Exploring the effects of humanly generated factors in the role played by Solar activity in the climate. (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla)


Exploring the effects of humanly generated factors in the role played by Solar activity in the climate. (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla)

(comments updated 12/05/2014)

It is a matter of debate if the solar activity is a major force driving climatic events independently from any other factor. Having explored in previous posts the synergistic connections that exist between mechanisms involved in climatic events I have looked at the possibility of finding more than one position adopted by confronted scientists being feasible at the same time. Meaning, natural forces are strong enough to differentiate day from night and anthropogenic activities are relevant enough to affect the performance of those forces and the mechanisms associated.  Altogether the “correct proposal” would not come from defending the power of each force/effect isolated but what it comes from the combination of them. Like looking at the combined effect of sunlight, a magnifying glass and cloudy/clear skies.

Considering the strong influence that the Sun has in our planet, I have looked for indicators in literature pointing to the existence of “priming effects” from humanly generated factors interacting (enhancing or inhibiting) with the performance of Solar activity in the climate. It is not my intention or the scope of this essay to define the role played by the sun but just to explore the existence of such effects.

After having consulted several sources of information I have seen the difficulties that have persisted throughout time to define the strength and independence of the role played by the sun in the climate. I believe that the origin of such difficulties suggest the existence of an interaction from environmental and anthropogenic factors capable to interfere in the magnitude and format of the effect generated by solar activity in the climate. And, the best way to look into it is by following the historical evolution that it has been taken to explore the role played by the sun in our climate.

For this purpose I have consulted different sources of information. For my attempt I have used information and extracts published by several websites that I believe contain relevant information and references. Follow the appropriate links in order to consult the full body of those and share the credit. Please also feel free to make “constructive comments” either in this blog or in the LinkedIn discussion.

Here I will look into the associations that have been already identified throughout history between solar activity, climate, natural processes in the earth system and anthropogenic factors. And finally, I want to link historical findings, theories and approaches with the scientific results of the Inter-Agency Solar Terrestrial Program from 1996 and the actual positions adopted by institutions such as NASA and NOAA.

Where I stand.

Some of the comments that I have received in LinkeIn about my previous post on the Polar vortex breakdown have aimed to identify solar activity as the major force behind it. Once again it is a two sided question: humanly driven or naturally induced. One position claims that activities linked with human development is everything but innocuous for the environment. And that it has grown unaware of generating systemic effects strong enough to modify, not only the physical state of the ecosystem in which they are carried out (land, water, air and biota) but also with the potential to alter the climate at global scale. The other position postulates that the activities carried out by the human species are not strong enough to trigger changes in a system dominated by natural forces, too powerful to feel or allow the anthropogenic influence in the climate (i.e. Solar activity, geological forces, earth’s tilt and cosmic rays).

The forces behind the polar vortex breakdown, as far as looking for consensus, they are still being discussed. Or at least, the main drivers. There are so many parameters playing at the same time, with synergistic interactions, that it can be found lively debates arguing about individual drivers (solar radiation, ice cover, GHGs, natural variability, …), about miscalculations of feedback interactions and even the lack of reliability in the measurements applied. And sometimes I cannot but feel that there are several scientists being right at the same time, even when they feel that they are in opposite positions. Why do I say that? Because natural processes have never worked in isolation and that’s why evolution has allowed time to be the playground where stars led to rocks and rocks to cells and cells to organisms. Since organisms and environment share the molecules from which both are built the mere existence of each affects the other. Now, who is to point/blame as the main driver when identifying the impact of one over the other? Is the activity of the human species relevant enough to alter a planetary equilibrium? May be not on its own, but it is playing a role in a game which still it is not being fully understood.

Increasing amounts of aerosols and GHGs are affecting the adiabatic processes in the atmosphere. That could well play a role modifying the strength and stability of inter atmospheric cell connections (see previous posts: Climate, “normal variability” or “change”?, Climate variability and energy balance” and “Met Office. The Recent Storms and Floods in the UK (Feb 2014)”). That could not be a force on its own but enough contribution to create a “priming effect” amplifying (or/and inhibiting) the performance of other natural mechanisms involved such as solar activity, soil weathering, the biotic–abiotic feedback, albedo, variations in ice cover and so on (see previous post Resilience in our models and Resilience in our environment).

The Sun’s activity is a major piece playing a key role in the existence and performance of the environment and also the human species. However, how independent is the effect of the sun in our climate from the influence of other factors?

Connecting climate changes with solar variations throughout historical research.

(Extracts from the website created by Spencer Weart about the history of climate change. Follow the link to consult full body and numbered references http://www.aip.org/history/climate/solar.htm. )

Since it is the Sun’s energy that drives the weather system, scientists naturally wondered whether they might connect climate changes with solar variations. Yet the Sun seemed to be stable over the timescale of human civilization. Attempts to discover cyclic variations in weather and connect them with the 11-year sunspot cycle, or other possible solar cycles ranging up to a few centuries long, gave results that have created a lively debate.

The next crucial question was whether a rise in the Sun’s activity could explain the global warming seen in the 20th century? By the 1990s, there was a tentative answer: minor solar variations could indeed have been partly responsible for some past fluctuations… but could future warming from the rise in greenhouse gases outweigh any solar effects?

In the 1950s and 1960s, instruments on rockets that climbed above the atmosphere managed to measure the Sun’s ultraviolet radiation for the first time. They found that the radiation did intensify during high sunspot years. However, ultraviolet light does not penetrate below the stratosphere. Meteorologists found it most unlikely that changes in the thin stratosphere could affect the layers below, which contain far more mass and energy. Still, the hypothesis of atmospheric influence remained alive, if far from healthy.

A few scientists speculated more broadly. Maybe weather patterns were affected by the electrically charged particles that the Sun sprayed out as “solar wind.” More sunspots throw out more particles, and they might do something to the atmosphere. More indirectly, at times of high sunspot activity the solar wind pushes out a magnetic field that tends to shield the Earth from the cosmic rays that rain down from the universe beyond. When these rays penetrate the upper reaches of the atmosphere, they expend their energy producing sprays of charged particles.

Therefore, more sunspots would mean fewer of these particles. Either way there might be an influence on the weather. Meteorologists gave these ideas some credence.(18*) But the solar wind and ultraviolet carried only a tiny fraction of the Sun’s total energy output. If they did influence weather, it had to be through a subtle triggering mechanism that remained altogether mysterious. Anyway variations connected with sunspots seemed likely to bear only on temporary weather anomalies lasting a week or so (the timescale of variations in sunspot groups themselves), not on long-term climate change.(19) —–

Greenhouse gases

Another study came from a team led by the Danish glaciologist Willi Dansgaard. Inspecting layers of ancient ice in cores drilled from deep in the Greenland ice cap, they found cyclical variations. They supposed the Sun was responsible. For the cycle that they detected, about 80 years long, had already been reported by scientists who had analyzed small variations in the sunspot cycle.(22*) Another cycle with a length of about 180 years was also, the group suspected, caused by “changing conditions on the Sun.” The oscillations were so regular that in 1970 Dansgaard’s group boldly extrapolated the curves into the future. They began by matching their results with a global cooling trend that, as others reported, had been underway since around 1940. The group predicted the cooling would continue through the next one or two decades, followed by a warming trend for the following three decades or so.(23)

The geochemist Wallace Broecker was impressed. He “made a large leap of faith” (as he later put it) and assumed that the cycles were not just found in Greenland, but had a global reach.(24) He calculated that the global cooling trend since around 1940 could be explained by the way the two cycles both happened to be trending down. His combined curve would bottom out in the 1970s, then quickly head up. Greenhouse effect warming caused by human emissions of carbon dioxide gas ( CO2) could come on top of this rise, making for a dangerously abrupt warming.(25)

Later studies failed to find Dansgaard’s cycles globally. If they existed at all, the cause did not seem to be the Sun, but quasi-cyclical shifts in the North Atlantic Ocean’s surface warmth and winds. This was just another case of supposed global weather cycles that faded away as more data came in. It was also one of several cases where Broecker’s scientific instincts were sounder than his evidence. The downturn in temperature since the 1940s, whether due to a variation in the Sun’s radiation or some other natural cause, could indeed change to a natural upturn that would add to greenhouse warming instead of subtracting from it. In fact that happened, beginning in the 1970s.

The 1970s also brought controversial claims that weather data and tree rings from various parts of the American West revealed a 22-year cycle of droughts, presumably driven by the solar magnetic cycle. Coming at a time of severe droughts in the West and elsewhere, these claims caught some public attention.(26*) Scientists were beginning to understand, however, that the planet’s climate system could go through purely self-sustaining oscillations, driven by feedbacks between ocean temperatures and wind patterns. The patterns cycled quasi-regularly by themselves on timescales ranging from a few years (like the important El Niño – Southern Oscillation in the Pacific Ocean) to several decades. That might help to explain at least some of the quasi-regular cycles that had been tentatively associated with sunspots.

All this helped to guarantee that scientists would continue to scrutinize any possibility that solar activity could influence climate, but always with a skeptical eye. If meteorologists had misgivings, most astronomers dismissed outright any thought of important solar variations on a timescale of hundreds or thousands of years. Surface features like sunspots might cycle over decades, but that was a weak, superficial, and short-term effect. As for the main energy flow, improved theories of the nuclear furnace deep within the Sun showed stability over many millions of years. Alongside this sound scientific reasoning there may have been a less rational component. “We had adopted a kind of solar uniformitarianism,” solar physicist John (Jack) Eddy suggested in retrospect. “As people and as scientists we have always wanted the Sun to be better than other stars and better than it really is.”(27)

Aerosols, Particle Coalescence and Nuclei Activity.

In 1975 the respected meteorologist Robert Dickinson, of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado, took on the task of reviewing the American Meteorological Society’s official statement about solar influences on weather. He concluded that such influences were unlikely, for there was no reasonable mechanism in sight — except, maybe, one. Perhaps the electric charges that cosmic rays generated in the atmosphere somehow affected how dust and other aerosol particles coalesced. Perhaps that somehow affected cloudiness, since cloud droplets condensed on the nuclei formed by aerosol particles. This was just piling speculation on speculation, Dickinson hastened to point out. Scientists knew little about such processes, and would need to do much more research “to be able to verify or (as seems more likely) to disprove these ideas.” For all his frank skepticism, Dickinson had left the door open a crack. One way or another, it was now at least physically conceivable that changes in sunspots could have something to do with changes in climate. Most experts, however, continued to believe the idea was not only unproven but preposterous. Interest might be piqued when someone reported a new correlation between solar changes and weather, but nobody was surprised when further data and analysis knocked it down.(32*) ——-

In 1976, Eddy tied all the threads together in a paper that soon became famous. He was one of several solar experts in Boulder, where a vigorous community of astrophysicists, meteorologists, and other Earth scientists had grown up around the University of Colorado and NCAR. Yet Eddy was ignorant of the carbon-14 research — an example of the poor communication between fields that always impeded climate studies. He had won scant success in the usual sort of solar physics research, and in 1973 he lost his job as a researcher, finding only temporary work writing a history of NASA’s Skylab. In his spare time he pored over old books. Eddy had decided to review historical naked-eye sunspot records, with the aim of definitively confirming the long-standing belief that the sunspot cycle was stable over the centuries.

Instead, Eddy found evidence that the Sun was by no means as constant as astrophysicists supposed. Especially intriguing was evidence suggesting that during the “Little Ice Age” of the 16th-17th centuries, sky-watchers had observed almost no sunspot activity. People clear back to Herschel had noticed this prolonged dearth of sunspots. A 19th-century German astronomer, G.W. Spörer, had been the first to document it, and a little later, in 1890, the British astronomer E. Walter Maunder drew attention to the discovery and its significance for climate. Other scientists, however, thought this was just another case of dubious numbers at the edge of detectability. Maunder’s publications sank into obscurity. It was only by chance that while Eddy was working to prove the Sun was entirely stable, another solar specialist told him about Maunder’s work.(33*)

“As a solar astronomer I felt certain that it could never have happened,” Eddy later recalled. But hard historical work gradually persuaded him that the early modern solar observers were reliable — the absence of sunspot evidence really was evidence of an absence. Digging deeper, he found the inconstancy confirmed by historical sightings of auroras and of the solar corona at eclipses (both of which reflected activity on the Sun’s surface). Once his attention was drawn to the carbon-14 record, he saw that it too matched the pattern. All the evidence pointed to long-sustained minimums and at least one maximum of solar activity in the past two thousand years. It was “one more defeat in our long and losing battle to keep the Sun perfect, or, if not perfect, constant, and if inconstant, regular. Why we think the Sun should be any of these when other stars are not,” he continued, “is more a question for social than for physical science.” ——

At a 1976 workshop where Eddy first presented his full argument, his colleagues tentatively accepted that solar variability might be responsible for climate changes over periods of a few hundreds or thousands of years.(37) Eddy pressed on to turn up more evidence connecting temperature variations with carbon-14, which he took to measure solar activity. “In every case when long-term solar activity falls,” he claimed, “mid-latitude glaciers advance and climate cools.

Already while Eddy’s sunspot figures were in press, other scientists began to explore how far his idea might account for climate changes. Adding solar variability to the sporadic cooling caused by dust from volcanic eruptions did seem to roughly track temperature trends over the entire last millennium.(39) Peering closer at the more accurate global temperatures measured since the late 19th century, a group of computer modellers got a decent match using only the record of volcanic eruptions plus greenhouse warming from increasing carbon dioxide — but they improved the match noticeably when they added in a record of solar variations. All this proved nothing, but gave more reason to devote effort to the question.(40)———-

Satellite measurements pinned down precisely how solar brightness varied with the number of sunspots. Over a sunspot cycle the energy radiated varied by barely one part in a thousand; measuring such tiny wiggles was a triumph of instrumentation.(48) A single decade of data was too short to support any definite conclusions about long-term climate change, but it was hard to see how such a slight variation could matter much.(49) Since the 1970s, rough calculations on general grounds had indicated that it should take a bigger variation, perhaps half a percent, to make a serious direct impact on global temperature. However, if the output could vary a tenth of a percent or so over a single sunspot cycle, it was plausible to imagine that larger, longer-lasting changes could have come during the Maunder Minimum and other major solar variations. That could have worked a real influence on climate.———

The proposed mechanism roughly resembled the speculation that Dickinson had offered, with little confidence, back in 1975. It began with the fact that in periods of low solar activity, the Sun’s shrunken magnetic field failed to divert cosmic rays from the Earth. When the cosmic rays hit the Earth’s atmosphere, they not only produced carbon-14, but also sprays of electrically charged molecules. Perhaps this electrification promoted the condensation of water droplets on aerosol particles? If so, there was indeed a mechanism to produce extra cloudiness. A later study of British weather confirmed that at least regionally there was “a small yet statistically significant effect of cosmic rays on daily cloudiness.”(53)——–

Whatever the exact form solar influences took, most scientists were coming to accept that the climate system was so unsteady that many kinds of minor external change could trigger a shift. It might not be necessary to invoke exotic cosmic ray mechanisms, for the system might be sensitive even to the tiny variations in the Sun’s total output of energy, the solar constant. The balance of scientific opinion tilted. Many experts now thought there was indeed a solar-climate connection.(55)—-

Rough limits could now be set on the extent of the Sun’s influence. For average sunspot activity decreased after 1980, and on the whole, solar activity had not increased during the half-century since 1950. As for cosmic rays, they had been measured since the 1950s and likewise showed no long-term trend. The continuing satellite measurements of the solar constant found it cycling within narrow limits, scarcely one part in a thousand. Yet the global temperature rise that had resumed in the 1970s was accelerating at a record-breaking pace, chalking up a total of 0.8°C of warming since the late 19th century. It seemed impossible to explain that using the Sun alone, without invoking greenhouse gases. “Over the past 20 years,” a group reviewing the data reported in 2007, “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.” It was a stroke of good luck that the rise of solar activity since the 19th century halted in the 1960s. For if solar activity had continued to rise, global temperatures might have climbed slightly faster — but scientists would have had a much harder job identifying the part play by greenhouse gases in a global warming.

The most advanced computer modelling groups did manage to reproduce the faint influence of the sunspot cycle on climate. Their calculations showed that since the 1970s that influence had been overtaken by the rising effects of greenhouse gases. The modellers got a good match to maps of the climate changes observed over the past century, but only if they included the effects of the gases, and not if they tried to attribute it all to the Sun. For example, if they put in only an increase of solar activity, the results showed a warmer stratosphere. Adding in the greenhouse effect made for stratospheric cooling (since the gases trapped heat closer to the surface). And cooling was what the observations showed.(57*)—————

Public positioning in 1996 and in actual times.

1996, Proceedings of the Symposium D0.1 of COSPAR Scientific Commission D which was held during the Thirty-First COSPAR Scientific Assembly, Birmingham, United Kingdom.

A symposium presenting the scientific results of the Inter-Agency Solar Terrestrial Program was convened by COSPAR commission D at the 31st Plenary meeting in Birmingham, UK, in July, 1996. RESULTS OF THE IASTP PROGRAM. Volume 20, Issues 4-5. 14-21 July, 1996. http://www-ssc.igpp.ucla.edu/IASTP/43/

What do we really know about the Sun-climate connection?
Eigil Friis-Christensen and Henrik Svensmark

Scientific discussions about the possible role of solar activity variations on climate have suffered from the lack of a precise physical mechanism that could account for the vast number of reported correlations. In particular it has not been possible to identify unambiguously neither the important solar activity parameter nor the primary climatic parameter in such relationships.

Solar activity variations have traditionally been associated with the sunspot number although it is well known that solar activity may not be described by a single number. In particular it has been difficult to find a good representation of the long-term variations of solar activity. That solar cycle relationships cannot just be extrapolated to represent long-term behaviour is demonstrated by the relative variations of the sunspot number and the geomagnetic activity index, aa. Although aa is an index specifically associated with the fluctuations in the terrestrial magnetic field, it does represent the result of the continuous interaction between the geomagnetic field and the solar wind, and hence some form of solar activity. In Figure 5 is shown a comparison between the aa-index and the sunspot number R since 1868 when systematic geomagnetic recordings allowed the derivation of the aa-index. The aa-index does show the 11-year cycle but two main differences between R and aa are clearly noticeable. Firstly, the individual cycles are very different with the aa record normally displaying several maxima whereas the sunspot record has only one dominant maximum in each cycle. The second fundamental difference is the different long-term variation seen in aa and R, in particular in the level at solar activity minima. This clearly demonstrates that some long-term change in the solar wind has taken place during this century which is not reflected in the sunspot number at solar minima.

The formation and radiative effect of clouds is one of the major uncertainties in climate modeling (Houghton et al., 1995). Due to the large radiative effect of clouds, any insufficiency in the parameterization of clouds will introduce major uncertainties in the results of the climate models. Recent results have indicated strong correlations between the total cloud cover and the cosmic ray flux, indicating that this could be the missing link between solar activity variations and climate changes. If this relationship can be confirmed and understood, a major obstacle in our understanding of natural climate variations may be removed and our chances of a credible estimate of the effects of manmade greenhouse gases could be significantly improved.

2012. NASA. The Effects of Solar Variability on Earth’s Climate:

A Workshop Report (2012)

http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2013/08jan_sunclimate/

On September 8-9, 2011, experts in solar physics, climate models, paleoclimatology, and atmospheric science assembled at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado for a workshop to consider the Sun’s variability over time and potential Sun-climate connections.

“In recent years, researchers have considered the possibility that the sun plays a role in global warming. After all, the sun is the main source of heat for our planet. The NRC report suggests, however, that the influence of solar variability is more regional than global.

“Some attendees stressed the need to put sun-climate data in standard formats and make them widely available for multidisciplinary study. Because the mechanisms for the sun’s influence on climate are complicated, researchers from many fields will have to work together to successfully model them and compare competing results.

Hal Maring, a climate scientist at NASA headquarters who has studied the report, notes that “lots of interesting possibilities were suggested by the panelists. However, few, if any, have been quantified to the point that we can definitively assess their impact on climate.” Hardening the possibilities into concrete, physically-complete models is a key challenge for the researchers.

Finally, many participants noted the difficulty in deciphering the sun-climate link from paleoclimate records such as tree rings and ice cores. Variations in Earth’s magnetic field and atmospheric circulation can affect the deposition of radioisotopes far more than actual solar activity. A better long-term record of the sun’s irradiance might be encoded in the rocks and sediments of the Moon or Mars. Studying other worlds might hold the key to our own.

2013. NOAA. THE SUN AND SUNSPOTS.

Can an increase or decrease in sunspot activity affect the Earth’s climate?

(http://www.crh.noaa.gov/fsd/?n=sunspots)
 

The jury is still out on how much sunspots can (or do) affect the Earth’s climate. Times of maximum sunspot activity are associated with a very slight increase in the energy output from the sun. Ultraviolet radiation increases dramatically during high sunspot activity, which can have a large effect on the Earth’s atmosphere. From the mid 1600s to early 1700s, a period of very low sunspot activity (known as the Maunder Minimum) coincided with a number of long winters and severe cold temperatures in Western Europe, called the Little Ice Age. It is not known whether the two phenomena are linked or if it was just coincidence. The reason it is hard to relate maximum and minimum solar activity (sunspots) to the Earth’s climate, is due to the complexity of the Earth’s climate itself. For example, how does one sort out whether a long-term weather change was caused by sunspots, or maybe a coinciding El Nino or La Nina? Increased volcanic eruptions can also affect the Earth’s climate by cooling the planet. And what about the burning of fossil fuels and clear cutting rain forests? One thing is more certain, sunspot cycles have been correlated in the width of tree ring growth. More study will be conducted in the future on relating sunspot activity and our Earth’s climate.

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About Diego Fdez-Sevilla, PhD.

Citing This Site "Title", published online "Month"+"Year", retrieved on "Month""Day", "Year" from http://www.diegofdezsevilla.wordpress.com. By Diego Fdez-Sevilla, PhD. More guidance on citing this web as a source can be found at NASA webpage: http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/bibliography/citations#! DOIs can be generated on demand by request at email: d.fdezsevilla(at)gmail.com for those publications missing at the ResearchGate profile vinculated with this project. **Author´s profile: Born in 1974. Bachelor in General Biology, Masters degree "Licenciado" in Environmental Sciences (2001, Spain). PhD in Aerobiology (2007, UK). Lived, acquired training and worked in Spain, UK, Germany and Poland. I have shared the outcome from my work previous to 2013 as scientific speaker in events held in those countries as well as in Switzerland and Finland. After 12 years performing research and working in institutions linked with environmental research and management, in 2013 I found myself in a period of transition searching for a new position or funding to support my own line of research. In the current competitive scenario, in order to demonstrate my capacities instead of just moving my cv waiting for my next opportunity to arrive, I decided to invest my energy and time in opening my own line of research sharing it in this blog. In March 2017 the budget reserved for this project has ended and its weekly basis time frame discontinued until new forms of economic and/or institutional support are incorporated into the project. The value of the data and the original nature of the research presented in this platform and at LinkedIn has proved to be worthy of consideration by the scientific community as well as for publication in scientific journals. However, without a position as member of an institution, it becomes very challenging to be published. I hope that this handicap do not overshadow the value of my achievements and that the Intellectual Property Rights generated with the license of attribution attached are respected and considered by the scientist involved in similar lines of research. **Any comment and feedback aimed to be constructive is welcome as well as any approach exploring professional opportunities to be part of.** In this blog I publish pieces of research focused on addressing relevant environmental questions. Furthermore, I try to break the barrier that academic publications very often offer isolating scientific findings from the general public. In that way I address those topics which I am familiar with, thanks to my training in environmental research, making them available throughout my posts. (see "Framework and Timeline" for a complete index). At this moment, 2017, I am living in Spain with no affiliation attachments. Free to relocate geographically worldwide. If you feel that I could be a contribution to your institution, team and projects don´t hesitate in contact me at d.fdezsevilla (at) gmail.com or consult my profile at LinkedIn, ResearchGate and Academia.edu. Also, I'd appreciate information about any opportunity that you might know and believe it could match with my aptitudes. The conclusions and ideas expressed in each post as part of my own creativity are part of my Intellectual Portfolio and are protected by Intellectual Property Laws. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial conditions. In citing my work from this website, be sure to include the date of access. (c)Diego Fdez-Sevilla, PhD, 2017. Filling in or Finding Out the gaps around. Publication accessed 20YY-MM-DD at https://diegofdezsevilla.wordpress.com/
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15 Responses to Exploring the effects of humanly generated factors in the role played by Solar activity in the climate. (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla)

  1. Stephen fraser says:

    Look at the publications of Beer and MCCracken et al. Galactic Cosmic Radiation. Be 10 and C 14

    Some interesting work now being done on tree rings and C 14

    It’s not the sun directly but perhaps it’s magnetic field

    I’m afraid your biases are evident but at least you have an enquiring mind and appear to be open ?

    Good luck for the future

    Like

    • Thanks Stephen for your comment.
      I have looked into your reference. Yes, I see it is part of the line of research about identifying and understanding astrophysical interference in planetary performance, and that of course applies to any planetary climate as such as the earth. And that will be useful to understand also the evolution in the climate of any other planet considered of sustaining life. However, I believe that what it makes a substantial difference when understanding climatic evolution due to astrophysical mechanisms is the existence of a biotic component interacting internally with those mechanisms (if that is what you mean by my evident bias). If the climate in a planet is sensitive enough to react against small changes in external influencing forces such as planetary alignment, radiation and so on, how much of this sensitivity would also react to internal forces and factors. And therefore, if any planet supports life, how much feedback can be expected by those factors originated by the development of its biota in combination with the astrophysical forces.
      As I pointed out in the introduction of this essay, The Sun’s activity is a major piece playing a key role in the existence and performance of the environment and also the human species. However, how independent is the effect of the astrophysical forces in our climate from the influence of internal planetary factors? And in particular, those generated by human activity.
      I deeply appreciate for anybody their contribution allowing me to extend my understanding of things by considering multiple points of view so please feel free to share your thoughts.

      Like

  2. Comment from a Linkedin’s member.
    (EXTREME RANGE WEATHER AND CLIMATE FORECASTS at STAR WEATHER)

    “Some of the comments that I have received in LinkeIn about my previous post on the Polar vortex breakdown have aimed to identify solar activity as the major force behind it. Once again it is a two sided question: humanly driven or naturally induced. !

    More important than winter vortex breakdowns, is the changing trends of Arctic & North Atlantic Oscillation conditions. Increased forcing whether GHG or solar will give more positive AO&NAO values, while the recent trend has been for more negative values. GHG forcing cannot decrease, so that leaves the decline in solar activity as the only possible explanation for the increase in frequency and intensity of -ve AO/NAO episodes

    Answer by me (Diego Fdez-Sevilla)

    Thanks for sharing.
    As I pointed out in the introduction of the essay, I am aware of that the Sun’s activity is a major piece playing a key role in the existence and performance of the environment and also the human species. However, how independent is the effect of the astrophysical forces in our climate from the influence of internal planetary factors? And in particular, those generated by human activity. That could not be a force on its own but enough contribution to create a “priming effect” amplifying (or/and inhibiting) the performance of other natural mechanisms involved such as soil weathering, the biotic–abiotic feedback, albedo, variations in ice cover and so on.
    GHGs gases and water vapour among them are involved in altering atmospheric absorption of solar radiation. Water vapour and Aerosol emissions in cloud formation and albedo. Solar UV-B output is related to biotic performance linked with aerosols emission and CO2 absorption and release. Studies looking at temperature trends (max, min and average) through night conditions show an increase in the 20th century (Alexander 2006). The NAO fluctuations are cyclic and there have not been identified single parameters strong enough in time to be the cause on its own. But what about synergistic feedbacks. If the climate in a planet is sensitive enough to react against small changes in external influencing forces such as planetary alignment, radiation and so on, how much of this sensitivity would also react to internal forces and factors? And therefore, if any planet supports life, how much feedback can be expected by those factors originated by the development of its biota (let say the human specie) in combination with the astrophysical forces?
    So It is a matter of debate if the solar activity is a major force driving climatic events independently from any other factor. Having explored in previous posts the synergistic connections that exist between mechanisms involved in climatic events I have looked at the possibility of finding more than one position adopted by confronted scientists being feasible at the same time. Meaning, natural forces like solar radiation are strong enough to differentiate day from night and anthropogenic activities are relevant enough to affect the performance of those forces and the mechanisms associated. Altogether the “correct proposal” would not come from defending the power of each force/effect isolated but what it comes from the combination of them. Like looking at the combined effect of sunlight, a magnifying glass and cloudy/clear skies over a piece of rock or wood.
    How independent is the effect of the sun in our climate from the influence of other factors?

    Like

  3. Comment from a Linkedin’s member.
    EXTREME RANGE WEATHER AND CLIMATE FORECASTS at STAR WEATHER

    “However, how independent is the effect of the astrophysical forces in our climate from the influence of internal planetary factors?”

    As far as I can see the dominant modes of climatic variability such as ENSO and the AMO are responding to changes in solar plasma behaviour, functioning as negative feedbacks.

    “The NAO fluctuations are cyclic and there have not been identified single parameters strong enough in time to be the cause on its own.”

    From my own research I have no doubt that there is a direct linkage between short term solar activity and the NAO&AO, it has formed the basis of my long range UK weather forecasts since 2008. Correlations to solar wind speeds are quite striking, as this study confirms:

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0273117713005802

    Reply (Diego Fdez-sevilla)

    “As far as I can see the dominant modes of climatic variability such as ENSO and the AMO are responding to changes in solar plasma behaviour, functioning as negative feedbacks.” Well not always, please see the article below.

    “I have no doubt that there is a direct linkage between short term solar activity and the NAO&AO”. Only between both?

    Study of Dust in Ice Cores Shows Volcanic Eruptions Interfere with the Effect of Sunspots on Global Climate – See more at: http://www.buffalo.edu/news/releases/2002/06/5735.html#sthash.wFbdktlU.dpuf

    The research, published in a paper in the May 15 issue of Geophysical Research Letters, provides striking evidence that sunspots — blemishes on the sun’s surface indicating strong solar activity — do influence global climate change, but that explosive volcanic eruptions on Earth can completely reverse those influences.

    “Knowing the mechanisms behind past climate changes is critical to our understanding of possible future changes in climate, such as global warming, and for assessing which of these changes are due to human activities and which arise naturally,” explained co-author Michael Stolz, doctoral candidate in the Department of Physics in UB’s College of Arts and Sciences.

    “For a long time people have tried to find out whether, for example, periods of maximum sunspots will influence the climate to behave in a certain way”. “Whenever scientists thought they had discovered something, say, they were seeing a positive correlation between temperature and sunspots, it would continue like that for several years and, all of a sudden, there would be a reversal and, instead, they would start to see a negative correlation.” “There seemed to be no consistent relationship between what the sun was doing and what the climate was doing,” said Michael Ram, Ph.D., professor of physics at UB and co-author on the paper.

    The scientists started out with the assumption that a low level of cosmic rays on Earth resulting from high sunspot activity would lead to less cloud cover and less rain, with resulting high dust levels.

    “This was true for the first three or four solar cycles we studied, from about 1930 to 1962, but then the correlation reversed itself, demonstrating that the mechanism couldn’t be what we thought,” said Ram.

    For example, in 1883, the Indonesian volcano Krakatau erupted in one of the deadliest volcanic disasters, killing 36,000 people. At exactly the same time, the data started to exhibit low dust concentration whenever there was high sunspot activity, a correlation that violated the scientists’ original assumptions.

    “By carefully studying the timing of other volcanic eruptions, we found that they coincided with all of the correlation reversals between sunspots and climate,” said Ram.

    “All energy comes from the sun, but the change in visible radiation from the sun during any one solar cycle is less than one half of a percent,” explained Stolz. “Scientists have said it’s impossible that so small a change could influence any signal in the climate. But here we have evidence to show that it’s not just radiation energy from the sun that is affecting climate, it’s the solar-modulated cosmic rays that have a strong influence because of their impact on cloud cover.”

    According to Donarummo, it long has been known that volcanoes add more dust and more sulfates to the atmosphere.

    The UB team discovered that these additional sulfates cause cosmic rays to have a more pronounced effect on Earth by spurring the formation of small droplets in the atmosphere that, in turn, cause the formation of a type of cloud that does not produce rain.

    “During these times of high volcanic activity, the sunspot/climate correlation reverses and dust levels rise, even in the absence of high sunspots,” explained Stolz.

    My question stands still “how independent is the effect of solar radiation in our climate from the influence of anthropogenic factors i.e. GHGs, Aerosol emissions?”

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  4. Comment from a Linkedin’s member.
    EXTREME RANGE WEATHER AND CLIMATE FORECASTS at STAR WEATHER

    1) Stratospheric volcanic aerosols do cause temporary surface cooling, no problem with that, though the surface cooling is often reduced by an El Nino response.
    Large eruptions are usually a response to a natural cold event (caused by a sharp short term fall in solar plasma velocity/pressure), that is stronger than the cooling caused by the stratospheric aerosols from the eruption. So the eruptions are dependent on solar variations.

    2) Sunspot number is not a good proxy for the solar wind behaviour. And I’m talking about a direct solar effect on polar air pressure and associated circulation patterns, not cosmic ray modulation of clouds.

    I said:
    “I have no doubt that there is a direct linkage between short term solar activity and the NAO&AO”.

    and you replied:
    “Only between both?”

    They do tend to track each other.

    You said:
    “My question stands still “how independent is the effect of solar radiation in our climate from the influence of anthropogenic factors i.e. GHGs, Aerosol emissions?”

    The effects of solar plasma variations are very independent. A +/- 1°C change in global mean surface temperature makes do difference to how negative the AO can drop to in the short term when the short term solar signal drops. We have evidence for that already in this solar cycle.

    My answer (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla)

    I can not disagree with your points. I can only defend an approach which I believe it is worthy to follow. I am trying to follow the idea of that the validity of a conclusion increases when it is reached when applying more than one approaches.

    Can anthropogenic factors play a role in amplifying the response of Earth’s climate system to changes in the solar signal?
    My previous posts with linked papers about the synergistic interactions identified in the environment being part of mechanisms of resilience suggest that possibility. I have seen also some links and looked into papers addressing atmospheric events with atmospheric water vapour content, particle nuclei activity, aerosol emissions and cloud formation. I have tried to extend the knowledge being part of my thoughts about Solar activity by applying an approach that instead of looking at the effect of Solar activity in the climate tries to identify the effect of planetary factors, including those generated by the human activity, in amplifying the response of Earth’s climate system to changes in the solar signal. Including mentioning in previous comments studies addressing synergistic interactions between solar vs biotic-abiotic processes. I believe that when understanding climatic evolution due to astrophysical mechanisms, it makes a substantial difference the existence of a biotic component interacting internally with those mechanisms. If the climate in a planet is sensitive enough to react against small changes in external influencing forces such as planetary alignment, radiation and so on, how much of this sensitivity would also react to internal forces and factors.
    My approach should not be so crazy.

    The Effects of Solar Variability on Earth’s Climate: A Workshop Report
    Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
    http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2013/08jan_sunclimate/

    Panel Discussion

    The final workshop session was a discussion led by chairs of the sessions, and all participants were encouraged to share their thoughts on the open research questions in these fields.

    Meehl had shown that there is a huge response in the equatorial Pacific to variations in solar-cycle flux, cooling of almost 1 degree, which is 10 times what might be expected from solar heating, at the solar peak years, relative to the average climatology, and that Meehl could reproduce this finding in global climate models with the mechanism of positive feedback using clouds. Held pointed out that one of the fundamental questions is whether the Pacific climate system plays a role. He expressed his doubts that the Pacific Ocean El Niño-Southern Oscillation-like dynamic is strongly involved in the response to the solar cycle. Tung summarized another mechanism discussed in Meehl’s presentation, the top-down stratosphere ozone mechanism, in which increased levels of radiation lead to increased ozone heating and ozone production, which modifies the temperature and zonal wind in the stratosphere, which in turn alters wave propagation. In addition, warming in the tropical lower stratosphere changes vertical convection in the tropics, and can shift the Hadley circulation and storm tracks.
    During the discussion period, several workshop participants stated that many of the major issues had been aired in the workshop but that significant and important work remained. Suggestions included looking at model studies in a systematic way; examining the paleoclimate record to see whether there were natural oscillations in the system that could result in the system transitioning from one mode to another; developing an understanding of the inherent timescales in the system and the feedbacks that might amplify effects;…

    Gerald North also summarized other issues that he felt had been addressed during the workshop and that were particularly noteworthy. Those issues included, among others the need to understand the role galactic cosmic rays may play in cloud nucleation;

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  5. Comment from a Linkedin’s member.
    EXTREME RANGE WEATHER AND CLIMATE FORECASTS at STAR WEATHER

    “He expressed his doubts that the Pacific Ocean El Niño-Southern Oscillation-like dynamic is strongly involved in the response to the solar cycle”

    That’s because he’s not looking at the relevant solar metric. The biggest drops in the solar wind signal is at maximum of the cycle, and just after minimum, which is where we usually find El Nino episodes. Solar cycles 22&23 were unusual in that there was much less drop at maximum, but just following the minima at 1997/98 and 2009/10 we see large drops in plasma velocity and big El Nino: http://snag.gy/ppB3v.jpg

    As for AGW amplifying the solar signal, in theory when in phase it would strengthen a more northerly atmospheric circulation and a positive Arctic Oscillation phase, but that depends on the real scale of CO2 forcing. Which if you regard ocean heat content being the main agent of maintaining global mean temperature, CO2 forcing could be pretty tiny. Noting that the Arctic Oscillation went negative in 2009/10 to a degree not seen since well over 100yrs (and extremely negative in March 2013 too), I don’t really see much evidence for CO2 forcing having mitigated the drops in short term solar forcing.

    Reply (Diego Fdez-Sevilla)

    First of all I have to acknowledge my limitations to contribute to your points. I might not be the best source of information here since my limited access to resources and data diminish my capacity to make data based assessments. Eventually I might even have to consider accepting a shop attendant position that pays the bills and this day… I will have to focus my energy on debating with my boss and apply my research skills in evaluating selling strategies (anybody out there in need for a critical enquiring mind?).

    But, at this moment I appreciate your input so back to busyness.
    I can tell you that I have experience in evaluating the limitations of monitoring environmental atmospheric conditions from fundamentally looking at limitations when monitoring meteorological parameters and biological atmospheric particle load and transport (pollen). From the papers that I have found throughout my career as researcher and my experience participating in debates there is a general bias admitted in today’s environmental data coming from conventionalisms based on prioritising building data sets. This situation induce many studies to overlook the impact that the disparity of representativeness of the data obtain between monitoring locations incorporates in the interpretation of many correlations.
    Those limitations are consciously present in my position about global climate variations. I am not in neither side, claiming in favour or against AGW. Actually, I would like to follow a side walk, trying to be apart from any already adopted preconception, trying to start from the bottom up and see which conclusions could be found following separate paths.
    We try to correlate increases in temperature with changes in our environment. That means looking at only parameters “knowingly” related with temperature. And this relation has to be direct in order to give the strongest correlations.
    The limitation that I see in this approach is that indirect effects from multivariable synergistic feedbacks are poorly considered. Instead of following the already settled in stone conception of temperature as the parameter to be correlated with anything or nothing I want to explore the idea of considering temperature as a mere symptom. Why not make the question backwards? Based on what we already know, what could be the possible implications in our ecosystem derived from the broad range of changes induced in our environment?

    The most difficult thing in environmental sciences is to recognise and characterize thresholds based on correlations. No correlation can explain and forecast or project the transition from a primitive thermodynamic geologically dominated system to the origin of biological processes. That transition changed the chemistry of the environment in the hydrosphere, landscape, soil weathering and atmosphere composition, affecting the thermodynamics of the whole system.
    No correlation can explain and forecast or project the genetic drift in evolution. The transition from simple structures with anaerobic and not solar related metabolism to complex organisms oxygen and solar dependent changed the availability of major volumes of elements by releasing them from their complex molecules in the water, ground and air.
    And it is as much difficult to understand which environmental conditions and parameters define the thresholds that change the magnitude of forces and trigger the activation of new systems (biotic and abiotic).
    Imagine water as an unknown substance and heat to represent the concept of what I see as our limitations in understanding environmental evolution. The characteristics (physic and chemical) of this substance are different between states from solid, liquid and gas. The major correlation defining the presence of those states is temperature and therefore, the force affecting changes is heat. The strength of any correlation between temperature and water is different for each state of the substance. And there are thresholds that break the correlations by defining changes in molecular organization (freezing and boiling points). But also other factors affect those correlations such as impurities (soluble substances) and environmental conditions such as pressure and surrounding water saturation.
    Following this idea, I would take Celsius degrees and liquid water to represent the time scale that we apply in studying environmental correlations. Similarly, in our timescale of environmental data, we see what happens between heat and temperature from 20 to 80 C. We can see raising temperatures in water correlating with other parameters (mostly heat related), and yet, the limitations of our measurements (we only monitor a small fraction of what is going on in our ecosystem, mostly in urbanized areas) and our understanding of synergistic interactions, make our models short-sighted to foresee thresholds marking points of inflexion which might induce changes in the dominant role played by the forces we know, as it would happen in order to foresee what would happen increasing temperature of liquid water beyond 100 C.
    The behaviour of the NAO/AO circulation might well generate an indirect indication of fluctuations in forces being part of the mechanisms driving our climate. The correlations might also point to connections between Solar activity and this event. However, if I am not wrong, the short term periodicity of the NAO and AO are strongly influenced by Continental proximity from both sides and above when compared with the pacific and Antarctic oscillations. If that is true, the environmental performance derived from land use and cover management in those continents would become a relevant factor to look at. Wouldn´t that be right?
    Investigating soil moisture–climate interactions in a changing climate: A review
    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0012825210000139
    Interactions between the atmosphere and terrestrial ecosystems: influence on weather and climate. Global Change Biology (1998) 4, 461–475
    http://www.cnr.berkeley.edu/biometlab/espm298/Piekle%20et%20al%201998%20GCB.pdf

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  6. EXTREME RANGE WEATHER AND CLIMATE FORECASTS at STAR WEATHER

    “However, if I am not wrong, the short term periodicity of the NAO and AO are strongly influenced by Continental proximity from both sides and above when compared with the pacific and Antarctic oscillations.”

    The periodicity? I don’t see why. For example, regional sea surface temperatures can effect the shape of the vortex and jet stream track, but they don’t dictate when the AO goes negative or positive.

    My reply (Diego Fdez-Sevilla)
    “However, if I am not wrong, the short term periodicity of the NAO and AO are strongly influenced by Continental proximity from both sides and above when compared with the pacific and Antarctic oscillations.”

    You say that you “don’t see why” the influence of Continental proximity could be related with the differential behaviour in the atmospheric circulation “in” and “between” northern and southern hemispheres?

    The most evident justification that I had in mind would come from the contrast in thermal behaviour (thus adiabatic processes) between water and land masses, the chemical composition of the atmosphere above those surfaces, the main difference in surface proportion of both type of surfaces between hemispheres, the role played by the orography in tropospheric circulation and the consideration of the existence of connections in atmospheric circulation in the vertical (from troposphere to stratosphere) and the horizontal (around the whole Northern hemisphere) connecting local cells into a global scale.

    I have done my own research about it and I see that it is a very active line of research with many implications justifying the need for questioning the impact that activities carried out over land surface could have in adiabatic processes linked with troposphere-stratosphere circulation as a result of potentially interfere with mechanisms involved in energy balance distribution and equilibrium.

    The differences between the stratosphere in the Southern Hemisphere (SH) and NH are indicative of the important interactions among dynamics, radiation and chemistry. Because the stratosphere is very nearly in geostrophic and hydrostatic balance, the strength of the wintertime westerly vortex that encircles the polar cap region is proportional to the temperature contrast between the polar cap region and lower latitudes. Consistent with the lower temperatures in the polar cap region, the wintertime SH polar vortex is much stronger and longer lasting than its NH counterpart. The SH wintertime stratospheric polar vortex forms about a month earlier in autumn than its NH counterpart, and it persists about 2 months later into the spring .

    The wintertime westerly vortex interacts strongly with the flux of planetary wave activity into the stratosphere from below. If the vortex is properly conditioned or the planetary waves are sufficiently strong, planetary waves propagating up from the troposphere can give rise to abrupt midwinter warmings. Planetary wave forcing in the SH is much weaker and vortex variability is much less in winter than in the NH. The weaker wave-driven meridional circulation during the SH winter is reflected in the relative warmth of the tropical tropopause during that season.

    The work of Thompson and Wallace (1998) also makes it clear that the variability in the AO consists of a transfer of mass in and out of the circumpolar polar vortex. A similar mode of variability (the Antarctic Oscillation or AA O) is known to exist in the Southern Hemisphere where the signature in the troposphere is even more symmetric about the pole (Thompson and Wallace, 2000). It seems likely that the bias towards the North Atlantic in the surface and middle troposphere structure of the AO is a consequence of the land-sea contrasts in the Northern Hemisphere (Thompson and Wallace, 1998) and presumably also the mountain ranges (e.g. The Rockies and Greenland) that cut across the path of the tropospheric jet stream.

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  7. EXTREME RANGE WEATHER AND CLIMATE FORECASTS at STAR WEATHER

    “You say that you “don’t see why” the influence of Continental proximity could be related with the differential behaviour in the atmospheric circulation “in” and “between” northern and southern hemispheres?”

    No I did not. In reply to your comment..

    “However, if I am not wrong, the short term periodicity of the NAO and AO are strongly influenced by Continental proximity from both sides and above when compared with the pacific and Antarctic oscillations.”

    I said: “The periodicity? I don’t see why.”

    My reply (Diego Fdez-Sevilla)
    Diego Fernández Sevilla, Ph.D.
    Aerobiologist and Environmental Research Analyst in active job search mode worldwide

    “The periodicity? I don’t see why.”

    Claiming that I have absolute answers wouldn´t be realistic. I would be publishing papers in that case.
    In my research I try to find the limits in the state of knowledge about some questions that I find relevant. Through debate I try to find input exploring the perception that others might have about those questions.
    In this particular case I think that the state of knowledge justify the line of research looking at the influence of continentality in atmospheric circulation and the periodicity of the oscillations (start, end, frequency and amplitude).
    For me, based on all previous comments, is not about why but how?

    And thanks for sharing your points of view. I really appreciate it.

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