the warming itself? It is not at all clear that it can. It is certainly not certain that it can.

  • ||

    ed: May I direct you to my critique of the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change. And if you don't like what I have to say, you might also look at William Nordhaus' brilliant critique. And if you just can't get enough of the economics of climate change, you might consider Robert Mendelsohn's analysis of the Stern Review. Upshot--economic growth and technological progress, not sacrifice, is the way to beat global warming.

  • ||

    sufficed to say, you can pry my carbon emitting car out of my cold dead hands.

    Nuclear Power, reducing carbon emissions since 1946.

  • ||

    The planet warms not because of that great big ball of fire in sky, not becuse the ground sits on boiling lava, but because cows burp and fart.

    My problem with the global warming crowd is that they seem to exclude the fact that the planet has, and can, do it on its own. As soon as you start with the premise we are the cause, you lose me. We might or might not be a contributor, but to claim we cause global warming is false, the history of the planet clearly demonstrates the climate is always in flux and the ice age is an example of its naturally producing swings. If these people came out said our contribution causes some warming, I'm might start to listen.

    I think the reader from Ottawa sums it up.

  • ||

    What MikeP said.

    See my post just below his for details.

  • ||

    Joe said "I wonder what deniers will be reduced to blaming global warming on in ten years. Raccoons?"

    No, Joe, it will be God's punishment for our sinful ways...or something like that.

  • ||

    """The more interesting question is, Can global warming be reduced for a cost lower than that of the warming itself?"""

    This still assumes we are causing it, at least to the degree we can change it. I don't believe that so. Also, what's to say the trend will not reverse its self at no added expense to us?

    I'll give you credit about people missing the point. But if global warming is really going to get to the point where it becomes a real threat, we would probably be better off building cities underground than trying to pass a carbon tax.

  • ||

    Reinmoose
    I am a recovering liberal & environmentalist who knows that these people, organizations and "sciences" are full of sh**.

    Yes I would like for my government not to interfer in my life, however government is always growing so I guees that is what you mistake for "leaving things the way they are are." At least its better than continuing down the path of bigger government. Aren't you in the least bit concerned that global warming supporters are using this "science" to create a centralized planning of all energy, industry and life styles?


    As far as subsidizing fossil fuels. How about the direct costs of complying with regulations whether they are enviromental, labor, tax or any one of thousands of costs imposed on industry.

  • ed||

    Upshot--economic growth and technological progress, not sacrifice, is the way to beat global warming.

    Isn't that what I said?
    ("Who 100 years ago could have predicted the technology of today and our ability to manage our environment, to cope with both disaster and everyday climactic concerns?")

  • ||

    NASA Director of Climate Studies is not a credible source on climate information, because he has spent the last decade or so making public statements about global warming and his reputation has increases as a result.

    I love this logic.

    Robert Hansen says global warming is a real, human-induced problem.

    Yeah, but we shouldn't listen to Robert Hansen. He's biased.

    How do you we know he's biased?

    Well, he says that global warming is a real, human-induced problem.

  • ||

    Aren't you in the least bit concerned that global warming supporters are using this "science" to create a centralized planning of all energy, industry and life styles?

    Is this the 'vast left-wing conspiracy' I've heard so much about?

  • ||

    Aren't you in the least bit concerned that global warming supporters are using this "science" to create a centralized planning of all energy, industry and life styles?

    And they said Lysenkonism was dead!

    The truth is whatever advances the revolution, eh comrade?

  • ||

    ed: Yes. I was trying to give you even more evidence to back that conclusion. Unfortunately, I chose to do in a semi-ironic tone which led you (and perhaps others to believe) that I was criticizing your comments. For the record, I wasn't. You're right.

  • ||

    Warty, it's time to go on the offensive against those "individual rights deniers."

  • ||

    Aren't you in the least bit concerned that global warming supporters are using this "science" to create a centralized planning of all energy, industry and life styles?

    I am VERY concerned about this. Especially since it will both take over our lives AND fail at combatting global warming.

    As far as subsidizing fossil fuels. How about the direct costs of complying with regulations whether they are enviromental, labor, tax or any one of thousands of costs imposed on industry.

    Yup, get rid of them all. I think you mistake me for a liberal/supporter of government control, no?

  • ||

    TrickyVic,

    There are a number of geoengineering tricks that can be pulled out of the sleeves to handle global warming at very low cost. Those such as doping jet fuel with sulfur to put sun-reflecting sulfur dioxide in the upper atmosphere may not be long-term solutions, but they are very cheap and can be continued as needed. Those such as placing sun shields in orbit or at the earth-sun L1 point are more permanent and can be increased or decreased as needed. But they are more expensive.

    These measures will have side effects, but they are presumably less costly than the warming they are trying to limit. And the measures are a lot cheaper than relocating a couple billion people into underground cities.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    The real "deniers" are actually the believers in man made global warming. They continually deny the fact that NO ONE has actually proven that man made global warming exists.

    They keep yammering about "consensus" as if opinions were proof. Opinions are not proof.

    Show me a literal one for one cause and effect measurement of human induced "greenhouse gases" and increase in global temperature (which they can't even measure accurately at all to begin with), with the exact same level of certainty that it can be shown that stepping on the accelerator of a car makes it go faster, and then I'll beleive it.

    Otherwise, they haven't proven a damn thing.

  • LarryA||

    Here we show that over the past 20 years, all the trends in the Sun that could have had an influence on the Earth's climate have been in the opposite direction to that required to explain the observed rise in global mean temperatures.

    Of course it could be that the trends are influencing the Earth's climate in the opposite direction the scientists expect.

  • ||

    Why do I have this sense of dread that in our panic to do something about the spectre of global warming, we'll jump into a number of 'solutions' that either will:

    a. Not work

    b. Work better than intended thus creating the new terrible spectre of man-made global cooling

    Probably too many sci-fi novels. Or my run of the mill libertarian paranoia.

  • ||

    Upshot--economic growth and technological progress, not sacrifice, is the way to beat global warming.

    peer reviewed study please?

  • ||

    There are a number of geoengineering tricks that can be pulled out of the sleeves to handle global warming at very low cost. Those such as doping jet fuel with sulfur to put sun-reflecting sulfur dioxide in the upper atmosphere may not be long-term solutions, but they are very cheap and can be continued as needed. Those such as placing sun shields in orbit or at the earth-sun L1 point are more permanent and can be increased or decreased as needed. But they are more expensive.

    These measures will have side effects, but they are presumably less costly than the warming they are trying to limit. And the measures are a lot cheaper than relocating a couple billion people into underground cities.


    No green would ever go along with this because we would be "tampering" with the Earth. Which only demostrates the actual reasons behind their beliefs.

  • ||

    This mostly takes this theory off the table for the deniers if they actually want to find the cause of global warming, rather than simply denying that it exists.

    I really don't think anyone who has looked at this would say the earth is not warmer then it was in 1970s...the question is and has been for some time what are the factors and in what proportion that are causing the recent warming.

  • ||

    The truth is whatever advances the revolution, eh comrade?

    hey joe...that would might sound reasonable from someone who does not believe higher taxes lower unemployment...ie not you.

  • ||

    Show me a literal one for one cause and effect measurement of human induced "greenhouse gases" and increase in global temperature (which they can't even measure accurately at all to begin with), with the exact same level of certainty that it can be shown that stepping on the accelerator of a car makes it go faster, and then I'll beleive it.

    Try this.

    Or this.





  • Gilbert Martin||

    Nope.

    Neither one of those proves it.

  • ||

    Gilbert Martin,

    Do you agree or disagree that industrialization added more CO2, nitrous oxide and methane than would have occured naturally?

  • :-||

    "I wonder what deniers will be reduced to blaming global warming on in ten years. Raccoons?"

    if the global warming panickers are correct, there should be no deniers in ten years. We've been told it will be too late by then, so surely temperatures will have risen to record levels.

  • Russ 2000||

    Just in case any H&R readers missed it, I am a former skeptic of man-made global warming

    What if we call it government-made global warming? We always say "man-made" but we always assume it's "free-market individulaist/corporatist man" and never "government-coerced" man.

  • ||

    Face Thingy Guy,

    No matter what happens, Gilbert Martin will blame the racoons.

  • ||

    Just show me one case of one species turning into another. Then I'll believe in evolution.

    Until then - until you actually show me a dinosaur giving birth to a more bird-like dinosaur - no one has proved a thing.

    joshua corning, you can't even misstate my beliefs correctly. I'm irrational because I believe that higher minimum wages decrease unemployment, not higher taxes. Jeebus, you tried to make a straw man out of lawn clippings!

  • ||

    """There are a number of geoengineering tricks that can be pulled out of the sleeves to handle global warming at very low cost. Those such as doping jet fuel with sulfur to put sun-reflecting sulfur dioxide in the upper atmosphere may not be long-term solutions, but they are very cheap and can be continued as needed. Those such as placing sun shields in orbit or at the earth-sun L1 point are more permanent and can be increased or decreased as needed. But they are more expensive."""

    I'm nitpicking Mike, Planes generally fly on limited number of paths, comercial anyway, so I don't know if the sulfur would disperse properly, It seems that even coverage above, at least the populated areas might be required, pending upon winds aloft. Winds aloft could move the sulfur away from where it's needed. But it seems to be one of the better solutions I've heard.

    When you look at how long it's taken us to work on the ISS, the L1 option is a stretch.

    """Do you agree or disagree that industrialization added more CO2, nitrous oxide and methane than would have occured naturally?"""

    I don't know if that matters. One would still have to show that the "extra" output is harmful. Just because the environment is changing is not necessarily a bad thing for the planet. Maybe bad for us, maybe just an inconvience that requires one of MikeP's solutions. As far as we know, the planet is just trying to back to normal after the ice age. Something else to consider, the planet was in a cooling phase at the height of our industrial revolution.

    The inconvient reality, is that we don't really know enough to fully understand. That in its self is not a problem. Pretending that we do, is a problem. If you look past what Gore is saying, he's really just lobbying for the industry of his choice as most expoliticians do.

    Joe, does a catapillar turning into a butterfly count?

  • ||

    I'm with Russ 2000, though I imagine a great deal of statists would lynch you for it.

  • :-||

    Woo hoo, I have a twin!

  • ||

    Ron,

    Sorry I couldn't check back in for a while. I first ran across this Neptune data at Clayton Cramer's site; while there's a lot I disagree with him on, he usually engages the science honestly. He's pulled together a bunch of links on this:
    http://www.claytoncramer.com/weblog/2007_05_13_archive.html#2764209997433936597

  • Gilbert Martin||

    "Just show me one case of one species turning into another. Then I'll believe in evolution.

    Until then - until you actually show me a dinosaur giving birth to a more bird-like dinosaur - no one has proved a thing."

    For once, you're exactly right.

    That's why it's called the THEORY of evolution rather than the DEFINITIVELY ESTABLISHED FACT of evolution.

    Not that it matter in that case, since no one is trying to foist off massive tax and regulation increases on the public related to evolution as they are with the THEORY of global warming.

  • ||

    It's also called the "Theory of Gravity". That's because the existence of gravity is undisputed; the theory merely attempts to explain what is happening, and why. It seems to me the same applies to global warming, except that various theories are still competing to best explain it.

  • ||

    No way, TWO Face-thingy-guys!?! Be afraid. Be very afraid.

    I hereby declare that Face-thingy-guy Number 2 add a mouth of his choosing.

    Ah Gil, thank you. Thank your for not believing in global warming, thank you for not believing in evolution, thank you for acknowledging the faulty understanding of science that binds them together, thank you for comments on both subjects on the same thread...

    Gil, from the bottom of my liberal Democrat heart, thank you for being you.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    "It seems to me the same applies to global warming, except that various theories are still competing to best explain it."

    I don't really care whether it "seems to you" that the same thing applies - it doesn't.

  • ||

    This all seems to be smacking the solar warming and forcing hypothesis, which seems to be the one that the evidence is increasingly pointing toward, with a very flimsy and unconvincing reed/read. (the reed/read bit was spontaneous, I promise)

    In the first paragraph that Ron excerpts, the authors admit there is evidence for a long term case for solar forcing in that: There is considerable evidence for solar influence on the Earth's pre-industrial climate and the Sun may well have been a factor in post-industrial climate change in the first half of the last century.

    But then they find a 20 year period where temps didn't respond to less received solar radiation by going down. (BTW Ron, please watch the literature for us for any possible rebuttals of the posited 20 year received solar radiation reduction) This seems too small of a time frame to be much evidence against the solar forcing hypothesis when measured against the longer-term evidence for it that the authors admit.

    And wait a minute! The greenhouse gas hypothesis misses recent expected correlations by more than twice that time frame. The warming, as measured by sea level rise, which has been previously stressed by the warming alarmists (not that all who posit anthropogenic warming fall into that category) as the most time responsive indicator, has not correlated at all well with GH gas emissions. There was more sea level rise from 1900 to 1950 than there was from 1950 to 2000, despite GH gas emissions being far greater during the latter interval.

    Note that in Geophysical Research Letters in January a study found that: "the rate of sea level change was found to be larger in the early part of last century. In the first half of the 20th century sea level rose by about 2 millimeters per year, while averaging about 1.5 millimeters per year in the second half"

    http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2007/2006GL028492.shtml

    This seems far more damning of the GH gas forcing hypothesis than does the 20 year interval pointed to by the authors in their critique of the Solar forcing hypothesis

  • ||

    A strong part of the case for solar forcing is the evidence that other worlds in our solar system are also heating up. And there is no solar system body where temps (discounting rotation and revolution of course) have been found to be going down.

    Here is a non-technical summary concerning the other solar system bodies that have been found to be warming.

    http://wesclark.com/ubn/sun.html

  • ||

    An observation which challenges the following statement and a proposed study which may test it:


    One of the researchers tells the New Scientist:

    "The upshot is that somewhere between 1985 and 1987 all the solar factors that could have affected climate have been going in the wrong direction. If they were really a big factor we would have cooling by now."


    Not necessarily. From June 21/22 we in the Northern Hemisphere start receiving less solar radiation. Yet it's after this Summer solstice that we experience our warmest temps. Owing to various factors, including retained heat, for a while temps climb even as received solar radiation falls. There's a delay in the cooling effect.

    It might be interesting to compare the change in the amount of the reduction of received solar radiation per unit time over these 20 years with the reduction of received solar radiation after June 21/22 due to seasonal changes over time. And then extrapolate the ratio of the reduction over unit time of the seasonal change and the average date of the inception of colder temps on to this observed 20 year net solar radiation reduction to predict when temps should start to fall (assuming we have indeed received less solar radiation). Given the vastly greater reduction of solar radiation per unit time of the seasonal variation, the predicted inception of the cooling as a result of the proceeding 20 yr reduction of solar radiation might well be predicted to be further out than the present time. Of course, my proposed methodology might be open to attack cuz we're comparing the temps of a hemisphere with those of a whole globe.

  • ||

    Rick,

    The atmospheric and surface temperatures here on earth were just reconciled to Ron Bailey's satisfaction last year, and you are using temperature estimates from other planets as serious counter-evidence to all of the data that has led the overwhelming majority of climate scientists to conclude that human activity is the cause of warming?

    Skepticism that only goes on was isn't skepticism.

  • ||

    joe,

    It's not the temps that I doubt. it's the cause. If the sun is causing the temps of other globes to rise, why not Earth too? BTW, I too believe that the overwhelming majority of climate scientists believe that Earth is warming. But I'm dubious about such a majority believing in human activity as the cause of the warming, especially a significant cause.

  • ||

    Joe, what about a catapiller that turns into a butterfly?

  • ||

    Don't worry about global warming; nuclear winter will cancel it out...

  • Mark Bahner||

    "Disclosure: Just in case any H&R readers missed it, I am a former skeptic of man-made global warming."

    Just in case any H&R readers missed it, I posted the following comment on the Nature magazine "Climate Feedback" blog:

    "In my opinion, the fact that 'there are no predictions by the IPCC at all' constitutes scientific fraud. Specifically, as I have written on my blog:

    "The IPCC Third Assessment Report's (TAR's) projections for methane atmospheric concentrations, carbon dioxide emissions and atmospheric concentrations, and resultant temperature increases constitute the greatest fraud in the history of environmental science."

    Further, I would be happy to engage in a scientific debate with anyone who thinks otherwise.

    I would be happy to debate this matter here on Nature's Climate Feedback blog (where presumably the writers and editors of Nature think otherwise), on Scientific American's blog (where the writers and editors clearly think otherwise), at the Real Climate blog (where the authors presumably think otherwise), at the Prometheus blog (if they're interested, and are not afraid of the consequences of the public seeing that the scientific emperor has no clothes), at my blog, or anywhere else."

    So far, no takers after approximately 2 weeks.

    Why do y'all suppose that is?

    Mark Bahner (environmental engineer, professional skeptic)

  • Mark Bahner||

    "These measures will have side effects, but they are presumably less costly than the warming they are trying to limit."

    That's not necessarily so, as a very good case could be made that the warming that can be expected in this century will be a net benefit, not a net cost.

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