As Earth Warms? The Sun Is Remarkably Quiet

Bob Henson, Weather Underground Blog

If you’re looking toward the sun to help explain this decade’s record global heat on Earth, look again. Solar activity has been below average for more than a decade, and the pattern appears set to continue, according to several top solar researchers. Solar Cycle 24, the one that will wrap up in the late 2010s, was the least active in more than a century. We now have outlooks for Cycle 25, the one that will prevail during the 2020s, and they’re calling for a cycle only about as strong as–and perhaps even less active than–Cycle 24.

While Henson tries to make the case that sunspots have little influence on the climate, citing Solar Cycle 24 low sunspot intensity, while planet experience rising global temperatures.

Newly precise measurements confirm that the total solar energy reaching Earth actually doesn’t change all that much from cycle to cycle. As a single cycle ramps up from minimum to maximum, the sun spits out as much as 10 times more energy in extreme ultraviolet wavelengths. However, the sun’s total energy output (irradiance) goes up by a mere 0.1% during a solar cycle, and this boosts global surface temperature by no more than 0.1°C per cycle, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Bolstering his argument with a chart from which seems to ignore the 20-year global warming pause in the satellite temperature measurements. I will leave that discussion for another time but it seems to me that the pause and a low solar cycle may have some connection. Moving on to more interest items in Bob Henson’s post,  the future of Solar Cycle 25.

Outlook for the 2020s: Another modest cycle
The community of solar researchers has only recently come into consensus on the “polar predictor” method of using polar magnetic fields as the best predictor of solar cycles. A decade ago, various methods produced conflicting results on how strong Cycle 24 would end up. Forecasts based on polar fields at solar minimum did remarkably well; others had more trouble in capturing the cycle’s length and strength. “One of the things we learned is that the difference between the hemispheres is critical,” said McIntosh. The north half of the sun ran about two years ahead of the south during Cycle 24, and that overlap led to the double-peaked maximum (2011 and 2014) while lessening the cycle’s overall peak strength.

Researchers are now trying to push the limits of prediction further. They’re using statistical and dynamical models, plus some data-based intuition, to predict several years in advance how the subsurface magnetic fields will look when they emerge near the poles around 2020, and what, in turn, those fields may tell us about Cycle 25.

• David Hathaway (recently retired from NASA) and Lisa Upton (NCAR and Space Systems Research Corporation) expect a Cycle 25 about as strong as Cycle 24, or perhaps slightly weaker. They published their outlook in November in the Journal of Geophysical Research. Hathaway and Upton used an ensemble model to project the polar fields from now to the end of 2019, with the ensemble showing an uncertainty by that point of about 15%. Natural solar variations in the early 2020s could add to the uncertainty, they note.

• Leif Svalgaard (Stanford University) pioneered the idea of using solar polar fields as prediction tools with colleagues in the 1970s, and he successfully pegged the eventual weakness of Cycle 24 back in 2005. Svalgaard is calling for a weak Cycle 25, but perhaps just a bit stronger than Cycle 24, based on precursors that appear slightly more active this time around.

• NCAR’s McIntosh believes Cycle 25 could extend the recent string of progressively weaker cycles. “We anticipate that the growing degree of overlap between cycles means that Cycle 25 will be weaker than Cycle 24,” he told me.

• Also at NCAR, Mausumi Dikpati will release her outlook for Cycle 25 in a paper to be published later this year. Dikpati and colleagues predicted a stronger-than-average Cycle 24 (as did Hathaway and others). This didn’t materialize, but Dikpati did correctly forecast that Cycle 24 would begin later than usual. Dikpati is now doing a post-mortem on her Cycle 24 forecast, which was based on a pioneering model of the solar dynamo (the flow of plasma that produces magnetism within the sun). As with weather models, she expects that improved data assimilation–bringing the latest observations into the solar dynamo model–will help boost its accuracy.

With several decades of quiet solar activity, we will be experiencing a “Grand Minimum.” The open question is will this Grand Minimum produce a cooler plant, similar to the Dalton Minimum or the Maunder Minimum which is associate with the little ice age. Only time will tell.  Your thoughts?

Bob Henson’s full post is HERE. It also includes an interesting discussion of the threat from solar eruptions to our electrical grid, even during a grand minimum.


David Archibald: Solar Cycle 25 Amplitude Prediction


A monthly smoothed maximum sunspot number of 62 is derived for Solar Cycle 25. This would probably be around 2025. This is almost down to Dalton Minimum levels.

[. . .]

My prediction for the peak sunspot number of Cycle 25 is a monthly count of 62.

Full report with graphics and explanation is at WUWT

David mentions the Dalton Minimum. Cycle six was a companion cycle during the Dalton Minimum. If David’s prediction is accurate, Cycle 25 will be much like Solar Cycle 6, which could bring on more Dalton like climate variation.

The climate was cooler during the Dalton Minimum.  Cycle 24 so far has produced the 18-year global warming pause. The IPCC credits the “hiatus” partly to decreased solar activity. Cycle 25 will most likely continue this cooling evident in Cycle 24.

Dalton Minimum resulted in an average temperature drop of about 1 Degree C. This resulted in shorter growing seasons, with later spring frosts and early rain and snow in the fall. Some of which was caused by the eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia in 1816, one of the two largest eruptions in the past 2000 years.  This mix of low sunspots and volcanic activity makes a climate prediction for more difficult. However there some speculation that reduced solar activity on the sun results in more volcanic activity on this planet. Increase vulcanization produces cooler climates.  Stay tuned, this is going be an interesting time to be climate observers.

Solar Cycles: The Bray (Hallstatt) Cycle

This is a link to a guest essay by Andy May and Javier at Watts Up With That

The evidence for a persistent irregular climate cycle with a period of 2400 ±200 years is strong. There is compelling evidence of a solar cycle of about the same length and phase; suggesting that the solar cycle might be causing the climate cycle. We will present a summary of the evidence, beginning with the original paleontological evidence, followed by the cosmogenic radionuclide (10Be or Beryllium-10 and 14C or Carbon-14) evidence. For more information, a bibliography of many papers discussing topics relevant to the Bray (Hallstatt) cycle can be found here. Only a small portion of the relevant papers are mentioned in this summary post.

This is the section that mentions solar grand minimums and maximums

The Bray cycle appears to be closely tied to tight clusters of grand solar maxima and minima. The Little Ice Age Wolf, Spörer, Maunder and Dalton grand minima are the best example of a solar grand minima cluster and they fall in a Bray low. The Greek Dark Age and the Homer grand minimum also fall in a Bray low. Significant historical events that fall in Bray lows are labeled in figure 2. A more complete picture of these events can be found here. The Little Ice Age (LIA) is a well-known cold period filled with plagues and suffering due to cold, for more details see here and in Dr. Wolfgang Behringer’s excellent book. The period labelled “GDA” is the Greek Dark Ages, during this Bray low the Late Bronze Age ended and after a period of civilization collapse, the Early Iron Age started. The “Uruk” Bray low event corresponds with the expansion of the Uruk civilization and the growth of some of the world’s first cities. Near the end of the Uruk Bray low, the Middle East transitions from the Copper Age to the Early Bronze Age and cuneiform writing appears.

You can read the full text of this interesting essay HERE. I also found the comments on this essay by Andy May and Javier very interest and worth your time to review. It is clear we have multiple solar cycles creating a complex mix of overlapping cycles, where the sum of the influence waxes and wains over time. We live in a complex universe.

A Cultural History of Climate

I am reading A Cultural History of Climate, by Wolfgang Behringer, after spotting it as one the reference used by Andy May is his Watts Up With That post on Climate and Human Civilization for the Past 4,000 Years. This a fascinating account of climate change’s impact on human history.

From the Amazon Book Review [edited]:

Global warming and the future of the climate is one of the greatest challenges of our time, but what do we know about climate variations 500 years ago, or 5000 years ago? How can we know anything at all about the history of weather? What impact has climate changes had on human prosperity and the spirit of invention?

In this major new book, Wolfgang Behringer introduces us to the latest historical research on the development of the earth’s climate. He focuses above all on the cultural reactions to climate change through the ages, showing how even minor modifications in the environment sometimes resulted in significant social, political and religious upheavals. By examining how our predecessors responded to climate changes, Behringer provides us with a fresh basis for thinking about how we might address the serious climatic challenges we face today.

I was struck by the variability in the climate even during the cold periods, including droughts, floods, extreme heat and cold as reported in the letters, journals, and sermons by those experiencing these conditions. These first-hand reports were chilling when you consider we are on the cusp of the Next Grand Minimum.

Little Ice Age Theory

By James A. Marusek, Retired U.S. Navy Physicist who is warning us of what is to come.

I. Introduction

General Discussion
The sun is undergoing a state change. It is possible that we may be at the cusp of the next Little Ice Age. For several centuries the relationship between periods of quiet sun and a prolonged brutal cold climate on Earth (referred to as Little Ice Ages) have been recognized. But the exact mechanisms behind this relationship have remained a mystery. We exist in an age of scientific enlightenment, equipped with modern tools to measure subtle changes with great precision. Therefore it is important to try and come to grips with these natural climatic drivers and mold the evolution of theories that describe the mechanisms behind Little Ice Ages.

The sun changes over time. There are decadal periods when the sun is very active magnetically, producing many sunspots. These periods are referred to as Solar Grand Maxima. And then there are periods when the sun is very weak producing few sunspot. These periods are called Solar Grand Minima. Solar Grand Minima correspond to dark cold glooming periods called Little Ice Ages. And there are states in-between. During most of the 20th century, the sun was in a Solar Grand Maxima. But that came to an abrupt end beginning in July 2000. The sun produced 6 massive explosions in rapid succession. Each of these explosions produced solar proton events with a proton flux greater than 10,000 pfu @ >10 MeV. These occurred in July 2000, November 2000, September 2001, two in November 2001, and a final one in October 2003. And there hasn’t been any of this magnitude since. Then the sun produced one of the weakest solar minimums since the Ap Index was first recorded (beginning in 1932). The current solar cycle (Solar Cycle 24) is very weak. Not quite weak enough to be called a Solar Grand Minima but very close. It is analogous to a period referred to as a ‘Dalton Minimum’.

As we transitioned from a Grand Solar Maxima, which typified the 20th century to a magnetically quiet solar period similar to a Dalton Minimum (~1798-1823 A.D.), it gave us the opportunity to observe the changes in solar parameters across this transition.

I propose two mechanisms primarily responsible for Little Ice Age climatic conditions. These two components are Cloud Theory and Wind Theory. At the core of Cloud Theory are galactic cosmic rays (GCRs) and at the core of Wind Theory are diamond dust ice crystals. During Little Ice Ages, there is an increase of low level clouds that cause a general global cooling and an alteration of the jet streams that drives cold air from upper latitudes deep into the mid latitude regions.

Little Ice Age conditions are defined not only by colder temperatures but also by a shift in the patterns of wind streams. They produce long-lasting locked wind stream patterns responsible for great floods and great droughts. They also affect the cycle of seasons producing great irregularity and crop failures. Altered wind streams impacts the development of massive storms and hurricanes. These Little Ice Age conditions in the past caused poor crop yields, famines, major epidemics, mass migration, war, and major political upheavals.

Read the full document HERE: Little_Ice_Age_Theory

Be sure to read Appendix A which catalogs the climate extremes during the Maunder Minimum.  We are on the cusp of a Grand Minimum, Dalton or Maunder type, only time will tell.


Warmer PIK Potsdam Institute Now Warning of “Mini Ice Age”

The No Tricks Zone has the story:

The daily Berliner Kurier here writes today that solar physicists at the ultra-warmist Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) are warning that Europe may be facing “a mini ice age” due to a possible protracted solar minimum. – See more at:

The Berliner Kurier writes:

That’s the conclusion that solar physicists of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research reached when looking at solar activity.”

The source of the Berliner Kurier report is the Austrian weather site here. The site writes that some solar physicists suspect the current solar inactivity may be “the start of a new grand minimum” like the one the planet saw in the 17th century and left Europe in an ice box.  [Emphasis added]

Full Report is HERE.


Bald Sun for 4 Days.

There are no visible sunspots on the most current solar image; courtesy NASA/SDO,
Meteorologist Paul Dorian shares some thought on the impact when spots vanish, the potential for a grand minimum.

Finally, if history is any guide, it is safe to say that weak solar activity for a prolonged period of time can have a cooling impact on global temperatures in the troposphere which is the bottom-most layer of Earth’s atmosphere – and where we all live. There have been two notable historical periods with decades-long episodes of low solar activity. The first period is known as the “Maunder Minimum”, named after the solar astronomer Edward Maunder, and it lasted from around 1645 to 1715. The second one is referred to as the “Dalton Minimum”, named for the English meteorologist John Dalton, and it lasted from about 1790 to 1830 (above). 

Both of these historical periods coincided with colder-than-normal global temperatures in an era that is now referred to by many scientists as the “Little Ice Age”. One of the reasons prolonged periods of weak solar activity may be associated with colder global temperatures has to do with a complicated relationship between solar activity, cosmic rays, and clouds on Earth.  Research studies in recent years have found that in times of low solar activity – where solar winds are typically weak – more cosmic rays reach the Earth’s atmosphere which, in turn, has been found to lead to an increase in certain types of clouds that can act to cool the Earth.

Paul Dorian’s conclusion:

This historically weak solar cycle continues the recent downward trend in sunspot cycle strength that began over thirty years ago during solar cycle 22. If this trend continues for the next couple of cycles, then there would likely be increasing talk of another “grand minimum” for the sun which correlates to an extended decades-long period of low solar activity. Some solar scientists are already predicting that the next solar cycle will be even weaker than this current one which has been historically weak. However, it is just too early for high confidence in those predictions since many solar scientists believe that the best predictor of future solar cycle strength involves activity at the sun’s poles during a solar minimum phase – something we are now rapidly approaching – and the current blank look to the sun is liable to become more and more frequent in the months to come.

Discussion is HERE.


Summer of 1816 in New Hampshire: A Tale of Two Freezes

Ric Werme writing at Watt Up With That has an interesting weather story that takes place during the Dalton Minimum. The article is quite long and he provides this Executive Summary:

  • The proximate cause of the cold weather in 1816 is the explosion of Mt Tambora in April 1815. This may have been the largest volcanic explosion in recorded human history and lofted a lot of sulfuric acid aerosols into the stratosphere. However, 1816 is just one of several cold years blamed on volcanoes, solar activity, and other causes.
  • There were warm days, even a few hot days. There were even some warm months mixed in with the cold ones, so the result was that the annual average temperature wasn’t very far from average. In this and other cases, small deviations can add up to a major impact on the length of the growing season, number of growing degree days, etc.
  • I think the weather pattern was most affected by high latitude cooling and the polar jet stream (the storm track) shifting southward. South of the storm track there was less cooling, but they were still affected by weather systems from the north. There are signs that the jet stream had a “meridional” flow which allows polar air to surge south and tropical air to surge north.The effect of volcanic aerosols is poorly documented, likely because its poorly understood. Pretty much all of the sources talk about the amount of aerosol and the effect on global temperatures. However, I think the effects vary with latitude and that had a major effect on temperatures at different latitudes and the intensity of various weather events.
  • What set 1816 apart from other years were two freeze events. If frosts in June and August hadn’t happened, the harvest would have been very different, and few people would write about the weather of 1816. There was plenty of other cold weather in 1816, so this essay is way too long and needs this executive summary
  • A claim that snow or frosts occurred in every month of the year does not hold for parts of New Hampshire in July. There may have been such events in western Connecticut or Massachusetts, or even Virginia, but some descriptions may be exaggerated. It doesn’t affect the outcome of the year, as most everything that made it through July was killed in August.
  • 1816 set into motion changes in New Hampshire that probably would have happened later, but traces of them still exist today.

The full article is HERE.

I found the comments on the article equally interesting.  My grandmother Thomas was an avid gardener and had a kitchen garden all of her adult life. She kept a record of the last spring frost and the first fall frost in Nevada County CA and adjusted her planting and harvesting based on the record of the past.   An 1812 summer with late and early frosts would have thrown her for a loop.


Current Solar Cycle Continues To Be The Weakest In Almost 200 Years …Planet At The Mercy Of The Sun

P Gosselin translates the latest post at Die kalte Sonne on solar activity. The URL link is HERE

The Sun in March 2016
By Frank Bosse and Fritz Vahrenholt
(Translated, edited by P Gosselin)

Our mother star was once again less active than normal in March. The observed solar sunspot number (SSN) was 54.9, which was about 2/3 of the mean value (82.5) for this month into the cycle. Here’s what the current solar cycle (SC) looks like so far:


Figure 1: The course of the current SC 24 since it began in December 2008, up to March 2016 (month 88) in red, the mean of the previous 23 cycles is shown in blue, and the similarLY (since month 73) behaving solar cycle number 5, which occurred from May 1789 to December 1810, shown in black.

Note the similarity of the current Solar Cycle 24 to Solar Cycle 5 which is associated with the Dalton Minimum. It maybe a little too early to compare similarities with Solar Cycles 5 and 6, leading the planet into another mini ice age, like that during the Dalton Minimum.  Or whether this minimum will combine with a lower Solar Cycle 25 which could  lead to a 30-year cooling period producing another Little Ice Age, like that during the Maunder Minimum.  We will just have to wait and watch the climate evolve as the sunspots decline.

Que Ball Sun Looking More Like the Dalton Minimum

Anthony Watts has an update on the progress of Solar Cycle 24 HERE:


According to the data Cycle 24 the lowest in 200 years which harkens back to the time of the Dalton Minimum and Solar Cycle 5

solar-cycle24-comparisonAnthony writes:

As you can see from the plots in Figure 1, the current level of activity of solar cycle 24 seems close to that of solar cycle number 5, which occurred beginning in May 1798 and ending in December 1810 (thus falling within the Dalton Minimum). The maximum smoothed sunspot number (monthly number of sunspots averaged over a twelve-month period) observed during the solar cycle was 49.2, in February 1805 (the second lowest of any cycle to date, as a result of being part of the Dalton Minimum), and the minimum was zero.(ref: Wikipedia)

The Dalton Minimum coincided with a period of lower-than-average global temperatures. During that period, there was only a  temperature variation of about 1 °C. However, was the lower number of sunspots the cause of the lower-than-average temperatures during this period, or was it related to some other phenomenon not well understood. Scientists have  suggested that a rise in volcanism was responsible for the cooling trend.

The Year Without a Summer in 1816 occurred during the Dalton Minimum. The prime reason for cooler temperatures that summer was the explosive eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia according to many scientists. Mount Tambora  was one of two largest eruptions in the past 2000 years.

The question in my mind is how to verify that volcanism increases during solar minimums? If you look at the chart below, it appears that major volcanos erupted during the cold periods. But, were those eruptions triggered by declining sun spots or some other phenomenon.

According  to the Smithsonian Institution’s Global Volcanism Program database of eruptions, a count of all the eruptions that started in each year, from 1945 to 2015. it shows about 35 new eruptions per year, with a lot of variation from about 25 to 50 per year. The trend over the full period is basically flat, and while there was a slight increase on average from about 1997 to 2008. There were 26 eruptions in 2015 and 37 in 2014. There is no noticeable increase during the solar cycle 24 decline. Smithsonian Institution’s Global Volcanism database has a lot to explore, more in a future post.

Your thoughts?