Sun Plays A Major Role In Climate Change


It’s not often I voice my opinion on climate change without sounding like a tree-hugger or a total kook. However, in this circumstance I had an opportunity to read about some findings that hit home with my own personal thoughts and I figured you might like to know, too.

According to the latest American Astronomical Society Press Release, “Scientists have taken a major step toward accurately determining the amount of energy that the Sun provides to Earth, and how variations in that energy may contribute to climate change. In a new study of laboratory and satellite data, researchers report a lower value of that energy, known as total solar irradiance, than previously measured and demonstrate that the satellite instrument that made the measurement — which has a new optical design and was calibrated in a new way — has significantly improved the accuracy and consistency of such measurements. The new findings give confidence, the researchers say, that other, newer satellites expected to launch starting early this year will measure total solar irradiance with adequate repeatability — and with little enough uncertainty — to help resolve the long-standing question of how significant a contributor solar fluctuations are to the rising average global temperature of the planet.

“Improved accuracies and stabilities in the long-term total solar irradiance record mean improved estimates of the Sun’s influence on Earth’s climate,” said Greg Kopp of the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) of the University of Colorado Boulder. Kopp, who led the study, and Judith Lean of the Naval Research Laboratory, in Washington, D.C., published their findings today in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union. The new work will help advance scientists’ ability to understand the contribution of natural versus anthropogenic causes of climate change, the scientists said. That’s because the research improves the accuracy of the continuous, 32-year record of total solar irradiance, or TSI. Energy from the Sun is the primary energy input driving Earth’s climate, which scientific consensus indicates has been warming since the Industrial Revolution.

Lean specializes in the effects of the Sun on climate and space weather. She said, “Scientists estimating Earth’s climate sensitivities need accurate and stable solar irradiance records to know exactly how much warming to attribute to changes in the Sun’s output, versus anthropogenic or other natural forcings.” The new, lower TSI value was measured by the LASP-built Total Irradiance Monitor (TIM) instrument on the NASA Solar Radiation and Climate Experiment (SORCE) spacecraft. Tests at a new calibration facility at LASP verify the lower TSI value. The ground- based calibration facility enables scientists to validate their instruments under on-orbit conditions against a reference standard calibrated by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Before the development of the calibration facility, solar irradiance instruments would frequently return different measurements from each other, depending on their calibration. To maintain a long-term record of the Sun’s output through time, scientists had to rely on overlapping measurements that allowed them to intercalibrate among instruments.

Kopp said, “The calibration facility indicates that the TIM is producing the most accurate total solar irradiance results to date, providing a baseline value that allows us to make the entire 32-year record more accurate. This baseline value will also help ensure that we can maintain this important climate data record for years into the future, reducing the risks from a potential gap in spacecraft measurements.” Lean said, “We are eager to see how this lower irradiance value affects global climate models, which use various parameters to reproduce current climate: incoming solar radiation is a decisive factor. An improved and extended solar data record will make it easier for us to understand how fluctuations in the Sun’s energy output over time affect temperatures, and how Earth’s climate responds to radiative forcing.” Lean’s model, which is now adjusted to the new lower absolute TSI values, reproduces with high fidelity the TSI variations that TIM observes and indicates that solar irradiance levels during the recent prolonged solar minimum period were likely comparable to levels in past solar minima. Using this model, Lean estimates that solar variability produces about 0.1 degree Celsius (0.18 degree Fahrenheit) global warming during the 11-year solar cycle, but is likely not the main cause of global warming in the past three decades.”

I think the new findngs are awesome. For one, we really haven’t been studying our weather with any great accuracy or scientific instruments for that long – only about 5 decades. For those of us who enjoy viewing sunspots, you also might have noticed that when sunspot activity is high, it really does seem to affect our weather – especially cloud cover. Global warming is real, and there is no doubt that mankind has contributed to it. However, take solar findings very much to heart because my opinion is the Sun plays a more important role in our climate than we could have ever dreamed possible.

Original Source: American Geophysical Union – Image Courtesy of NASA

29 Replies to “Sun Plays A Major Role In Climate Change”

  1. Boy, does this article give mixed messages.

    On the one hand, they are recalibrating the satellites to value solar input at a lower value, and since NIST is the one doing the recalibrating (considering it was NIST who brought us the 9/11 Commission’s Report Data Summary and Investigation Tests) should we grant them a level of above zero credibility ?

    But on the other hand, they are now admitting that the Sun is a major influence on Earth’s climate and climate change, that’s a change !

    But I smell a sneaking suspicion that NIST will be rejiggering calibrations to supply the data to support whatever conclusion their bosses are desiring. Which I suspect will be that global warming must be considered affected by anthropomorfic causes. And so ‘austerity measures’ must be instituted by the NWO to achieve the political ends of improverishing the masses and ushering in a Corporate Fascist Feudal State with the Elites in total dictatorial global control thru carbon taxes and prohibitions.

    1. What you write here is frankly embarrassing. You might want to consider rethinking some of your thunks.


    2. Whoa big fella. The “Elites” are already largely in control. We have the best government that money can buy.

      I think we might agree that the Elites are already in the vanguard of global warming denial. Yet you suspect they have commandeered NIST to re-jigger the data so it supports global warming.

      Now how could the Elites logically both deny and conspire to support the evidence of global warming. Maybe you don’t equate the Elites with Corporate Facists?

    3. they are now admitting that the Sun is a major influence on Earth’s climate and climate change, that’s a change !

      You don’t really know anything about climate science, do you? See my comment below who notes that this is obvious and naturally what climate scientists have observed, tested and works with.

      That doesn’t change the likewise accepted fact of AGW, because it has swamped the change due to changes in irradiance (on average).

      So, if you don’t know what climate science says, or how it torpedoes your blind claims, why do you spout? And why do you spout what is in effect anti-science irrelevancies on a science blog?

    4. Oh you silly boy!!
      It is you who have zero credibility here.
      PC/EU, climate change, what else?
      Larrikin lars, your words here are so hollow!

  2. The solar cycle then appears to be a second order effect and not an averaged monotonic trend.


  3. The title on this post is *incredibly* misleading. I read the article in GRL yesterday. This post correctly represents the findings, but nothing in the paper changes anything we know about how the Sun affects climate. It’s obviously true that the Sun “plays a major role in climate change”, but these new results don’t affect that statement in any way.

  4. I agree with BrianT regarding the title. The creation of a reliably consistent instrument to measure solar output is important to prove that the sun is the major factor in climate in the solar system. However we do have sufficient proof to begin

    1. I’m not sure what you are saying. Science has now of greenhouse atmospheres for centuries (IIRC), and Mars is one of them. So is Venus and others.

      We also know that when some of them warms, others cools. This is because, as AGW proves for example, the Sun isn’t all what effects climate (and it will do so differently on different planets). Given a global sandstorm on Mars it will cool (IIRC), for example (and such storms won’t happen on Earth).

      While other planets help us understanding Earth climate, we can’t just put up any correlation and think it is causation.

      1. While other planets help us understanding Earth climate, we can’t just put up any correlation and think it is causation.”

        Which would be great if it was a prediction made solely on a correlation, but it isn’t.
        It’s a prediction that draws it’s roots from the Stefan-Bltzman law, the Beer-Lambert Law, and Hookes Law, predictions which, incidentally, have been born out by Quantum Mechanics and experimental measurements.

      2. I’m not sure what you mean here. The correlation (solar radiation change vs planetary mean temperature change) is falsified, since the planet’s average temperature change in different directions.

        The basic greenhouse effect depends on quite a few laws, yes.

  5. This is great! Early last year there was a review who updated the AGW theory tests, they are now at over 2 sigma. The new solar data will improve that, so we don’t have to wait for the signal itself to climb over 3 sigma with current low resolution methods.

    [For the Earth as a patient, he is a sick puppy, and 2 sigma diagnosis is better than we give medical patients. Climate science has decided their qualification for testing, and so AGW has status as well tested as far as science is concerned.]

    To sum up the review, which I don’t have handy, when you run the models you can match the outcome to observations and extract model parameters. Their weight should naturally sum to 1 in a normed space, and they do so if you include anthropogenic warming but not otherwise. (And if you compare against stochastic outcomes, the SNR ratio now gives 2 sigma confidence against the null hypothesis of no warming.)

    This is how climate science knew before the new calibration standard that while solar irradiance among other effects is the dominant effect changing our global greenhouse keeping the Earth warm, but that the remainder ~ 5 % of anthropogenic warming is what now heats Earth at a rate never before seen.

    I have to agree with those commenters that notes that the article title is misleading. Sun plays a major role in climate (well, duh) and ordinary climate change (say, as in Milankovitch cycles). But in the current change it plays second fiddle. It would have been better to title this with “Better measurements of Sun Plays A Major Role In Climate Science”.

    1. “It would have been better to title this with “Better measurements of Sun Plays A Major Role In Climate Science”.
      I’m not far from finding this article obfuscating and misleading.
      The apparent contradiction between the concise title and conclusion and the long misty development is puzzling.

  6. Talk about a misleading title…wow.

    Cart b4 horse.
    I’m one that truly believes the Sun is THE factor in climate. No matter what is going on with the weather or climate, the Sun is the major reason for it.

    I was looking for a definitive study or some evidential factoid that proved the title but I was greeted with a story about how instruments will be tinkered with to improve accuracies.

    When I was taking BASIC… we knew then that a program could be worthless if written incorrectly… TITO (Trash in, trash out)…
    So it follows that if an entity has bias, it would naturally tilt the programming to reflect that bias, even unconsciously. Science needs purity and liberty in order to resolve sticky problems.
    This article was helpful but woefully mis-titled.

    1. Every climate denier has a shtick, talking about GIGO is one of them.

      That doesn’t apply to science, that a) use models, b) test them, c) works great. See my comment on how climate scientists now can, and have, looked for naturality among the various models and found it. It is _no_ AGW, ie models like “Sun is THE factor” which now are unnatural. (Because AGW is a fact.)

  7. Apparently Tammy Plotner is an Astronomer. Heavenly body is her expertise. In her mind Sun does it all. What else right? I met plenty of people who have nothing more than their ego live by.

    As for including “Climate Change” in the title, it is an attention getter isn’t it? She knows how to get peoples attention. How else are you going to “make it” or “stand out” among other will qualified Astronomers?

    She is it baby! She know how to grab ya!

  8. Article headings are most often concocted by editors, not authors, so back off on that issue.

    Variations on TSI only apply completely to what is coming to earth’s spot in orbit. It accounts somewhat less for the actual earth temperatures, which are affected by cloud cover, jet contrails, atmospheric and ocean currents, etc., in addition to the “greenhouse gasses.” What is most important in the new satellite data is the ability to more accurately and consistently track the TSI and how it affects global warming over time.

    1. We can’t or shouldn’t back of from factually wrong claims. The editor and author has to come to an agreement based on that.

  9. I’d have to agree with thylawyer, the key element missing from the article is TIME. Of course the sun plays a role in climate change, it’s affects are nearly immediate. It may take us decades, if not centuries, of accurately monitoring the sun, fluctuations in our orbit around the sun, as well as any influences imposed by other entities traveling through the solar system to gain a bearing on any extraterrestrial factors affecting long term climate change.

    1. Again, no, that uncertainty has already passed, we have “a bearing”. Now scientists are trying to get better measurements, but the climate regime is now AGW according to the scientists.

      1. I assume your question is directed to me, not lars. OM := Pharyngula’s Order of Molly award; my web persona recognitions. Depending on relevance, on science blogs I could add an MSc and PhD each; but I rather let the science speak, as most do.

        I’m not sure I have seen Organizational Management; it sounds boring. 😀

      2. Well, maybe I should say *relatively* boring: I can hold my own there, if need be. But my main web interests are usually science.

  10. As long as we are talking Conspiracy Theory, has no one else considered that the Elites may be behind BOTH the AGW movement AND the global warming deniers?

    Why confuse the issue on only one front, when you can confuse the issue from both sides?

    Ultimately when obscuring the truth is your goal, you want to recruit all the kooks you can find.

  11. Does this mean that Al Gore will have to give back 1) his Oscar, 2) his Nobel Peace Prize, and 3) the millions of $ he got from his book, movie, and speaking fees?

  12. Just to nit-pick. In journalism it’s usually the sub-editor who writes the headlines and they try to encapsulate a story in a pithy, catchy and very often misleading headline. More often than not they aren’t specialists, have little or no knowledge of the specific subject and THEIR word is final.

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