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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 51 to 75 out of 1304:

  1. Quietman Flawed logic! IF what you say were true and it's a BIG IF, then it becomes even MORE important to reduce CO2 emissions to even LOWER levels than if CO2 was the primary cause of warming, because it's fairly impossible to do anything about the sun. I'm surprised that you weren't smart enough to spot that! Of course in the topsy-turvy world of AGW denial things that make sense don’t and things that don’t make sense, do. The next time you meet Alice in Wonderland, say hi! The tipping points remain waiting and at some stage they will be triggered. It matters not one jot to the clathrates or the permafrost where the heat is derived from. The ocean too is warming and that will mean outgassing. BTW Your link was corrupted and did not work. [hhttp protocol] I looked at the site you recommended and it's not science, it's not even peer reviewed but it's garbage and of no relevance. Not a single peer reviewed reference. But I noticed the Exxon funded Hoover Institute! Don't you just love the smell of that oil money! You will have to try harder, much harder. Try some real objective peer-reviewed science - you know the stuff that doesn't smell of oil or coal. Your argument gets even more unbelievable with every post.
  2. ScaredAmoeba It would be silly to try to do something about the sun now would it not? Perhaps since we actually have no control over climate change we should put our effort into ways that we can live with it?
  3. ScaredAmoeba And I do not intend to make an argument, my intent is to learn more about climate change by questioning the points that I do not understand. The articles and papers that I have read all seem to be conflicting and I want to know why. The most logical statements I have seen all agree that we need to plan for a changing climate. Cleaner resources are a given, that is common sense. But putting the effort into controlling CO2 does not seem sensible given that we can have so little effect by following that route.
  4. Quietman Definition of Argument 1'A connected series of statements intended to establish a position; a process of reasoning or disputation..,' NSOED 1993
    Response: I'm having a deja vu of a Monty Python sketch :-)
  5. John Me too.
  6. ScaredAmoeba Definition of Argument UN food chief urges crisis action Still don't think greens kill out of ignorance?
  7. ScaredAmoeba Call for delay to biofuels policy This is why I said that drastic measures without thinking things through could kill us all.
  8. "Environmentalist Groups Say Tech Firms Get Great Publicity from Their Green PR Efforts, But They Wonder How Deep the Commitment Really Is" But eho are the real Hypocrites? I am now seeing things that I have been afraid of for 40 years.
  9. I believe in taking care of the environment, buying only efficient products and recycling. But these alarmists and violent greens that burn other peoples Hummers really get me. Greenpeace is the worst of all, even one of its founders will have nothing more to do with them. They make me ashamed to say I am an environmentalist because it makes me part of the problem rather than part of the solution. Can't anyone see where rash actions lead? The blame for this is squarely on the UN itself for pushing Algorism and punishing skepticism and the green alarmists pointing fingers at oil companies instead of thinking things out rationally. Come on people, wake up, get off the bandwagon and start using constructive criticism.
  10. John No offense, but this is an issue that true environmentalists need to take a strong stand on.
  11. I have, so far, only determined that CO2 does not cause Global Warming and that there is no such thing as ‘water vapor feedback’. To my knowledge the combination of factors that contribute to climate has still not been sorted out. The reason why increased greenhouse gas level has no influence on average global temperature is proven at http://www.ruralsoft.com.au/ClimateChange.doc . See more at response 16 to Climate’s changed before.
  12. "The blame for this is squarely on the UN itself for pushing Algorism and punishing skepticism and the green alarmists pointing fingers at oil companies instead of thinking things out rationally." How many times have I seen this argument? Thousands of scientists follow wacky environmentalists, worship at the Church of Gore and push "Algorism". This is a general attempt to marginalize the overwhelming consensus view among scientists into a right vs left thing, in order to rally strong opposition through the political sphere. I don't think Gore has done much to affect views. Those who could use convincing are those who would, if anything, want to believe the opposite of what Al Gore says. There's a genuine difference between skeptics and contrarians. All scientists consider themselves skeptics. Contrarians seek to argue a particular point of view, the way a lawyer might.
  13. NewYorkJ As you are replying to a statement I made I would like to reply. I agree with you, scientists need to be skeptical. My point was that by turning this issue into politics by a movie aimed at inciting the more volatile environmental groups Mr. Gore has created a schism, isolating one group into alarmists and another into deniers. Any skepticism is now viewed as a denial and natural occurrences are blamed on global warming. The alarmisim has done more to hurt the science than help it, pushing govenments into rash actions that are backfiring. In science it is a scientists duty to challenge a new hypothesis and the current CO2 hypothesis is no different. That is how it works. The hypothesis must answer all challengers. The general public does not understand this and calls for action in fear.
  14. SA When you talk about "tipping points" you are taking yourself very far beyond the idea of science. Carbon Dioxide levels have been many times what they are today without ever finding this supposed point so I'm not too concerned with it. I think it is nearly certain that the overall feedback effect is not a positive number, that is kept very quiet because it blows an enormous hole in the panic. I have no trouble with "oil money" if you have no trouble with the IPCC. Which owes it's entire existence to the pre-formed conclusion that CO2 causes warming. Or to the more than 100 times greater money, usually tax money, spent on the other side of the issue. This is a log in your own eye issue if ever there was one. I also don't quite follow how evidence that CO2 does not cause the problem you fear is reason to control it even more tightly. Ignored in all of this of course are all the questions that should probably come first like is warming good or bad or would greater CO2 benefit the biosphere?
  15. Good article, but I'd suggest augmenting it with two other points showing that the recent warming is not due to the sun: 1) If the surface warming was due to the sun, you'd expect the entire depth of the atmosphere to be warming. However if the surface warming is due to the release of anthropogenic greenhouse gases, you'd expect the stratosphere to cool, partly due to decreasing stratospheric ozone (which heats the stratosphere by absorbing incoming solar UV radiation) but more because increasing GHGs in the stratosphere more efficiently radiate that ozone-absorbed heat, leading to a net cooling above the tropopause. Observations from satellites show that the stratosphere is cooling, which directly contradicts the hypothesis that the warming is coming from the sun, but agrees with the hypothesis that the warming is coming from greenhouse gases. 2) If the warming were due to the sun, you'd expect the increased shortwave input to the Earth to result in more warming during the day than at night. If the warming were due to anthropogenic greenhouse gases, you'd expect nighttime temperatures to increase more than daytime, since nighttime temperatures are more directly influenced by downward longwave radiation emitted by the atmosphere (as greenhouse gas concentrations increase, they warm and emit more downward longwave radiation, warming the surface). Observations in fact show more nighttime warming than daytime warming. Keep up the good work.
    Response: DWP, find me some peer reviewed studies highlighting point 2 and I'll be more than happy to do a post on the topic. As for point 1 on the cooling stratosphere, that's another topic on the to-do list :-)
  16. Well it's a complicated topic, as usual in climate, and I was skipping over most of that complexity above (especially the important role of clouds!). It's fascinating though, espeically as it is a way of probing how the models are simulating climate versus reality. The canonical reference is Easterling et al., Science, 1997 (p. 364-367). However, anyone who looks into this should also look at the updated work. For example, I'd suggest Stone and Weaver, Geophys. Res. Lett. 2002, v. 29, p. 1356; Braganza et al., Geophys. Res. Lett. 2004, v. 31, L13217; and the summary in the 2007 IPCC report of Working Group 1, in particular, Figures 3.2 and 3.11 and the discussion of those.
  17. John You might find this NASA clip interesting: A shock wave following a flare
    Response: That's an awesome animation - just imagine the size of that shockwave, the magnitude many times the size of the Earth!
  18. And the latest ideas on Solar Inluence in climate change.
    Response: The idea of global dimming is covered somewhat here. The most disturbing element of global dimming is expressed well on the PBS page: "Is global dimming masking the full impact of global warming? Some climate experts worry that it is, with the possible consequence that as we reduce pollution, the climate will heat up to unprecedented levels."
  19. 2007 global cooling continues into 2008: http://wattsupwiththat.wordpress.com/2008/05/31/globally-2008-significantly-cooler-than-last-year/ And the sun is still blank: www.solarcycle24.com I'm looking forward to this coming winter (but then I don't live in Canada). By next spring, the debate (which is far from over), will "heat" up.
  20. http://www.spaceandscience.net/siteb...eport12008.doc John L. Casey “The existence of ‘relational cycles’ of solar activity on a multi-decadal to centennial scale, as significant models of climate change on Earth.” Research Report 1-2008 http://www.spacecenter.dk/publications/scientific-report-series/Scient_No._3.pdf/view Svensmark, H. and Friis-Christensen, E. Danish National Reply to Lockwood and Fröhlich –“The persistent role of the Sun in climate Forcing” Danish National Space CenterScientific Report 3/2007 http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070801174450.htm Charles D. Camp and Ka Kit Tung Geophysical Research Letters (GRL) paper 10.1029/2007GL030207, 2007 http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070801175711.htm Anastasios A. Tsonis, Kyle Swanson, and Sergey Kravtsov: Synchronized Chaos: Mechanisms For Major Climate Shifts Geophysical Research Letters (GRL) paper 10.1029/2007GL030288, 2007 http://www.fel.duke.edu/~scafetta/pdf/2007JD008437.pdf N. Scafetta e B.West : Phenomenological reconstructions of the solar signature in the Northern Hemisphere surface temperature records since 1600 JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICALRESEARCH, VOL.112D24S03,doi:10.1029/2007JD008437, 200
  21. clayco Very interesting links but I cant get the top one to work, seems to be something missing.
  22. John I am not sure of the relevance but How Plasma From Superstorms Affects Near-Earth Space from ScienceDaily (May 31, 2008) represents another unfactored aspect of the irregularity of output from the sun.
  23. Hi Quietman, John, New studies show it's not just about TSI: See: “Is Climate Sensitive to Solar Variability?”, March 2008 “Physics Today”, provided the graph of Phenomenological Solar Signal (PSS) from 1950 to 2007 http://i27.tinypic.com/1zbavyo.jpg CERN's CR & cloud machine: http://aps.arxiv.org/PS_cache/arxiv/pdf/0804/0804.1938v1.pdf FWIW the Aurorae rain hot particles emitting IR & NIR, there's a So. Atlantic Anomaly weakness in the magnetosphere where the radiation belt descends into the ionosphere, and cosmic rays over the Antarctic may cause regional warming via NO2 formation.
  24. John, The question of global dimming is a tricky mess and b/c of the heretofore lack of solid field data, a big "known unknown," largely misunderstood & relegated to a "masking" function. V. Ramanathan (Scripps, INDOEX) has consistently found that in the case of aerosols there's a net heating effect, despite the surface dimming. Instead of easing or masking CO2's effect, mid-tropospheric brown clouds ladened with soot & sulfates are driving temperatures up, creating bigger temperature anomalies. The effect is as high as 40% over the vast Pacific region. He's claiming that the window of opportunity can be stretched to 20 years via simple soot mitigation. C. Zender is saying similar things re: soot deposition in the Arctic & Subarctic. There's also a documented cloud-seeding effect of winter storms in the N. Pacific that in turn loft soot into the stratosphere to be borne into the Arctic, eventually causing black icebergs (yes, black icebergs). The odds that we can curtail CO2 fast enough against even the mid-case scenarios are low, so subsuming the evidence against soot under the rubric of "carbon emissions" for fear of diluting the message about CO2 seems to me a mistaken approach. see: http://www.scientificblogging.com/blog/258
  25. John, The question of global dimming is a tricky mess and b/c of the heretofore lack of solid field data, a big "known unknown," largely misunderstood & relegated to a "masking" function. V. Ramanathan (Scripps, INDOEX) has consistently found that in the case of aerosols there's a net heating effect, despite the surface dimming. Instead of easing or masking CO2's effect, mid-tropospheric brown clouds ladened with soot & sulfates are driving temperatures up, creating bigger temperature anomalies. The effect is as high as 40% over the vast Pacific region. He's claiming that the window of opportunity can be stretched to 20 years via simple soot mitigation. C. Zender is saying similar things re: soot deposition in the Arctic & Subarctic. There's also a documented cloud-seeding effect of winter storms in the N. Pacific that in turn loft soot into the stratosphere to be borne into the Arctic, eventually causing black icebergs (yes, black icebergs). The odds that we can curtail CO2 fast enough against even the mid-case scenarios are low, so subsuming the evidence against soot under the rubric of "carbon emissions" for fear of diluting the message about CO2 seems to me a mistaken approach. see: http://www.scientificblogging.com/blog/258

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