Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Earth may be headed into a mini Ice Age within a decade

By Lewis Page 

Physicists say sunspot cycle is 'going into hibernation'

What may be the science story of the century is breaking this evening, as heavyweight US solar physicists announce that the Sun appears to be headed into a lengthy spell of low activity, which could mean that the Earth – far from facing a global warming problem – is actually headed into a mini Ice Age.
Average magnetic field strength in sunspot umbras has been steadily declining for over a decade. The trend includes sunspots from Cycles 22, 23, and (the current cycle) 24. Credit: NSO/AAS
Ice skating on the Thames by 2025?
The announcement made on 14 June (18:00 UK time) comes from scientists at the US National Solar Observatory (NSO) and US Air Force Research Laboratory. Three different analyses of the Sun's recent behaviour all indicate that a period of unusually low solar activity may be about to begin.
The Sun normally follows an 11-year cycle of activity. The current cycle, Cycle 24, is now supposed to be ramping up towards maximum strength. Increased numbers of sunspots and other indications ought to be happening: but in fact results so far are most disappointing. Scientists at the NSO now suspect, based on data showing decades-long trends leading to this point, that Cycle 25 may not happen at all.
This could have major implications for the Earth's climate. According to a statement issued by the NSO, announcing the research:
An immediate question is whether this slowdown presages a second Maunder Minimum, a 70-year period with virtually no sunspots [which occurred] during 1645-1715.
As NASA notes:
Early records of sunspots indicate that the Sun went through a period of inactivity in the late 17th century. Very few sunspots were seen on the Sun from about 1645 to 1715. Although the observations were not as extensive as in later years, the Sun was in fact well observed during this time and this lack of sunspots is well documented. This period of solar inactivity also corresponds to a climatic period called the "Little Ice Age" when rivers that are normally ice-free froze and snow fields remained year-round at lower altitudes. There is evidence that the Sun has had similar periods of inactivity in the more distant past.
During the Maunder Minimum and for periods either side of it, many European rivers which are ice-free today – including the Thames – routinely froze over, allowing ice skating and even for armies to march across them in some cases.
"This is highly unusual and unexpected," says Dr Frank Hill of the NSO. "But the fact that three completely different views of the Sun point in the same direction is a powerful indicator that the sunspot cycle may be going into hibernation."

see also Major drop in solar activity predicted
and here and here


  1. This exact question was studied a few years ago by Feulner and Rahmstorf, and it was found that GHG warming easily swamps any cooling from a Maunder Minimum-like sun. Cooling by 2100 would only be, at most, 0.3 C below IPCC projections. We will not be entering another little ice age.


  2. Fuelner & Rahmstorf is based upon a computer model which is programmed to show high sensitivity to CO2 with positive feedbacks. Hundreds of posts on this site and others show said models overstate sensitivity to CO2, assume positive feedbacks when the empirical evidence shows negative feedbacks exceed positive, and downplay the role of the sun by only considering TSI (ignoring large changes in solar UV and secondary cloud effects).

    Garbage in - garbage out

  3. Your blog posts are hardly the equivalent of peer reviewed science by experts.

    To answer your talking points: The climate model used has been verified by back-predicting the past, as all models do, and the record of models 20 yrs ago are pretty good (and models, and computers, are much more sophisticated now).

    And we're already seeing evidence of the positive feedbacks that physics predicts, such as increases in water vapor, decreases in sea ice albedo, possibly increases in methane releases.

    The Svensmark hypothesis has not been proven and still has a lot of things to explain before it can be taken seriously, such as the right condensation rates, cloud microphysics, and explanation of observed warming variations. I know skeptics are counting on it, but it's simply not been proven as an explanation for recently observed climate and remains an (interesting) hypothesis, despite the Swedish seeding results announced about a month ago. On the other hand, GHG warming has been proved.

  4. PS: The model used by Fuelner & Rahmstorf has a climate sensitivity of 3.4 C. That's hardly "high" and is what (1) more complex climate models calculate, and (2) paleoclimate data shows.

  5. @David Appell
    Models FIND nothing. Models PROVE nothing. Because, wait for it, models ARE nothing... Feulner and Rahmstorf played with a terrible, horrible computer-generated atrocity that falsely claims to approximate our planet's poorly understood climate mechanisms...

    Your clear confidence in such absolute garbage is disturbing, though it is a common trait among most warmists...

  6. Finally, note that the model used by Fuelner & Rahmstorf, and that of Song et al (GRL 2010) are both able to reproduce the magnitude of the temperature decline observed during the actual Maunder Minimum, including (for Song) a deep regional cooling for Greenland and northern Europe.

  7. It may not be a great time to be shutting down all those nuclear power plants when they may be needed to keep the lights on (literally) in the greenhouses we'll need to feed everybody..

  8. Your blog comments are hardly the equivalent of peer reviewed science by experts. If you actually looked at this blog, you would find at least half the posts are directly from the scientific literature.

    To answer your talking points:

    1. The models were not "pretty good" at predicting only the past 20 years:



    2. The latest models continue to greatly exaggerate sensitivity:


    3. The models do not incorporate ocean oscillations, do not consider that IR backradiation cannot heat the oceans due to penetration of less than 10 microns, do not consider natural changes in cloud cover, do not consider the large variations in solar UV, amongst many other huge shortcomings.

    To claim that the models are evidence that proves the sensitivity to CO2 while ignoring these huge climate influences is a pathetic travesty of science.

    4. Contrary to your claim, water vapor, specific, and relative humidity have all declined over the satellite and radiosonde records:


    5. Artic sea ice albedo has been declining since the last ice age; that doesn't prove it is due to GHG.

    6. Rate of rise in methane is actually decreasing - if you bothered to look it up. Methane has been naturally increasing since the last ice age.

    7. The empirical data show cloud albedo declined over past few decades and accounts for 3 times as much warming as GHG


    whether it is due to the Svensmark effect or not, it remains an unexplained huge factor not incorporated in the models.

    8. Paleoclimate evidence shows temperature leads CO2 by ~ 800 years both on the upside AND on the downside- proof CO2 is not the climate control knob. Paleoclimate evidence shows the Earth has been hotter many times in the past and there is no evidence that it is due to different causes this time.

    9. Climate models DO NOT calculate sensitivity. Climate models are PROGRAMMED with ASSUMED sensitivity and feedbacks.

  9. Re: Svensmark -- I have been looking for a graph of his hypothesis's prediction for the global average temperature over the last X years (X=50, 150, 1000). Do you happen to know of one?

  10. Models are "nothing?" Then I guess you don't have any confidence in America's thermonuclear arsenal, which these days is designed by...models.

    Of course, models are the only way we have to calculate future climate. Do you know of a way to do it without models?

    And models have proven to be very reliable in both replicating past climate and predicting future climate.

  11. David Appell: That is an absurd analogy - nuclear physics is well understood to the point of being accurately modeled. The climate on the other hand is an immense open ended chaotic system of which we understand little. Once again, the models have NOT been reliable in replicating the past (e.g. they DON'T replicate the Medieval Warming Period) nor the future (clive best link above).

    Regarding Svensmark: see Vincent Courtillot's lecture:


  12. see:


  13. So then, please post the graph of the globally averaged temperature for last X years based on Svensmark's hypothesis, total solar irradiance, volcanoes, and other natural factors. I've never seen this graph anywhere.

  14. I'm not your personal research assistant. Courtillot shows the relevant graphs in his lecture.

    Google "sunspots correlated with temperature" images which show hundreds of graphs.

    I have a graph from Svensmark himself in one of my many posts on his theory - but I'm not going to search through all of them for you - you can do it yourself:


  15. Appell: If you do not understand that models, while in some areas accurate and very useful, are NOT evidence of anything apart from the authors' understandings, further debate is useless.

    Backtesting models is typical and nearly every model is put through that exercise. That's where the model "tweaking" creeps in until it matches history.

    Even the UN "scientists" admit that they are doing projections (as opposed to predictions). A projection, by definition is little more than a wild-ass guess.

    It's already been pointed out to you how many things we do know which have not been considered by any of those models. Then there are all those things we don't yet understand and, finally, there is clearly appears to be a chaotic contribution which we'll never understand, by definition.

    Incidently, the warm spot in the troposphere is a necessary (but obviously not sufficient) condition of the theory behind the models, and lo ... it's not been found.

  16. Henrik Svensmark comments on the paper by Feulner G., Rahmstorf S.

    I have had a fast look at the paper, and as far as I can see the authors are only looking at solar irradiance changes, and effects like the one that I have been involved in, like an amplification of the solar signal caused by clouds and cosmic ray modulation, is not taken into account. We known with good confidence that the terrestrial response to the solar signal is 3-7 times larger than from solar irradiance alone (see for example the work of Nir Shaviv, attached-Using the oceans as a calorimeter to quantify the solar radiative forcing-doi:10.1029/2007JA012989). Now if such effects are taken into account the result would be very different (larger solar influence). So I do not think that the present work is the particular helpful in understanding the solar impact in near future. It is only an estimate of the impact of solar irradiance as determined from numerical modeling. In the coming years the sun will show by itself how important it is.


  17. The previous entry, (before MS above) by Anonymous should have instead included my normal "moniker", which is "GoFigure" (sometimes also with needed trailing numerics, generally "560").

  18. And models have proven to be very reliable in both replicating past climate and predicting future climate.

    The fact that Appell appears to believe those "models" that have been tweeked/adjusted/changed/forced/manipulated etc in looking back in time..after the scientists knew what they wanted is sad.
    The fact that he quotes http://www.skepticalscience.com is hilarious.
    And read this by Curry on models and predictions.
    Please do some research beofre you post garbage on this great site

  19. MS wrote:
    > Paleoclimate evidence shows temperature
    > leads CO2 by ~ 800 years both on the upside
    > AND on the downside- proof CO2 is not
    > the climate control knob.

    This is an old trope that has is constantly debunked. Actually what usually happens is a small temperature shift, often due to orbital factors, starts a CO2 increase which feedbacks to create a large temperature rise. In any case, even that is different from what we have today, which is a large perturbation from external CO2 being injected into the system. In that it's like what many think is the cause of the PETM, where a large quantity of CO2 was brought into the atmosphere by a comet.

  20. David Appell:

    I'm well aware of that contrived and circuitious explanation and here's some of the reasons why it is wrong:

    1. A net positive feedback system would have been created with warming -> more CO2 -> more warming -> even more CO2 -> ad infinitum -> fireball Earth billions of years ago. All net positive feedback systems are inherently unstable. The Earth would have spun out of control billions of years ago when CO2 levels were at least 20 times the present.

    2. Warmists must therefore admit that it was changes in solar insolation (plus probable amplification by large changes in solar UV or secondary cloud effects) which overwhelmed this positive feedback system resulting in an ice age, confirming that the solar effects are in fact the climate control knob and don't require CO2 for any help at all. CO2 levels also lag the DECLINE in temperature by ~800 years, therefore, changes in solar effects alone must be powerful enough to overwhelm any possible positive-feedback effect of CO2 and prove that any such positive feedback is negligible.

    3. If CO2 was the control knob, it would have been impossible to have an entire ice age come and go at a time when CO2 levels remained 15 times higher than the present throughout - but that did happen and remains "an enigma" to warmists.

  21. Re #1: Feedbacks exist (obviously) on different scales. You can have a feedback that is not a runaway feedback; positive feedbacks for climate have diminishing returns that limit them to a factor of about 3 because the feedback for CO2 is logarithmic.

  22. > All net positive feedback systems are
    > inherently unstable.

    They certainly are not, which is why speakers don't explode when they acquire a feedback from a microphone.

    Instead, the feedback reaches a limiting value. This is easy to show mathematically in the case where the output is some fraction (> 0 but < 1) of the input.

  23. Anonymous wrote:
    > those "models" that have been
    > tweeked/adjusted/changed/forced/manipulated

    Most models no longer have flux adjustment factors (see IPCC 4AR WG1 Ch8, Exec Summary, Bullet Item 5): “Most AOGCMs no longer use flux adjustments, which were previously required to maintain a stable climate. At the same time, there have been improvements in the simulation of many aspects of present climate. The uncertainty associated with the use of flux adjustments has therefore decreased, although biases and long-term trends remain in AOGCM control simulations.”

    Are models perfect? Of course not. They have uncertainties and always will. Nothing Curry writes undercuts their usefulness, and uncertainties CUT BOTH WAYS – resolving them might worsen future climate and strengthen attributions as much as diminish them. In any case models are now certainly good enough for policy purposes – to tell us that there are potentially big problems and we certainly can’t rely on better models developed someday, perhaps decades, to make them go away, and we need to make substantial changes in GHG emissions and land use changes as an intelligent precaution.

  24. MS: About #3:

    “Atmospheric CO2: Principal Control Knob Governing Earth’s Temperature,” Lacis et al, Science (15 October 2010) Vol. 330 no. 6002 pp. 356-359

  25. Top 10 Reasons Why Climate Model Predictions are False