Global cooling/global waming: The sun and the missing data August 21, 2009Posted by honestclimate in sunspots.
Tags: climate change, global warming, sunspots
Global cooling/global waming: The sun and the missing data
By Steve LaNore
Examiner, August 20, 2009
The sun seems to be back to its slumbering ways as we head towards the fall 2009.
During the spring and summer months, sunspot activity, one measure of the sun’s energy output (another is the 10.7cm radio flux), was quite active. In July, the strongest flare in two years erupted from a spot that was rotating across the face of the sun. July was the third month in a row with heightened activity; this suggested a trend which would at last fall in line with projections for solar change.
However, solar physics is still a science very much on the frontier of discovery. I have read some blogs where contributors to “Web” thoughts are quite harsh and quick to weigh in that these missed forecasts show that scientists haven’t a clue about what the sun is doing.
Such viewpoints illustrate poor understanding of what science is all about. It’s a discovery process. Meteorologists don’t always get the forecast right (which is frustrating to me and all weather scientists) but it doesn’t mean our projections have no value at all. Astronomers have had to “change their story” over the centuries as better detection methods became available, etc. Furthermore, natural processes stump the most learned experts at times: earthquakes, volcanoes, tornadoes, and so forth.
Now, let’s lay aside the hits and misses of the science community and focus on what the sun is doing now. Since mid-July our friendly neighborhood star has gone blank again. It’s the longest blank streak in a year. This means a continuation of the deepest solar minimum in a hundred years: at least for now. The longest number of consecutive blank days during the present cycle 23/24 minimum was 52 during the summer of 2008. The most recent count was 41 as of August 20th.
If 2009 logs 64% blank days during the remainder of the year, it will better 2008. Given that the ratio YTD is 4/5 (or about 80%) through August 20, it’s quite possible 2009 will displace 2008 as the quietest year since 1913.
None of this is to say we’re entering some kind of “Dalton Minimum” or worse yet a “Maunder Minimum”. If this were to occur, then it’s possible a more significant and prolonged global cooling could occur. However the data supporting such a conclusion, although somewhat correlated to previous temperature dips, is not an iron clad case. Just as global warming as presented today is not.
If global warming were so over-riding of any natural process, (the warming of 1980-2000 is offered up as “proof”), please tell me why the trend has gone neutral to slightly cooler over the past few years. One would expect a continued upward trend given more and more carbon dioxide and methane in the air every year. Perhaps the sun and more likely oceanic cycles have a lot to do with this variation. If these fluctuations out of our control can make such a difference (as the 1997-1998 El Nino did with worldwide warming) in the global temperature distribution then who’s to say that the late 20th Century surge in heat is just another significant but natural anomaly like the sun’s present sleepiness, or record cold during the past few winters in Canada and the Great Lakes?
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