Thursday, April 10, 2008

Prisoners of the Sun.

First, kudos to anybody that caught that "Land of Black Gold" and "Prisoners of the Sun" are both Tintin adventures. Considering the limited audience here, and the obscure reference that makes.. probably nobody. Oh well. Spielberg's making a picture, or apparently three.

We are all (myself included) pretty sold on the theory of global warming by now. Humans are producing increasing carbon dioxide.. greenhouse gas.. climate warms, etc.

But, in an irony that will probably not be lost on history even if it has so far been lost on contemporary journalists, the year after Al Gore wins the Nobel Prize for his work on climate change [not a big fan personally of Al Gore, bit a wind bag if you ask me.. I digress], there came basically out of nowhere a good, old fashioned cold and snowy winter for North America and parts of Asia. Which by the way, caused us to burn a lot of natural gas and heating oil, and is, in my opinion, responsible for the strength in oil prices this year (and natural gas too).

Obviously, one season does not a trend make, but it appears there is another variable involved in our climate, one that is generally right in front of our eyes and which we seem to have left out of the global temperature equation altogether:

The sun, and it's associated cycles.

I need to do more research on this topic, but it's possible we have here what Micheal Steinhardt would refer to as a variant perception.

And, um, if there is truth to the below theory, it could be a big one.

The Bellingham Herald: Sun’s shift could mean global chill.


Fluctuations in solar radiation could mean colder weather in the decades ahead, despite all the talk about global warming, retired Western Washington University geologist Don Easterbrook said Tuesday.

Easterbrook is convinced that the threat of global warming from mankind’s carbon dioxide pollution is overblown.

In a campus lecture, he cited centuries of climate data in an effort to convince a somewhat skeptical audience that carbon dioxide’s impact on climate is being much exaggerated by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and by scientists who appear to have won the debate over global warming.

“Despite all you hear about the debate being over, the debate is just starting,” Easterbrook said.


Easterbrook doesn’t deny that the Earth’s climate has been warming slowly since about 1980. But he argued that this warming trend fits a longstanding pattern of warming and cooling cycles that last roughly 30 years. Sunspot activity and other solar changes appear to explain the 30-year cycles, he said.

If that pattern persists, the earth could now be close to the next 30-year cooling cycle, Easterbrook said.

He noted that the 2007-08 winter set records for cold and snow in many parts of the globe. According to the data he displayed, the Earth’s temperature hit a peak in 1998 and has been steady or slightly cooler since then.

“One cold winter doesn’t mean much of anything,” he said. “A 10-year trend is interesting.”

He contended that warming periods appear to match periods of sunspot activity, which currently is at a low point.

Easterbrook noted that astrophysicists have been expecting that activity to begin increasing soon, but so far it has not.

Prolonged periods of low activity could lead to a dramatic cooling such as occurred in Europe during the so-called “Little Ice Age,” a term loosely used to describe cooler weather in the 14th to 19th centuries, Easterbrook said.


If the warming trend of the past 30 years really is reversing, it won’t take too long to become apparent.

“In three years we’ll at least know the direction we are headed,” Easterbrook said. “If we are one degree warmer in 2010 than we were in 2005, I will appear here and eat my words.”

While Easterbrook is skeptical about the risks from carbon dioxide, he said he strongly supports efforts to curb air pollution.

“There are a lot of things being put in the atmosphere right now that are way more dangerous than (carbon dioxide,)” he said.

But Easterbrook is far more worried about global population growth.

At present growth rates, the world would add another 3 billion people by 2050, putting enormous strains on supplies of food, water and other resources.

“Nobody is talking about it,” he said. “Nobody is doing anything about it, and it’s happening.”

The Australian: Climate facts to warm to.


"Is the Earth still warming?"

She replied: "No, actually, there has been cooling, if you take 1998 as your point of reference. If you take 2002 as your point of reference, then temperatures have plateaued. This is certainly not what you'd expect if carbon dioxide is driving temperature because carbon dioxide levels have been increasing but temperatures have actually been coming down over the last 10 years."

Duffy: "Is this a matter of any controversy?"

Marohasy: "Actually, no. The head of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) has actually acknowledged it. He talks about the apparent plateau in temperatures so far this century. So he recognises that in this century, over the past eight years, temperatures have plateaued ... This is not what you'd expect, as I said, because if carbon dioxide is driving temperature then you'd expect that, given carbon dioxide levels have been continuing to increase, temperatures should be going up ... So (it's) very unexpected, not something that's being discussed. It should be being discussed, though, because it's very significant."

NASA: Long Range Solar Forecast.


The Sun's Great Conveyor Belt has slowed to a record-low crawl, according to research by NASA solar physicist David Hathaway. "It's off the bottom of the charts," he says. "This has important repercussions for future solar activity."

The Great Conveyor Belt is a massive circulating current of fire (hot plasma) within the Sun. It has two branches, north and south, each taking about 40 years to perform one complete circuit. Researchers believe the turning of the belt controls the sunspot cycle, and that's why the slowdown is important.

"Normally, the conveyor belt moves about 1 meter per second—walking pace," says Hathaway. "That's how it has been since the late 19th century." In recent years, however, the belt has decelerated to 0.75 m/s in the north and 0.35 m/s in the south. "We've never seen speeds so low."

According to theory and observation, the speed of the belt foretells the intensity of sunspot activity ~20 years in the future. A slow belt means lower solar activity; a fast belt means stronger activity. The reasons for this are explained in the Science@NASA story Solar Storm Warning.

"The slowdown we see now means that Solar Cycle 25, peaking around the year 2022, could be one of the weakest in centuries," says Hathaway.

You can read an update on solar activity here:

AARL: The K7RA Solar Update.

And view current sunspots here (none currently):

NASA: Sunspots.

Theory details:

Space and Science Research Center: The RC Theory.

I haven't read these two books yet, but I plan to:

Amazon: The Chilling Stars. A Cosmic View on Climate Change.

Amazon: Unstoppable Global Warming (Every 1,500 Years).

[Disclosure: If you buy the books via those links, I get a commission from Amazon. Just so you know..]