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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.


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Comments 951 to 975 out of 1304:

  1. 950, Tom, For the record he does have a few pages of similar forecasts up to 2055. I just really don't see the point since there's no clue as to what they are forecasts of or how they can be evaluated, let alone of what value they have to anyone, anywhere. Wet... Dry... Wet twice. WTF?
  2. For Tom Curtis (950) The date you seek is 1976.
  3. Don Gaddes @952, as there are editorial comments for 1977, and for 1982, the forecast date is almost certainly after those two years. What was the date of publication of the book so that I can know the true date before which all is hindcast? As an aside, I note that your father considers 1813 to be somehow equivalent to 1982. The two years are separated by 13^2 = 169 years. As neither 13 nor 169 figures on your list of significant periods (post 914), either you have misinterpreted your father's theory, or your father indulged in ad hoc modification of this theory to avoid the appearance of being falsified.
  4. Tom Curtis (950) The date you seek is 1976.
  5. Don Gaddes, the date I am looking for is 1990, the date of first publication of the book (and hence the predictions). It follows that there were only two actual predictions in the section quoted by Sphaerica, one of which was true, and the other false. That means when it comes to predictions (as opposed to retrodictions), your father is as accurate as a coin flip, on the data available to me.
  6. 955, Tom, I'm done with Mr. Gaddes, but to clarify (since he seems unable to articulate things clearly himself)... Don doesn't seem to understand the difference between a hindcast and a forecast. The book was published in 1990 with "forecasts" from 1976 to 2001. My assumption then is that A. S. Gaddes actually performed hindcasts from 1976 to 1990 (which is cheating, because he also used that same data to develop his model, so no surprise there if he achieves some degree of accuracy) as well as true forecasts from 1990 to 2000. Don Gaddes further extended those forecasts through 2055. You can e-mail Don to get a copy of the book, to see his actual forecasts in the Appendices. For my part, I'm only curious as to what figures (both data source and thresholds) you (and he) are using to determine when a period is "wet" or "dry" in order to evaluate the veracity of a forecast. And, with that said, I still see no point to the entire endeavor. Predicting wet/dry cycles based on climastrology has no influence whatsoever on the temperature of the real world, and A. S. Gaddes' prediction of an imminent ice age is clearly not coming to fruition.
  7. dana, Here is a slightly different version of your Figure 3 (in the advanced rebuttal) from a slide talk by Dr. Nathan Schwandron, a professor/researcher in space and plasma physics at the University of New Hampshire. The peak value was in the early 80s. The figure shows a compilation of 45 years of satellite-era total solar magnetic flux (Note: that is not the same usage of flux as in radiative flux (Watts/meter2); it is magnetic field flux, Phi-B = B.A, where B is field strength in Tesla, A is a cross-sectional surface area and . is dot product. Phi-B is thus measured in webers = Tesla meter2). Dr. Schwandron demonstrates that magnetic field flux is an excellent proxy for solar corona temperature - which dropped precipitously during the cycle 23/24 minimum of 2009. The reduced magnetic field flux has also driven the strength of the IMF (inter-planetary magnetic field), as measured at the earth, to a deep low. This point from Dr. Schwandron's talk is very interesting: Space age context shows 1970’s also an era of lower coronal temperatures We know that the 70s was a cool decade (and not just because of all this cool stuff). The reconstructed solar coronal temperature shows 2005-2009 to be even cooler. And yet, and do not show this cooling (on earth) in any way, shape or form. So no, it's not the sun.
  8. I'm a bit confused... isn't this, kind of, the whole point of the Foster and Rahmstorf Measure the Global Warming Signal paper? Separation of the GHG .v. other factors? And, for those who still don't get figure 3... a little video
  9. There is a new paper out by Abdussamatov here, he is claims a total decrease in TSI of 6.8 W/m2 due to a decrease in the bicentennial activity of the sun. Of course this big decrease will cause a new little ice age etc. etc. Only problem I have is that I am not able to find anything on the "Bicentennial Decrease of TSI".
  10. Link to /pub/data/irradiance/composite/DataPlots/composite_d41_62_1110.dat (PMOD) doesn't work.
  11. Notice the somewhat recent topic on the rise of coronal mass ejections. Since the sun has loss heated mass, it has less to burn and therefore less heat
  12. ShadedX - sorry but it doesnt follow. The path for stellar evolution is that heat from the sun will rise very very slowly (and has been doing so through geological time). As fuel is spent, it will expand and eventually engulf the inner planets, including possibly earth. But not for a few billion years.
  13. And as for you scaddnep, I am not talking about a star's lifetime.
  14. ShadedX, coronal Mass Ejection (CME) activity varies with the activity of the Sun in it's approximately 11-year cycle, see for example this SEC plot. The ~2000 peak was reasonably large, and followed by the deepest solar minimum in many decades near 2009. The next peak is forecast to be much smaller, peaking in 2013 or 2014. The cyclicity does not explain long-term global warming, and the past decade has been dominated by the progression from the last solar max to the deep solar min. CMEs themselves have little to do with Earth's climate, except that there are more when the Sun is a bit more active.
  15. ShadedX - sorry, but it not clear what you do mean then. The statement "Since the sun has loss heated mass, it has less to burn and therefore less heat " does not follow. Since the CME happen all the time, if your statement were true, the sun should be gradually cooling which it is not.
  16. Solar activity does not have to increase to cause warming. It has to be at or above a certain level. Approximately 1365.7 seems to be enough to warm. It pretty much held or exceeded that level from 1918 or so on.
  17. Cruzn246 - what is the basis for your statement (ie where is the peer reviewed published research) and how do you explain the cooling since 1918? Other theories match the known data better than the statement "1365.7 seems to be enough to warm". One in particular I would draw your attention to is AGW - it not only incorporate the sun (obviously the primary source of heat energy) but it also includes things like water vapor, CO2, soot pollution, ice cover, volcanoes, etc. Check it out -the good news is the heavy lifting has been done - you can read article on this site that address any question you have.

    [DB] You can peruse Cruzn246's litany of comments here, as he has a long history of posting unsupported assertions at SkS going back about a year and a half.  Note the moderator response to this comment over a year ago. 

    Nor is it the first time he has posted such comments on this very long thread.

  18. Thanks skywatcher. Though seriouly, I don't believe that the sun effects the climate that much. I just wanted to see what you all had to contradict it. Just wondering: Is it me or are some of the "Response" comments bias?
  19. With regards to a comment by one BernhardB here, I am linking to this thread where it is more on topic (at least, I suspect so - if there is a better thread please do point it out). As a response, Bernhard, I am no physicist, but I would say this: We can, when standing at the Earth surface, empirically measure longwave IR backradiation from the atmosphere, and there are posts on this site and elsewhere documenting this. Just as we can empirically measure from orbiting satellites the effect heat-trapping (aka greenhouse) gases in the atmosphere have on outgoing longwave IR. I'm only marginally aware of what a heat sink for a power transistor is, but I gather from your derisive line Then I would like to know why the fins on power transistor heat sinks don`t "back radiate" each other into a China Syndrome melt down. that melt downs are not a common occurence among them. As such, I would suspect the issue is not with either power transistors, their heat sinks, or observed longwave IR backradiation. I would not be surprised if one of the more physics-educated commenters here has more to say.
  20. "We can, when standing at the Earth surface, empirically measure longwave IR backradiation from the atmosphere, and there are posts on this site and elsewhere documenting this." Indeed composer. Martha's Vineyard Coastal Observatory, for instance has an hourly (I think) updated graph of downwelling IR. Just click on the link to Infared radiation. Simple as that. Considering there is always some level of IR, even at night, the GH effect deniers have some seriously contorted explaining to do. No doubt that some will try. I'm waiting for Bernhard's words on these observations.
  21. Philippe - does this mean that down-welling IR can be measured? But if the GHE doesn't exist, how can that be possible? Interesting that they're seeing >300 W/m^2 with an air temperature of 40F. That's after a couple of days of high humidity and relatively low solar input - it's been cloudy. Could clouds be a positive feedback? Note- the linked figures are for 3/23-3/30. They may change to keep current.
  22. From here. "We all know a more active sun means a stronger magnetosphere... up until recently the magnetosphere (a la Sol), was extremely powerful." We all know... not a very scientific argument. Refer to this comment above for some actual data on the sun's mag field. Note the title: Overall Flux Reduction. 45 very flat years. See Arge et al 2002: Lockwood et al. [1999a , 1999b] conclude that the total open solar magnetic flux has increased by 41% from 1964 to 1995 and by 130% over all but the last 5 years of the twentieth century. However, solar data for more than two solar cycles ... show no secular trend in overall photospheric flux. More importantly, the magnetic flux open to interplanetary space ... fails to show evidence of a secular increase over the last two solar cycles. A final point about this vaunted solar 'aa' index increase comes from Russell and Mulligan 1995: -- source It looks like this increase ran during the first half of the 20th century - and then the index went flat. That is entirely consistent with Figure 1 above and the data presented above. This point is very clear: the early 20th century warming was solar in origin. The recent warming is not.
  23. test comment
  24. Hi all, I'm a biochemistry student at the University of Oxford, and some of the stuff I'm finding here is shocking. There's a complete lack of adherence to the scientific method, very few peer-reviewed studies and logical fallacies everywhere. Don't even get me started on the science, either.
    Response: [Rob P] Please note the comments policy. If you're here to discuss actual science, then do so. There are plenty of websites on the internet where empty rhetoric is acceptable. SkS is not one of those sites.
  25. Please, please, please, TheCriticalThinker: don't be a hit and run. Come back and defend your theses, or, rather, engage in a mutually beneficial dialogue using those theses as starting points. It would be lovely, lovely, but, I strongly suspect, highly unlikely.

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