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‘Curious’ Why The Sun Has Been So Dim Lately April 10, 2009

Posted by honestclimate in sunspots.
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‘Curious’ Why The Sun Has Been So Dim Lately


By Mish Michaels, WBZ Boston

“The Sun is the all encompassing energy giver to life on planet Earth,” said Dr. Willie Soon, an Astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.


And these days the sun is getting a lot of attention from scientists.

“The Sun is just slightly dimmer and has been for about the last 18 months,” said Dr. Soon. “And that is because there are very few sunspots.”

Sunspots are giant islands of magnetism on the Sun and the appearance of sunspots runs in 11 year cycles. When sunspots are abundant during the cycle, it is called the “solar maximum” and when there are few sunspots, it is considered to be the “solar minimum.”

Track changes in sunspots

“Right now we are in the deepest solar minimum of the entire Space Age,” stated Dr. Soon. “In fact, this is the quietest (fewest sunspots) Sun we have had in almost a century.”


And those lack of sunspots have a link to our climate.

“When you have a lot of sunspots, there is a lot more light energy coming from the Sun and that tends to warm the Earth,” added Dr. Soon.”When the Sun produces less sunspots, it essentially gives up less energy to the Earth’s climate system.”

And less energy means a cooler planet.

“There were very few sunspots in 2008 and by all measures, 2008 was a cold year,” said Dr. Soon. And that link between temperatures on Earth and sunspot activity can be picked out many times from past history.


“For example, from 1645 to 1715 there were no sunspots and it was a very, very cold period for our planet. Most call it the “Little Ice Age,” said Dr. Soon. “Based on my research, I tend to be in support of a very, very strong role by the Sun’s energy input as a climate driver. If you were to ask me about the role of CO2, I would say its very, very small,” he added.

In fact, Dr. Soon sees this historic solar minimum as an opportunity to reframe our understanding of Earth’s climate system.

“If this deep solar minimum continues and our planet cools while CO2 levels continue to rise, thinking needs to change. This will be a very telling time and it’s very, very useful in terms of science and society in my opinion,” concluded Dr. Soon.

Get a video about the Sun’s connection to Earth’s Climate: The general public can purchase the original Unstoppable Solar Cycles DVD here And teachers only can receive/purchase the school version here.  See story here.

See video interviews of Dr. Soon on Why the Sun is Dimmer These Days and the possible effects here.



1. Tim Holland - April 13, 2009

I smiled when I saw this post was about Dr. Soon. He and Sallie Balliunas have held down this side of the debate for so long (I remember first hearing their names in about 2002 as champions of the climate skeptic cause). I think one of the most telling aspects of this whole debate is how it is always the same handful of names on the one side (the skeptic side), whereas on the other side one has thousands upon thousands of the world’s best scientists. As a result, single names don’t tend to stick out as much on the side of those who take climate change to be a real and pressing concern.

From a scientific point of view – Dr. Soon may claim that changes in solar radiation has a greater impact on climate than CO2, but his work does not seem to explicitly address that question. That work has been done, though – there are many groups that are doing modeling of the relative importance of different climate forcings (there are about 13 different global climate models being worked on independently around the world right now, I think?). Their conclusions are universally that although changes in solar radiation have some effect, they are small relative to the contributions of greenhouse gases. This work is summarized in the IPCC’s fourth assessment report (2007) which is freely available online for anyone to read and form their own opinions from (www.ipcc.ch).

This ‘sun spot’ talk is nothing new to climate modelers (despite the hype that skeptics build around it… that simply because they have so little credible science to cling to) – sun spots and changes in solar radiation have been explicitly built into climate models for years (and have been shown to be relatively insignificant).

2. markinaustin - May 5, 2009

in the mean time, the models predict warming, CO2 is rising and all the while temps are flat or falling and ice is building up rapidly. now i realize that correlation does not imply causation, but this was predicted by the scientists you mock and now it is coming to pass. let’s give it some time to see what develops…

besides this guy is no dummy if he is with the Harvard-Smithsonian center for Astro physics.

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