Breaking News: That Big Yellow Thing in the Sky Affects Climate!

From meteorologist Paul Hudson at the BBC:

For as long as I have been a meteorologist, the mere suggestion that solar activity could influence climate patterns has been greeted with near derision.
Quite why this has been the case is difficult to fathom. But it's been clear for a long time that there must be a link of some kind, ever since decades ago Professor Lamb discovered an empirical relationship between low solar activity and higher pressure across higher latitudes such as Greenland.
Perhaps the art of weather forecasting has become so dominated by supercomputers, and climate research so dominated by the impact of man on global climate, that thoughts of how natural processes, such as solar variation, could influence our climate have been largely overlooked, until very recently.

We have come full circle -- that what I was taught about climate at the University of Oklahoma in the early 1970's is now thought of as a new revelation.  Here are some of the headlines out of the British Meteorological Office (until now, strong global warming advocates) this past week:

BRITAIN is set to suffer a mini ice age that could last for decades and bring with it a series of bitterly cold winters. And it could all begin within weeks as experts said last night that the mercury may soon plunge below the record -20C endured last year. Latest evidence shows La Nina, linked to extreme winter weather in America and with a knock-on effect on Britain, is in force and will gradually strengthen as the year ends. It coincides with research from the Met Office indicating the nation could be facing a repeat of the “little ice age” that gripped the country 300 years ago, causing decades of harsh winters.–Laura Caroe, Daily Express, 10 October 2011
Some scientists predict that the Sun is heading for a long slump in solar activity known as a Grand Solar Minimum. If this happens, it is possible that Britain could return to conditions similar to those 350 years ago when sunspots vanished during “the Little Ice Age”, when ice fairs were often held on the frozen Thames in London. –Paul Simons, The Times, 10 October 2011

So, what have the people of Great Britain* learned this week?

  • The sun's output affects the climate
  • That if solar output drops too much, the earth could have another Little Ice Age. 
Reader's of this blog have known about the solar = climate link since almost its beginning two years ago and I, most recently, posted a three-part series on this very topic

It is important to note that significant cooling of the earth is far more serious than warming. If growing seasons shorten, given earth's record population, mass famine may result. 

Click to enlarge. Slide from my global warming presentation.
During the latter part of the period of world cooling from 1944 to 1978, there were multiple, major crop failures that caused millions of deaths due to famine. Given the much larger population of earth today, shorter growing seasons would mean a worse repeat of the famines of the '70's.

*The U.S. media has largely ignored this important story.

Hat tips to: Bishop Hill and Anthony Watts


  1. There seems to a problem with the sources for this story. The story by Laura Caroe provides no sources for its claims other than "experts" and "scientists". It refers to research from the British Meteorological Office, but I was unable to find any such research on their website. Are you sure this isn't a hoax?

  2. It is not a hoax. I read all three articles plus the BBC blog post.

    Here is the BMO paper in "Nature" (a peer-reviewed journal):

  3. Odd... I posted a detailed response presenting my failures at attempting to find the sources, but that response was apparently lost. Here's a shortened version:

    1. The Nature paper you cite does not support the claims made in the newspaper article.

    2. I was unable to locate the three articles you mentioned. Could you provide links to those?


  4. Sinchiroca,

    Two of the links are right in my posting. Just click on them.

    Third is here:

    And, yes, the paper does talk about less UV reaching earth = colder temperatures.

  5. I'm having difficulty getting WordPress to accept my posting, so I'm coming in on my Google account. Let's hope this works.

    The first link in your article takes me to the article by Laura Caroe, the one that I am suggesting lacks substantiation. The second link in your article, the one entitled "Paul Simons, The Times, 10 October 2011" does not take me to an article by Paul Simons; it takes me to a page of the Times of London. Try it yourself. I searched separately for articles by Paul Simons in the Times and found nothing, but I *did* find a great many denialist sites referring to such an article. Following the trail on one of these sites led me to this page:

    that claims to quote a Mr. Jonathan Leake's article in the Times. It also provides a clarification from Mr. Leake including this statement:

    "However, there appears to be a common misunderstanding. This article is not about anthropogenic climate change. The phenomena mentioned in this article are natural and separate from climate change. They operate in parallel to climate change, in parallel to each other but, of course, each on very different time scales... The science suggesting that the Earth faces significant warming remains very strong. If you disagree then you need good science to back your case. These other phenomena (La Nina, UV radiation etc) are simply not relevant."

    I am still trying to track down the original statement by Mr. Simons but I seem to be trapped in an endless loop of denialist sites quoting each other quoting Mr. Simons. Perhaps you can provide a link to the original article -- but please check it first, as the link you provide in your response of 6:04 PM does not take me to the desired article. I suspect that the Times has some sort of intercept mechanism.

    In any event, it appears that Mr. Simons is not himself a scientist, and we STILL don't have this elusive "report from the Meteorological Office". I suspect that we're dealing with a greatly overblown situation in which a weather prediction for this winter has been misinterpreted as a long-term prediction. Until we can get something solid to work with, however, this entire story remains unsubstantiated.

    Lastly, as to the Nature article you cite, here's the most relevant quotation from the abstract that I could find:

    "If the updated measurements of solar ultraviolet irradiance are correct, low solar activity, as observed during recent years, drives cold winters in northern Europe and the United States, and mild winters over southern Europe and Canada, with little direct change in globally averaged temperature."

    That final clause is pretty clear: little direct change in globally averaged temperature. They're talking about a local phenomenon, not a global phenomenon. That's why we call it "climate change", rather than "global warming".

  6. Chris,

    There is no point continuing to interact with you. The use of the perjorative "denialist" indicates you are not interested in learning but want to be on a soapbox for your close-minded views. I HAVE read the paper in question and its point is exactly as I have stated.


  7. Mike, the fact that I do not share your opinion does not mean that I am not interested in the truth. If the foundation of your opinion on these matters be rational, then you should be able to present a rational explanation of them. Refusing to respond suggests that you have no such rational explanation. I very much hope that this suggestion is off the mark.

    Here are the two main arguments I have presented: the abstract to the paper flatly contradicts your interpretation; and the news story you quote is unsubstantiated. If you can reconcile the statement in the abstract with your own interpretation, then we can dismiss that point. If you can provide a link to this mysterious Meteorological Office research, then we can dismiss that point as well.

  8. Sorry, Chris,

    I look for civil discourse on this blog. "Denier" isn't it.

    There are plenty of commenters who disagree with me and I was willing to engage with you until you started throwing out the perjoratives


  9. Mike, I've never considered "denier" to be pejorative, and if you take offense at that, I'll be happy to use another word. I use it because it's the most descriptive term I can think of.

  10. Well, I'm sorry to say that your refusal to discuss the matter is more suggestive of a lack of evidence than a strict adherence to high standards of civility. Your own posts are not paragons of civility, but the most revealing fact is that, a week after I first asked for evidentiary support, neither you nor anybody has produced the purported Meteorological Office study; that now appears to be a hoax. And all you needed to do to flatly refute my claim regarding the paper in Nature was to produce a quote supporting your interpretation -- which you failed to do.


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