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All IPCC definitions taken from Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Working Group I Contribution to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Annex I, Glossary, pp. 941-954. Cambridge University Press.

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Sun & climate: moving in opposite directions

What the science says...

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The sun's energy has decreased since the 1980s but the Earth keeps warming faster than before.

Climate Myth...

It's the sun

"Over the past few hundred years, there has been a steady increase in the numbers of sunspots, at the time when the Earth has been getting warmer. The data suggests solar activity is influencing the global climate causing the world to get warmer." (BBC)

Over the last 35 years the sun has shown a cooling trend. However global temperatures continue to increase. If the sun's energy is decreasing while the Earth is warming, then the sun can't be the main control of the temperature.

Figure 1 shows the trend in global temperature compared to changes in the amount of solar energy that hits the Earth. The sun's energy fluctuates on a cycle that's about 11 years long. The energy changes by about 0.1% on each cycle. If the Earth's temperature was controlled mainly by the sun, then it should have cooled between 2000 and 2008. 

TSI vs. T
Figure 1: Annual global temperature change (thin light red) with 11 year moving average of temperature (thick dark red). Temperature from NASA GISS. Annual Total Solar Irradiance (thin light blue) with 11 year moving average of TSI (thick dark blue). TSI from 1880 to 1978 from Krivova et al 2007. TSI from 1979 to 2015 from the World Radiation Center (see their PMOD index page for data updates). Plots of the most recent solar irradiance can be found at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics LISIRD site.

 

The solar fluctuations since 1870 have contributed a maximum of 0.1 °C to temperature changes. In recent times the biggest solar fluctuation happened around 1960. But the fastest global warming started in 1980.

Figure 2 shows how much different factors have contributed recent warming. It compares the contributions from the sun, volcanoes, El Niño and greenhouse gases. The sun adds 0.02 to 0.1 °C. Volcanoes cool the Earth by 0.1-0.2 °C. Natural variability (like El Niño) heats or cools by about 0.1-0.2 °C. Greenhouse gases have heated the climate by over 0.8 °C.

Contribution to T, AR5 FigFAQ5.1

Figure 2 Global surface temperature anomalies from 1870 to 2010, and the natural (solar, volcanic, and internal) and anthropogenic factors that influence them. (a) Global surface temperature record (1870–2010) relative to the average global surface temperature for 1961–1990 (black line). A model of global surface temperature change (a: red line) produced using the sum of the impacts on temperature of natural (b, c, d) and anthropogenic factors (e). (b) Estimated temperature response to solar forcing. (c) Estimated temperature response to volcanic eruptions. (d) Estimated temperature variability due to internal variability, here related to the El Niño-Southern Oscillation. (e) Estimated temperature response to anthropogenic forcing, consisting of a warming component from greenhouse gases, and a cooling component from most aerosols. (IPCC AR5, Chap 5)

Some people try to blame the sun for the current rise in temperatures by cherry picking the data. They only show data from periods when sun and climate data track together. They draw a false conclusion by ignoring the last few decades when the data shows the opposite result.

 

Basic rebuttal written by Larry M, updated by Sarah


Update July 2015:

Here is a related lecture-video from Denial101x - Making Sense of Climate Science Denial

 

This rebuttal was updated by Kyle Pressler in 2021 to replace broken links. The updates are a result of our call for help published in May 2021.

Last updated on 2 April 2017 by Sarah. View Archives

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Further viewing

Related video from Peter Sinclair's "Climate Denial Crock of the Week" series:

Further viewing

This video created by Andy Redwood in May 2020 is an interesting and creative interpretation of this rebuttal:

Myth Deconstruction

Related resource: Myth Deconstruction as animated GIF

MD Sun

Please check the related blog post for background information about this graphics resource.

Comments

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Comments 701 to 725 out of 1288:

  1. KL #700: "KR seems to still not get the fact that a forcing component does not have to be rising to be adding energy to the system." The Sun is constantly 'adding energy to the system'. However, if solar activity remained constant then it would obviously not cause any change to the climate. It is only when there is a change in solar activity (that is, a "forcing") that there is a corresponding change in climate... and then only until a new equilibrium is reached. The same is true of all climate forcings. So no, KR probably 'does not get' that flat forcing factors do not change the climate. Because they don't.
  2. Two things: first, blatant denier spam such as Howard at 697 should be deleted. Second: KL, I get what you're saying, I guess I just don't see the point you are trying to make. It seems you've lost yourself in your own arguments.
  3. Ken Lambert - Your hypothesis appears to be that an unmeasured amount of TSI, one mis-calculated since the beginning of TSI measurements, is providing a dominant effect on global temperatures rather than CO2 and greenhouse gas accumulation. In other words, that it's the sun, not CO2. The satellite TSI readings appear to have cross-platform calibration issues, as each is self-calibrated to internal standards. This has improved over the years, not to say that it's not a work in progress, but it's improving. Note that the precision, the repeatability of these measures, is extremely good - the accuracy may be off a bit. But high precision means excellent tracking of changes, of deltas in TSI forcing. Now, if there's a linear offset in TSI measures (direct or using sunspots as proxies), as you have argued, there would be a difference in slope between measured TSI responses and temperature over the entire temperature/TSI record, not just the last 60 years. One look at the Temperature vs. Solar Activity chart on the Basic version of this thread will disprove that. I certainly know that all forcings are part of the picture; I'm not certain from your statements that you do. The two lines have separated. The temperature changes correspond to changes in GHG forcings, they do not correspond to changes in TSI. That is entirely supported by the numbers you presented here, as kdkd pointed out statistically - you've just disproven your hypothesis again. You are incorrect on the basis of correlation of ΔT versus ΔForcings, on the magnitude of the TSI changes, and on somehow not crediting the forcings of GHG's. You've repeated the same arguments over and over despite multiple corrections. At this point I'm out of this discussion.
  4. @KR: "You've repeated the same arguments over and over despite multiple corrections. At this point I'm out of this discussion." I think this is Ken's strategy: obfuscate, reiterate and ignore other arguments until people are fed up with him and leave, at which point he claims victory. Better to ignore him. It's not as if his arguments will be reused by other "skeptics" anyway...
  5. CBD #701 KR #703 archiesteel #704 "So no, KR probably 'does not get' that flat forcing factors do not change the climate. Because they don't" Flat forcing is not 'zero' forcing CBD & KR. The numbers I presented show a F.Solar of about 0.4W/sq.m from the IPCC Fig 613 Chart which is also available in numerical form (worked elsewhere by kdkd)from AD1950 onward, and 0.1-0.2W/sq.m before that. A 'flat' 0.4W/sq.m integrated wrt time will give you a linearly increasing number of Joules/sq.m - the unit of energy. Energy is what you need to heat mass. Note the units of specific heat of water (or other mass)are Joules/kG-degC - NOT Watts/kG-degC Linearly rising energy in Joules will linearly raise the temperature of a given mass (without phase change). Hence rising temperatures with 'flat' non-zero forcing are quite consistent with the 'Temperature vs. Solar Activity chart on the Basic version of this thread' Add to that a 'theoretical' roughly linearly rising forcing F.CO2 and you will get a squared function non-linear rising curve of energy wrt time. This is Grade 11 maths. What counts is the sum of and proportions of the energy added by the two sources. I calculated previously that on the IPCC data the energy proportions were about 55/45 CO2GHG/Solar since AD1750. The question then becomes how reliable and accurate are these forcings. We have some proxy and direct measurement for TSI and F.Solar. KR: "Now, if there's a linear offset in TSI measures (direct or using sunspots as proxies), as you have argued, there would be a difference in slope between measured TSI responses and temperature over the entire temperature/TSI record, not just the last 60 years" Wrong - see above. Non-zero constant forcing produces linearly rising temperature for a given mass. How long do we have Satellite TSI data? - since 1978? Again high precision - low accuracy. Will tell you the deltas within an individual satellite record - maybe spliced together between satellites (maybe not too) - but no good for accurately measuring absolute TSI (SORCE TIMS is a good example). Archiesteel - don't know what your technical training or background is - but kdkd will tell you that it is risky to call me on the sums.
  6. @KL: I don't dispute your capacity to make mathematical operations. I simply think you're not very apt at clearly presenting your arguments, hence the impression that you obfuscate issues by throwing around of math. Your inability earlier to understand such as simple matter as relative deltas instead of absolute values seems to confirm this hypothesis. If you truly understand an issue, you should be able to explain it to non-technical people like me. The fact you cannot seem to make a clear argument with all those equations is telling, and that's all I'll say on the matter before getting even more off-topic.
  7. KL #705 "Hence rising temperatures with 'flat' non-zero forcing are quite consistent with the 'Temperature vs. Solar Activity chart on the Basic version of this thread'" That may be the case, if we didn't have additional data showing that the role of CO2 has been strong for the past 60 years. However we do. If you omit key information, then your hypothesis would appear credible. However omitting key information is not justified, so your hypotheis is not credible.
  8. kdkd #707 We should have a beer together someday kdkd. I have a sudden feeling of kinship with you after a night listening to Ziggy Switkowski. KL: "What counts is the sum of and proportions of the energy added by the two sources. I calculated previously that on the IPCC data the energy proportions were about 55/45 CO2GHG/Solar since AD1750. The question then becomes how reliable and accurate are these forcings. We have some proxy and direct measurement for TSI and F.Solar." I have not ignored the theoretical contribution of F.CO2 - I have said that the two main positive forcings add together - F.Solar a linear function - and F.CO2 a squared function. It all depends on the magnitude of the forcings and the elapsed time - ie the area under the curves. This only represents the available positive (warming) forcings. The main negative forcings are cloud and aerosol albedo, and S-B radiative cooling. I shall run some numbers on these and try for a net forcing since say AD1750 in 50 year tranches. Had a late night so look for this tomorrow.
  9. archiesteel #706 Forgive my lack of communicative skills - but I only felt knowledgeable enough to enter this blog after a year or so jousting with the likes of kdkd and reading Dr Trenberth, IPCC reports etc. The most imformative paper I have read is: http://www.cgd.ucar.edu/cas/Trenberth/trenberth.papers/EnergyDiagnostics09final2.pdf
  10. KL #708 I should have prefixed this with 'the energy from" "I have not ignored the theoretical contribution of F.CO2 - I have said that the two main positive forcings add together - F.Solar a linear function - and F.CO2 a squared function. It all depends on the magnitude of the forcings and the elapsed time - ie the area under the curves."
  11. @Ken >- I have said that the two main positive forcings add together - F.Solar a linear function - and F.CO2 a squared function. It all depends on the magnitude of the forcings and the elapsed time - ie the area under the curves. Taking the area under the curves ignores the tendency of the system towards thermal equilibrium. A flat forcing does not produce a linear increase in the net energy of the system, since the energy emitted by the system also rises proportionally to the energy absorbed. What it will produce is an increase with its slope tapering towards zero. Now the operative question is: how long does the system take to reach equilibrium given a flat forcing? This question (and the general claim you are making) was addressed in one of John's posts a while back. In short, there is no evidence that the flat solar trends are having a significant influence on recent temperature increases. >in fact all charts show increasing temperatures since 1850. No they don't. Temperatures were stable if not cooling slightly from 1850-1915. I believe what you are thinking of are charts showing overall temperature increase from 1850 to today, not the actual trends during those particular decades.
  12. @KL: It's not about being knowledgeable, it's about making a cogent argument. Even after all these messages I still don't get what you're driving at. Talk about a colossal waste of time...
  13. Responding to oxymoron, who in another thread argued that "Certainly before 2000 the correlation between TSI and temperature is obvious" Well, as this article shows, it's not 2000, it's 1980. Also, note that temperatures actually *lead* TSI from about 1925 to 1950. So, what can we conclude? Solar forcing does have an impact, but in the past 30-35 years it has been completely overpowered by anthropogenic greenhouse gases.
  14. e #711 I covered this point about areas under curves viz: KL : "This only represents the available positive (warming) forcings. The main negative forcings are cloud and aerosol albedo, and S-B radiative cooling. I shall run some numbers on these and try for a net forcing since say AD1750 in 50 year tranches." There will be a S-B negative curve and cloud albdo and aerosol negative curves - with the sum of all being the net energy added or lost to the Earth system. According to Hansen the thermal lag of the system is about 25 - 50 years, so we should see a temperature response which follows the net energy balance - lagging by some similar time period. Certainly if you take decadal sections of the post AD1850 temperature curves there are flat periods or slightly cooling periods - just like the one we have had for the last 10 years. This is consistent with the net area of Total forcing curves shown here : http://www.brighton73.freeserve.co.uk/gw/GISS_forcings.gif PROVIDED you add the correct Solar forcing of about +0.1 - 0.2/sq.m on the positive side which has been wrongly set to zero in this Total forcing chart. ie: The period 1850 - 1915 should be cooling because all the area under the Total Forcing chart is negative -but the temperature record shows flat (or very slight cooling) which indicates that positive Solar forcing at was offsetting the negative area.
  15. archiesteel #712 "Even after all these messages I still don't get what you're driving at. Talk about a colossal waste of time... " Your failure to understand might not be within my power to explain archiesteel.
  16. @KL: "Your failure to understand might not be within my power to explain archiesteel." Oh, I *understand* what you're saying (with a measured IQ of 150, I should be able to understand basic math and science even though my training in those areas stopped after high school). I just don't get what you're driving at. I'm sure it has something to do with trying to disprove AGW, but your argument is so buried in obfuscating jargon it's hard to tell anymore. Please come down your high horse and state your argument clearly, or we'll be forced to conclude all you're doing is trying to muddy the waters. Here, I'll help you, since that task seems above your abilities: Do you think the sun is responsible for the current warming trend?
  17. Ken, Did you take a look at the post I linked? It addressed essentially exactly what you are claiming, that solar forcings have a more long term effect then currently understood. Anyways, Hansen 2005 already "ran the numbers" as you are attempting to do. The net radiation and temperature data produced as a result is consistent with the temperature record and inconsistent with the idea that solar forcing is having any significant effect on recent warming.
  18. KL #715 I can assure you that it's your argument that is unclear, and that it leads to conclusions that you do not state explicitly, but instead expect the reader to infer themselves. Not good enough I'm afraid.
  19. archiesteel #713: I don't know if I will be successful in posting this chart (from Soon), but it shows the strong correlation between TSI and arctic air temperature from 1880 to 2000. Again, CO2 levels have been steadily rising, yet temperatures fell between (roughly) 1940 and 1965. To have gone from a sun-dominated system to a CO2-dominated system so quickly seems to be an extraordinary claim, requiring extraordinary evidence.
  20. May as well just provide a link to the entire paper, oxymoron, always better than a disconnected graph orphaned from its parent. Here: Variable solar irradiance as a plausible agent for multidecadal variations in the Arctic-wide surface air temperature record of the past 130 years (full text, pdf)
  21. @oxymoron: temperature mid-century fell mostly because of aerosols, not a drop in solar energy. CO2 and aerosol forcing are an order of magnitude larger than solar variations. Don't get hoodwinked by scientists-for-hire like Willie Soon.
  22. e #717 This is the introduction to your cited Hansen paper: "Our climate model, driven mainly by increasing humanmade greenhouse gases and aerosols among other forcings, calculates that Earth is now absorbing 0.85 ± 0.15 W/m2 more energy from the Sun than it is emitting to space. This imbalance is confirmed by precise measurements of increasing ocean heat content over the past 10 years." I don't think so. OHC content measurement debated at great length elsewhere on this blog eg; "Robust warming of the global upper oceans" has shown that OHC measurement is everything but precise. Even Dr Trenberth who would be on the same side of the debate as Hansen can only find 60% of the OHC increase posed by the 0.9W/sq.m imbalance. Will post my numbers when completed and checked. You all can be my peer review.
  23. archiesteel #721: Thanks. You've given me all the evidence I need.
  24. @oxymoron: you're welcome. I knew sooner or later you'd come around to the side of reason. :-)
  25. Gentlemen Regarding the numbers I am currently crunching (Ref #651)- could anyone point me to some historical data on Wate Vapor + Ice Albedo feedback - currently quoted by Dr Trenberth at +2.1W/sq.m in AD2005. I could assume linearity back to zero in AD1750 but this is a very significant component, and this could widely affect the result of the Total forcing sum.

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