Friday, December 07, 2007


John the farmer was in the fertilized egg business. He had several hundred young layers (hens), called "pullets", and ten roosters, whose job it was to fertilize the eggs.

The farmer kept records and any rooster that didn't perform went into the soup pot and was replaced. That took an awful lot of his time, so he bought a set of tiny bells and attached them to his roosters. Each bell had a different tone so John could tell from a distance, which rooster was performing. Now he could sit on the porch and fill out an efficiency report simply by listening to the bells.

The farmer's favorite rooster was old Butch, a very fine specimen he was, too. But on this particular morning John noticed old Butch's bell hadn't rung at all! John went to investigate. The other roosters were chasing pullets, bells-a-ringing. The pullets, hearing the roosters coming, would run for cover.

But to Farmer John's amazement, old Butch had his bell in his beak, so it couldn't ring. He'd sneak up on a pullet, do his job and walk on to the next one. John was so proud of old Butch, he entered him in the Renfrew County Fair and he became an overnight sensation among the judges.

The result...The judges not only awarded old Butch the No Bell Piece Prize but they also awarded him the Pulletsurprise as well.

Clearly old Butch was a politician in the making: who else but a politician could figure out how to win two of the most highly coveted awards on our planet by being the best at sneaking up on the populace and screwing them when they weren't paying attention.

Just remember November next year that the bells are not always audible


Could the Sun's inactivity save us from global warming? David Whitehouse explains why solar disempower may be the key to combating climate change

Something is happening to our Sun. It has to do with sunspots, or rather the activity cycle their coming and going signifies. After a period of exceptionally high activity in the 20th century, our Sun has suddenly gone exceptionally quiet. Months have passed with no spots visible on its disc. We are at the end of one cycle of activity and astronomers are waiting for the sunspots to return and mark the start of the next, the so-called cycle 24. They have been waiting for a while now with no sign it's on its way any time soon.

Sunspots - dark magnetic blotches on the Sun's surface - come and go in a roughly 11-year cycle of activity first noticed in 1843. It's related to the motion of super-hot, electrically charged gas inside the Sun - a kind of internal conveyor belt where vast sub-surface rivers of gas take 40 years to circulate from the equator to the poles and back. Somehow, in a way not very well understood, this circulation produces the sunspot cycle in which every 11 years there is a sunspot maximum followed by a minimum. But recently the Sun's internal circulation has been failing. In May 2006 this conveyor belt had slowed to a crawl - a record low. Nasa scientist David Hathaway said: "It's off the bottom of the charts... this has important repercussions for future solar activity." What's more, it's not the only indicator that the Sun is up to something.

Sunspots can be long or short, weak or strong and sometimes they can go away altogether. Following the discovery of the cycle, astronomers looked back through previous observations and were able to see it clearly until they reached the 17th century, when it seemed to disappear. It turned out to be a real absence, not one caused by a lack of observations. Astronomers called it the "Maunder Minimum." It was an astonishing discovery: our Sun can change. Between 1645 and 1715 sunspots were rare. About 50 were observed; there should have been 50,000.

Ever since the sunspot cycle was discovered, researchers have looked for its rhythm superimposed on the Earth's climate. In some cases it's there but usually at low levels. But there was something strange about the time when the sunspots disappeared that left scientists to ponder if the sun's unusual behaviour could have something to do with the fact that the 17th century was also a time when the Earth's northern hemisphere chilled with devastating consequences.

Scientists call that event the "Little Ice Age" and it affected Europe at just the wrong time. In response to the more benign climate of the earlier Medieval Warm Period, Europe's population may have doubled. But in the mid-17th century demographic growth stopped and in some areas fell, in part due to the reduced crop yields caused by climate change. Bread prices doubled and then quintupled and hunger weakened the population. The Italian historian Majolino Bisaccioni suggested that the wave of bad weather and revolutions might be due to the influence of the stars. But the Jesuit astronomer Giovanni Battista Riccioli speculated that fluctuations in the number of sunspots might be to blame, for he had noticed they were absent.

Looking back through sunspot records reveals many periods when the Sun's activity was high and low and in general they are related to warm and cool climatic periods. As well as the Little Ice Age, there was the weak Sun and the cold Iron Age, the active sun and the warm Bronze Age. Scientists cannot readily explain how the Sun's activity affects the Earth but it is an observational correlation that the Sun's moods have a climatic effect on the Earth.

Today's climate change consensus is that man-made greenhouse gases are warming the world and that we must act to curb them to reduce the projected temperature increase estimated at probably between 1.8C and 4.0C by the century's end. But throughout the 20th century, solar cycles had been increasing in strength. Almost everyone agrees that throughout most of the last century the solar influence was significant. Studies show that by the end of the 20th century the Sun's activity may have been at its highest for more than 8,000 years. Other solar parameters have been changing as well, such as the magnetic field the Sun sheds, which has almost doubled in the past century. But then things turned. In only the past decade or so the Sun has started a decline in activity, and the lateness of cycle 24 is an indicator.

Astronomers are watching the Sun, hoping to see the first stirrings of cycle 24. It should have arrived last December. The United States' National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted it would start in March 2007. Now they estimate March 2008, but they will soon have to make that even later. The first indications that the Sun is emerging from its current sunspot minimum will be the appearance of small spots at high latitude. They usually occur some 12-20 months before the start of a new cycle. These spots haven't appeared yet so cycle 24 will probably not begin to take place until 2009 at the earliest. The longer we have to wait for cycle 24, the weaker it is likely to be. Such behaviour is usually followed by cooler temperatures on Earth.

The past decade has been warmer than previous ones. It is the result of a rapid increase in global temperature between 1978 and 1998. Since then average temperatures have held at a high, though steady, level. Many computer climate projections suggest that the global temperatures will start to rise again in a few years. But those projections do not take into account the change in the Sun's behaviour. The tardiness of cycle 24 indicates that we might be entering a period of low solar activity that may counteract man-made greenhouse temperature increases. Some members of the Russian Academy of Sciences say we may be at the start of a period like that seen between 1790 and 1820, a minor decline in solar activity called the Dalton Minimum. They estimate that the Sun's reduced activity may cause a global temperature drop of 1.5C by 2020. This is larger than most sensible predictions of man-made global warming over this period.

It's something we must take seriously because what happened in the 17th century is bound to happen again some time. Recent work studying the periods when our Sun loses its sunspots, along with data on other Sun-like stars that may be behaving in the same way, suggests that our Sun may spend between 10 and 25 per cent of the time in this state. Perhaps the lateness of cycle 24 might even be the start of another Little Ice Age. If so, then our Sun might come to our rescue over climate change, mitigating mankind's influence and allowing us more time to act. It might even be the case that the Earth's response to low solar activity will overturn many of our assumptions about man's influence on climate change. We don't know. We must keep watching the sun.



By Ernest C. Njau


The variation patterns of global temperature were considerably turbulent from about 1870 up to 1940. Then just after 1940 these patterns underwent a sunspot-related change and adopted to relatively less turbulent variability. It is established here that these global temperature patterns are currently in the process of undergoing a sunspot-related change from the post-1940 relatively less turbulent variability back into relatively more turbulent variability. This apparently imminent state of more turbulent variability is expected to stop and at least slightly reverse the global warming trend, which has been going on since about 1965. Besides, it is shown separately that the mean of `global mean temperature variations' reaches the next peak at about the year 2005 after which it will expectedly be on a decreasing trend. Finally, it is shown that, contrary to projections made in the Third IPCC Assessment Report, Greenland is currently in an ongoing cooling trend which is expected to last up to at least the year 2035.

1. Introduction

Variability of rainfall in a region affects corresponding variability of available hydropower potential in that region. Also variability of cloudiness and hence also of temperature in a country affect corresponding availability of harvestable solar energy. Therefore, variability of rainfall and temperature as well as predictability of such variability are useful inputs into long-term energy policies.

In a recent publication [1], it was established that solar activity is related to a number of large and rapid changes in temperature and rainfall variation patterns at global, regional and station levels. In this case and in accordance with standard procedure, sunspot number (i.e. number of dark spots on the sun's disc) was used as a measure of solar activity. The results on sun-weather relationships contained in Ref. [1] created temptations that resulted into making investigations into whether solar activity is related in any way to the variability (or turbulence) levels of global climate variations as well as persistence of the current global warming trend. Following conclusive undertakings of the investigations just mentioned above, it is hereby reported in this article the results of the investigations. [...]

3. Prolonged cooling over Greenland

The expected halt in the current global warming trend which has been established in Section 2 is not reported in the Third Assessment Report [16] of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). As detailed in Ref. [15], the climate model projections and simulations contained in the latest IPCC report [16] completely miss out influences due to solar (or sunspot) associated climate variations. These climate model projections indicate that globally averaged surface temperature is projected to increase by 1.4-5.8 øC over the period 1990-2100. Also the local warming over Greenland is projected to be 1-3 times the global average. But as detailed below, temperature projections based on long Greenland records somehow contradict the projection just stated above on Greenland warming.

Data for Greenland temperature variations from 300 AD (see solid-line variations in Fig. 5) was taken and then spectrally analysed using the Maximum Entropy Method. This spectral analysis yielded one significant peak at a period of 410 years. The data just mentioned above was also low-pass filtered in order to remove all variations at periods less than 180 years. Then what remained after this filtering process was plotted in Fig. 5 using a discontinuous line. It can be obviously noted (even by mere visual inspection) that the discontinuous line in Fig. 5 oscillates, having minima at the years 440, 820, 1280 and 1690 as well as maxima at the years 620, 1080 and 1420. All this implies presence of an oscillation at a mean period of 410 years. The latter temperature oscillation is related to a solar (or sunspot) cycle of similar periodicity as explained in Refs. [9] and [15]. It is therefore primarily of solar origin.

Since the current anthropogenic activities are unable to permanently cancel out natural temperature oscillations such as seasonal cycles and sunspot-related oscillations [9], [13] and [15], the account given above shows that the Greenland temperature variations since 300 AD are dominated by a sunspot-related oscillation whose (mean) period is 410 years. This oscillation reaches a maximum between 1830 and 1895 and expectedly slides down to a minimum from 1830 to 1895 to the next minimum between 2035 and 2100. Expectedly Greenland is currently in a cooling process, and this cooling process is expected to persist up to at least 2035. Indeed, this explains why the Greenland ice sheet has not significantly started melting although all the climate models predict greatest greenhouse warming in the Arctic [16].

This section is ended by looking at another interesting feature in Fig. 5. From about the year 900 AD onwards, the solid-line in this figure consistently oscillates at periods between 60 and 160 years. As detailed in Ref. [15], the primary cause of this 60-160 years oscillation is a change in the main periodicity of solar or sunspot activity. This change in solar activity introduced a 60-160 years oscillation in the variations of the amplitude of the 11-years sunspot cycle. And the 60-160 years oscillation in the 11-years sunspot cycles is basically the cause of the 60-160 years oscillation in the Greenland temperature (see Ref. [15] for the mechanisms involved). The latest peak of this 60-160 years temperature oscillation in Fig. 5 occurred in 1925. Now simple extrapolation of this oscillation shows that the next peak is expected in about the year 2050. This implies that on the basis of the 60-160 years temperature oscillation alone, some significant cooling is expected to start at about 2050 and proceed to beyond 2100. It is now obvious that on the basis of both the 60-160 years temperature oscillation and the 410 years temperature oscillation discussed earlier in this section, Greenland is expected to undergo some significant cooling between 1990 and 2100.

4. Variations in the mean of global mean temperature

Section 2 uses the alternating states or modes of amplitude-modulation patterns in global mean temperature to show and hence conclude that some global cooling trend is expected during the early years of this century. Here the same conclusion is established using a different and simpler method.

The mean variation in Fig. 3 (shown by a smooth solid curve) clearly oscillates from 1856 onwards. This oscillation displays maxima in the years 1878 and 1942 as well as minima in the years 1909 and 1971. This series of maxima and minima indicate presence of a dominant oscillation with a mean period of 63 years. Simple forward extrapolation of this dominant oscillation shows that the next maximum will expectedly be in the year 2005. On this basis, some global cooling trend is expected to start in about 2005 and last up to about 2036. By coincidence, the latter year is approximately equal to the earliest year (arrived at in Section 3) at which some cooling trend over Greenland is expected to stop. Finally, it should be noted that the period of the 63 years oscillation mentioned above (in connection with global mean temperature) is equal to the period of the second harmonic of the sunspot oscillation shown in Fig. 4 using a series of x's. The theory and mechanisms through which the latter sunspot oscillation so significantly relates to global mean temperature variations are given in Refs. [9], [14] and [15].

5. Conclusion

The analysis given in the text establishes and predicts that the current global warming trend is expected to halt and at least slightly reverse during the early years of this century. This conclusion has been arrived at using three different methods. There is full confidence in the techniques used in arriving at this conclusion for the following reasons. First, long-standing techniques as well as modern techniques have been used to arrive at the above-mentioned conclusion. Second, the same techniques were employed as far back as 1999 in establishing and predicting that: (i) There would be an El Nino episode in 2002 (see Ref. [17]), and (ii) The El Nino episode mentioned in (i) above would be weak-to-moderate compared to the 1997/98 El Nino (see Ref. [18]). Expectedly both of predictions (i) and (ii) above have actually taken place as reported in Ref. [19]. On this basis, it is certain that the conclusions of this article are scientifically correct, and that these predictions are expected to take place as stated. These predictions are useful guides in the current efforts (notably in developing countries) aimed at formulating future policies and visions on renewable energy needs, technology and utilisation which are consistent with expected temperature and general climate patterns.



(Original title: "Temperature variations at Lake Qinghai on decadal scales and the possible relation to solar activities")

By Hai Xu et al.


Temperature variations at Lake Qinghai, northeastern Qinghai-Tibet plateau, were reconstructed based on four high-resolution temperature indicators of the ?18O and the ?13C of the bulk carbonate, total carbonate content, and the detrended ?15N of the organic matter. There are four obvious cold intervals during the past 600 years at Lake Qinghai, namely 1430-1470, 1650-1715, 1770-1820, and 1920-1940, synchronous with those recorded in tree rings at the northeast Qinghai-Tibet plateau. The intervals of 1430-1470, 1650-1715, and 1770-1820 are consistent with the three coldest intervals of the Little Ice Age. These obvious cold intervals are also synchronous with the minimums of the sunspot numbers during the past 600 years, suggesting that solar activities may dominate temperature variations on decadal scales at the northeastern Qinghai-Tibet plateau.

1. Introduction

It is well known that the Earth's temperature is influenced by variable factors, such as solar activity, atmospheric circulation, the complex topography, different land cover, and the greenhouse gases. The dominating factor that controls local temperature variation is different between different regions. Therefore, although the general trend of temperature variations over wide geographic areas has been figured out by numerous works, it is still urgent to make clear the details of regional temperature variations and the causes behind them.

The northeastern (NE) Qinghai-Tibet plateau is very sensitive to global climatic changes, with four planetary scale atmospheric circulations prevailing over there, namely the East Asian summer monsoon, the Indian summer monsoon, the Westerly, and the Asian winter monsoon. Temperature variations at this region have aroused wide attention. Yao et al. (2006) studied the temperatures during the last millennium based on ?18O in ice cores. Kang et al. (2000) reconstructed the temperature variations from tree ring width. Liu et al. (2004) carried out a study of dendrochronology and discussed temperature variations at this region. Although similarities exist between those various proxy indices, there are also some differences both in timing and in magnitudes, which seriously limits the understanding of the temperature mechanisms. Much more evidence is necessary to shed light on the details of temperature variations at the NE Qinghai-Tibet plateau.

On the other hand, previous work has suggested that climates on different timescales at the Qinghai-Tibet plateau may be driven by different forces. For example, based on the comparisons between climates recorded in ice cores in the Tibet plateau and those in Greenland, Yao et al. (2001a) pointed out that the climatic variations at the Tibet plateau on orbital timescales are dominantly controlled by solar irradiance. According to a temperature indicator of ?18O in peat cellulose, Xu et al. (2006a) suggested that the quasi-100-year solar activity may be responsible for temperature variations on centennial timescales at Hongyuan, NE Qinghai-Tibet plateau. However, as revealed from ice cores ([Wang et al., 2003] and [Wang et al., 2003]) and tree rings (Xu et al., unpublished data), temperature variations on annual scales are primarily influenced by atmospheric circulations, like the "El Ni¤o-South Oscillation" (ENSO). Our question is: what is the controlling factor of temperature variations on decadal scales at the NE Qinghai-Tibet plateau?

In this study, we studied temperature variations on decadal scales during the past 600 years based on temperature indicators extracted from Lake Qinghai, NE Qinghai-Tibet plateau. We compared the temperature indicators at Lake Qinghai with the proxy indices from tree rings nearby, and with the reconstructed solar activities. The results show that temperature variations at Lake Qinghai are synchronous with those at the NE Qinghai-Tibet plateau, and the main temperature events are generally in-phase with solar activities during the last 600 years. [...]

4. Solar activity and temperature variations on decadal scales at NE Qinghai-Tibet plateau

As pointed out by Eddy (1977), the Maunder minimum, during which nearly no sunspots were detected, corresponded to the coldest period of the LIA. After that, a large amount of evidence has been supplied for the solar-Earth climate relationship. For example, the sea surface temperatures (SSTs) of the Atlantic, the Pacific, the Indian Ocean, and that of the global average correlate well with the sunspot numbers (see Fig. 1 in Reid, 2000). The concentration of 10Be in Dye3 correlated well with temperature variations of the north hemisphere. Solar irradiance reconstructed from the observed solar cycle length and the observed sunspot numbers correlated well with temperature variations of the north hemisphere (see Fig. 8 in Beer et al., 2000). Solar activity can explain 75% of the total variance of temperature variations on decadal scales at the Arctic area during the last 130 years (Soon, 2005). Solar activity inferred from the concentration of 10Be also synchronized with the D-O events inferred from the variations of ?18O in GISP2 (van Geel, et al., 1999). The temperature variations inferred from ?18O in peat cellulose at Jinchuan, NE China, show nearly a "one to one" relationship with the variation of solar activity (Hong et al., 2000).

We compared the temperature variations at Lake Qinghai and the variation of solar activity during the last 600 years. As shown in Fig. 3, temperature variation at Lake Qinghai is obviously consistent with the solar activity on decadal scales. The cold period inferred from tree ring width during 1400-1500 correlated with the Sp”rer minimum (1402-1516) (Hsu, 1998). The cold period of 1650-1715 corresponded with the Maunder minimum (1645-1715). Hsu (1998) pointed out that the advance of the glacier during the LIA was most significant around 1700. Climate during 1770-1820 was cold, corresponding to the Dalton minimum (Fig. 3). Another cold interval occurred at 1920-1940, which can also be supported by the decrease of solar irradiance at this period of time (Fig. 3).

However, the physics behind the solar-earth climate relationship is not fully understood. The observations during the last two decades indicate a perturbation of 0.1% of the total solar irradiance. Based on the solar cycle length, Zhang et al. (1994) supposed a perturbation of 0.2-0.6% of solar irradiance since the Maunder minimum. Some other studies also showed a perturbation of about 0.2-0.6% based on proxy indices (see Reid, 2000, and references therein). How should such small perturbations of the solar irradiance lead to the observed global warming, what is the mechanism behind it, etc., are still open questions. Much more evidence and discussions are necessary for future studies.

5. Summary

Temperature variations are similar in trends at the NE Qinghai-Tibet plateau. The three strong decreases in temperature corresponded with the three coldest intervals of the LIA during the past 600 years. These three coldest intervals also correspond with the three solar minimum during the past 600 years, namely the Sp”rer, the Maunder, and the Dalton minimums. Such a relationship suggests that solar activities are possibly the controlling factor of temperature variations at the NE Qinghai-Tibet plateau on decadal scales.



By M.S. Potgieter


Cosmic rays are excellent indicators of the various solar cycle variations. Galactic and anomalous cosmic rays encounter an outward moving solar wind with cyclic magnetic-field fluctuations and turbulence, which constitute the convection and diffusion processes in the heliosphere. They also lose energy as they propagate inwards to Earth, and experience current sheet, global curvature and gradient drifts in the heliospheric magnetic field. As a result, the intensity of cosmic rays directly reflects the various solar cycle variations, from the well-known 11- and 22-year cycles, with the reversal of the solar magnetic field at extreme solar maximum, to highly temporal variations like proton flares, Forbush decreases, corotating interaction regions and a variety of propagating diffusion barriers. All these features contribute and influence space climate and weather at Earth. Recently, the time-dependent extent and the dynamics of the heliosphere, in particular the role of the heliosheath and the location of the heliopause, have been emphasized as important to very long-term space climate. Long-term modulation over 11-22 years is breifly reviewed with emphasis on the compound time-dependent approach in modeling the solar cycle variations of cosmic rays in the heliosphere.



("Shortwave forcing of the Earth's climate: Modern and historical variations in the Sun's irradiance and the Earth's reflectance")

By P.R. Goode et al.


Changes in the Earth's radiation budget are driven by changes in the balance between the thermal emission from the top of the atmosphere and the net sunlight absorbed. The shortwave radiation entering the climate system depends on the Sun's irradiance and the Earth's reflectance. Often, studies replace the net sunlight by proxy measures of solar irradiance, which is an oversimplification used in efforts to probe the Sun's role in past climate change. With new helioseismic data and new measures of the Earth's reflectance, we can usefully separate and constrain the relative roles of the net sunlight's two components, while probing the degree of their linkage. First, this is possible because helioseismic data provide the most precise measure ever of the solar cycle, which ultimately yields more profound physical limits on past irradiance variations. Since irradiance variations are apparently minimal, changes in the Earth's climate that seem to be associated with changes in the level of solar activity-the Maunder Minimum and the Little Ice age for example-would then seem to be due to terrestrial responses to more subtle changes in the Sun's spectrum of radiative output. This leads naturally to a linkage with terrestrial reflectance, the second component of the net sunlight, as the carrier of the terrestrial amplification of the Sun's varying output. Much progress has also been made in determining this difficult to measure, and not-so-well-known quantity. We review our understanding of these two closely linked, fundamental drivers of climate. [...]

6. Conclusions

In this paper we have reviewed the physical mechanisms behind solar irradiance variation, and we have reviewed how on the timescale of solar evolution, the Sun cannot have been any dimmer than it is at the most recent activity minima. We have also shown how concurrent changes in the Earth's reflectance can produce a much larger climate impact over relatively short time scales. Thus, a possible Sun-albedo link, would have the potential to produce large climate effects without the need for significant excursions in solar irradiance. These could provide an explanation for the apparently large climate response to apparently small solar changes, as well as how the year solar cycle is imprinted on Earth.

Regardless of its possible solar ties, we have seen how the Earth's large scale reflectance-and the short wavelength part of the Earth's radiation budget-is a much more variable climate parameter than previously thought and, thus, deserves to be studied in as much detail as changes in the Sun's output or changes in the Earth's atmospheric infrared emission produced by anthropogenic greenhouse gases. Long-term records of the Earth's reflectance will provide crucial input for general circulation climate models, and will significantly increase our ability to assess and predict climate change.



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