Why low sunspot activity portends prolonged climate chill

Fewer sunspots means more cosmic rays that result in cooling

President Trump’s December 28 tweet connecting an upcoming “Coldest New Year’s Eve on record” with not paying “trillions of dollars” to prevent “that good old global warming” actually accomplished a media miracle. It provoked many “mainstream” pundits to finally recognize some fundamental climate realities that others of us have been arguing all along.

As Kendra Pierre-Louis condescendingly responded in a New York Times.com piece, “(I)ndeed, parts of the East Coast are bracing for record-breaking New Year’s Eve temperatures. New York City is forecast to experience its coldest New Year’s temperatures since the 1960s. But Mr. Trump’s tweet made the common mistake of looking at local weather and making broader assumptions about the climate at large.”

Yes, Kendra, just as The New York Times has done in banner headline alarm bombshells every time any particular year, month, or day virtually anywhere becomes “the warmest on record since.  . . . ”

And as Kendra also thoughtfully informs us, “Climate refers to how the atmosphere acts over a long period of time, while weather describes what’s happening on a much shorter time scale. The climate can be thought of, in a way, as the sum of long periods of weather.”

Again bingo! Like, for example, the past two decades of statistically flat global temperatures recorded by satellites. While not yet a full climate cycle, one more decade of this will qualify for that rather arbitrary distinction.

Perhaps remember that just prior to the most recent warming, the very same New York Times had been trumpeting the arrival of the next ice age following three previous decades of cooling since the mid-1940s.

On the other hand, what if that good old global warming that we briefly experienced between the late 1970s and 1990s really doesn’t return for another decade, two or three? Don’t think this can happen? A 200-year low pattern of sunspots, combined with solid new research linking solar activity to Earth’s climate, suggests otherwise.

Important relationships between solar activity levels, cloud cover, and surface temperatures are explained in a recent report published in Nature Communications. Lead author Henrik Svensmark from the Technical University of Denmark asserts that climate models have grossly underestimated these natural influences, while greatly exaggerating the importance of atmospheric CO2.

Sunspots indicate magnetic changes on the Sun’s surface that influence the strength of solar winds that is available to deflect away cosmic rays — high-energy particles originating from supernova events which diffuse throughout the galaxy. During periods of low sunspot counts, (e.g., weaker solar winds), more of those non-deflected cosmic rays reach the inner part of our sun’s planetary solar system.

Cosmic rays that penetrate within to collide with Earth’s atmosphere strip electrons off air molecules to produce ions (electrically positive and negative molecules). These ions, in turn, help aerosols (clusters mainly made up of sulfuric acid and water molecules) to form clouds through a process called nucleation.

Even more briefly stated, fewer sunspots (weaker solar winds) allow more cosmic rays to enter the Earth’s atmosphere to ionize aerosol molecules, which condense into clouds that cause cooling. More sunspots have the opposite effect — fewer clouds — warmer surface temperatures.

Henrik Svensmark and colleague Nir Shaviv report that their new study results directly contradict all too popularly accepted theoretical numerical model projections that small aerosols are lost before they are capable of growing large enough to produce clouds. As evidence demonstrated in a cloud chamber shows, “(I)nteractions between ions and aerosols can accelerate growth by adding material to small aerosols and thereby help them survive to become cloud condensation nuclei.”

Another study presented by Valentia Zharkova at a 2015 National Astronomy meeting anticipates that another multi-decade “little ice age” may very well be on nature’s schedule. She predicts that present solar cycle 24 activity levels, already the lowest witnessed since solar cycle 6,200 years ago, will continue to decline to “Maunder Minimum” (prolonged sunspot minima) conditions last seen 370 years ago.

Zharkova’s model draws upon dynamo effects in two layers of the sun — one close to the surface, and one deep within its convection zone. Both have a frequency of approximately 11 years, yet are slightly different, and are also offset in time. Her model predicts that the pair of waves become increasingly offset during solar cycle 25, which peaks in 2022.

During solar cycle 26, which covers the decade from 2030 to 2040, the waves will become exactly out of synch, and will cause an even more significant reduction in solar activity. In Solar cycle 26, the waves will exactly mirror each other — peaking at the same time, but on opposite hemispheres of the sun.

Nevertheless, whether present cooling continues or not, is there any reason at all to panic? No, and by the same token, when that good old global warming resumes — as it undoubtedly will along with intermittent cooldowns — let’s remember present conditions and be doubly grateful.

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About the Author: Larry Bell

Larry Bell

CFACT Advisor Larry Bell heads the graduate program in space architecture at the University of Houston. He founded and directs the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture. He is also the author of "Climate of Corruption: Politics and Power Behind the Global Warming Hoax."

  • Li D

    Cmon Larry. Take ya hand off it.

    • Immortal600

      You can’t show him wrong. You never have. LOL

    • Otter

      There are three scientists mentioned in the article. Explain to us- using your knowledge in the sciences they practice- exactly where they are wrong.

  • Vincenzo Ferretti

    Above article displays a total lack of understanding of what drives current climate change. But it makes for good fiction. 🙂

    • Otter

      Are you sure you are commenting on the right site? ‘skeptical’science was on your other tab!

      • Vincenzo Ferretti

        Yes Otter. Skeptical Science is not what you think…pay it a visit.

        • Dale

          Vincenzo: Oh, there is another one?

          At first I thought that you were referring to the alarmist
          George Soros-funded web site operated by an ex-failed cartoonist by the name of John Cook who only has to his credit:
          -launching his career by defaming climate skeptics
          -changing the text in comments on his blog
          -writing under another name and identity of an actual scientist (Dr. Lubos Motl)
          -making completely stupid statements about climate change (apparently his own belief) and attributing them to Dr. Lubos Motl and so forth…

          • Vincenzo Ferretti

            Let me know when your seizure is over and you’re ready to speak English.

            • Dale

              Ah, so that is the one.
              If that is where you are getting your information, then it is fully understandable why you comment as if you have no scientific literacy at all.
              My condolences…

        • Otter

          I already have. The papers they list are years out of date. The charts and graphs are years out of date and when I emailed and asked if they planned to update one particular one, they said NO.
          SS is a joke and what Dale said is 100% accurate. Perhaps you should do some reading, starting with Lubos Motl as Dale mentioned.

  • MichaelR

    I cannot believe the level of scientific illiteracy in this article.

    For a start, the reason why sunspots cause more irradiance is completely wrong. It’s not changes in solar wind. It’s faculae around the sunspots that are immensely hot and luminous. This is basic science and has been known for decades.
    https://www.nasa.gov/topics/solarsystem/features/sun-brightness.html

    And then, surprise surprise, the temperature data ahown is the outdated RSSv3 instead of the v4 dataset which shows an even more clear warming trend of 0.125 K degrees per decade
    https://tamino.files.wordpress.com/2016/03/compare.jpg

    So factually incorrect about the basic physics of the sun, and dishonestly using old data and dishonestly going on to say it shows no warning when RSS themselves say it shows significant warming.

    Remind me. Why is anyone taking these articles seriously again?

    • Andy_H

      Michael, your zero point is between 1970 and 1980. This was the minimum temperature in the last 80 years and NY-Times wrote about “New Ice Age”.
      If you start always on the minimum you can find always a little bit of warming.

      • MichaelR

        The NY Times is not well reputed science journal last time I looked. Of papers written in the late 60s and 70s, 7 suggested future cooler temperatures (due to aerosols, 20 made no prediction, 44 predicted warming). There is no minimum in the 1970s. It’s in the 1870s at the end of the Little Ice Age.
        The following after the 1940s was shown to be due to massive amounts of aerosols from pollution. When regulations cleaned up the dirty fuels the aerosols were washed out of the atmosphere and the CO2 warming became the predominant forcing factor. I am not making of this up. It’s all just published science in journals such as Nature, Science, PNAS, etc, etc