Solar evidence points to human causes of climate change

Feb 19, 2008
Solar evidence points to human causes of climate change

It’s getting harder and harder to blame the sun for causing the gradual increase in global temperatures that are now being seen in the climate record, scientists said today.

In a symposium on the potential role of solar variability — increases in heat coming from the sun — held in Boston at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, experts in solar science, climate modeling, and atmospheric science explored the issues surrounding who or what is to blame for the rapid rate of change.

There are several possibilities, but the most likely answer is that human industry — that is, heating, cooling, automobile exhaust, manufacturing, and power-generation — is the fundamental culprit. Such activities rely heavily on burning gas, oil, and coal on a massive scale, and the end result includes carbon dioxide, a so-called greenhouse gas that traps the heat radiating from the ground, keeping it from escaping back into space.

"I’m looking for the millennial scale of solar variability,” said astronomer Sallie Baliunas, a researcher at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge. She added that “the records do show variability,” such as changes in radioactive carbon-14 abundance and a beryllium isotope in sediment that suggest changes in solar output. “Did the sun cause what we see on the ground?” she asked. “It doesn’t seem so. But there is some fuzziness in the data, which suggests it could go either way. The answer isn’t known at this time.”

What is becoming known, especially from computer models of global climate, is quite gloomy. Warming that was first noticed in the 1960s has increased steadily, and is probably directly linked to human activities.

Scientists suspect the changes in the amount of beryllium-10 and carbon-14 found in various layers of sediment reflect solar activity, because the magnetic disturbances associated with sunspots tend to block the normal flow of cosmic rays reaching the Earth from space. The cosmic rays collide with atoms in the Earth’s atmosphere, creating the unusual isotopes; beryllium and carbon thus serve as a “signature” for cosmic-ray and solar activity.

“Our star, the sun, is a variable star,” said David H. Hathaway, a sunspot specialist from NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Hunstville, Alabama. “It varies by about one-tenth of one percent” in energy output. But “there are suggestions the sun" varies "more than that, because we see it has gone through some periods, such as the Maunder minimum.” During the Maunder minimum, which lasted from 1645 to 1715 and is also known as the Little Ice Age, there was an absence or near-absence of sunpots and northern Europe experienced especially cold winters.

Baliunas has also based her research on studying surface activity that is detectable on distant stars that are reminiscent of the sun. There is considerable variability in the 60 sunlike stars she has examined, she said, depending on how fast each rotates and other factors.Unfortunately, she added, “there is no model to explain [solar surface activity] on the century-to-millennium time scale,” and long-term changes in solar output need further study.

According to Casper M. Ammann, a climate modeler at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, in the years since 1950, “there is no observed trend” in solar radiation. The 11-year sunspot cycle has not been significantly abnormal. This is just part of the reason for the difficulty of determining the sun’s influence on Earth’s climate. Ammann explained that “for the past 150 years people have tried to see whether the monsoons are linked to the 11-years solar cycle,” but without success.

In essence, he added, it’s now very clear that the atmospheric changes being seen now — global warming — “have nothing to do with changes in solar activity. It’s greenhouse gases. It’s not the sun that is causing this [climate] trend.”
The Earth’s atmosphere — and its relationship to the sun’s energy output — is so complex that even as warming began, “up until 1960 we couldn’t see it.” But now, he said, since warming has been confirmed, the world’s climate scientists “are probably not overestimating the problem. It’s probably worse than the estimates.”

In fact, he said, global warming is occurring at an incredibly rapid rate, faster than any previous episodes of climate change known from the paleo-climate data.
Ammann did add, however, that there is reason to hope that the most dire consequences can be avoided. Although it’s clearly too late to avoid the heating of the earth’s atmosphere, “we can substantially cut [it]” by severely reducing the amounts of carbon dioxide going into the air. “It is absolutely achievable,” he said — if by mid-century societies can generate enough will to make the necessary changes.

Source: Harvard University

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User comments : 12

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Quantum_Conundrum
2.1 / 5 (17) Feb 19, 2008
LITTLE ICE AGE you stupid educated fools.

AGW is BS hoax.
agg
2.4 / 5 (8) Feb 19, 2008
Some people say the world's on fire. Some people say the world's on ice. Chicken Little says the skies falling. Say shut up.
Ragtime
2.4 / 5 (10) Feb 19, 2008
The whole point basically is, the antialarmists have claimed, the increased solar activity is the true source of GW, while it seems, the Sun is extraordinarily quiet in recent years, instead.

http://wattsupwit...ts-gone/

So the antialarmists are forced to look for some better reasons, that's all.
godlyfrog
3 / 5 (10) Feb 19, 2008
This is so completely anti-scientific, it's hardly even worth reading. "The sun isn't warming us, therefore it must be human created" is such a foolish statement. What proof is there that it must have been one or the other in the first place? We can hardly predict the weather 3 days in advance, yet we claim to be smart enough to know exactly what is causing the globe to warm? Anyone who states factually that humans are the definitive cause of global warming should have their scientific credentials revoked.
Zen
2.4 / 5 (7) Feb 19, 2008
RAL
3.3 / 5 (8) Feb 19, 2008
The quotes from the actual scientists in this article indicate there is substantial uncertainty. Yet the author of the article and headline writer use this thin base to gin up more "evidence" designed to panic the gullible. Apparently January 08 was the largest year to year drop in temperature ever seen on the database, but that doesn't fit the model they are trying to sell and it didn't even make the popular media.

It is ultimately real data which will smoke out the hype. And I hope we will see some of these alarmists tossed out on their ear when it happens, because they are not scientists but the equivalent of carnival show barkers.
DrColes
3.1 / 5 (8) Feb 19, 2008
Over 400 World Wide Prominent Scientists Disputed Man-Made Global Warming Claims in 2007. See http://tinyurl.com/2dv6nz
marjon
2.7 / 5 (3) Feb 20, 2008
How definintive!

" %u201CDid the sun cause what we see on the ground?%u201D she asked. %u201CIt doesn%u2019t seem so. But there is some fuzziness in the data, which suggests it could go either way. The answer isn%u2019t known at this time.%u201D "
vlam67
1 / 5 (1) Feb 20, 2008
Over 400 World Wide Prominent Scientists Disputed Man-Made Global Warming Claims in 2007. See http://tinyurl.com/2dv6nz


...out of hundreds of thousands of saner scientific minds worldwide. Too bad, ID and oil lobbyists, I expect you do better!
out7x
1 / 5 (2) Feb 21, 2008
No mention of Greenland and Antarctic ice core data, which shows spikes in CO2 every 80-100K years.
richwestfall
not rated yet Feb 22, 2008
Solar energy output, greenhouse gases, volcanic activity, particulates from deserts, - all factors. After modeling systems, which factors are dominant and which are second, third and fourth order effects? Don't we wish we knew.
finfife
not rated yet Jul 14, 2008
"In fact, he said, global warming is occurring at an incredibly rapid rate, faster than any previous episodes of climate change known from the paleo-climate data."

Really?

The IPCC 2007 report concluded that average global temperatures increased 0.74 ± 0.18 °C from 1905 to 2005. The same report predicts another 1.1 to 6.4 °C increase during the 21st century

How far back in the paleo-data do you have to go to find warming that fast? Not very. The end of the Younger Dryas period (c. 9620 BC) saw warming quite a bit more abrupt: 6 to 14 °C in 40-50 years.

http://en.wikiped...er_Dryas
http://en.wikiped..._warming

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