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The Register : Can’t Read, Won’t Read ?

Is something ailing The Register’s Lewis Page ? Despite having access to the text of a recent research paper about the Sun’s recent output, and its short-term impact on surface temperatures on Earth, and having had plenty of time to read plain English reviews of the paper’s findings in everyday language, he still writes it up poorly (in my humble opinion). Could this be due to internal bias, I ask myself ? Or is Lewis Page being wilfully contrarian ? Who can say ?

“Much of recent global warming actually caused by Sun : By Lewis Page : 7th October 2010 : New data indicates that changes in the Sun’s output of energy were a major factor in the global temperature increases seen in recent years. The research will be unwelcome among hardcore green activists, as it downplays the influence of human-driven carbon emissions. As the Sun has shown decreased levels of activity during the past decade, it had been generally thought that it was warming the Earth less, not more. Thus, scientists considered that temperature rises seen in global databases must mean that human-caused greenhouse gas emissions – in particular of CO2 – must be exerting a powerful warming effect. Now, however, boffins working at Imperial College in London (and one in Boulder, Colorado) have analysed detailed sunlight readings taken from 2004 to 2007 by NASA’s Solar Radiation and Climate Experiment (SORCE) satellite. They found that although the Sun was putting out less energy overall than usual, in line with observations showing decreased sunspot activity, it actually emitted more in the key visible-light and near-infrared wavelengths. These shorter wavelength forms of radiated heat penetrate the atmosphere particularly well to heat up the Earth’s surface – just as the same frequencies get in through car windows to heat up its interior. The hot seats and dashboard – in this case the seas, landmasses etc – then radiate their own increased warmth via conduction, convection and longer-wave infrared, which can’t escape the way the shortwave energy came in. This is why the car, and the planet, become so hot. Thus the Sun, though it was unusually calm in the back half of the last decade, was actually warming the planet much more strongly than before…”

Lewis Page is playing up the warming influence of the solar minimum, in my view.

Let’s take a short look at the Abstract of the paper :-

Letter : Nature 467, 696-699 (7 October 2010)
doi:10.1038/nature09426; Published online 6 October 2010

“An influence of solar spectral variations on radiative forcing of climate”
Joanna D. Haigh, Ann R. Winning, Ralf Toumi & Jerald W. Harder

“Abstract : The thermal structure and composition of the atmosphere is determined fundamentally by the incoming solar irradiance. Radiation at ultraviolet wavelengths dissociates atmospheric molecules, initiating chains of chemical reactions—specifically those producing stratospheric ozone—and providing the major source of heating for the middle atmosphere, while radiation at visible and near-infrared wavelengths mainly reaches and warms the lower atmosphere and the Earth’s surface. Thus the spectral composition of solar radiation is crucial in determining atmospheric structure, as well as surface temperature, and it follows that the response of the atmosphere to variations in solar irradiance depends on the spectrum. Daily measurements of the solar spectrum between 0.2  micrometres and 2.4 micrometres, made by the Spectral Irradiance Monitor (SIM) instrument on the Solar Radiation and Climate Experiment (SORCE) satellite since April 2004, have revealed that over this declining phase of the solar cycle there was a four to six times larger decline in ultraviolet than would have been predicted on the basis of our previous understanding. This reduction was partially compensated in the total solar output by an increase in radiation at visible wavelengths. Here we show that these spectral changes appear to have led to a significant decline from 2004 to 2007 in stratospheric ozone below an altitude of 45 km, with an increase above this altitude. Our results, simulated with a radiative-photochemical model, are consistent with contemporaneous measurements of ozone from the Aura-MLS satellite, although the short time period makes precise attribution to solar effects difficult. We also show, using the SIM data, that solar radiative forcing of surface climate is out of phase with solar activity. Currently there is insufficient observational evidence to validate the spectral variations observed by SIM, or to fully characterize other solar cycles, but our findings raise the possibility that the effects of solar variability on temperature throughout the atmosphere may be contrary to current expectations.”

It just doesn’t say what Lewis Page is saying.

Fiona Harvey at the Financial Times seems slightly confused, as she doesn’t appear to have realised about the difference between longer wave and shorter wave radiation, and their different impacts on the different layers of the atmosphere :-

“Sun throws new light on global warming : By Fiona Harvey, Environment Correspondent : Published: October 7 2010 : The sun has been behaving more curiously in the last few years than previously thought, scientists have found, in research that throws new light on global warming. Data from new satellites show that although the sun’s activity – which can be measured in part by observing sunspots – has been at an unusual low, the effect of this has not been to cool the earth, as might have been expected, but to warm it. The research challenges some accepted opinions on the effect of the sun’s activities on the climate, as it suggests that climate models may have slightly over-estimated the sun’s role in warming the earth. Scientists from Imperial College London and the University of Colorado monitored the sun’s activity from 2004-07, a period when its activity was declining. Activity on the sun waxes and wanes over an 11-year cycle, and in the declining phase the overall amount of radiation reaching the earth also declines. That should have meant that the earth would become slightly cooler. But instead, the amount of energy reaching the earth increased. This has led the scientists involved to theorise that, conversely, decreasing solar activity could slightly warm the earth. Joannah Haigh, professor at Imperial and lead author of the study, said: “These results are challenging what we thought we knew about the sun’s effect on our climate. If further studies find the same pattern over a longer period, this could suggest we may have overestimated the sun’s role in warming the planet, rather than underestimating it.” However, the amount of warming involved either way is very small. The research, published on Thursday in the peer-review journal Nature, is complex, and the authors cautioned that there were several potential explanations for their observations. They also warned that as the research had been carried out over a relatively short period, it would be wrong to extrapolate too much from it, and that more study was needed. However, the research is likely to spark further debates in climate circles. The role of the sun has been hotly disputed, with some sceptics claiming that solar activity, measured by sunspots, was the real culprit behind warming temperatures. Prof Haigh said: “This [new research] does not give comfort to climate change sceptics at all – it may suggest we do not know enough about the sun but casts no aspersions on climate models [which] would still be producing the same results without these solar effects.”

Agence France-Presse does better than Fiona :-

“…The amount of energy in the ultraviolet part of the energy spectrum fell, the researchers found…”These results are challenging what we thought we knew about the Sun’s effect on our climate,” said lead author Joanna Haigh, a professor at Imperial College London where she is also a member of the Grantham Institute for Climate change. “However, they only show us a snapshot of the Sun’s activity and its behaviour over the three years of our study could be an anomaly.” Insisting on caution, Haigh said that if the Sun turned out to have a warming effect during the “waning” part of the cycle, it might also turn out to have a cooling effect during the “waxing” part of the cycle. In that case, greenhouse gases would be more to blame than thought for the perceptible rise in global temperatures over the past century. “We cannot jump to any conclusions based on what we have found during this comparatively short period,” Haigh said. “We need to carry out further studies to explore the Sun’s activity, and the patterns that we have uncovered, on longer timescales.”… ”

The situation has not been helped by the write-up in Nature itself, sadly :-

“Published online 6 October 2010 : Nature : doi:10.1038/news.2010.519 : News : Declining solar activity linked to recent warming : The Sun may have caused as much warming as carbon dioxide over three years : Quirin Schiermeier : Waning solar activity between 2004 and 2007 has unexpectedly been linked to a warmer Earth. : An analysis of satellite data challenges the intuitive idea that decreasing solar activity cools Earth, and vice versa. In fact, solar forcing of Earth’s surface climate seems to work the opposite way around — at least during the current Sun cycle…Over the three-year study period, the observed variations in the solar spectrum have caused roughly as much warming of Earth’s surface as have increases in carbon dioxide emissions, says Haigh. But because solar activity is cyclic it should have no long-term impact on climate, regardless of whether similar spectral changes have occurred during previous solar cycles. “If the climate were affected in the long term, the Sun should have produced a notable cooling in the first half of the twentieth century, which we know it didn’t,” she says…”

RealClimate dig their teeth into this and commence chewing :-

“Solar spectral stumper : gavin @ 7 October 2010 : It’s again time for one of those puzzling results that if they turn out to be true, would have some very important implications and upset a lot of relatively established science. The big issue of course is the “if”. The case in question relates to some results published this week in Nature by Joanna Haigh and colleagues. They took some ‘hot off the presses’ satellite data from the SORCE mission (which has been in operation since 2003) and ran it through a relatively complex chemistry/radiation model. These data are measurements of how the solar output varies as a function of wavelength from an instrument called “SIM” (the Spectral Irradiance Monitor). It has been known for some time that over a solar cycle, different wavelengths vary with different amplitudes. For instance, Lean (2000) showed that the UV component varied by about 10 times as much as the total solar irradiance (TSI) did over a cycle. This information (and subsequent analyses) have lent a lot of support to the idea that solar variability changes have an important amplification via changes in stratospheric ozone (Shindell et al (2001), for instance). So it is not a novel finding that the SIM results in the UV don’t look exactly like the TSI. What is a surprise is that for the visible wavelengths, SIM seems to suggest that the irradiance changes are opposite in sign to the changes in the TSI. To be clear, while the TSI has decreased since 2003 (as part of the descent into the current solar minimum), SIM seems to indicate that the UV decreases are much larger than expected, while irradiance in visible bands has actually increased! This is counter to any current understanding of what controls irradiance on solar cycle timescales. What are the implications of such a phenomena? Well, since the UV portion of the solar input is mostly absorbed in stratosphere, it is the visible and near-IR portions of the irradiance change that directly influence the lower atmosphere. Bigger changes in the UV also imply bigger changes in stratospheric ozone and temperature, and this influences the tropospheric radiative forcing too. Indeed, according to Haigh’s calculations, the combination of the two effects means that the net radiative forcing at the tropopause is opposite in sign to the TSI change. So during a solar minimum you would expect a warmer surface!…”

The Guardian has it about right – a gold star and a bonus pint goes to Damian Carrington (and there was I thinking that his only role was to write fluff) :-

“Sun’s role in warming the planet may be overestimated, study finds : The discovery could help explain why Europe can have cold winters while the world as a whole is heating up : Damian Carrington : Wednesday 6 October 2010…Some climate change sceptics have suggested the changes in the sun’s brightness can explain the global warming seen over the past century. But Haigh said: “It does not give comfort to climate sceptics at all.” If the sun warmed the Earth less when it was at the solar maximum, then the reverse was also true, she said: “You can’t have it one way and not the other.” In addition, she said, the warming influence of rising greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, emitted by human activities, was at least 10 times greater than changes in the strength of the sun. Prof Mike Lockwood, a solar physicist at the University of Reading said: “We don’t have any reason at the moment to change our overall view of the contributions of changing solar radiation to climate change, not on a global scale, but there is quite a lot of evidence coming forward that these changes do matter on a regional scale and particularly to us here in Europe.” That is because the sun’s intensity plays a crucial role at mid-latitudes, where the UK sits, by controlling the jet stream winds, which in turn govern weather, he said. Changes to the jet stream are responsible for extremely cold European winters, such as the last one, and also the conditions which caused the volcanic ash cloud from the Eyjafjallajökull volcano to blow southwards and ground flights in April and May…”

The trouble with science communication, is that sometimes scientists don’t communicate very well :-

It appears that in this case, the scientists have communicated exceptionally well and the journalists have been “neutral” about the results.

I have to give Richard Black at the BBC his dues – his write-up is very reasonable and balanced :-

“6 October 2010 : Solar surprise for climate issue : By Richard Black : Environment correspondent, BBC News : The view that the Sun may be driving modern-day climate change has clouded policy discussions
The Sun’s influence on modern-day global warming may have been overestimated, a study suggests…”

I think we should give New Scientist the last word :-

“The sun joins the climate club : Updated 13:05 29 September 2010 by Michael Marshall : Editorial: The sun’s activity has a place in climate science : THE idea that changes in the sun’s activity can influence the climate is making a comeback, after years of scientific vilification, thanks to major advances in our understanding of the atmosphere. The findings do not suggest – as climate sceptics frequently do – that we can blame the rise of global temperatures since the early 20th century on the sun. “There are extravagant claims for the effects of the sun on global climate,” says Giles Harrison, an atmospheric physicist at the University of Reading, UK. “They are not supported.”…”

Image Credit : SOHO : Solar and Heliospheric Observatory

3 replies on “The Register : Can’t Read, Won’t Read ?”

On the face of it the new findings appear to fit my New Climate Model


“When the sun is more active energy escapes to space faster and the
stratosphere cools naturally.

The late 20th century warming was actually caused by all those strong El
Ninos and the phasing of the solar and oceanic effects was such that the
oceanic surface warming effect on the troposphere was less than it otherwise
would have been because the extra energy was released to space faster during
the period of active sun.”

I have been proposing for some time that on the basis of real world climate observations the effect of solar variability on climate must be the opposite of conventional climatology.

I have even worked it into a general climate overview, see here:

“A New And Effective Climate Model”

“Thus when the sun is more active far from warming the planet the sun is
facilitating an increased rate of cooling of the planet. That is why the
stratosphere cooled during the late 20th Century period of a highly active
sun although the higher levels of the atmosphere warmed. The higher levels were
warmed by direct solar impacts but the stratosphere cooled because energy
was going up faster than it was being received from the troposphere below.
The opposite occurs for a period of inactive sun.”

The issue of the correct sign for the solar effect on stratospheric
temperatures is now gaining some momentum so let me try to share my
reasoning in terms that are as simple as possible because I’m not currently
aware of anyone else other than me who figured it out before Joanna’s
findings came to light.

i) I noted the poleward drift of the jets throughout the late 20th Century
warming spell and on the face of it that was consistent with a warming
troposphere. Clearly a warmer troposphere would invigorate the hydrological
cycle and push the jets poleward and AGW theory recognised that with the
models supporting just such a poleward shift. Indeed that poleward shift was
supposed to be accompanied by a tropospheric hot spot as the enhanced upward
energy flux was then constrained by extra GHGs so that the ‘surplus’ energy
was retained in the troposphere and thereby denied to the stratosphere which
then cooled as per observations and despite the ‘normal’ warming of the
stratosphere that would otherwise have been expected from the highly active
sun at the time. So far so good.

ii) But then around 2000 I noted that the jets had started moving
equatorward again and no one said anything about it. To my mind that broke
the expected (AGW) pattern and I was puzzled so I watched and thought and
read but no one ever picked up on the point and not being a climate
professional and being otherwise occupied in earning a living I did not raise the issue with anyone.

iii) Then the AGW thing reached a crescendo with Al Gore’s film and I felt
that something was not right and started participating on the blogs.

iv) It soon became clear to me that the essential point was being missed by
everyone, AGW proponents and sceptics alike. That is, if the poleward jets
represent a faster hydrological cycle with energy being propelled upward
faster yet no tropospheric hotspot where the energy is being backed up then
how the hell can anyone assert that the energy being supplied to the
stratosphere from below has been reduced by the presence of more CO2 in the
troposphere. If anything the poleward shift of the jets inevitably implies
that more CO2 results in energy being propelled upward faster not slower and
of course that would be consistent with the observation that more downward
IR from any additional CO2 gets converted instantly into latent heat by
enhanced evaporation to be released higher up when condensation occurs. So
for AGW theory to have been correct we would have to have seen that hot spot
at the top of the troposphere and the presence of that hotspot would have
prevented the jets moving poleward, indeed it should have sent them
equatorward instead because it would have had the same effect as a reduction
of the height of the tropopause and an enhancement of the intensity of the

v) So if the stratosphere was not being cooled by a dearth of energy from
below it must be cooling from an even greater increase of energy flowing

vi) Joanna Haigh’s observations, if verified, prove that to be the case.
Thus AGW theory collapses totally and we have to dump all existing climate models and theories except mine which is the only hypothesis that anticipated those observations and accommodates them in the overall narrative.


At the base of all this is the simple failure of anyone to note the start of the equatorward shift in the jets around 2000. Everything I say is a simple logical extrapolation from what should have been the obvious implications of that change in trend as regards jetstream behaviour . The climate
establishment clearly took it’s eye off the ball and has led us a merry dance for at least ten years.
It is for others to decide whether there has been fraud or simply gross negligence.

Stephen Wilde.

Realclimate is taking it rather more seriously:

” combination of the two effects means that the net radiative forcing at the tropopause is opposite in sign to the TSI change.”


“Much of the longer term variance in solar output has been hypothesised to follow what happens over the solar cycle and so if verified, this result would imply that all current attributions to solar variability of temperature changes in the lower atmosphere and surface ocean would be of the wrong sign. Mechanisms elucidated in multiple models from multiple groups would no longer have any validity. It would be shocking stuff indeed.”



and of course it is the temperature at the tropopause that I have been going on about.


Some AGW proponents have tried to minimise the significance of all this by suggesting that the implication is that Greenhouse Gases are even more important because the troposphere warmed despite the now revealed cooling effect of the more active sun.

Actually it only shows that the role of other factors is enhanced and that need not be CO2 or GHGs. The oceans are themselves carrying out the same function as GHGs in the air by slowing the release of incoming solar energy back to space.

The temperature of the troposphere is barely influenced at all by the air. That temperature is almost entirely set by all that water due to it’s hugely greater density and heat carrying capability.



“The atmospheric greenhouse effect is a flea on the back of an oceanic elephant and the influence of CO2 but a microbe on the back of the flea and the influence of anthropogenic CO2 but a molecule on the back of the microbe.”

from here:

“Greenhouse Confusion Resolved”.

The poleward shift of the jets during a period of active sun was always inconsistent with AGW theory.

AGW theory in requiring a slowdown of energy transfer from troposphere to stratosphere would require more equatorward jets and a slower hydrological cycle which does not happen. The models reflected that poleward shift but had no means of recognising it as a quantifiable change in the speed of upward energy transfer because they do not accurately model clouds, convection and the effect of the phase changes of water on a global basis. A critical omission as it now turns out because to get observations to match theory logic then demands a change in the sign of the solar effect on the atmosphere being necessary. Just as Dr. Haigh has now discovered with actual measurements.


Note that the solar effects are opposite to those which the models are built on which is fatal for the models. Not much can survive after getting the sign wrong for a significant component. Back to the drawing board for the lot of them.

Furthermore those solar effects may not be small at all. So far it has only been said that the contribution to warming by the sun during the late 20th century might be smaller than expected but since they have been saying it was virtually zero during the late 20th century that doesn’t get us very far.. The cooling and warming effects have not yet been properly quantified and will most likely turn out to be significant.

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