Regular Solar Cycle Could Be Going on Hiatus


Are we headed into the 21st century version of the Maunder Minimum? Three researchers studying three different aspects of the Sun have all come up with the same conclusion: the Sun’s regular solar cycles could be shutting down or going into hibernation. A major decrease in solar activity is predicted to occur for the next solar cycle (cycle #25), and our current solar cycle (#24) could be the last typical one. “Three very different types of observations all pointing in the same direction is very compelling,” said Dr. Frank Hill from the National Solar Observatory, speaking at a press briefing today. “Cycle 24 may be the last normal one, and 25 may not even happen.”

Even though the Sun has been active recently as it heads towards solar maximum in 2013, there are three lines of evidence pointing to a solar cycle that may be going on hiatus. They are: a missing jet stream, slower activity near the poles of the sun and a weakening magnetic field, meaning fading sunspots. Hill, along with Dr. Richard Altrock from the Air Force Research Laboratory and Dr. Matt Penn from the National Solar Observatory independently studied the different aspects of the solar interior, the visible surface, and the corona and all concur that cycle 25, will be greatly reduced or may not happen at all.

Solar activity, including sunspot numbers, rises and falls on average about every 11 years – sometimes the cycles are as short as 9 years, other times it is as long as 13 years. The Sun’s magnetic poles reverse about every 22 years, so 11 years is half of that magnetic interval cycle.

"Butterfly diagram" shows the position of sunspots over 12 solar cycles. Sunspots emerge over a range of latitudes centered on migratory jet streams that follow a clear pattern, trending from higher latitudes to lower latitudes on the Sun. The active latitudes are associated with mobile zonal flows or "jet streams" that vary through the cycle. Credit: SWRI

The first line of evidence is a slowing of a plasma flow inside the Sun, an east/west flow of gases under the surface of the Sun detected via seismology with spacecraft like the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO)or SOHO and also with the Global Oscillation Network Group (GONG) observing stations, a system that measures pulsations on the solar surface to understand the internal structure of the sun. The flow of plasma normally indicates the onset of sunspot formation for the next solar cycle. While this river ebbs and flows during the cycle, the “torsional oscillations,” — which starts at mid-latitudes and migrates towards the equator — and normally begins forming for the next solar cycle has not yet been detected.

Latitude-time plots of jet streams under the Sun's surface show the surprising shutdown of the solar cycle mechanism. New jet streams typically form at about 50 degrees latitude (as in 1999 on this plot) and are associated with the following solar cycle 11 years later. New jet streams associated with a future 2018-2020 solar maximum were expected to form by 2008 but are not present even now, indicating a delayed or missing Cycle 25. Credit: SWRI

Hill said the above graphic is key for understanding the issue. “The flow for Cycle 25 should have appeared in 2008 or 2009 but it has not and we see no sign of it,” he said. “This indicates that the start of Cycle 25 may be delayed to 2021 or 2022, with a minimum great that what we just experienced, or may not happen at all.”

Plots of coronal brightness against solar latitude show a "rush to the poles" that reflects the formation of subsurface shear in the solar polar regions. The current "rush to the poles" is delayed and weak, reflecting the lack of new shear under the photosphere. Note the graph depicts both north and south hemispheres overlaid into one map of solar magnetic activity, and that the patterns correspond with the butterfly diagram above. Credit: SWRI

The second line of evidence is slowing of the “rush to the poles,” the rapid poleward march of magnetic activity observed in the Sun’s faint corona. Altrock said the activity in the solar corona follows same oscillation pattern described by Hill, and that they have been observing the pattern for about 40 years. The researchers now see a very weak and slow pattern in this movement.

“A key thing to understand is that those wonderful, delicate coronal features are actually powerful, robust magnetic structures rooted in the interior of the Sun,” Altrock said. “Changes we see in the corona reflect changes deep inside the Sun.”

In a well-known pattern, new solar activity emerges first at about 70 degrees latitude at the start of a cycle, then towards the equator as the cycle ages. At the same time, the new magnetic fields push remnants of the older cycle as far as 85 degrees poleward. “In previous solar cycles, solar maximum occurred when the rush to the poles reached an average latitude of 76 degrees,” Altrock said. “Cycle 24 started out late and slow and may not be strong enough to create a rush to the poles, indicating we’ll see a very weak solar maximum in 2013, if at all. It is not clear whether solar max as we know it.”

Altrock added that if the “rush” doesn’t occur, no one knows what will happen in the future because no one has modeled what takes place without this rush to the poles.

Average magnetic field strength in sunspot umbras has been steadily declining for over a decade. The trend includes sunspots from Cycles 22, 23, and (the current cycle) 24. Credit: SWRI

The third line of evidence is a long-term weakening trend in the strength of sunspots. Penn, along with his colleague William Livingston predict that by Cycle 25, magnetic fields erupting on the Sun will be so weak that few if any sunspots will be formed.

Using more than 13 years of sunspot data collected at the McMath-Pierce Telescope at Kitt Peak in Arizona, Penn and Livingston observed that the average field strength declined about 50 gauss per year during Cycle 23 and now in Cycle 24. They also observed that spot temperatures have risen exactly as expected for such changes in the magnetic field. If the trend continues, the field strength will drop below the 1,500 gauss threshold and spots will largely disappear as the magnetic field is no longer strong enough to overcome convective forces on the solar surface.

“Things are erupting on the sun,” Penn said, “but they don’t have the energy to create sunspots.”
But back in 1645-1715 was the period known as the Maunder Minimum, a 70-year period with virtually no sunspots. The Maunder Minimum coincided with the middle – and coldest part – of the Little Ice Age, during which Europe and North America experienced bitterly cold winters. It has not been proven whether there is a causal connection between low sunspot activity and cold winters. However lower earth temperatures have been observed during low sunspot activity. If the researchers are correct in their predictions, will we experience a similar downturn in temperatures?

Hill said that some researchers say that the Sun’s activity can also play a role in climate change, but in his opinion, the evidence is not clear-cut. Altrock commented he doesn’t want to stick his neck out about how the Sun’s declining activity could affect Earth’s climate, and Penn added that Cycle 25 may provide a good opportunity to find out if the activity on the Sun contributes to climate change on Earth.

Source: Southwest Research Institute, press teleconference

Lead image thanks to César Cantú in Monterrey, Mexico at the Chilidog Observatory. See more at his website, Astronomía Y Astrofotografía.

You can follow Universe Today senior editor Nancy Atkinson on Twitter: @Nancy_A. Follow Universe Today for the latest space and astronomy news on Twitter @universetoday and on Facebook.

107 Replies to “Regular Solar Cycle Could Be Going on Hiatus”

  1. If this is a repeat of the Maunder minimum it might reduce the worst of climate heating. I doubt it will make the problem go away, but it might reduce the severity of global warming. This is particularly the case after we get a runaway of permafrost and ocean hydrate melt.


    1. If this is a repeating oscillation of the Maunder minimum, it would swamp any puny anthropogenic global warming. I know that if global warming is made moot, a lot of people will be dissapointed.

      1. Not really. The Maunder minimum lasted 70 years, so if something comparable to that is going on we may just buy a bit of time. There CO_2 warming of the atmosphere will still be considerable, where now it is 1-deg C already and it could reach 2-deg C by mid century. A stopping of the solar spot cycle might just halve that increase by 1/2 a degree. The other thing to consider is the half life of a CO_2 molecule in the atmosphere is about 700 years. So all this CO_2 will be here once the spot cycle starts back. So it would be a folly to expect this is some celestial salvation from this problem.


      2. During the colder winters we will be burning a lot more fossil fuel and hence generating a lot more co2. So the problems will be more severe at the end of the period of cooling when the climate begins to warm again.

      3. The climate system is complex and our behavior is an added complexity. Given the upwards push of CO_2 heating, which is expected to be as much as 5-deg C this century, might just be reduced to 3-deg C maximum. The impact on heating is hard to predict. We might expect the decline in heating needs would not be as sharp. However, the coldness of winters has been surprisingly harsh of late. The atmospheric gyrus which bottles up arctic cold has broken up, which has heated up the N. pole a whole lot and all that cold spills down on us in winters. The last few years we have had some rather strange winter storms.

        The one thing which will happen with fossil fuels is that we will run out of them. We are near this peak oil situation where we have used half the thin crude petroleum reserves in synclines, and what is now left are hard to get thick crude and shale oil. There is also coal, but we will end up blasting down the mountains of the world to get at that stuff.


      4. Whew!!! It’s a good thing oil doesn’t come from synclines or else we’d be in trouble. It shows that your understanding of energy reserves and geology are acquired from what you are able to find on the internet. I would recommend goggling salt domes, faults, government regulation and ANTICLINES & oil reserves. We in America have plenty of Coal and oil reserves. Mountains are rebuilt after being “blasted down” (google: approximate original contour)

        Furthermore, using the equations set for by the IPCC (dF=5.35ln(C02/Co2@t=0) and (dTemp=Kappa*dF) your “upward push of CO2 heating” is technically independent of solar variations.

      5. I don’t know what is a worse offense for science fans, the EU antiscience or the non-AGW antiscience crowds.

        [Or the “peak oil” theory nonsense, when oil is a market commodity and “peak oil” was a, failed, hypothesis for how individual oil field behaves. Market peaks have an inherently flat behavior due to market mechanisms, “peak oil” productivity prediction didn’t.]

        The AGW denial is worse for society however.

        @ LakeLevel:

        “If this is a repeating oscillation of the Maunder minimum, it would swamp any puny anthropogenic global warming.”

        Again, there is no evidence yet that solar activity is tied to global temperatures. AGW _is_ tied to global GW of course, and CO2 stands for ~ 5 % of the total forcing IIRC. Yet it has already increased the global average ~ 1 K, while eyeballing the “Little Ice Age” it is half that.

        Presumably even at a similar solar activity minimum, it will not prohibit increased temperatures, only decrease the rate for a while.

        @ Geology:

        “Furthermore, using the equations … your “upward push of CO2 heating” is technically independent of solar variations.”

        Waving equations to utter a non sequitur? How denialist!

        _If_ a decreased solar activity would mean increased reliance on oil & coal, it would increase AGW.

        Even if the total forcing still means increased global temperature (likely, see above), regional climates will react differently from different forcing. As lcrowell notes, this is hard to predict.

      6. Dude, LC has far more credentials and scientific knowledge than you could imagine. He knows his stuff and is a very respected here.

        For you to pop up and claim he aquired his knowledge from the Internet only shows your lack of tact, lack of respect, close mindedness and general arrogance. Such an approach does little to convince others of your views. Do you really expect to throw insults and have others to listen to you and take you seriously?

        Anyone can mouth off a couple of equations and pretend to be an “expert” but LC and several others here are the real deal.

      7. Just as well you’re not in charge of finding our oil and gas reserves then isn’t it.

        Here’s some things for you to google:
        ‘Synclinal Oil’
        ‘Differential Entrapment’
        ‘Songliao Basin’
        ‘Pennsylvanian Field’ (Specifcally Buffalo County).
        The point being that there are several different mechanisms for oil accumulation to occur in a syncline or a geosyncline, and there are some well known oil fields that occur in synclinal structures.
        Oh yeah – IIRC the Moroccan Oil Shales are also a synclinal structure.

      8. It will only take one huge volcano explosion, and Global Warming will be a distant memory…

      9. But only for a short while (assuming you do not speak of an explosion of the Yellowstone super volcano…). Big explosions triggered temperature droppings in the past, but only for a few years at most.
        A super volcano might be a different story, but that would be catastrophic not only for the climate…

      10. But only for a short while (assuming you do not speak of an explosion of the Yellowstone super volcano…). Big explosions triggered temperature droppings in the past, but only for a few years at most.
        A super volcano might be a different story, but that would be catastrophic not only for the climate…

      11. The problem is that while that would toss obscene amounts of aerosols into the air and cause mass global dimming, a world with excess aerosols and Co2 is not the same as a world with neither.

        You’d still have the acidification of oceans to deal with, which is almost as big a problem as global warming, and once the aerosols went away, the temperature would go through a huge re-adjustment for all the Co2, because that will stick around for far longer (having a residence time measured in centuries).

      12. From my point of view, a Maunder minimum could give us some more time to prevent the worst things to happen. But for that we need to act NOW….

      13. Exactly. All this might do is to buy us a bit of time and to ease the situation a bit, but a solar down turn or end of the spot cycle will not solve the problem.


  2. lcrowell,
    Do you know anything about the Little Ice Age? European agriculture was dramatically impacted in a negative way. Populations were killed-off as productive land could not grow food as it once did. We are not talking about a few degrees of temperature change. The myth of Man Made Global Warming does not claim to increase temperatures to the degree lost during the Little Ice Age.

    Humans have benefited from periods of warming and have suffered from periods of cooling. A new Little Ice Age will cause suffer throughout the developing world that the CO2 hoax does not pretend to fix.

    1. Not sure this quite fits under personal theory territory. Anyone care to argue with John?

      1. Of course, but it’s very easy to agree with a bunch of radical claims with no evidence or citations, whatsoever, which is basically what John has given us.

        Exactly what does he call a “few” degrees, and what evidence does he have the the mean change in temperature was anything greater than that? Exactly what is he comparing them to, anyways, the Medieval Warm Period? That period was hardly representative of long-term climate anyways.

        and what of his assertion that anthropogenic global warming is a “myth”? Somehow, the vagueness of his post doesn’t inspire me to think that has anywhere near the degree of knowledge on this subject to even begin making a judgement like that. In fact, his implication that Co2 doesn’t cause warming, when even the most ardent educated skeptic knows it does (they simply disagree on magnitude) pretty much confirms such a lack of knowledge on his part.

      2. I’ll just repeat what I said above and add a reference:

        “Again, there is no evidence yet that solar activity is tied to global temperatures. AGW _is_ tied to global GW of course, and CO2 stands for ~ 5 % of the total forcing IIRC. Yet it has already increased the global average ~ 1 K, while eyeballing the “Little Ice Age” it is half that.

        Presumably even at a similar solar activity minimum, it will not prohibit increased temperatures, only decrease the rate for a while.”

        I see Ian Manson has data saying that the minimum was roughly as much as the AGW effect to date. Still not on the order of claimed variation. (“We are not talking about a few degrees of temperature change.)

        Presumably people still don’t get the difference between climate averages, climate extremes and weather.

      3. I just goes to show what can happen with a comment about an interruption of the solar spot cycle as competing with AGW.


    2. Actually John we are talking about a few degrees temperature change. In fact, a few degrees would be far too much. Mean temperatures based on ice cores for the little ice age period are thought to have dropped by around 1 degree.
      If we had a few degree drop or rise in temperature I think the results would be far more dramatic than agriculture problems and food shortages…

    3. A new ice age will bring as much suffering to the developing world as the upcoming heat waves. And why only the developing world? What about the “developed” world that still can’t refuse to abuse the planet as if we had another one?

      And where did you get your information from? Are you an expert in the field on which one could rely? Have you studied all the available information to come to such conclusions?

      Do you really think 99% of all experts around the globe are just working for an agenda? Do you always need such conspiracies?

  3. At the tenth paragraph, in the second sentence: “Penn, along with is colleague William Livingston…”

    Nancy, you did not mean to drop the “h” there, I presume?

  4. “…some researchers say that the Sun’s activity can also play a role in climate change, but in his opinion, the evidence is not clear cut.”

    This statement alone speaks volumes about ‘researchers’ and ‘global warming/climate change’; what possible connection could there be between solar output variations and Earth’s climate? Are (supposedly) intelligent people really scratching their heads over this? Let me save the American taxpayer possibly billions of dollars worth of ‘research’ and let it be known that, without the sun, there would be no climate on Earth to speak of, and carrying this logic slightly further ahead, if the sun experiences variations, it *will* change our climate as well.

    Whew! I hope this epiphany will cause our government to cease throwing vast amounts of money at a ‘problem’ that we cannot change or stop. If anything at all, we should be preparing ourselves to live with change instead of trying to stop it. The whole ‘Save The Planet’ mentality strikes me as very Don Quixote-esq. We cannot save what we did not create and cannot destroy.

    1. All right. But just assume for a moment that it may be due to the increased number of CO2 molecules in the atmosphere….

      Is it really worth the risk? Do we really need to depend on oil (which will sooner or later run out anyway?) Why not change the economy and the infrastructure now, before oil runs out? What’s wrong with less CO2 and other poisonous gases?

      And why do you need to disagree with 99% of experts? Do you always need a conspiracy?

      1. 99%? Provide evidence for that number. You are aware that the only viable evidence would be a roster of all experts showing their opinions and a corresponding roster of all scientists whom you do not consider to be “experts” with justification for excluding them. The “Climategate” (stupid name) scandal demonstrates that the selection of papers for publication in peer reviewed journals is very skewed by very unscientific, personal bias. It almost looks like the requirement for being considered an “expert” is agreement with the Carbon Dioxide theory, with anyone disagreeing being considered a non-expert regardless of that scientist’s bona fides.

        Further, what qualifies a person as a scientist? Is it a PhD, or can those with lesser degrees be scientists? What fields of work qualify one as a scientist? Must that person’s degree coincide with that field of work? Must that person be published? The latter, revered in academia, is a specious standard – consider, for example, the many unpublished scientists engaged in drug research or in other real world fields.

        You must realize that if the predictions of these “experts” does not come to pass (and they’re already failing to occur), it will undermine the credibility of all scientists in all fields. That credibility has already been damaged by past errors that had broad “scientific consensus.” If people like you manage to force very expensive changes onto the public and end up being wrong (the historic track record of scientist is not very good), you will produce a backlash against science and scientists that will cripple funding, public and private, for all fields of scientific endeavor. Tossing around “99% of experts” now will only make it worse – the general public will remember that number, regardless of its inaccuracy, and will then believe that 99% of all scientists are idiots, unworthy of receiving a penny’s worth of funding. When that comes to pass, Dr. Flimmer, realize that you will have ensured that the most important words to a scientist trying to find a job will be, “Do you want fries with that?”

      2. […] and they’re already failing to occur […]

        Ah, yes. Because the effects are even worse.

        An expert, for me, is someone who has studied that field, who works in that field for some time and has knowledge about the specific issues of that field. I, for one, am an astrophysicist at the beginning of my second year of PhD. I will never claim to be an expert in a field related to global warming. That is why I trust those who work in that field. Because they know what the heck they talk about. What about your credentials? Have you done more active research than reading internet pages to come to the conclusion that all is wrong? Have you studied all the available evidence? I didn’t, and so I rely on those who did, and they say it’s happening.

        If people like you manage to force very expensive changes onto the public and end up being wrong

        1) Changes are not always bad. We will face changes in our economy, either due to global warming or because we run out of fossil fuels. That is unavoidable. This also means, the future will look different than the present. And those who begin to make the future today will have a head-start over those who still want to preserve “good ol’ economy”. I am also convinced that the declining availability of (e.g.) oil will cause more wars. Changing now means that such things could also be avoided. And btw: Burning fossil fuel is not just bad for the climate. It’s bad for ourselves, since the resulting gases are highly toxic.

        2) I would be glad, if I were wrong, and global warming would not happen. But I am very much afraid that I am at least not wrong….

        (the historic track record of scientist is not very good)

        What the hell does that mean? GPS works because of a very good prediction of scientists. We do not have fusion by now, because the severe problems were not obvious 50 years ago. And if we will ever be able to have it is also not guaranteed. The climate involves many different topics and a lot of statistics. That there is also potential for error is not that surprising. Still, the models get better and better, and the predictions turned out to less severe than the actual result.

        Concerning “Climategate” and other stuff:
        Bad Astronomy
        See especially the “related posts” at the end of the text.
        Phil Plait may not be an expert on global warming, but he is a scientist and knows the methods “those” were using, and therefore also trusts them — just as I do.

      3. “Ah, yes. Because the effects are even worse”

        Not in any published source that I’ve read. Where did you hear that?

        “That is why I trust those who work in that field.”

        Like any good scientist, you hesitate to speak outside your own field of expertise. But you owe it to yourself to look into these “climate scientists,” because if they are engaged in bad science, when that comes to light over time, the general public will see only that “scientists” were deceiving them. You will be painted with that same broad brush. Unless you really want to end up with your expensive PhD qualifying you to clean restrooms, you should stop trusting those experts and start looking closely at what they’re doing.

        “What the hell does that mean? GPS works because of a very good prediction of scientists.”

        GPS is engineering, not science. There is a big difference. It works because we have accurate and precise ephemeris data and we have very accurate clocks. That type of thing ceased being science long before Sputnik was launched. As an astrophysicist, you of all people should realize the track record of science. In your field, virtually every day we read of new discoveries that render old theories obsolete. Translation: they were wrong. There is every chance that *you* will make such discoveries during your career. While each such discovery teaches us wonderful new things, each also means that many scientists were wrong. Being wrong is integral to the proper advancement of science. We understand what we do today precisely because we were wrong so many times, and much of what we think true today will be proven wrong in the future. Some fields of science are mature enough to be mostly beyond that, but “climate science” definitely is not such a field.

        But that brings us to a truth that may anger you: Most scientists are wrong most of the time. Each and every time climate scientists “tweak” one of their simulation models, they do so because they were wrong. They will continue to be wrong because they haven’t accounted for all of the inputs that affect our climate. They can’t, because we simply do not know all of the inputs yet, nor do we have sufficient understanding of most of those we do know. The moment any single equation in a simulation model model is non-linear, you have a situation where even a small change in input can yield large effects; you can also end up with inaccurate dampening, resulting in inaccuately ignoring real-world inputs that actually have far more significant effects than we realize.

        “What about your credentials?”
        I have only an MS in Computer Science. I also have been working with large-scale, high-fidelity simulation modeling for over 20 years, from new development to long-term sustainment. It is integral to my profession to understand statistical methods and feedback control systems.

        “Have you studied all the available evidence? I didn’t, and so I rely on those who did, and they say it’s happening.”
        No, I have not studied all the available evidence. But then, neither have *any* of the experts in whom you wrongly place so much trust. Nor has any other human being on the face of the planet. It is impossible to do so. Thus, your standard is strawman. I will never simply trust people who are demanding that we make radical changes to our daily lives and to heap billions and billions of dollars of costs onto our economy if they cannot provide reasonable, understandable proof that their assertions are true. On that score, they have failed utterly.

        I do own dozens of published works on the topic and have read much more. Yes, I use the internet – there are so many valuable resources only a fool would ignore them. (For example, Wolfram’s Math World is an excellent resource – I turn to it regularly to refresh my memory and to learn new things.) I have done my best to study topics such as absorption spectra (a field you should know well), gas soluability, statistics, and chaos theory, among other things. Every one of these is directly applicable. As a highly-experienced simulation modeler, I understand that a model that doesn’t account for all inputs is worthless. As an astrophysicist, you must know of discoveries that are far to recent to have been addressed in any of the climate simulation but which may affect our climate – for example, the changing understanding of our magnetic field and the effects of the solar wind. Consider also the affect of varying ocean salinity, which may have a large impact on climate, and yet we are just beginning to study. Both of these are factors that could have significant impact on our climate, yet neither was accounted for in any simulation model so far – indeed, neither is understood well enough for any competent modeler to even consider including them, save as assumptions (aka: a guess).

        From statistics, we know that there is a definite correlation between historic CO2 levels and temperature. However, we also know that, while a leading indicator may (or may not) be a causal factor, a lagging indicator cannot be a causal factor. Review carefully the graphs of historic CO2 levels and temperature and you will note that the former always lags the latter. Thus, while historic CO2 levels may (or may not) be caused by temperature changes, CO2 levels absolutely cannot be the cause of those temperature changes. As one who works with feedback as an integral part of my profession, even a casual perusal of those graphs tells me that there is no signficant feedback mechanism between CO2 levels and temperature. This is only logical if you have any understanding of the infrared absorption spectrum of carbon dioxide. Ask yourself: can ground-based spectroscopy instruments approximately at MSL detect carbon dioxide absorption or emission bands in astronomical objects? You (hopefully) and I both know they cannot because those wavelengths are already virtually fully absorbed by the existing CO2 in the atmosphere. If absorption was at anything less than nearly 100%, you could correct for that absorption. If the lower atmosphere already absorbs essentially all of the IR energy that it is possible for CO2 to absorb, then how is it possible for any additional CO2 to cause it to absorb more?

        You see, at one time I trusted these experts and believed in anthropogenic global warming. When people started being called “deniers” when they brought up competing theories, that troubled me, because that’s not how science works. So I decided to educate myself. Through nothing more than serendipty, I was already conversent enough in topics like statistics, feedback control, chaos theory, numeric methods, and simulation modeling to realize that what I was being told could not be correct. My interest in astronomy made considering absorption spectra and natural, and gas soluability was something that made sense to me as a home brewer, so it was easy to study them further.

        As I said before, as a scientist yourself, you will be harmed by the bad science of these climate scientists. You need to stop trusting and start verifying.

      4. Allow me to make only a few notes (on such points, where I can make them):

        GPS is engineering, not science.

        GPS is the application of General Relativity. It is the application of science, a triumph for science. At least for me.

        In your field, virtually every day we read of new discoveries that render old theories obsolete. Translation: they were wrong.

        This strongly depends on the definition of “wrong”. Theories come and go, sure enough. But most theories are not wrong; they are approximations and have been replaced by better approximations. Newton’s theory is obviously not the whole truth, it’s been replaced by GR. That doesn’t make Newton wrong, it is still valid in our normal life. We also know that GR is incomplete. Similarly, we know that Quantum Mechanics is incomplete. Still: Both are the best theories ever, passing one test after the next. They are probably incomplete, but not wrong.
        And such is the case with most theories. I think, you are a bit too rush to call theories wrong, while they are still a good approximation. And I know that you were exaggerating, but to call most theories “wrong” is just not true (apart from some “theories” like the electric sun, we deal here with from time to time).
        What one also needs to take into account here is the difference between a hypotheses and a theory. A theory has passed at least one test, and gives testable predictions.
        To come back to topic: The “theory” of AGW predicted the meltdown of the arctic sea to this and that percentage by the year 2010. Yes, the prediction was not correct. Melting was even stronger.

        […] If the lower atmosphere already absorbs essentially all of the IR energy that it is possible for CO2 to absorb, then how is it possible for any additional CO2 to cause it to absorb more?

        Because heat does not only arrive from above but also from below. The earth is a strong emitter in IR, which is absorbed by the atmosphere. And the atmosphere absorbs more heat from below when there is more CO2. That also seems quite logical to me.
        This also the reason why this is called a greenhouse. Optical light passes through the atmosphere from the outside. The earth converts this light to heat and re-emits it in IR. More CO2 (and methane) means more absorption, means a warmer atmosphere.
        In astronomy there are similar effects in nebulae. Star light is absorbed by dust, and emitted in IR. That’s why we see dark absorption nebulae in the optical which shine quite brightly in IR.

        And your argument with the economy: I don’t accept such an argument. And can read why in my previous comment. In this case: Change is good and contains a lot advantages, one just needs to take them!

      5. “Because heat does not only arrive from above but also from below. The earth is a strong emitter in IR, which is absorbed by the atmosphere. And the atmosphere absorbs more heat from below when there is more CO2. That also seems quite logical to me.”

        Absorption is omnidirectional. If (as is the case) the existing CO2 in the atmosphere already absorbs approximately 100% of the incoming IR in that portion of the spectrum where CO2 *can* absorb energy, then the existing concentration already absorbs approximately 100% of the outgoing IR radiation in those wavelengths where CO2 can absorb. Adding more CO2 cannot result in more absorption because there simply is no more energy available to be absorbed in the wavelengths where CO2 can absorb.

        It’s sad that you fail to grasp such a simple concept, but I’ll ‘splain in lowbrow terms. I assume you’ve seen cars with tinted windows. The glass itself isn’t tinted; it is accomplished through the application of a thin plastic film that blocks (absorbs) a given percentage of light. Note that that percentage of light is blocked regardless of which direction the light is traveling. You can measure the percentage of absorption by shining a light of known brightness from inside out or outside in, as long as you place your instrument on the other side. Assume that you are using film rated at 50% – that is, a single layer of tinting film will absorb 50% of the light that impinges upon it and will allow 50% to pass through. If you apply a second layer of film, only 50% of the original light reaches it, 50% of which is blocked. Thus, total absorption is 75%. If you apply 10 layers of film, the total absorption exceeds 99.9%. Yes, adding another layer or two will absorb more, but the effect is insignificant.

        As you noted, the so-called “greenhouse effect” that the “climate scientists” tout works because the gases in the atmosphere absorb outbound IR light and then re-radiate it back toward the ground, thereby trapping heat that would otherwise be radiated into space. CO2 is transparent to most light, including most of the IR bandwidth. It absorbs in only 3 relatively-narrow bands of the IR band. Like the 10 layers of window tinting film posited above, the existing concentrations of CO2 already absorb almost 100% of those wavelengths of the IR band where CO2 is not transparent. Adding another 10% (or even doubling) the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere will have an effect that is so negligible as to be virtually undetectable.

        You mention methane, which is a more potent greenhouse gas than CO2, but which has been ignored so far because we have very little control over the emissions of methane. However, I notice that you have completely ignored the one greenhouse gas that is responsible for the vast majority of the “greenhouse effect.” That gas is water vapor. Why has it been ignored, despite causing more of the greenhouse effect than all other greenhouse gases combined? Because the atmospheric concentrations are almost entirely natural.

        If you start doing the math and paying attention to absorption spectra and current absorption levels of existing atmospheric concentrations, you would realize that even if we were to REDUCE existing levels of methane and CO2 by 10-20% (an utterly unobtainable value) the result would be almost immeasurable. The same is true of any increases in these gases. If you examine the existing climate models, you will see they do not account for recent discoveries of the behavior of our magnetic field and its impact on solar wind impingement on the planet, the powerful effects of varying ocean salinity, potentially varying cloud cover, or any of myriad other factors that probably have far greater impact on our climate than it is possible for even large variations in CO2 and methane to cause. If you examine carefully the graphs on historic CO2 levels and temperatures, it would be obvious that CO2 levels *lag* (but very closely track) temperature changes. Thus the only valid conclusion is that CO2 is not a causal factor. Translation: It is impossible for changes in historic CO2 levels to have caused the changes in historic temperatures. To be redundant, lagging indicators absolutely cannot be causal factors. (If those terms are too far outside your field: Because the CO2 levels changed AFTER temperature changes, it’s impossible for CO2 to have CAUSED the temperature changes).

        So why do historic CO2 levels track the changes in temperature so closely? The best explanation has to do with gas solubility. Cold water can hold more dissolved CO2 than warm water can. Increasing temperature results in warmer oceans, forcing the out gassing of dissolved CO2. The oceans are large and change temperature much more slowly than does the atmospheric temperatures measured by the “temperature proxies” used by climate scientists. This probably is why changes in CO2 levels lag changes in temperature by 200-800 years.

        But, of course, anthropogenic global warming has become a matter of faith with people like you, so I waste my time. I provide the above in hopes that there may be one or two others who will read this and be capable of thinking for themselves. That an astrophysicist would be so closed-minded is an indictment of the state of modern science; perhaps the likely anti-scientist backlash that is sure to result when the general public realizes they’ve been duped will be deserved.

      6. CO2 absorbs only 3 narrow lines? Do you have a source for that?
        I found that CO2 absorbs radiation between 13 and 17 microns, which is not really narrow but quite broad! This is also what you expect for a molecule. Narrow lines belong to atoms.
        (Maybe I didn’t get you entirely correct on this one, but at least my next point is valid.)

        And btw: Your tinted glass is not a good analogy. The glass is tinted all over, while the atmosphere is not covered with a complete layer of CO2. I think with all the CO2 in the atmosphere close together you would not even cover a quarter of the surface of the planet. That means that CO2 does not absorb 100% of the available heat. There is enough space for heat to pass through, because the photon did not hit a molecule. This seems to be a matter of statistics.
        If we take the number from Wikipedia:

        Carbon dioxide in earth’s atmosphere is considered a trace gas currently occurring at an average concentration of about 390 parts per million by volume […]

        So, in one cubic-meter there are 3.9×10^-4 cubic-meter filled with CO2, in other words 0.03%. I think, there is enough volume left for heat to escape!
        Therefore, I conclude: Your argument with the 100% of absorption is wrong.

      7. Kahn, perhaps I can help you out there.

        Climate scientists do NOT brand people as “deniers” because they bring out competing theories. Nothing could be further from the truth.

        Even though -as I showed- the number of actual climate researchers who have fundamental doubt about AGW theory is basically infinitesimal, with plenty of discussion and disagreement occurring between the rest, but also a few points of basic agreement, for those who remain, what separates a genuine “skeptic”, and they are perhaps out there, from a denier, is that the latter does NOT bring up novel arguments like you say, but rather repeats easily-debunked talking points even after they’ve been debunked. This applies to a few climate researchers as well.

        You bring up alternative hypotheses, well let’s examine a few, looking at the work of those who are most known for forwarding them.

        Let’s start with a pair of people, Eigel Friis-Christensen, and Henrik Svensmark, because their hypotheses are very related.

        -Friis-Christensen basically proposed “striking agreement” between Total Solar Irradiance (TSI) and global temperature. The problem is that while the sun could be a long-term contributor to SOME of the warming for SOME of the period from 1850-present, the correlation breaks down completely after 1980.

        Friis-Christensen showed a continued good agreement, but that’s because his paper was mathematically flawed (see Laut 2003, or Damon and Laut 2004)

        I can you show you the TSI, right now, as recorded since 1978 by satellite:

        You CANNOT correlate that with a multi-decadal rise in temperature.

        – Henrik Svensmark essentially suggested that cosmic rays cause the seeding of clouds, and that an increased solar forcing wiped away the cosmic rays, reduced the clouds, and that overwhelmingly warmed the planet, causing all our recent observed warming.

        As you know now, however, that hypothesis is also not true, because it also requires an increasing TSI. It also fails because there’s scant evidence that cosmic rays actually have that effect, and also because there’s no evidence that clouds overwhelmingly cool the planet (or that their disappearance would overwhelmingly warm the planet).

        -Richard Lindzen has never stated that AGW isn’t real; he seems… uncertain. However, HIS hypothesis is that even if it is, the planet has an “adaptive radiative iris”, that will magically bleed all the heat away when it gets too bad, because of decreased cloud cover. The problem? Well aside from the lack of evidence that clouds even remotely behave the way he suggests, you note that he directly contradicts Svensmark on whether clouds warm or cool the planet.

        Clouds warm and cool the planet. They block radiation from coming in, and they stop it from leaving. Svensmark thinks they overwhelmingly do the former, while Lindzen thinks they overwhelmingly do the latter (and they can’t make up their mind about which it is). That, combained with the lack of evidence of physical mechanism for both, makes neither compelling.

        -Roy Spencer’s hypothesis is the hardest to peg for me, given my limited knowledge (I’m completing a BS in ecology, hardly a climate-relevant field).

        What I do know is that he basically assigns absurdly low climate sensitives to outside forcings like GHGs, and then blames the whole thing on internal variability.

        The problem with HIS hypothesis (at least one of them), as I understand it, is that if you make those assumptions, it becomes impossible to model the ice ages with present knowledge of climate, and would require some presently unknown force, so his hypothesis doesn’t lend itself to the coherent, parsimonious explanation that mainstream climate science does.

        I think you can probably see what I’m getting at. There are many alternative hypotheses, and all of them should be and are being investigated, but NONE of them are particularly compelling at this point, all of them create serious problems with our presently consistent picture of climate that has shown itself to be predictively accurate, and so, none of them are cause for serious doubt.

      8. Quite simply, the predictions of climate scientists ahve not been consistent, nor accurate. Neither temperatures nor sea levels have risen anywhere near the extent they had predicted would happen to date. While arctic sea ice has decreased (and is now increasing) somewhat in keeping with their predictions, they cannot explain the increase in the thickness of glaciers on Greenland and most of Antartica (only the “westernmost” portion of Antartica – a small fraction of the whole – is showing any net ice loss – the rest of Antartica is experiencing net ice gain that far outweighs the losses).

      9. Where are you getting your information from?

        Greenland is experiencing some of the fastest melting in the arctic region. Melting has been particularity pronounced over the last couple decades. Greenland is shedding about 239 cubic kilometres (57.3 cubic miles) per year:

        Greenland Ice Loss Doubles in Past Decade, Raising Sea Level Faster”. Jet Propulsion Laboratory News release, Thursday, 16 February 2006

        Another study by Jianli Chen and Associates at the University of Texas were able to estimate mass loss by using NASA’s Grace satellite. A synopsis of their finds were reported by the BBC:

        Antarctica is also losing ice at a rate of about one hundred cubic kilometers (24 cubic miles) of ice each year. The papers that discuss possible slowing trends or ice increases are regional instances that have been misconstrued. For more information see NASA’s article here:

      10. Last year I was informed by somebody of this increased ice on Antarctica. “Oh really,” was my thought. AAAS “Science” had an article in following week on ice loss in Antarctica, which I showed this person. Of course to actually little surprise the same person repeated the same thing not long afterwards.

        The problem is this society has entered into some state of self-imposed confusion. There has been in the last few decades a huge upsurge in religious pseudo-science, conspiracy theories, ideas that range from UFOs to homeopathic health, and people who uphold these things can argue things into absolute minutia of insignificant detail to maintain their claims. Even if they do not fair well in an argument or with the actual science, they will continue to make these claims. Of course now we have the global warming “debate” on top of this, which follows on the heels of a similar debate over the ozone hole and CFCs. We may have first rate science done in our age, but there has been a huge widening of the confusion-ignorance band spectrum.

        I often get the sense that people who are AGW deniers are most often people who have a “little bit of knowledge,” which may range from high school science to a few college 100 or 200 level courses. There are physicists I know who are AGW deniers, but the funny thing is they almost universally work on defense programs and are politically aligned with the far right. In that case it seems there is an overlay of political ideology over science. Physicists I know who are not affiliated as such tend not to be so inclined to AGW denialism. This also brings up the next ignorance system in this nation, which is the media entertainment industry surrounding politics. The political system in this country has turned into an electronic 3-ring circus, and where the industry supported right generally commands the game. It is no secret these guys are not friendly to climate science, and in fact are hostile to science in general. The bogus “Conservapedia” has a page for relativity, that calls research on black holes and gravity waves “false liberal science,” or something like that.


      11. Temperature has risen just fine according to the models.

        Did you really miss the entire shock of the US House of Representatives when Richard Muller’s research at Berkley confirmed this fact?

        Temperature has risen, consistently, by about .1C per decade, in-line with what they should have for the forcings that we’ve observed. Models have no trouble, whatsoever, producing the temperatures.

        Even Hansen’s 1988 model, presented to Congress, predicted temperatures quite comfortably up until 2005, when a combination of bottomed-out ENSO and the solar nadir caused a couple of years of dipping.

        Short-term variations don’t disprove the ability to accurately model larger, long-term forcings, however. Models don’t predict the future, they merely say what rough temperature will result from a given set of forcings. When the forcings were in-line with Hansens 1988 model, the temperatures were too. That’s a confirmed prediction.

        Now, sure, as I said, we can always get the forcings wrong. Tomorrow, an asteroid may collide with the Earth, kick up dust and ash, and cause a global cold-snap. Climate models have no way to predict this, any more than they can predict exactly how much GHGs we’ll emit, or what year a volcano will erupt.

        What they have been good at is showing the results. Hansen’s 1988 model didn’t predict that Pinatubo would erupt in 1991, even if he did figure on a major eruption sometime in the 1990s, but the eruption’s effect on global climate followed models just like it should have.

        This is all climate scientists claim to be able to predict, and thus far, they’ve done fine.

      12. “If the lower atmosphere already absorbs essentially all of the IR energy that it is possible for CO2 to absorb, then how is it possible for any additional CO2 to cause it to absorb more?”

        Kahn, this argument confounded scientists for years, when it was proposed by Knut Ångström in 1901.

        The flaw in the argument is that you’re treating the atmosphere like a big impenetrable brick wall; it doesn’t work that way.

        The atmosphere is a series of layers. When IR absorption occurs in one layer, the gas doesn’t just hold onto the heat. I’m sure you understand why. When it does is it re-radiates the heat in random directions. Some of that heat gets directed back towards the ground (and of course, the longer heat hangs around before finally being released, the more our radiative balance moves towards a warm Earth). Much of the heat, however, is radiated into higher layers.

        These layers are progressively thinner, and so eventually a portion of this radiation will escape. The more Co2 that is in the atmosphere, particularly the higher layers, the less radiation finally makes it out into space (or to perhaps say it more accurately, the longer it takes for a given amount to escape to space).

        That’s the basic idea, anyways.

        Real Climate has some interesting articles on the subject:

      13. I understand absorption quite well. Track down the window-tinting film example. Each layer of film acts much as the atmospheric layers.

        Further, let us suppose (for agrument only) that more CO2 will be deleterious. Reducing US CO2 emissions by even 10% would have a huge impact on our economy, but represent less than 2% of total global CO2 emissions. Given that CO2 is responsible for only a fraction of the “greenhouse effect” and assuming that the current levels are not already closely approximating the asymptote (which they are), even a 50% reduction in US CO2 emissions would yield results so trivial as to be immeasurable.

      14. This response is a classic red herring.

        When it’s shown that you can’t argue that more CO2 in the higher layers of the atmosphere doesn’t cause more absorption of the LW radiation by the lower layers, you shift your argument to economics claims.

        Having to shift your argument off to a tangent all of a sudden is a sign of two things:

        1.) A closed-minded desperation to be right

        2.) a lack of any substantive argument

        We can discuss the options for addressing AGW once a discussion of the science of whether it’s happening is sound, and thus far, you’ve offered nary a shred of evidence to suggest that it isn’t.

        However, as a point of note on the actual topic at hand, Co2 is not so insignificant as you claim. Methane and water vapor are both more potent, but methane exists in quantities too small to equal the influence of Co2 emissions (or even come close), and water vapor? Well water vapor’s short residence time makes it a feedback, not a forcing, so it will do nothing but enhance temperature changes from other gases.

        That still leaves Co2 as the most significant known FORCING in recent observed warming.

      15. Do you know that there are far more efficient cars in the world that use less than 15ltr/100km? Do you know how easy it is for EVERYONE to save just a little bit of energy?

        10% of less CO2 in the US is not that hard and would not put the US economy at risk. Europe uses much less energy than the US, emits much less CO2 than the US (which is still one of the first two nations wasting most energy… only rivaled by China), and the still the economy does not collapse!

        This economy thing is NOT a valid argument!.

      16. It is not possible for me to give a complete review of climate science papers any more than I am ready to step into an OR to do a triple bypass operation. I can only go on general reviews of what is being done, and a few papers in the AAAS “Science” that I might try to read. I am not in a position to “verify.” Climate science is way outside my domain of study and experience.

        I am aware of the fact the community which studies climate is in agreement on AGW. The dissenters are reduced to holding onto a few pieces of data here and there as they try futilely to make their case. By comparison the climate science community has a vast and growing knowledge base on this. The debate over this has effectively ended, the jury is in and the verdict is in: AGW by the data and beyond reasonable doubts is real.

        I worked on clock synchronization using general relativity. It is not foundational science, but it is applied science — which is still science.


      17. You are a science denialist, we all get that. Whenever your theory, whatever it is, explains all the data that AGW does and more, and you get it through peer review, you can come back and continue a discussion.

        The “discussion” you try to have is not a discussion. It is you blathering what we here know is anti-science nonsense; because both the ability of AGW to predict facts and the climate scientists as experts agree on this. Please take it elsewhere.

      18. That might be being a little harsh on Kahn.

        Denialism is the active and conscious denial of evidence that one knows exists. Kahn, on the other hand, might be genuinely unaware of the fallacy of his/her arguments.

        He might genuinely not be aware that every working climate scientist on Earth endorses AGW theory, or simply might not be aware of why the 800-year lag argument or absorption saturation arguments represent basic misconceptions.

        Being wrong isn’t a crime, though I suppose far worse criticism is required when it becomes being wrong and dishonest (as in, climate science deniers).

      19. Wow, you put forth my main issue with the whole AGW issue much more elegantly than I ever could bravo.

        I started a total believer that we were ruining the planet through our CO2 emissions. As someone stated before about credibility climate scientists apparently were right on the money not very long ago about the CFC’s, ozone hole deal so they got my blind faith at first.

        Years later I began to have questions if not out right doubts after:

        1. After many (8+) years later there was and to my knowledge still is no consensus about exactly how much atmospheric heat CO2 does trap.

        2. Serious questions were raised about the data collection methods.
        I have to be totally honest and I know this is not empirical evidence by any means but strongly impeaches credibility in my mind.

        3. The whole climate gate thing. I know that the evidence that was the subject matter of the cover up attempt didn’t “prove” or “disprove” anything. However the fact that scientists engaged in conduct which is entirely contrary to the scientific method disturbs me deeply and makes me wonder what other data are being purposely withheld. I worked in the law for many years and whenever one side is caught withholding some exculpatory evidence what ever they are caught with is ALWAYS the tip of the iceberg. In the legal arena this is expected to a certain degree but scientists are IMHO held to an infinitely higher standard.

        The kicker for me was when I learned that all of these highly touted models from the beginning all up to the present day don’t even make an attempt to and include the effect of aerosols in the atmosphere? That is like trying to model a car and just ignoring the wheels and tires. Ocean salinity, and the magnetic fields contribution may or may not be negligible but honestly to exclude entirely the effects of particulate matter in the atmosphere and bring that model to the public as though the results are in anyway meaning full has a eerie parallel to the religious types who present their “evidence” that evolution is wrong and that the earth is only 6000 years old etc.

        I’m also reminded of the 60’s and 70’s when scientists were convinced that we were on the verge of another ice age. I think it is something hard wired into humanity, along with gambling, and violence that we have to believe in one fashion or another that our generation is possibly the last. It probably served some purpose (along with gambling and violence) for our ancestors.

        Strange as it may seem I still think it is imperative that we stop polluting the atmosphere with CO2. It has nothing to do with the fact that we are going to cook ourselves, and turn Earth into Venus or something. It has everything to do with the very real issue of ocean acidification. That is an undeniably real and possibly dire consequence of our CO2 emissions, so many people rely on the oceans for food that a die off of marine life will kill a lot more people than swing in temperature by a few degree one way or the other.

      20. 1.) There was never any scientific problem with the CFC-Ozone connection. That’s basic chemistry. It’s just that the world has largely stopped the large-scale emission of CFCs. We’ve been phasing them out for hydroflourocarbons since the 80s.

        What you’ve been reading is the urban myth that pops up whenever we solve an environmental problem. It’s also the catch-22 we face where we spot an environmental problem, fix it, and then the anti-environmental crowd runs around proclaiming that it was never a problem to begin with. It’s the same claim that is now being made against the DDT bans in the US. Sure, everyone within the fields of ecology or conservation biology understands why it was causing harm, but since it’s gone now, political commentators pretend is never was.

        In 100 years, politically motivated opponents to environmental/health protection will probably be running around claiming mercury, MTBE and hexavalent chromium were all really good for humans and the environment.

        2.) The “problems” with the data-collection methods were insubstantial, and we have multiple, completely independent methods of data gathering and analysis that all say the same thing about our temperature records.

        I guess you missed the whole Richard Muller thing. He was a long-time skeptic, doing work for Berkley to see just how good the temperature data used by groups like NASA GISS and CRU were, and, much to the chagrin of all the denialists desperately hoping that this would finally prove them right, he found that the data collection and analysis methods of the mainstream climate groups produced, to use his word “excellent” results.

        3.) Climategate was investigated thoroughly, over and over and over. No such scientific misconduct was found.

        Most of it was just a bunch of out-of-context comments or misunderstood statements.

        Take “Mike’s Nature Trick” of “adding the real temperatures to each series to hide the decline”.

        Well, the word “Trick” appears all throughout the scientific literature. It just means a novel method. So what was Mike’s nature trick? What does “adding the real temps” mean? Easy:

        Mike Mann, during the work to publish MBH98, found problems in that there were inaccuracies in how his analysis of the proxy data were comparing to the instrument data for the overlapping periods in which he had both to work with (~1850-present). So he used the instrument data is a training set for the proxy data, to improve the accuracy of his methods.

        That he did his was no secret; he PUBLISHED this fact in a paper, in Nature, in 1998. It was called Global-scale Temperature Patterns and Climate Forcing Over the Past Six Centuries. Go read it if you want.

        and where the hell did you read that models didn’t include aerosols?

        If you’d like a discussion on that topic, here you go:

        Complete with plenty of citations in the scientific literature for you, if you feel like pursuing them.

      21. Very well put, Dav_Daddy. You have stated several more of the reasons that I won’t blindly follow the climate ‘experts’ anymore. Thank you.

      22. Did you honestly not read my response to him?

        Everything he’s said is entirely unsubstantial. That’s certainly not to criticize him; he’s only repeating what he’s been told.

        You, on the other hand, have the benefit of a clear refutation, if not to all, then at least to some of the points he brings up.

        -There was ozone depletion from CFCs; we simply fixed it by phasing out the CFCs.

        -Climategate is insubstantial. Every single claim was basically found to be nonsense.

        -Climate scientists were not running around predicting an ice age in the 1970s. There was one who discussed the possibility if a MASSIVE increase in aerosols had occurred (literally, if we quadrupled them), and even that was nothing but a hypothetical situation, that was admitted to rely on estimations of forcings that were uncertainly, and the scientist who published the data quickly disproved the notion when he got a more accurate estimation of the forcings.

        Most scientists, even in the 1970s, were predicting warming, not cooling, and no one was saying that an ice age would actually occur.

        Only the media predicted that an ice age would actually happen.

        -aerosols are included in models; there’s some uncertainty about them, but they’re absolutely included.

        -We do know how much Co2 heat traps. We’ve known every since Svante Arrhenius did his absorption experiments, in 1896, and to a better extent, since Guy Steward Callendar did his climate work in the early-mid 20th century.

        As for the overall climate sensitivity, that’s harder to peg, because it involves feedbacks. However, we know that that almost certainly falls between 2.5-4.5C per doubling of CO2 at our concentration (that number changes at radically different concentrations, because the relationship isn’t linear).

      23. Kahn, it should come as no surprise to you that virtually everyone who works in the field of climate science agrees with the theory of anthropogenic global warming.

        What constitutes an “expert”? Well you usually define a working scientist by published research. I’ll leave it to you to decide how many papers a scientist has to publish before they’re an “expert”, but nevertheless, virtually every paper being published in the field of climate science endorses AGW theory, hence, virtually every scientist working in the field does.

        We know this is true because people have sampled the scientific literature. In 2004, science historian Naomi Oreskes published a study in the journal, Science, in which she examined the abstracts of every scientific paper published from 1993 to 2003 returned by the search phrase “Climate Change” in the ISI Database, a total of 928 papers. Of those 928 papers, three quarters endorsed AGW theory, explicitly or implicitly, while one quarter took no position (they were methodology or paleoclimate papers).

        Out of the 928 abstracts examined, NOT ONE expressed disagreement with AGW theory.

        You can repeat this experiment yourself, very easily. I did so myself, once, for a small project, using the same search phrase Oreskes did (and a similar time frame), only using Google Scholar for easy replicatability (not everyone can access ISI or EBSCO). Of the 50 abstracts I examined, about 30 endorsed AGW, 20 made no comment (many simply dealt with the effects of climate change without addressing its causes), and as with Oreskes, not one paper disagreed.

        It’s not just individual papers, either. Every well-established science organization agrees as well. In the US ALONE, this list includes:

        -National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration
        -American Geophysical Union
        -American Association for the Advancement of Science
        -American Meteorological Society
        -National Center for Atmospheric Research

        -…Global Climate Coalition?

        That last one is a strange one, because it was actually an oil-company created group meant to OPPOSE the IPCC’s conclusions on climate science. When they tried to publish their first primer on the subject in 1995, however, their own scientific review board inserted comments of the opinion that anthropogenic global warming was undeniably real. The comments were naturally struck in editing, but the GCC fell apart shortly after.

        I can certain provide sources showing all those organizations agreeing, but honestly, it’s so easy to go over to their websites and find these endorsements (because there’s usually a dedicated page to making it clear), that unless asked, I see no reason to bother.

        This list of organizations also includes essentially every nation science academy on Earth, including the US National Academy of Sciences.

        In 2005, a joint statement was released by 11 such national science academies, including the NAS and the UK Royal Society, asserting that human-caused global warming was real, and that concerted action was warranted:

        So yes, AT LEAST 99% of climate scientists, of experts in the field, endorse AGW theory.

      24. Ah, the whole “publish” game, the one that “Climategate” proved was not even remotely objective. So you choose for your standard an incestuous game wherein only those who actually agree with the approved theory can get published and anyone who disagrees, no matter how good the research or convincing the argument, simply cannot get published. That’s a good standard for closed-minded bigots and totalitarians, but is the anathema to science.

      25. Climategate?

        I’m afraid you just sealed the deal on showing your ignorance by referencing that pile of hot air.

        First off, there was never any substantive evidence, of any sort, for the claim you’re positing. Secondly, skeptical scientists, and even well-known habitual denialists get published all the time.

        Here’s several dozen right here, and most of them are just those since 2000:

        Ignoring the refutations offered, as they’re irrelevant in this context, that’s easily about 40 papers right there.

        Just because there are only handful of remaining skeptics, and so, only a few actually publishing papers, so few that a random search probably won’t even turn one up, doesn’t mean for a second that a skeptic CANNOT publish a paper that challenges AGW theory.

      26. Sir, my point of view my seem austere from my brief triad above, but it isn’t.

        Others have so clearly displayed why the sheer numbers and percentages of ‘experts’ in this whole Global Warming / Climate Change foray should not lead the logic of a sentient person.

        Plainly, this is how I perceive things:

        1) Is the Earth warming? a: It seems that it is, yes. Earth is always changing; but we humans hate change (THAT is the real problem, not the climate).

        2) Will it be the End Of The World, or mankind? a: Silly person, of course not. We may kill ourselves (though unlikely), but we can’t put a dent in the Earth. She’ll be fine, with or without or help. Or foolishness.

        3) Are humans responsible for the warming? a: Maybe, maybe not; either way, no one is volunteering to hold their breath forever, stop eating, or kill themselves, to diminish greenhouse gases, thus Saving The Planet.

        4) Is the sun responsible? a: Maybe, maybe not; however, changes in the sun’s output can cause vast changes to Earth’s climate, and very rapidly, much more so than man could possibly no matter what careless or evil thing he does.

        5) What should we do then? a: About what exactly? If human presence is affecting the climate, then SO BE IT. We should concentrate on living with and within the changes, preparing for them, dealing with them, not wasting time, energy, and money to stop something that we cannot stop, so long as we humans are here and living.

        6) What is the best way to reduce greenhouse gases? a: Atomic fusion. I wish, oh how I wish, that all the billions and eventually trillions of dollars that we are wasting on Global Warming / Climate Change / Don Quixote Challange were put to solving the obstacles involved in the controlled production of energy via atomic fusion; I think a vast many of our problems would be replaced by lesser and more trivial issues. Oil will run out eventually, all fossil fuels will, but this will not be an issue with fusion. AND, we can finally not care about the middle east or other oil-producing regions!

        Finally, we should always make serious efforts to take care of our home, this beautiful planet, since we will be here (in some number) for as long as the sun allows. People, set aside the addictive panic button for awhile, think, and we can all do well enough, without wreaking the economy of every developed nation on Earth in the process.

      27. 1) Of course, the climate is always changing. The problem is the rapidity of the current change. Whenever there was a fast change in the climate in the history of earth, it was followed by devastating events, possibly even mass extinctions. THAT is the problem with the current change.

        2) The planet will continue to circle the sun until “the end of times”. What we need to care about are the few km of biosphere on its surface. The biosphere would do a lot better without human beings. We are probably the first species on earth that is able to wipe out itself and most of the other animals and plants with it.

        3) You do not even have to lose your comfortably way of life. If everyone would only a little bit of energy (which is not that hard, btw…) it would do a lot — and also for your bank account.

        4) The sun is most likely not responsible. Its main output only changes very slowly over millions of years. Until the 50ies there was also a possible coupling between temperature on earth and the solar cycle. But in recent years such a coupling can no longer be observed, and the temperature is steadily increasing.

        5) Oh, great. Just go on as we do, now. And concentrating of living with the effects might not be the best way: Sudden changes in the climate caused entire civilisations to collapse, and such changes were minor compared to what we are facing. This might be a “worst case” scenario, but it’s not impossible.
        You say: “[…] not wasting time, energy, and money to stop something that we cannot stop […]”.
        Wasting money? You know what’s a waste of money? The whole war industry! Science, be it astronomy, climate issues, or something else, is nothing in the budgets compared to weapons and related things. We do not ruin our economy by spending money on climate related issues, because it is also spend in the industry which needs to make such products. And I already said it elsewhere: The economy WILL change, that is inevitable. The fossil fuels will run out someday. Those, who change NOW, have a head-start and will be the future economical leaders, You say, “humans hate change” — that’s right. That’s why we defend “old economy” with all costs!

        6) Fusion will save a lot, that is for sure. However, there are several severe problems that need to be overcome until we can even build a demonstrator experiment. It is not guaranteed that ITER will work at all. We have to keep other options open. Wind, water, and solar power. Atomic power is also no option (for me), since we have no clue what to do with the waste, and IF something happens it is devastating (see Japan).

        And about the economy I already said a few things: For me, that argument does not count!

      28. Fission reactors create electricity without the CO2 release of fossil fuels, and that is a huge plus, but I agree that there isn’t a rug large enough here on Earth to sweep the waste under, so that is a vexing issue to be sure.

        I understand (in a limited sense) that controlled fusion has stern hurdles to conquer, but with proper resources, vast as they may need to be, I strongly suspect that even the USA alone could probably, someday in the not-too-distant future, tame them and virtually solve the world’s energy problems. We need something similar to Apollo or the Manhattan Project to make controlled fusion a reality, I think.

        It is the resources that have been, and will be, used in the Climate Change Challenge that I wish were invested instead into fusion research. I would happily donate my tax dollars to that!

      29. Then go and tell that to your representative!

        But until we might have fusion reactors up and running A LOT of time will pass by. And we need and can go away from fossil fuels. We need and can become much more efficient in our way of life (the US should take a look at Europe, and even Europe can still do a lot better!). It will neither steal your comfort nor harm the economy. It is really simple! We just need to do it!

      30. I’m curious;

        Are you and Wildnerness_voice by chance familiar with EMC2’s Polywell fusion project? It’s a fairly interesting, and potentially promising containment scheme that’s vastly simpler and smaller than Tokamak designs like ITER, and allows for vastly smaller electron losses.

        Information is scarce, because the project is DARPA funded for the US Navy (who want compact fusion reactors for ships), but the project continually gets money, most recently with the stimulus (which allocated $2m for continued testing), and the Navy’s information embargo remains in place, with only very small status updates going out every so often in publicly available documents.

        Despite the small trickles of cash (as I said, very simple reactor, so test-units are easy to build), the project continues on schedule.

        Last I heard, for this year, WB8 testing confirmed the math for scaling that they’re relying on to hit net positive power with a larger reactor, and as long as that keeps working out, mathematically, they’ll be ready for a full scale production prototype by around 2016 (which is actually 4 years ahead of schedule, I believe).

        I’m certainly not dropping all skepticism. Magical power devices are promised every single day. Andrea Rossi, right now, is in the middle of promising nonsense cold-fusion devices by November this year; I can pretty much guarantee we’ll never see them :). Still, that this is Navy-run, with continued government funding, not to mention the continued information embargo, gives some real credibility here, and the status updates continually look better, so there’s definitely some hope there.

      31. Never heard of that one. Sorry. 😉

        Most of my information concerning fusion are about a year old when I was in Oxford (GB) for a summer school on that topic. There were (and most likely are) still some severe physical and technical problems to overcome. Someone even feared that ITER might not run at all (at least severely poorer than expected).
        We will just have to wait and see…

      32. You might really find the research interesting, then.

        As I’m sure you know, the whole confinement scheme for tokamak reactors like the ITER are just prone to absolutely horrendous electron losses. I mean, sure, ITER will run; it’ll just suck up more power than it takes in by far.

        Then, if it looks promising, billions and billions and billions will be put into its successor, DEMO, which hopefully will generate net power. No, DEMO isn’t fundamentally any more advanced. They just hope that they can brute-force net power production through absurdly large scaling. That means a huge expense and who knows if it’ll work.

        Polywell reactors don’t have these problems, provided they work. They’re smaller, simpler devices that confine plasma in a much smaller area than Tokamak reactors.

        I suggest you look into it further sometime (a bio major is hardly the one to be asking for specifics on nuclear fusion ^_^;)

    2. Hold on a minute. Only crackpots yell that a warming sun is all the explanation that needs and then they ignore all other leads that is unrelated to the warming of the sun but also can cause warming up of the earth.

      Now tell me, give me a list of other possible cause not related to the sun can cause warming? And how much percentage?

      Also tell me how to falsify your claim. How would be able to detect that the sun is not causing the warming?
      I give a few:
      * Heating up of planetary bodies do not follow the inverse square law.
      * Another one, IO, Europe, Titan, The Moon, vesta, Ceres, Phobos, Deimos, Ganymede, Callisto, Mimas, Encladus, Thetys, Dione, Rhea and 100 other planetary objects DO NOT warm up.

      1. Mars and Jupiter have been warming for decades. We have not been able to measure the other bodies you list – save perhaps the moon – with sufficent accuracy for long enough to detect warming, but, again, both Mars and Jupiter ARE warming.

      2. This makes me ask myself, ‘what do we *not* know about how the sun works, and interacts with our planet?’

        There seems to be still much yet unknown, undiscovered, and unpredicted; and since the sun provides our climate, one can’t help but wonder…

      3. We do know. We actually know quite a bit.

        We know how strong the solar forcing is (roughly 1367W/M^2 at present), and we’ve been recording the output of the sun for over 30 years.

        If the sun increases or decreases in output, we know almost immediately. We also know that the sun hasn’t had a net increase in output since we started measuring in 1978.

        Really, have a look:

        The full page for that image is here:

      4. Explanations that have nothing to do with the sun are already present for the warming of Mars and Jupiter. Mars has a very low level of thermal inertia, so it’s climate is generally very pliable anyways, and warming is perfectly explainable by nothing but changes to the number of dust storms. Further, our observations only encompass a few short Martian years, and so, hardly represent any kind of data for long-term trends.

        With Jupiter… well I’ve never even seen any data that shows actual observed warming of Jupiter, but even if there was, it hardly necessitates a solar explanation, because most of Jupiter’s heat doesn’t come from the sun! Jupiter radiates off about twice as much heat as it receives from the sun. Insofar as I know, the “warming” is merely a prediction based on the modelling of storms (I love how modelling is an alright basis for conclusions about Jupiter, but apparently not for Earth), and it’s not warming, but merely a re-distribution of temperatures.

        What’s more, this is all a moot point, because we already know the sun isn’t increasing in output, and I’ve already shown a link to that data.

    3. @ Wilderness_Voice:

      This statement alone speaks volumes about ‘researchers’ and ‘global warming/climate change’; what possible connection could there be between solar output variations and Earth’s climate?

      Your remaining concerns were addressed but not this.

      First, as the quote stands it is a cherry pick. It was _Hill_ who said that, a solar astronomer, and his opinion on Earth climate means squat. For all we know he can be an AGW denialist, despite being a scientist in his own area.

      Second, the article notes, correctly, “It has not been proven whether there is a causal connection between low sunspot activity and cold winters.” The scientist just reiterates that.

      Third, you mistakenly equivocates between solar cycle sunspot activity and solar radiation (“output”). It is the very connection between solar spots and average radiation, CMEs and other stuff that affects climate that is the question. According to your conflation, absence of spot would indicate _increased_ “output” – so why are other commenters claiming a _lowered_ temperature?

      The connection between solar irradiation, greenhouse forcing and global temperature is well known by scientists. Indeed, it is what is called AGW when applied to todays atmosphere.

      And according to AGW, we created the currently observed global heating. That is what “A” (for anthropogenic”) stands for. Denying science is among other things to deny known facts. In effect, you are saying that the Sun is a green cheese. Could you please go to a nonsense non-science blog and do that instead of here?

      1. “…It was _Hill_ who said that, a solar astronomer, and his opinion on Earth climate means squat. For all we know he can be an AGW denialist, despite being a scientist in his own area.”

        — His opinion means “squat” because he is only a solar astronomer? Are you significantly more educated and gifted than this solar astronomer? If not, then your opinion means even *less* than squat by your own reasoning.

        As mentioned by another member earlier, when anyone starts throwing around terms like “denialist” (the term you use) or “denier” in spiteful ways, then red flags are waving high and true scientific discourse has been replaced by raw emotion and, seemingly, a panic state. It seems that so many fear change more than any real or perceived threat. They are the ones that call people derogatory names for no logical reason in the course of discussions. How sad.

        It is also interesting that you imply that, as a scientist, he should support AGW. People who feel this way see with a very, very limited vision indeed.

        “It has not been proven whether there is a causal connection between low sunspot activity and cold winters.”

        — So? I had made no specific comment about that, nor did I intend to; I meant only what I wrote, not what you think I wrote. Read slowly and perhaps you will see that there is less to argue about than you thought.

        “Third, you mistakenly equivocates (sic) between solar cycle sunspot activity and solar radiation (“output”).”

        — Wrong again; please (slowly) reread my previous comment. I said ‘output’, and did not even mention sunspots.

        “…since people and society will suffer from this it is a *moral* problem. It is like telling children to go out playing on the high way because “nothing bad will happen, I know that”

        — People and society are suffering terribly now, and from a great many things. I attribute this to ‘life’ and less of a moral issue; besides, even ‘experts’ believe that Climate Change will benefit some regions (damn!) while hurting others. Your guilty conscience clearly impairs your ability to digest data and discern distortions of fact, as well as the manageability of issues. But, take heart, you are not alone by any means.

        Insofar as the comment about children being told to play in the street (did this happen to you as a child?), I am unable to make anything useful of that, so I’ll leave it be.

      2. “Yeah, BAD SCIENTISTS, BAD BAD SCIENTISTS, they called me names! Thus, they must be wrong!”

        What kind of reason is that?

        And yeah, a “solar astronomer” does not necessarily know all about climate issues. I wouldn’t claim that either, although I am an astrophysicist. But my field of work (radiative output of blazars) is quite far away from climate. So, I rely on those who work in this field, as should others rely on me (hopefully ;)) when it comes to my field.

  5. Solar cycles have several types of effects on all the planets of the system , not only on Earth

    1. And run in circles and get out of breath – we can see spots! … or not!

  6. So we are heading to the worst end of the world prediction ever in 2012.
    Nothing interesting astronomical, boring sun with almost no sunspots and activity and all comets already far away heading out of the solar system.

  7. Just an observation: UT has a similar article released the same day titled “Solar Minimum Means More Than No Sunspots” and makes little mention of climate. It currently has 1 non-climate change related comment. This article has 2 paragraphs questioning climate change and has 29 comments most of which are related to climate change speculation and little to do with sun cycles.

    1. Actually the article doesn’t read as questioning climate change as much as questioning a specific and putative climate change/solar cycle correlation.

  8. “But back in 1645-1715 was the period known as the Maunder Minimum, a 70-year period with virtually no sunspots. The Maunder Minimum coincided with the middle – and coldest part – of the Little Ice Age, during which Europe and North America experienced bitterly cold winters. ”
    Say it ain’t so…..The Sun has THAT kind of influence???? Who’da thunk?

  9. I just saw the funniest thing ever, on another forum – I’m mentioning it here because it’s in response to this article (the source article, not this specific article).

    I have just seen someone who is of the opinion that (and I quote directly):
    ‘Proponents of the global warming scam (taxing carbon-dioxide etc…) have managed to reverse the actual sunspot and solar flare cycle in many recent mainstream news articles. They have capitalized on one isolated solar flare and created this hype and fervor to support “global warming”.’
    And that:
    ‘We are not heading for a maximum in 2013. It is the minimum. Just the opposite.
    The 22 year sun-spot and solar flare cycle last peaked in 2002 and will not peak again in 2024.
    2013 is the midpoint between the peaks when the Sun’s normal output is at it’s lowest.’

    And I just can’t stop laughing.

    1. Who has reversed sunspot activity? Clearly we are heading for a solar minimum as stated in this article and touched on in numerous other postings. No reputable source would claim otherwise. To claim this would be counter to solar observations and historical trends.

      Why would you care about what someone said about someone on a forum? Clearly this is a biased individual who is using a classic accusatory argument.

      I’m more interested in observations then asinine partisan politics.

      1. “Who has reversed sunspot activity?”
        The Global Warming Scam artists of course.

        “Clearly we are heading for a solar minimum as stated in this article and touched on in numerous other postings.”
        Their assertion was, in essence, that Solar Cycle 24 didn’t exist, so why are we surprised about being in a minimum, noting was going to happen until 2020 at the earliest anyway.

        “Why would you care about what someone said about someone on a forum?”
        Because the claim that was being made is ascientific, contrary to observation, and completely wrong, and I happen to moderate the subforum within which the claim was made. The net result of which is that my first step is to try and teach for the benefit of third parties, rather than responding in kind.

  10. I think this diversion into the climate subject illustrates a social problem that has occurred in our modern world, in particular the US of A. In other discussions on the LHC and the hunt for the Higgs field there is a sizable number of people who have “reasons” to think either the Higgs field does not exist, or that the whole pursuit is worthless. Most of these contributions are low on intellectual perspective, but high on opinion. This is also found in other areas of where society weighs in on scientific issues, in particular creationism. This appears to reflect how our society is frustrated by a failure of intellectual consensus, and where those who have a “little bit of knowledge” (a dangerous things?) can become obstructionists. Our modern world risks becoming lost in a nest of quibbles that mirrors what happened to the intellectual path of the ancient world.


    1. It is dangerous! Someone called such thing a “gefährliches Halbwissen” (“dangerous half-knowledge”, if I translate one to one). Many think they know something, and even know better than “experts”.

      It has become “cool” lately to be dumb, or to “stand up to the experts”, and such things.
      This IS dangerous. And the outcome might be terrifying.

  11. I think this diversion into the climate subject illustrates a social problem that has occurred in our modern world, in particular the US of A. In other discussions on the LHC and the hunt for the Higgs field there is a sizable number of people who have “reasons” to think either the Higgs field does not exist, or that the whole pursuit is worthless. Most of these contributions are low on intellectual perspective, but high on opinion. This is also found in other areas of where society weighs in on scientific issues, in particular creationism. This appears to reflect how our society is frustrated by a failure of intellectual consensus, and where those who have a “little bit of knowledge” (a dangerous things?) can become obstructionists. Our modern world risks becoming lost in a nest of quibbles that mirrors what happened to the intellectual path of the ancient world.


  12. Man-made CO2 output is certainly not good for local environments. Surely we all have heard of smog. Why then, would it not also negatively affect the environment on larger scales?

    The CO2 doesn’t simply disappear. It hangs around in the atmosphere, preventing heat from radiating back into space. It isn’t the direct cause of GW, (the Sun is the source of heat), but it is preventing the heat from escaping as it would normally. This is why it’s called a “greenhouse gas”. It is working as an insulator.

    Obviously, if the Sun’s output decreases, the Earth will feel direct effects. Even if the decrease in activity counteracts AGW effects, we still will have to deal with CO2 later, and it is still causing oceanic acidification – which may be far more destructive.

    Fossil fuels are a finite energy resource. Our economies have been built around their availability. We dealing with the fact that fossil fuels will become much harder to acquire, which will result in higher prices. This in turn will cause economic problems.

    Investing money in alternative energy is a smart move. It provides access to energy resources that are renewable and practically infinite in some cases. It is expensive now, but it will pay off later. New discoveries and developments are made daily. It is also a smart move, because if a nation can create its own energy supply, it would not be held captive by OPEC and oil companies.

    Deforestation is another major contributor to the climate problem. Thousands of acres of forests are cut down daily. These forests, especially tropical rain forests, are one of the primary sources of oxygen in the air. We must have them in order to live. When trees are cut down, the no longer absorb CO2, and no longer release O2. Not only that, but they are typically burned, resulting in even more CO2. Stopping ALL deforestation is the biggest thing that we could to reduce our environmental destruction.

    Algae is thought to be the main contributor of O2 to the atmosphere, even more so than rain forests. Geological and fossil evidence suggest that algae was the primary reason the Earth developed an O2 atmosphere. As more CO2 enters the ocean, acidification becomes an issue, which can negatively impact algae growth. Algae is also thought to be the main source of fossil fuels, and can actually be used to create new fuels today (biofuels). AGW denialists fail to realize this, which is quite ironic.

    Even from a religious perspective, “going green” makes sense. Whether you believe in God or not, the Earth is precious. If we ruin the biosphere, we have nowhere else to go. To a believer, the Earth is not only our home, but a gift from God. What gives us the right to trash this gift? Should we not be better stewards of the planet? Don’t future generations also deserve to live healthy lives on a beautiful planet? Are we really that selfish?

  13. And with that, I bow out. Because I understand math, absorption spectra, simulation modeling, statistics, numeric methods, chaos theory, and feedback, it is obvious that “climate scientists” are wrong. The earth is warming and, barring a repeat of the Maunder Minimum, will continue to do so for the next 100 years regardless of what man does. The cycle is natural, and our input is insignificant. I weighed in hoping that there would be some real scientists out there who are actually literate in simple math and such. AGW has become a matter of faith; I am a subject matter expert in simulation modeling – their primary tool. That you choose to be blindly faithful is sad. As I said before, when the public realizes they have been duped and paint all scientists with the same brush, those of you who did not speak up about the bad science used by climate scientists will get what you deserve. Enjoy.

    1. In other words “I’m right, because I say so, because I know some stuff that supposedly in some way relates to all of this, and therefore can unilaterally dismiss 120 year of science across a dozen different fields… because I say so”.

      Yep, okay. Whatever you say. You haven’t weighed in with a single argument relating to the science that has shown itself to be substantial. In fact, most of your posts have pretty much consisted of regurgitating long-debunked urban myths, some of them literally over 100 years old (like the Knut Ångström argument), and shown wrong decades ago.

      Now that you haven’t been able to get those arguments past basic scrutiny, you’re basically doing the forum equivalent of an internet rage quit.

      Does that about sum it up?

  14. After poring over these comments, I’ve come to the conclusion that debating with AGW deniers, as is the case with creationists, is rather like trying to play chess with a pigeon — it knocks the pieces over, craps on the board, and then flies back to its flock to claim victory!

    1. 😉

      It’s also quite similar to talking to our “good friends” from the ES/EU/PC crowd….

    2. I had no idea this article would generate such a heated discussion on climate change.

      Whatever happened to Solar cycles?

      I feel stupid for allowing this to occur.

      I think we may need to add some form of AGW denial-ism to the comments policy. These threads have developed into the same bilge as our ES/EU/PC/astrology/doomsday/theology threads once did.

      I’m not sure how this can be done without seeming overly restrictive or authoritarian.


      1. Well, if denialism falls under the same category as “personal theory” than you can clearly remove them. I think there are pros and cons for such a view.

        Btw: Such discussions are not entirely bad, although the comment section gets flooded with nonsense (which is bad). But me, for instance, I also learned a few new things (mostly thanks to Corey Simmonds, but also others). This also happened to me during discussions with the EU/ES/PC crowd (mostly because I had to look things up again…).
        However, the benefit of learning for me is likely not enough to allow such a flooding. That’s for sure!

        You/We will not destroy nonsense of denialism by deleting it, but we will also not succeed in such heated rolls of crackpot ideas. Difficult, indeed.

      2. I’m not exactly anyone who would presume to tell this community how to conduct itself. I found this site by chance only a couple of days ago.

        Still, having taking place in many discussions like this, I would like to add my $0.02 (sorry for the long-winded post).

        First, discussions like this can be great places for information. I appreciate the compliment tossed my way, but truth by told, I’m merely a bio major who’s learned from discussions like this. I was very undecided on the whole climate issue until I learned just how strong the consensus was (thank you, Naomi Oreskes!), and even then, seemingly bullet-proof counter-arguments came up, and I only learned enough to navigate them by looking over them, considering them, and seeing what the experts had to say, all over the course of threads like this one.

        It’s a personal learning experience, and it’s valuable there, but it also has to be accepted that there are people out to push an ideology, and not to learn or disseminate the truth. Most of these people are heavily political individuals belonging to a certain political ideology which thinks all government is bad with such a fervor, that when they perceive environmental issues as being a means to introduce government intervention, they become almost religiously invested in proving that environmental problems don’t exist, and that does make it tough to hold a real conversation. I don’t care about political ideology, because the laws of physics don’t ask our political permission to be what they are, but these people don’t see it that way.

        That doesn’t mean that public discussion serves no purpose, however. Author/Scientist David Brin has an expression: CITOKATE. It means criticism is the only known antidote to error. These people are NOT toting personal theories; the arguments and information they bring up is real, it’s out there, and the public sees it too. We’re all flooded with names like The NIPCC, The Great Global Warming Swindle, Christopher Moncton, Fred Singer, The Wall Street Journal, sources of information that are either false, or used to bring people to false conclusions.

        Many people are not scientists that understand this issue; hell, I sure am not. Many are also not religious believers, however, and are not beyond being swayed by argument if they really are made to understand the flaws in the denialist arguments and the consensus, and it’s THESE people who might be convinced if that criticism is out there, combating this bad information.

        Yes, a lot of bad information gets distributed in discussions like this, but that information is already out there, now, and many of the places where it’s present don’t have responses conveniently visible to debunk that information. At least, when it’s discussed here, those refutations are ALSO present, and visible for those who care to learn.

        I don’t think the censor is the right way to settle issues, but even if it is, it cannot stop information that’s already available to the public. What can be done, however, is to make it clear that these arguments do not go unchallenged, and that those of us who really do care about the science are willing to take the time to explain what the science is, amidst the flying nonsense, for those willing to listen.

        I think that’s the only policy that can possibly have a positive influence on this subject.

      3. I agree that challenging incorrect assertions is the best way to refute false information. Allowing all comments without moderation was how business was conducted here up until recently.

        However many commentators abused UT open comments policy. Regular commentators were getting frustrated that ideological commentators where pedaling crackpot theories; the same talking points would be used over-and-over. Often it was the same individuals. Some commentators even masqueraded under different names while running a conversation with themselves (same IP!). Eventually, these discussions would devolve into fights. Some of our better commentators got into trouble for taking part. We even had a couple EU spammers post the same EU article 180 times under dozens of articles. Newer readers were frustrated that the comments section was not helpful or on-topic.

        As a reader, I find the input of commentators such as LC and Larson invaluable.

        I would love to see UT attract more high quality commentators such as yourself Corey. When the comment section is of poor quality, this is a definite turnoff.

        This is why we have clamped down. Believe me, part of me would like to have every comment remain. Let the readers sort out the nonsense themselves! In retrospect, it just doesn’t work out so well when this is attempted. It’s a definite tradeoff. However, many commentators have responded positively to the changes.

      4. Regular commentators were getting frustrated that ideological commentators where pedaling crackpot theories; the same talking points would be used over-and-over.

        As in blather, blather, rinse, and repeat…

        Some commentators even masqueraded under different names while running a conversation with themselves (same IP!).

        Wikipedia has a name for such individuals: Sockpuppet(s).

      5. Hmm, I think I can see the nature of your dilemma.

        I guess while posting bad information isn’t a crime, especially if genuine ignorance is involved (because that can be corrected), what you’re describing is basically a spam campaign to spread misinformation.

        and yet, almost any action taken to restrict that sort of thing loses one the intellectual high ground, doesn’t it?

        Verifiability, for instance, is a good policy, in that requiring that someone can produce a source helps keep down the real off-the-wall stuff, as IVAN3MAN suggests, and yet, with climate denialism, it gets real hard, because nearly any claim can be supported by what seems a reputable source (if you aren’t aware of the scientific flaws and bad money with the NIPCC, for instance, they could seem *very* reputable). That then requires censoring sources of consistently bad information, but opens one right up to accusations of bias.

        You do have a formal forum, don’t you, for Bad Astronomy and UT? If climate denialism is specifically an out-of-hand problem, why not sticky, say, a thread with a short list of long-debunked denialist arguments that are not allowed to be brought up in article comments? That way, you can still leave appeals open for the sake of keeping the intellectual high ground, so it’s not authoritarian, because it can simply be a rule to restrict discussion to that thread.

        I don’t know if that would be practical; it’s just a simple thought from an outsider 🙂

        In any case, you guys do seem like an pretty cool group here with some very interesting people.

      6. Whatever happened to Solar cycles?

        Er… I think it’s somewhere 2 miles north from here. 😉

        I feel stupid for allowing this to occur.

        Not your fault, mate. Give deniers (of all colours) an inch, they will take mile!

        I’m not sure how this can be done without seeming overly restrictive or authoritarian.

        I agree with DrFlimmer; if the comment is a “personal theory”, then it should be deleted — especially if it’s off-topic!


        As one of the volunteer editors on Wikipedia (whenever I’m not nit-picking here!), I would suggest its three core policies: Neutral point of view;
        No original research; and, most importantly, Verifiability. Therefore, if someone’s comment falls into one or more of those categories, delete the damn thing!

        I hope that helps.

      7. That’s a good reference. I think writing from a neutral point of view solves the issue. Obviously, since this is not Wikipedia, general exuberance should be excluded (i.e. “this is fantastic!” etc etc.).

        Verifiability (citing resources) should be a second cornerstone.

        No original research is probably not a good policy here. A small minority of commentators who do authentic research should feel welcome to share their thoughts.

        Conversely, the phonies can take a hike! (no personal theories!).

      8. I agree whole heartedly, but if I may offer an observation?

        While I fall into the category of people reading UT that were getting annoyed with the PC/EU crowd, I often found the responses offered by (for example) lcrowell were inciteful and educational, the net result being that I’m fairly sure I learned a few things that I might not have otherwise learned, purely and simply because I wouldn’t have known what questions to ask, and where to look to find the answers.

        And therein lies the observation. As disconcerting and irritating as the promulgation of ascientific ideas might be at times, and as satisfying as moderating them out of existence might be, the refutation of those ideas can often be a learning experience for third parties, and some times those wrong ideas are being offered out of ignorance, rather than belligerence.

        On the otherhand, I fully agree that the unmitigated promulgation of ascientific ideas is tantamount to spam, and should probably be treated as such.

      9. I am one of those skeptical of climate change and the main reason is that while people aren’t falsifying data some data are being manipulated.

        This is from the University of Colorado
        Steve Nerem, the director of the widely relied-upon research center, told that his group added the 0.3 millimeters per year to the actual sea level measurements because land masses, still rebounding from the ice age, are rising and increasing the amount of water that oceans can hold.

        “We have to account for the fact that the ocean basins are actually getting slightly bigger… water volume is expanding,” he said, a phenomenon they call glacial isostatic adjustment (GIA).

        Read more:

        To a person who has heard of isostatic adjustment it is pretty straight forward. To the average person on the street we are being lied to. When there are large amounts of money to be made on both sides of the argument warning flags can and should be raised.

      10. I’m confused about your argument. You’re saying you’re skeptical because scientists know how to make data better?

        A lot of statistical data, if not most, is manipulated, in every field of science. Data is calibrated, it’s bias-adjusted, it’s filtered, but what’s important is that this is always out in the open, and published.

        When you carbon date a sample past a few thousand years old, you’re not comparing it to the present atmospheric C14/C12 ratio; you’re comparing it to an altered ratio, from calibration data that was obtained to find the changing ratio throughout the tens of thousands of years carbon dating works over. This is published, and the methods are known and repeatable:

        You’re not skeptical of carbon dating, are you?

        If it’s money, there’s even less concern. First, there’s way more money in denialism. Just consider this article by Real Climate as a tiny example.

        Besides, if there was some secret flaw to climate data that we weren’t being told about, that EVERY scientist was in some conspiracy to hide, the first one to reveal it, and throw 120 years of science, and the position of the ENTIRE community out the window, would probably win a Nobel Prize. Richard Muller tried to prove the data untrustworthy at the Berkley climate project, BEST. Instead, his data’s agreement with theirs was “excellent”. I’m curious as to what you think of that, since Muller was a long-time skeptic, now convinced.

        I’m not saying that no one should be a skeptic if reasons exist; I’d just like to know your reasoning.

  15. I’m almost afraid to ask what AWG is supposed to represent.

    On the potential solar minimum, we’d noticed that the winters are getting colder and snowier again. Guess we need to make sure we upgrade the insulation whether we are going to slide back into the Little Ice Age of (very approximately) 1,000 – 1900 AD. Or the Venus-inspired Hot House of the Dinosaurs.

    On Global Warming, I’m still kind of amused how the very facts that used to say we were sliding back into the Ice Age (the intermission is already the longest on record) now proves we are going into a hothouse because somebody had to come up with an explanation of the difference in temp between Venus, Terra & Mars – and the satellites tracking data just didn’t jive up until they tweaked an assigned constant till it gave the readings desired.

    At least we’ve been watching the sunspots for longer than we have the ozone holes that just happen to be right over the poles (ever watched the water in your bathtub drain out when the drain isn’t clogged?)

    1. “American Wire Gauge” usually, although I am currently doing tests with an “Arbitrary Waveform Generator” in the lab. However, since it appears be related to the discussion of Anthropogenic Global Warming, maybe it means “Atmospheric water generator”, though that might be of more interest to the Anglian Water Group.


    2. “American Wire Gauge” usually, although I am currently doing tests with an “Arbitrary Waveform Generator” in the lab. However, since it appears be related to the discussion of Anthropogenic Global Warming, maybe it means “Atmospheric water generator”, though that might be of more interest to the Anglian Water Group.


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