The Real Link Between Solar Energy, Ocean Cycles and Global Temperature

This article expands and updates my previous articles and should be read with them.

Variations in solar energy as a driver for global climate change have been wholly discounted by the IPCC and climate modellers on the basis that something they call Total Solar Irradiance has not changed enough between 1975 and 1998 to make a significant contribution to the climate warming observed during that period.

It is because solar influences have been discounted that the IPCC and climate modellers have been determined to attribute most of the observed warming during that period to an enhanced greenhouse effect caused by CO2 produced by human activity.

Consequently the climate models currently in use contain no solar effects as a component.

This article shows that they are wrong and that, in fact, solar energy is and always has been the overwhelming primary driver for global temperature with CO2 such a minor component that it should be ignored. Due to the differences in scale between the solar effect and the effect of CO2 the latter is only ever going to have a marginal effect at and around the peak of any natural warming trend and is unlikely to activate any tipping point that would not have been activated by natural cause. Indeed, during natural cooling spells CO2 will be a wholly beneficial mitigating factor.

This article will then go on to identify the additional parameters apart from solar activity that will need to be measured to give us a workable if approximate predictor of global temperature movements.

Showing that solar energy has been the predominant driver throughout history prior to the industrial revolution is not difficult.

‘The Past and Future of Climate’

To my mind David Archibald provides the most convincing narrative for global temperature prior to the industrial revolution which is, of course, when mankind first developed the industrial technology that relied upon activities producing significant quantities of man made CO2 emissions. He is also very persuasive up to the present and into the future.

It can safely be said that for some time after the commencement of the industrial revolution the amount of CO2 produced by man was insufficient to be implicated in climate change.

In fact, the production of anthropogenic CO2 did not really start to escalate at a substantial rate until after World War 2. Since then the modernisation and industrialisation of the world has been increasingly rapid with more and more CO2 being produced to support a greatly increased world population at ever higher average standards of living. Accordingly we do not really need to consider the balance between solar energy and man made CO2 as climate drivers until 1945.

The period from 1945 to about 1960 was not a good time to consider the causes of climate change because the world was more concerned about a recovery from global conflict. Additionally it was not a good time to investigate the matter for separate climate related reasons.

At this point it is helpful to refer to the following link:

Ocean oscillations are not “masking” global warming: the cooling is real

I find Mr. Rawls very helpful in illustrating the effect of time lags between solar input and oceanic oscillations.

His article readily demonstrates that the lag between solar input and the reaction of the oceans can easily offset, interrupt or disguise the direct connection between solar variation and global temperatures.

He shows that despite powerful solar cycles 18 and 19 the global temperature had already started to decline before the weak solar cycle 20 which then compounded a cooling process until about 1975.

The reason was that the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) was out of phase with the solar variations. My proposition is that during solar cycles 18 and 19 the PDO was still reacting to earlier weaker solar cycles. Bear in mind that PDO cycles are about 30 years long whereas solar cycles are about 11 years long so there is bound to be a substantial but variable discontinuity.

At this point I now bring into play my own theory set out in the following article:

CO2sceptics News Blog: Global Warming and Cooling – The Reality 

As readers will see I have set out my opinion that solar energy directly drives PDO/ENSO and that PDO/ENSO together with similar cyclic oscillations in all the other oceans combine to drive global temperature up or down regardless of the level of CO2 in the atmosphere. However strong the greenhouse effect is, more heat coming in will cause a rise in temperature and less heat coming in will cause a fall in temperature. CO2 only affects the point of equilibrium, not the actual temperature. All CO2 does is increase the residence time of some of the heat in the atmosphere. CO2 does not create additional heat and it’s influence declines the more of it there is. In fact some say that at 380ppm in the atmosphere it has already used up all of it’s available greenhouse potential. The IPCC projections rely on the CO2 present causing an increase in water vapour which is the main greenhouse gas. However their models ignore all the characteristics of the planet that reduce the greenhouse effect of water vapour such as increased cloudiness, increased rainfall and increased convection.

One of the most important points to note in my other article is my comment that from time to time the other oceanic cycles can operate in the opposite mode to PDO/ENSO thereby offsetting it until any lag is worked through.

It logically follows that, from time to time, the other oceanic cycles can operate in conjunction with PDO/ENSO to emphasise the effect on the global temperature.

Before it is safe to attribute a global warming or a global cooling effect to any other factor (CO2 in particular) it is necessary to disentangle the simultaneous overlapping positive and negative effects of solar variation, PDO/ENSO and the other oceanic cycles. Sometimes they work in unison, sometimes they work against each other and until a formula has been developed to work in a majority of situations all our guesses about climate change must come to nought.

So, to be able to monitor and predict changes in global temperature we need more than information about the past, current and expected future level of solar activity.

We also need to identify all the separate oceanic cycles around the globe and ascertain both the current state of their respective warming or cooling modes and, moreover, the intensity of each, both at the time of measurement and in the future.

Once we have a suitable formula I believe that changes in global temperature will no longer be a confusing phenomenon and we will be able to apportion the proper weight to other influencing factors such as the greenhouse effect of CO2.

At the moment the weight given to the effect of CO2 in the models is just a guess.

It seems that some years ago it was noticed that the models of global temperature were diverging from real world observations. The modellers were unaware of the cause so they guessed at CO2 and attributed a warming capacity for CO2 just sufficient to bring the models into line with reality. They then announced that man made CO2 was a primary cause of global temperature changes and the bandwagon started to roll.

With respect to all concerned I do not consider that to have been a right or proper course of action. The cause of the discrepancy they observed could have been down to CO2 or it could have been down to other factors or even a combination of multiple alternative factors.

What they did was a perfectly sensible experiment. It was however irresponsible to trumpet it as the solution and to rely on it up to today.

When one conducts an experiment such as that then the proper approach is to recognise that it is only an experiment and then watch out for any new divergence between the models and the real world. The scale and timing of any new divergence is a useful indicator of where else one should look for new data to further improve the fit between the models and reality.

Instead the new divergences that have arisen have been discounted as evidence that the adjustment for the influence of CO2 was wrong in quantity. The models are not reflecting real world activity. They did not anticipate the stall in temperature trend which the Hadley Centre accepts has occurred since 1998 and they certainly did not anticipate the cooling down which appears to have commenced in 2007.

The mechanisms referred to by David Archibald and others do, however, account for those changes and moreover those changes were predicted in advance.
So which approach is proving more accurate and useful in the real world ?

Having observed the apparent failure of the models with their speculative CO2 component and having seen the relative success of the solar and astronomic influences at anticipating real world changes I have written this article to draw attention to what I consider to be the underlying real world process of global temperature change. Global temperature is controlled quite precisely (although it is difficult to calculate) by solar energy modulated by a number of overlapping and interlinked oceanic cycles each operating on different time scales and being of varying intensities, sometimes offsetting one another and sometimes complementing one another.

Any other single influence such as an enhanced greenhouse effect from CO2 is just one of a plethora of other potential but relatively minor influences which as often as not offset one another and leave the solar/oceanic driver unchallenged in terms of scale.

I can emphasise the importance of this issue for our near future by examining the period 1940 to 2008.

From around 1940 solar input was high during cycles 18 and 19 but then it reduced for a while during solar cycle 20 but (importantly) PDO was negative throughout. That remained the basic scenario until 1975. The background warming from two very active solar cycles 18 and 19 was cancelled out and then when we experienced the weaker cycle 20 combined with the continuing negative PDO we legitimately feared global cooling.

From 1975 to about 2000 PDO was positive and we experienced powerful solar cycles 21, 22 and the peak of 23 (which although less intense than the other two had a double peak). That combination produced the level of global warming that led to such concern from the IPCC and the modellers. It is important to note that taken together solar cycles 18, 19, 21, 22 and the double peak of cycle 23 produced the most intense period of solar activity since the Maunder minimum and that period of weak solar activity produced frigid conditions which, if repeated now, would be disastrous for our much more highly populated world. One only has to look at China’s reports of last winter’s ‘climate crisis’ to see that certain areas of China were rendered uninhabitable for a time.

In my personal opinion it was criminal for the IPCC and the modellers to ignore all that on the basis of some nebulous concept termed Total Solar Irradiance.

On the basis of the information in the public domain about solar cycles and the positive PDO it should have been blatantly obvious that the world would warm up without the need to speculate on a contribution from CO2 or anything else. But, no, they left the solar component out of the models and saw no significance in a positive PDO.

That brings me to the present scenario that I find rather worrying.

As Mr. Rawls points out we now have a less active sun combined with the start of a negative PDO.


1) Active sun in cycles 18 and 19 then a less active sun in cycle 20 plus a negative PDO = cancelling out of expected warming followed by cooling when the sun gets less active in cycle 20 (!940 to 1975).

2) Active sun during cycles 21, 22 and the double peak of 23 plus positive PDO = significant warming. (1975 to 1998)

3) Slightly quieter sun during extended tail end of cycle 23 plus positive PDO = stable temperatures. (1998 to 2007).

4) Quiet sun as cycle 23 fizzles out and cycle 24 is deferred plus a negative PDO = Rather chilly in my opinion. (2007 to 20 ?)

Could it be that the IPCC and the modellers have been completely wrong footed and are now recommending exactly the opposite policy decisions to those that the world really needs?

I should emphasise the problems ahead of us if the solar driver theory is correct.

It would mean that the current cooling process will consolidate and continue for decades. I would prefer to be wrong because crops will fail, growing areas reduce, summers shorten and the environments suitable for plant and animal life will shrink towards the equator again after the past few decades of northward and southward expansion.

The past few decades that led to such painful heart searching will, in retrospect, look like very pleasant times.

Now I’m not saying that all this will necessarily come to pass but the evidence I have produced must be persuasive enough to establish that nothing is settled and that in policy terms we should become a great deal more cautious and cover the possibilities of both possible resumed warming and also the possibility of much more painful cooling.

By all means do what we can to preserve resources and improve efficiency but if we really are in for a period of cooling we should be far more liberal than is currently proposed about the use of fossil fuels and energy generally.

On balance I would prefer to see evidence that CO2 has sufficient influence on our climate to mitigate the cooling threat that we have before us but I see none. All the temperature changes of the 20th Century are readily explicable without involving CO2 at all and the first decade of the 21st Century is continuing the pattern.

Indeed, I would very much like to be wrong but the evidence is not supportive of an imminent runaway warming. Would a responsible policy maker ignore everything I have said? All I have done is pull together information that is already available. What are all those think tanks and experts doing for their salaries ? If they already have evidence to disprove everything in this article and make me a laughing stock then let them produce it.

All this reminds me of 1976.

A Minister for Drought was appointed and within weeks the drought ended and has not been repeated.

It is a fact of life that, in this world, by the time human institutions have devised a policy, the world has moved on and the policy becomes redundant and counterproductive.

I hope that both the planet and the IPCC can show my concerns to have been misguided.

Published by Stephen Wilde May 21, 2008

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