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New Research on Sunspots and Climate Change

February 29, 2012

On February 9, 2012, Norwegian scientists posted new research demonstrating a strong correlation between the duration of our Sun’s sunspot cycle and subsequent temperature changes in Northern Europe.

They claim that, over the past 150 years, changes in our Sun count for half of Europe’s temperature rise and two-thirds of the temperature rise closer to the North Pole. Based on long-term trends in sunspot cycles, they forecast decreasing global temperatures over the next 75 years.
If this research is confirmed, it could substantially impact the strident public debate on global warming. Society might have much more time to develop better and less expensive alternative energy sources. For example: proposals published in Scientific America advocated replacing all the world’s coal and gas usage with wind and solar energy, estimating this would cost $100 trillion and require solar collectors covering an area the size of California. If the new research is correct, we may find better ways to invest our limited resources.
This new study identifies a strong statistical correlation between temperatures on Earth and sunspot activity. It is important to recognize that correlations, no matter how strong, do not prove cause-and-effect. Others have identified correlations between global temperatures and greenhouse gases, which also do not definitively prove cause-and-effect. Correlations alone do not have the scientific certainty of controlled, reproducible experiments that are the hallmarks of other scientific disciplines. Controlled experiments are impossible in climatology, so the best we can do is make judgments based on less definitive evidence.
The influence of our Sun on Earth’s climate has been a topic of scientific interest for 200 years. Our Sun’s magnetic field changes periodically, with its north and south magnetic poles reversing roughly every 11 years, resulting in periods of high magnetic activity alternating with periods of low magnetic activity. During periods of high magnetic activity, our Sun emits more light, especially ultraviolet light, and the number of sunspots also increases. Some solar cycles have been as short as 9 years and others as long as 14 years; 11 years is only a rough average. And, as seen below, for nearly 100 years, sunspot activity was extremely low during the “Maunder Minimum”, a period of unusually low temperatures called the “Little Ice Age.” The black line in this chart tracks the long-term trend of sunspot activity, showing substantially higher activity in the late 20th century as compared with the prior 300 years.
As a side note, some experts say Stradivarius made his violins from trees grown during the Maunder Minimum, when the prolonged cold temperatures restricted growth, resulting in unusually dense wood that produces remarkable sound quality.

Sunspot Obsversations

The new research shows that short solar cycles are followed by high sunspot activity in the next solar cycle, accompanied by higher temperatures on Earth. This is what we’ve experienced for the last 200 years — a trend of progressively shorter solar cycles and warmer temperatures.
However, the latest solar cycle lasted more than 12 years, making it the longest cycle in a century. The report states that average temperatures on the Norwegian coast have subsequently dropped by 2 F. These scientists believe we are at a turning point — the start of a new trend toward longer solar cycles and cooler temperatures.
If true, this is excellent news.
It will be interesting to see how the various political factions react.

Best Regards,


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Dr Robert Piccioni

Dr Robert Piccioni,
Author of "Everyone's Guide to Atoms, Einstein, and the Universe",
Can Life Be Merely An Accident?"
and "A World Without Einstein"

Books by Dr Piccioni