Sunspots bring disappointment to climate change skeptics

A couple of months ago, in “Ice Age predictions are premature”,  I discussed an alternative climate theory that has been exciting anthropogenic climate change skeptics this year.  Climate change, it was argued, was overwhelmingly influenced by sunspot incidence, and the current dying solar cycle 23 had led to a period of quiescence that, if continued, would lead to a minor ice age.

Since then the sun has continued to be alarmingly quiescent–this isn’t unprecedented, but you have to go back about a century to find similar periods.  However,  David Hathaway of the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center reports that there has been recent activity, and in October, for the first time, sunspots from the new solar cycle, 24, have outnumbered those from the dying cycle.  Hathaway takes this as a sign that solar cycle 24 is kicking off, but sounds a note of caution: “We’re still years away from solar maximum and, in the meantime, the sun is going to have some more quiet stretches.”

As I noted in my previous piece, the anthropogenic climate change skeptics had been getting quite excited by the quiet sun because they believe this would cause significant drops in global temperature lasting for several decades, similar to the “little ice ages” that accompanied previous long-lasting mimima.  If their hypothesis is right, a small ice age like that would show rather conclusively that existing climate models were grossly inaccurate.   The recent solar activity, which has also produced solar flares. means that the sun probably isn’t as quiescent as some of the solar activity climate change proponents had hoped.  Irrespective of whether their alternative climate theory is correct, we probably won’t get any new data to test it with.

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2 Responses

  1. Interesting post. I don’t know what the UK talk on global warming is like, but in the US there is just about an equal voice given to the idea that global warming is due to normal environmental factors and that man-made causes are minimal. What is your perspective on that from in the UK?

  2. I don’t really follow the subject, but although there are skeptics in the United Kingdom they don’t run the country. Britain signed the Kyoto Protocol in 1996 and there is cross-party consensus on global warming and how to deal with it. The UK is broadly on course to reach its Kyoto target by 2012, though emissions of CO2 are still very high and action on this is expected.

    The Climate Change bill was introduced into Parliament last year and, if it passes in the form proposed by the government, will set a target to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by 80% on 1990 levels by 2050.

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