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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 76 to 100 out of 1289:

  1. leebert Taking northern polar wind direction that would go far to explain the March 2008 anomaly over asia. BTW Nice links, especially the jpeg.
  2. Two more studies to add to your impressive list of twelve: Sloan et al. 2008, http://www.iop.org/EJ/abstract/1748-9326/3/2/024001 Kristjansson 2008, http://folk.uio.no/jegill/publications.html (first link)
  3. Second order skeptic John has a whole page devoted to Sloan 2008 titled Do Cosmic Rays Cause Clouds that you might want to look at. The lower link to "Global dimming and global brightening - an analysis of surface radiation and cloud cover data in northern Europe" I found very interesting.
  4. The following comments are challenges to the theory of global warming that I haven’t heard any successful retort: • Post by Barry on Jan 30th – “I question the physics behind the response: a crucial finding was the correlation between solar activity and temperature ended around 1975......The assumption is that there is always an energy balance between heat radiated from earth and input from the sun. Lets say that solar activity remained above this energy balance, one would have to assume that temperature would still increase, until some new energy balance is achieved. This means that temperature can still increase as long as the input is greater that the output. • Post by tbandrow on March 7th – “Well, solar flux doesn't need to be argued. It can be proved. The current solar theory is due to an interaction that has something to do with sunspots. So, if that is the case, then we can see if the global temperature will go down, assuming the present dearth of sunspot continues.” Yes I saw the comment regarding La Nina, but his point was as we have more time years with low sun spots and cooling temperatures we can rule out irregularities like La Nina, can’t we? • Post By Dan Pangburn on April 14th – “From the Vostok ice core data, during glacial periods, often a rising temperature trend with a rising carbon dioxide level suddenly changed direction and became a falling temperature trend in spite of the carbon dioxide level being higher than when the temperature was increasing. This could not be if carbon dioxide causes a positive feedback. The Andean-Saharan Ice Age occurred when the carbon dioxide level was over ten times its current level. What is different now that could lead to run away temperature increase?” I find this argument to have particular merit, since by the accounts and data that I have seen, we haven’t seen any statistical temperature increase in the last 10 years (per NOAA data), yet we continue to increase CO2 concentration. If someone would point me to the arguments that have been made (or make new ones) that offer explanations or counterpoints, I would greatly appreciate that.
  5. Tom in Texas I know that this may sound a bit strange but parts of the U.S. actually get colder than central Canada (about as far north as civilization extends except for the coasts). For example in January 1996 northern Minnesota hit about -54 F during the Plains Blizzard, for that week it did not go higher than about -48 F (rounded to whole numbers). The same week, the urban town of North Bay and the mining town of Timmins (both Canada) never went below -45 F. and averaged about -40 F. It's because of the Jet Stream which as you know can dip as far south as Texas on occasion. It's one of the reasons that much of the cold tests conducted by car manufacturers are done in various towns in northern Minnesota. They also get more January snow than those canadian towns.
  6. Wow, my post has been up for 12 days, with no responses refuting the challenges to the theory of global warming that I posted? Does this mean that there is no credible scientific evidence to support the theory of global warming when it is confronted with these challenges?
  7. Wow, my post has been up for 12 days, with no responses refuting the challenges to the theory of global warming that I posted? Does this mean that there is no credible scientific evidence to support the theory of global warming when it is confronted with these challenges?
  8. TruthSeeker Recent attention has been on "Arctic sea ice melt - natural or man-made?" if you feel up to beating your head against a wall.
  9. Remeber what Einstein said, "No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong."
  10. Why does this site keep referencing the 70's? The planet if over 4 billion years old and has been chaning ever since. You are sitting here talking about the last few hundred years like they have been of any kind of significance in the last 4 billion. It's just a spec, not even that really. More drastic changes have happened (climate wise) in Earths history then the industrial revolution. Does anybody else think that this is a form of "Vanity?" Short of nuclear fallout, I don't think that we could put a dent in this planets way of working. I do think however that pollution is bad for us humans, and we should look at that more then global destruction.
  11. Stop listening to the media and paid celebrities. They have no sort of degree in science and are just reading from a script. This has all stemed from "Yellow Science." It used to be that we listened to the scientists from both sides of the argument. Now we don't even listen to them at all, we listen to the media, politicians and paid celebrities, none which have any clue of what they are talking about. It's a shame that the scientists on the other side of the fence don't get the same main stream media attention that Al Gore does. But the reason for this is very simple and clear....MONEY. Over 50 Billion dollars has been spent world wide for Global Warming research. These scientists don't even have to come up with anything significant to get paid, they just have to sign there name with a little PhD right next to it. Big corporations have also made a killing selling "Green" products. Governments world wide will never let these scientists get world wide attention either because they can't admit they have been DUPPED into believeing that the sky was falling and that they just spent billions of your tax dollars on it. Keep an open mind, look at """"ALL"""" of the science and then draw your conclusions.
  12. Bri-Man To bring you up to speed (at least on this site) the 70's are referenced because in the mid to late 70's the solar forcing stopped following the temperature line. Their argument, which is that of the IPCC, is that CO2 induced AGW explains the increases from 1975 on. Those of us skeptical of this argument have several positions, mine is vulcanism and plate tectonics which have been more active since the full alignment in 1976. The most recently active thread is "Arctic sea ice melt - natural or man-made?" and the discussion is somewhat heated.
  13. Quietman, BriMan,TruthSeeker, et al As just a curious layman, it is good to see that the banter and debate on this site is broad and deep. This kind of debate in the press and Congress would do our nation some good. GW, I assume, will be like much of science through history. It is seldom complete, even when we think it is. Whether it was the Catholic Church's belief that the earth was the center of the Universe, or a long held believe that there were only four elements, or even that for some time most believed that there were 24 chromosomes. Good scientists hold to the facts in front of them. Great scientists keep looking when the science does not match the facts. Reading your inciteful remarks, I can conclude we are still very short of good data and great science. There is still so much to debate.
  14. tlewellen Many of us posting comments are just laymen as well. But because John allows us to put links to reference material it is a great place to learn a lot more about climate change. But like any blog, don't believe everything you read. Like John says at the top of the home page - skepticism is healthy.
  15. Interesting posts. Tlewellen has a very good point about science being seldom complete. Currently we do not fully understand ( or in fact know)all the factors that drive the earth's climate, so any modelling we do has to be held VERY lightly. Including AGW. To ascribe GW to a single source is simplistic: it ignores synergistic interactions which I suspect have a far greater effect than our current models can handle. Solar irradiation recieved by us is not constant and fluctuates around 6% due to orbital irregularities. Only recently has anyone started to think about the effects of other planetary masses on our orbit and the consequencies. It also seems from my (admittedly limited) research that too little attention and weight is given to the actions of water vapour and cloud formation/cover. I have even found one study that chose to ignore cloud effect because it was to chaotic and difficult to obtain hard data! I also worry about the actual relevence of data which has been 'altered' to account for anomalies....and then used as 'hard' information to produce a trend. Like Quietman says, scepticism is healthy!
  16. No-one has yet commented on the massive disparity in temperatures between the two graphs shown at the top of this page during the post-war boom (roughly the first three decades after the Second World War). In a debate I've been involved in on various newsgroups (http://groups.google.co.uk/group/alt.global-warming/browse_thread/thread/912fb81971711597), a supporter of global warming called Fran mentioned "global dimming" reducing temperatures from 1943-74. However, I have discovered that there are two completely different graphs of average northern hemisphere temperatures on the internet! The graph shown in "The Great Global Warming Swindle", displayed at the top of this page, looks to be based on the same data as a March 2003 SPACE.COM article entitled "Sun's Output Increasing in Possible Trend Fueling Global Warming" (http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/sun_output_030320.html). This page came top when I googled "total energy output from the sun TSI" (without quotes). The graph on it uses data from an article by Baliunas and Soon in the Astrophysical Journal. This seems to tally with Fran's dates. However, two Wikipedia pages (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_dimming and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical_temperature_record) look to have similar data to the "Land-Ocean Temperature Anomaly" line in the second graph on this page (except the Wikipedia pages show 5-year rather than 11-year averages). These show falling temperatures in the 1940s but not in the subsequent decades It seems utterly ridiculous for predictions to have been made about a new ice age in the 1970s (rather than earlier decades) if temperature had not been falling as the latter graphs suggest. One set of graphs must be based on fake data, and my current opinion that the latter ones are fake appears to be supported by the NASA GISS data from individual measuring statements linked to by Whata Fool on http://groups.google.co.uk/group/alt.global-warming/browse_thread/thread/912fb81971711597. I have heard (I can't remember where) that the southern hemisphere has not been warming in recent decades unlike the north. Does anybody have any data about southern hemisphere temperatures? If not, why not? My particular take on the climate/weather, irrespective of whether CO2 is really the main contributor to global warming, is that it is being controlled by conspirators on the side of big business in the big political struggles in the world (to some degree or other, and maybe less so now than in the past). A BBC documentary "The Science of Superstorms" largely about the USSR regime's measures to affect where radioactive rainfall from Chernobyl came down and Chinese measures to stop rainfall at the time of the Olympics opening ceremony indicate that some level of control is possible. As weather forecasting has improved, so has the ability to control it - and having high levels of warming in some parts of the world and low levels in others suits the divide-and-rule agenda of unethical forces in positions of power.
  17. I forgot to mention in the above comment that the whole argument that the sun is not to blame is based on data/graphs that may be fabricated. There are massive vested interests, on both sides of the global warming debate, so fabrication of data is to be expected. Bearing in mind that one set of data for cooling during the post-war boom (despite higher production of carbon dioxide than earlier in the 20th century when temperatures were rising) is incorrect and clearly fabricated, the same may be true of recent solar radiance data.
  18. I find this all so fascinating. I have always been under the impression that we have been experiencing "Global Warming". Recently I have found we are now only talking about "Northern Hemispherical Warming". I am sure by this time next year we will be speaking of "North American Warming". Here I thought I was skeptical, no more. Everything is becoming so clear to me now. This BLOG is great! Definitely the best discussions I have found thus far. So many intensely intelligent individuals. Seems to me though, one should concentrate on adaptation rather than manipulation. You really think you can change the climate? I rather think that the climate will change you! ... this stuff is great ...
  19. Steve, you could also say "I forgot to mention in the above comment that the whole argument that the sun is to blame is based on data/graphs that may be fabricated". It's interesting that on one thread we have people arguing about which is to blame for the warming, the sun or CO2 while on another thread that global warming isn't happening at all. I wonder if some of the same posters are arguing both cases at once.
  20. sandy winder John has asked us to keep the threads relevant to the subject matter. So we argue for or against CO2 on all but for the sun only here. The problem, of course, is that there is no single simple explanation and thats why the models don't work right. Most of the argument here concerns TSI and Camp & Tung show that is a strong forcing comparable for that of CO2 (using IPCC sensitivity). However if the IPCC/NASA figures are too high (which another NASA scientist says they are) then the suns forcing is stronger. But that is still not the whole picture. The earth itself is very active right now. It's hard to go to a science news site without seeing a new discovery about current vulcanism/tectonics. Dr. Fairbridge's hypothesis explains this indirectly. It's all about the entire solar system and the interactions between sun and planets due to something we still do not understand fully: gravity.
  21. What I can't understand (if the sun is so important) is that for many millions of years when the dinosaurs were alive (and even before them) the planet was warmer than it is now, yet we are also told that the sun's output is gradually increasing over the eons. So how come the earth is not much warmer today, if the sun is the doiminant factor? The only answer seems to be that in the distant past the level of CO2 in our atmosphere was much higher.
  22. sandy winder Suns output increasing? Where did you hear that? The Sun is the major component in climate. Even if the IPCC figures for CO2 acting as a GHG are correct it could not work without the sun (GHGs are modifiers of solar radiation, not a heat source). In the distant past CO2 levels were in the thousands of ppm rather than low hundreds as they are today. But first it was hot, and then CO2 increased, then we had lush growth, a planetary jungle, and lots of animals to take advantage of it. That was 90% of the earths' history. The other 10% (roughly) consists of 4 ice ages. We are currently in the 4th ice age. It has slowly been warming (positive slope with wide oscillations) for 5 million years. The current period is considered to be an interglacial period. This, however can only be confirmed by another glacation (interglacial means between glacations). We could just as easily be in the post glacial period at the end of an ice age and that would mean it will continue to warm. The as yet unanswered question is: what causes these ice ages to start and stop? Until we can answer this question with high accuracy we know nothing about what climate is or how it works.
  23. Look here: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2003/03/0307_030307_impactcrater.html "The existence of the impact crater, Chicxulub, was first proposed in 1980. In the 1990s, satellite data and ground studies allowed it to gain prominence among most scientists as the long sought-after "smoking gun" responsible for the demise of the dinosaurs and more than 70 percent of Earth's living species 65 million years ago." Whilst the impact would have released a colossal amount of heat energy, this would have only affected a fairly local area, so originally it was thought the dust produced caused sufficient dimming of sunlight to provoke a mass extinction event. Currently however, it is thought that insufficient dust would have been created by this impact to mask the sun long enough and attention has shifted to the possibility of massive SO2 release from local calcium sulphate deposits. SO2 effect would have lasted much longer than so there would have been considerable diminution in plant and animal activity. Bearing in mind the climate was a lot hotter then, the combined effect of dust(immediate) and SO2(longer lasting) would have initiated a rapid cooling which in turn could have been to start a climate 'wobble' which resulted in the cycle of ice ages and intermediate warmer periods. As far as I can tell, no definitive research has been carried out on this possibility.
  24. http://www.madsci.org/posts/archives/2002-12/1039267568.As.r.html In fact, the Sun is actually getting hotter. As 4 hydrogen atoms turns into 1 helium atom, the total number of particles in the Sun's core decreases. In order for the pressure within the Sun to stay constant, and continue to support itself against gravity, the temperature of the Sun must increase. This increase in temperature results in the Sun becoming brighter as well. In turn, this makes the Earth warmer because the intensity of sunlight is increasing. It is expected that within 1 billion years or so (well before the Sun runs out of hydrogen fuel) the temperature on Earth will increase to the point that a runaway greenhouse will take place. The result is that the Earth will end up looking much like Venus today.
  25. ///The as yet unanswered question is: what causes these ice ages to start and stop? Until we can answer this question with high accuracy we know nothing about what climate is or how it works./// I think it is bit unfair to say that scientists know nothign about climate. They know quite a lot about it. The fact they do not everything does not mean they know nothing. Scientists don't know everything about the human body yet but doctors still perform operations.

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