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David Archibald Exaggerates the Solar Influence on Future Climate Change

Posted on 29 January 2012 by dana1981

David Archibald is a climate "skeptic" who has been CEO of multiple oil and mineral exploration companies operating in Australia, and currently is part of the scientific advisory panel for the Australian Climate Science Coalition (ACSC) - a group of Australian fake skeptics which also includes Bob Carter, John McLean, David Evans, and Ian Plimer.  Archibald is a major proponent of the "it's the sun" myth, and from time to time will publish a paper in Energy&Environment (the controversial journal which publishes "skeptic" research which is too erroneous to meet the standards in standard peer-reviewed journals), claiming that a decline in solar activity will lead to substantial cooling over the next few decades.

In this post we'll examine one such paper, Archibald (2009), in which Archibald claims that certain regions of the planet will cool 2.2°C over solar cycle 24, which began in December 2008, and is expected to be a relatively weak cycle (Figure 1).

solar cycle 24

Figure 1: Smoothed monthly sunspot number over the second half of solar cycle 23 and beginning of cycle 24 (blue) and the predicted values over the rest of cycle 24 (red) (NOAA).

However, as fellow ACSC member John McLean did with the influence of La Niña, David Archibald has grossly overestimated the solar influence on global temperature.

The Claim

As we at SkS have previously noted, Archibald has a history of focusing on data from individual surface temperature stations such as Perth, Australia or Bridgeport, Washington.  In his 2009 paper, Archibald similarly focused on temperature data from a single temperature station in Hanover, New Hampshire:

"If the month of minimum for the Solar Cycle 23 to 24 transition is July 2009, this would make Solar Cycle 23 over thirteen years long. This in turn would mean that it would be 3.2 years longer than Solar Cycle 22, and imply that the annual average temperature of Hanover, New Hampshire will be 2.2° C cooler during Solar Cycle 24 than it had been on average over Solar Cycle 23."

In this quote, Archibald repeats the myth that solar cycle length determines global temperatures - a quite unphysical argument which is based on correlation rather than causation - and specifically focuses on the temperature data from a single station.

Hanover, New Hampshire

The temperature data for Hanover are available via NASA GISS.  The average temperature in Hanover over solar cycle 23, which began in May 1996 and ended in December 2008, was 7.9°C.  Thus if Archibald is correct, over solar cycle 24, the temperature in Hanover should cool to 5.7°C.  In fact, Archibald's prediction is based on the average temperature over the entire solar cycle, so his prediction is actually that the average temperature in Hanover from approximately 2009 through 2020 will be 5.7°C.

Thus far we are more than a quarter of the way into cycle 24, and Archibald's prediction is not looking good (Figure 2).  And remember that we're currently headed upwards toward the solar cycle maximum (expected in 2013 or 2014), so any dramatic solar-caused cooling will have to happen in the second half of the solar cycle.

Archibald Hanover

Figure 2: GISS temperature record for Hanover, New Hampshire (1895 through 2008, black), GISS Hanover data for solar cycle 24 (2009 through 2011, green), and an example of how Hanover temperatures would have to change for Archibald's prediction to be accurate (blue).

As with John McLean's failed temperature prediction, a simple cursory glance at the data is all that's necessary to conclude that Archibald's prediction has no basis in reality.  However, we haven't yet seen the worst of Archibald's predictions.

Mid-Latitude Temperatures

In the abstract of his paper, Archibald extends the claim much further yet:

"As at late 2008, the progression of the current 23/24 solar minimum indicates that a severe cool period is now inevitable, similar to that of the Dalton Minimum. A decline in average annual temperature of 2.2° C is here predicted for the mid-latitude regions over Solar Cycle 24."

"Mid-latitude regions" refers to the area betwen latitudes of approximately 24° and 64° in both the northern and southern hemispheres, which accounts for nearly half of the Earth's surface.  Such a large area exhibits much less temperature variability, on average, than a single station like Hanover, New Hampshire.  Thus Archibald's prediction in this case becomes even worse yet (Figure 3).

mid lat

Figure 3: Mid-latitude (24 to 64°S and 24 to 64°N) GISS land-ocean temperature (black) vs. Archibald's prediction (blue).

The middle latitudes warmed approximately 0.77°C over the past 115 years, and Archibald has predicted that they will cool 2.2°C over the next 10 years.  This prediction clearly has no basis in reality.

Manufacturing Controversy

A prediction of 2.2°C cooling for Hanover, New Hampshire may be unrealistic, but it also is of little consequence.  However, 2.2°C cooling for nearly half the planet, or even the entire planet, would be quite noteworthy, to say the least.  Towards the end of the paper, Archibald fuels speculation about such a possibility:

"Based on our understanding of the interaction of solar and terrestrial processes, the following projections are made for a number of climate-related physical processes:"


"Temperature Decline Solar Cycle 24: 2.2° C"

In this case, Archibald does not specify the geographic region to which his prediction applies, and it can easily be construed (or misconstrued) as referring to the planet as a whole.  In fact, when the prediction inevitably fails, Archibald will undoubtedly claim that his assertion of 2.2°C cooling for "mid-latitude regions" was only intended to apply to very isolated regions like Hanover, New Hampshire.

However, imprecise assertions like "mid-latitude regions" and the unspecified "Temperature Decline" will allow fake skeptics to add David Archibald to the list of "scientists" who are "predicting global cooling," even though his research does not support this claim.  In fact, 2.2°C is nearly half the average global temperature change during the transition between glacial and interglacial periods.  If Archibald were predicting such a massive temperature change over a period on the order of a decade, he would deserve to be laughed out of the room.

Realistic Solar Influence

In reality, solar activity is generally quite stable.  On a global scale, the sun has only contributed to less than 40% (0.3°C) of the observed global warming over the past century, and less than 15% (0.1°C) over the past 50 years, according to peer-reviewed global warming attribution research (Figure 4).

solar attribution

Figure 4: Solar contribution to global warming according to Meehl et al. 2004 (M04, blue), Stone et al. 2007 (S07, red), Lean and Rind 2008 (LR08, green), and Huber and Knutti 2011 (HK11, purple).

According to Fuelner and Rahmstorf (2010), even a grand solar minimum would cause no more than a 0.3°C cooling of average global surface temperaturesA recent study by Jones et al. (2012) concluded that similar to Archibald's assumption, solar activity will fall to levels similar to the Dalton Minimum during the 21st century, but unlike Archibald, found that this would only result in a minimal cooling effect of approximately 0.08°C on the average global surface temperature.

"...the likely reduction in the warming by 2100 is found to be between 0.06 and 0.1K, a very small fraction of the projected anthropogenic warming."

Bear in mind that according to various solar reconstructions (summarized in Jones et al. 2012), total solar irradiance (TSI) today is only between 1 and 2.5 Watts per square meter (W/m2) higher than during the Maunder Minimum, which was the period with the lowest solar activity in the past several centuries.  The change since the Dalton Minimum is even smaller.  The solar radiative forcing is estimated by multiplying the change in TSI by 0.25 and 0.7, to account for the sphericity and albdeo (reflectivity) of the Earth.

Thus a change in TSI from today's levels to Maunder Minimum levels would only cause a radiative forcing of 0.17 to 0.44 W/m2.  This is the equivalent forcing to an increase of atmospheric CO2 from today's level of 390 parts per million (ppm) to between and 400 and 420 ppm - between 5 and 15 years of CO2 emissions at today's rates.  A Dalton Minimum would correspond to just a few years of human CO2 emissions, and at most a couple tenths of a degree cooling of the average global surface temperature - a factor of 10 less than Archibald's claimed 2.2°C.

In short, Archibald has either dramatically overestimated the solar influence on global temperatures, or has worded his paper so poorly that his discussion of Hanover, New Hampshire temperatures can be misconstrued as referring to mid-latitude or global average temperatures.  This sort of shoddy work is undoubtedly why Archibald was forced to settle for publication in Energy&Environment.  The sun is simply not going to save us from the rapid global warming we have in store on our current emissions path.

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Comments 1 to 40:

  1. This worse that Newt's Videos....
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  2. A prediction of drastic, unprecedented temperature plummeting in the near future. Hmmm, doesn't that strike anybody as being a bit "alarmist?"
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  3. Usually I think of these guys as "true believers" in their crazy theories, but this is so out there that I'm biting my tongue to avoid moderation about motivation...
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  4. Predictions of cooling have been made for years e.g. this article by Phil Chapman in "The Australian" predicting an ice age starting from 2008 which quite clearly has not come true as temperatures have continued to rise, not fall, since then. It's a shame there isn't a way of forcing newspapers to print a retraction, or at least an update, when observations don't match their predictions. BTW: The link to "John McLean's failed temperature prediction" doesn't work.
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  5. I remember McLean's predictions, and at the time thinking, "why did he bother to make such a way out prediction?" The same question occurs to me now. Why would you make such a prediction? From elsewhere: 'That adds up to a whopping 4.9°C fall in temperate latitudes over the next 20 years. We can only hope he’s wrong. As David says ” The center of the Corn Belt, now in Iowa, will move south to Kansas.”' 4.9 C over the next 20 years! What is he smoking?
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  6. Those cooling prediction numbers do sound extreme. The interesting thing about solar influence is that we may be in the process of the experiment, if in fact cycle 25 represents a quiescent period.
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  7. I don't see any mention of the failure of David Archibald's last ridiculous global cooling prediction:
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  8. Interesting video, with Dr. William Happer, Princeton physics professor, on his view of global warming.
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  9. JBob, A video from the Marshall Institute is not interesting in any way. And it is also off-topic. Further off-topic references will be deleted.
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  10. 8 - This Willam Happer?
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  11. Apologies, I also have a John McLean cooling prediction post in the works, and had intended to publish it first (in which case the McLean link in the post would have worked), but this post became more time-sensitive and thus was published first. When the McLean post is published this week, the link will then work.
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  12. The broader public should know what kind of "peer review" is done at Energy&Environment. I wish it became clear for the public, or at least the mainstream media, what kind of "alternative view" E&E provides. Or Spencer, Christy, Lindzen and their fellows, for that matter.
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  13. I am a civilian, who is amazed at the power of the so-called skeptics. This Sunday, January 29, 2012, the denier echo machine is all over Memeorandum siting a "NASA" prediction/or study that shows that we will have a new ice age. The media for denying global warming is very powerful, and I don't know how it is done, but needs to be referenced more so people without science backgrounds will know that scientists are NOT deeply divided over the facts and predictions. Thank you for fighting the good and great fight.
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  14. @John Brookes: the point of all these predictions of global cooling is delay. The fake sceptics are trying to create the impression that there are serious scientific predictions of cooling in order to influence political decisions. They are only meant to influence politicians, though, which is why they don't need to be realistic in any way - simply convincing enough to a politician. If the politicians believe that there is serious debate about whether it is going to warm or cool, then the only rational (to a politician) solution is to wait another, oh 10 or 20 years before doing anything radical like reducing emissions. The fake sceptics know perfectly well that it is not going to cool, but their only goal is to prevent action for a few more years until it is obvious to absolutely everyone that it is going to keep warming. A cynical, and IMHO utterly evil, ploy.
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  15. tomcj, You're referring to David Rose's junk science in the 29 January Daily Mail Online. How's this for an opening inaccuracy: Analysis by experts at NASA and the University of Arizona – derived from magnetic-field measurements 120,000 miles beneath the sun’s surface – suggest that Cycle 25, whose peak is due in 2022, will be a great deal weaker still. --emphasis added A quick look up at the figure in this post shows cycle 25 will peak in 2013-14. Oops. I'll bet this Peter Stott quote doesn't get a mention in fake-sceptic land: ‘Our findings suggest a reduction of solar activity to levels not seen in hundreds of years would be insufficient to offset the dominant influence of greenhouse gases.’ The SSN graph (labeled as 'Solar cycle amplitude') shown in Rose's post is already incorrect. Another oops. This is junk.
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  16. In his paper Archibald says: "Here, Figure 5 shows another similar correlation for the Central England Temperature record, this time of 0.6° C cooling per year of extra cycle length." Eyeballing the figure is looks unlikely but nevertheless I digitized the data. I found that the slope of his best fit line is not -0.6 °C/yr but -0.2 °C/yr. It's not even the true best fit line to the data shown in the figure, which has a slope of -0.1 °C/yr. Six times lower than what he claims.
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  17. If you read something about climate science in The Daily Mail, especially if written by David Rose, you can be 99% sure it's complete and utter garbage. The Daily Mail is about a step above The National Enquirer. It's basically a tabloid.
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  18. oh gloom, gloom. the sun is not going to save us. thanks for the 'jones et al' link, it's nice to see the folk at the met. publishing again, they've been very quiet last few years - and may be again if the tory cuts take hold. tomcj - i wish i didnt know how its done - just give me money that's what i want .. CTG - " They are only meant to influence politicians, though, which is why they don't need to be realistic" oh, i so wish that was an exaggeration! so much for 'reality based decision making". dana - go geezer! getting better with each post!
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  19. Is there any way that this Mr Archibald could be described as having made a genuine mistake? It looks like a cynical attempt to sway public opinion away from taking the action the real science is screaming for. If so, I just hope that he is called to answer for his actions when the public wake up to reality.
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  20. Muoncounter, it's solar cycle 24 that will peak in 2013/14, so SC25's peak can be expected in the 2020s, though 2022 seems a bit early. That's not to say the Mail isn't full of tripe - it is.
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  21. " The Daily Mail is about a step above The National Enquirer." - that's a bit unfair to the Enquirer, which has been known to be right from time to time ... :)
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  22. I saw the article in the Daily Mail today (it was on the bus; I don't buy such rubbish :P) - what caught my interest was the statement "Met Office releases new figures which show no warming in 15 years". The 'article' also then goes on to refer to a paper released last week by the Met office. It would be helpful if they at least gave some indication of which paper they are referring to aka a reference? Does anyone know what its on about? Regarding the '15 years of no warming' is it just a rehash of number 9 on the left hand side panel of this page?
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  23. J Bob @ 8 Hilarious video - thanks for the link. "We should do nothing about CO2 for at least several decades, until we can see where it is going." Good ol' Wall Street Journal - always on top of the big issues. Not.
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  24. ferox @22, the Daily Mail was referring to this press release, showing HadCRUT temperature data for 2011. As it happens, it shows 1997 and 2011 as having the same temperature. The linear trend of the HadCRUT3v global data (which differs slightly from that in the press release, as does the HadCRUT3 data) shows the linear trend over the period 1997 to 2011 to be effectively zero (0.01 degrees C per decade). The first thing to notice about this is the obvious cherry picking. The press release also shows the NOAA NCDC figures, the NASA GISS figures, and the WMO figures, all of which show significant positive trends. So, the Met Office did not release figures showing no increase in temperature. On the contrary, they released a set of figures which together show an increase in temperature, although one particular index did not. Of greater interest is the fact that version 4 of the Hadley CRU temperature series is about to be released. The significant difference between version 3 and verion 4, from our perspective, is that version 4 has more Russian, and more Arctic stations, thus filling in some of the gaps in coverage of HadCRUT3. The effect of filling in those gaps over recent years is shown below: As can be seen, HadCRUT4 (red line) is significantly warmer than HadCRUT3 (blue line) after about 2003, resulting in 2005 and 2010 both being warmer than 1998, and a net positive trend. GISSTEMP (NASA) and the GHCN (NOAA) already use mathematical techniques to avoid the lack of coverage that plagues HadCRUT3, so unsurprisingly, increasing the overage of HadCRUT brings it closer into line with the other two indices. This clearly demonstrates that the lack of warming in HadCRUT3 is an artifact of gaps in coverage of that index. Preferring it to either GISTEMP or GHCN is to prefer an index which is known to be less accurate just because it suites your prejudices. The third point is, as I believe you have alluded to, is that this is just another example of deniers trying to go down the up elevator. Finally, I have located and read the Mail article to which you refer, and the press release regarding solar activity which they focus on. As is typical of press releases from many research institutions, they report the research, but do not cite the paper. (IMO, that shows such a fundamental lack of awareness of the nature of science as to render the composer of the press release unfit for their duties.) Consequently I am guessing as to which paper the press release refers to. The two best candidates are this on a future grand solar minimum, this on climate impacts of solar minimums, or this (which is behind a paywall, so I cannot give you a summary). I notice the Mail continues the standard practice of "balance" in main stream media. That is, if you report on the consensus of climate science, two thirds of the article must be given over to the opinions of (largely) unqualified deniers for balance; but when you report on the opinions of climate change deniers, no opinions of climate scientists need be reported for balance. The article is, in other words, not journalism but propaganda!
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  25. This site gets my daily visits; has for years. It ain't too shabby at all (as opposed to Archibald's work):
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  26. It's fairly easy to shoot at the barrel-fish in Archibald's paper, but SKS missed the magic-moment Joke-of-the-year: his prediction about global CO2 levels: (from page 8): 7. Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Level: Relatively flat 2010 - 2030 "He very funny man."
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    [DB] Actually, that was Mauna Loa.  Global is here (December not yet finalized):

  27. Actually, they're identical with a 2-point difference favouring the northern hemisphere lead influence. And the NOAA graph isn't the real global - it's the background level measured from the network's marine sites (sea level). Mauna Loa works for me.
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  28. re the daily mail lies, met office news is worth getting email updates from
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  29. Of course, when HadCRUT4 is released the conspiracati will say: 'They weren't seeing warming so they kept picking which stations they used till the warming appeared, they're hiding the decline!' It'll be further evidence of 'warmist' deception. You know, precisely how they reacted to the ARGO edits. Unfortunately there is zero way to avoid this reaction. Most of the big names will carry their opinions with them to their graves.
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  30. What really annoys me is that Im quite naive to denial (I don't read UK tabloids usually) and the assertions the article was making weren't subtle; its actually titled 'forget global warming'. To the average reader it would seem that they need to concern themselves with this issue anymore - without wanting to sound alarmist myself sure these articles pushing denial are crimes against humanity?
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  31. *need not
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  32. DrTsk #1 "This worse that Newt's Videos...." No it ain't ... Archibald is interchangeable with other Easterbrooks and they will not control research budgets or congressional hearings. (I am assuming you are not talking ethics ánd Newt ánd David in one breath ... naturally)
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  33. Tom Curtis @ 24 - thanks for all the information on that, it was very informative
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  34. John @28, Thanks for the link. The Met Office are not pleased by Rose's distortions and misrepresentations: "Today the Mail on Sunday published a story written by David Rose entitled “Forget global warming – it’s Cycle 25 we need to worry about”. This article includes numerous errors in the reporting of published peer reviewed science undertaken by the Met Office Hadley Centre and for Mr. Rose to suggest that the latest global temperatures available show no warming in the last 15 years is entirely misleading. Despite the Met Office having spoken to David Rose ahead of the publication of the story, he has chosen to not fully include the answers we gave him to questions around decadal projections produced by the Met Office or his belief that we have seen no warming since 1997." And "Furthermore despite criticism of a paper published by the Met Office he chose not to ask us to respond to his misconceptions." Rose has a long history or misrepresenting scientists' research, distorting and cherry picking. He is a a poor excuse for a journalist. See here and here.
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  35. It just occurred to me. The fake skeptics often claim that in the 70s scientists were predicting an ice age... but now THEY are the ones predicting global cooling.
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  36. DaneelOlivaw, yeah... but the people doing it 40 years ago had reasonable basis for thinking so. Heck, if deniers were to take that 40 year old science and present it today as evidence of imminent cooling... despite being long since disproven it'd still be a better case than the one they are actually presenting.
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  37. @ferox Their misinformation is certainly despicable, irresponsible, and dangerous. I'm not sure I'd say they're committing "crimes against humanity," but it's definitely an affront to honesty, definitely destroys their credibility, and it's a shame that anybody listens to them at this point. I came across the Daily Mail post yesterday and immediately went to Woodfortrees to see just how much of a cherry pick 1997 was. As I suspected, you can extend the record back by a single year and the trend is dramatically different. The same is true for any of the previous five years. 1997 is the absolute earliest year in which you can get an almost-flat trend line. It's hard to avoid concluding that Rose knew exactly what he was doing. It's possible he saw that 1997 and 2011 were almost identical and didn't think any further than this, but "he didn't think much before writing a story about it" is not exactly an excuse.
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  38. Archibald is still clinging to his story, albeit in a slightly modified way: now he says cycle 24 is likely to be a long one, ending in 2026. Until then we should see a global cooling of 0.9º over the entire cycle. Article here: When will it start cooling? Suggestive title. I also ask that question...
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  39. "...he says cycle 24 is likely to be a long one, ending in 2026. Until then we should see a global cooling of 0.9º over the entire cycle"
    Record CO2 forcing + a more active, awake-for-longer sun = global cooling? Reminds me of the immortal words of John Wayne:
    "Life is hard; it's harder if you're stupid."
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  40. At least Archibald is admitting that the data aren't following his prediction. That's a small step in the right direction, unlike say Don Easterbrook, who just distorts the data to make his prediction look less bad.
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