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Study Finds that “Grand Minimum” of Solar Activity Would Not Slow Global Warming

A research team from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) in Germany has found that deceased solar activity until the end of this century would only slightly scale down the global temperature rise caused by greenhouse gas emissions. The results of the study are published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

“The notion that we are heading for a new Little Ice Age if the Sun actually entered a Grand Minimum is wrong. In fact, a minimum of solar activity would not prevent strong future warming if emissions of greenhouse gases continued at current levels.”
—Dr. Georg Feulner, Potsdam Institute

The researchers found that the projected fall in solar activity until the end of the present century would bring down the Earth’s temperature by only 0.3 °C. This figure is less than 10% of the projected temperature rise under the business-as-usual scenario posited by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The Potsdam team based their study on the possibility of a Grand Minimum of solar activity, a phenomenon that occurs when the sunspot activity on the surface of the Sun is lessened. This helps to lower the Earth’s surface temperature.

Sunspots (dark spots on the Sun caused by magnetic activity which reduce the Sun’s surface temperature wherever they appear), can expand to around 80,000 km as they move across its surface. The Maunder Minimum, a famous period of low solar activity when very few sunspots were observed, occurred between 1645 and 1715 and coincided with the “Little Ice Age”, a period marked by freezing winters across Europe and North America.

Current observation of sunspots shows that solar activity is at its weakest for nearly a century, leading to speculations by some solar physicists that we may be on the edge of a new Grand Minimum period comparable to the Maunder Minimum.

To explore the possibility of a 21st century Grand Minimum, the Potsdam researchers set up climate models for the oceans, the atmosphere and land surface. They looked at possible greenhouse gas emission scenarios provided by the IPCC featuring intermediate and strong rises in emissions during this century.

Using the models, they performed three simulation experiments with different solar forcing—one without a Grand Minimum and two with the Sun entering a new Grand Minimum lasting until the end of the century. In these models, solar radiation fell by 0.08% and 0.25% compared to its value in 1950. Global temperatures were modelled to rise to 3.7% or 4.5 °C above the 1961-to-1990 average level.

Most likely, a new Grand Minimum of solar activity would diminish global mean temperature in the year 2100 by about 0.1 or 0.2 °C. Current temperature data also confirm that the effect of low solar activity on the climate is very small.

—Professor Stefan Rahmstorf, head of Earth System Analysis at PIK

During the past 30 years, temperatures have increased at a rate of 0.16 °C per decade. According to the Goddard Institute for Space Studies at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), last year was the second warmest year on record globally.

The authors conclude, “A new Maunder-type solar activity minimum cannot offset the global warming caused by human greenhouse gas emissions.

Resources

  • Feulner, G. et al., (2010) On the effect of a new grand minimum of solar activity on the future climate on Earth. Geophysical Research Letters (in press, published online 3 March). doi: 10.1029/2010GL042710

Comments

HarveyD

One single winter does not mean much but we (150 Km North of North Pole NY) had the warmest winter on records with temps of +10C to +15C almost every day in March so far. February was also exceptionally warm. Heating was done with the high efficiency air-air heat pump all winter but none was required for the last 3+ weeks. Snow fall was also less than half (closer to 1/3) the long term average. The nearby river has been ice free for 3+ weeks. Maple sugar was 3 to 4 weeks earlier than normal. It seems that snow fell South of us, as far down as Washington DC, but not on our Northern area. An exceptional warm winter. If it keeps up, leaves will be out one month earlier than average.

Aaron Turpen

Once again, an article about a study by a group whose best interest is held in proposing a singular point of view so that they can continue to receive funding and all published on a website that has NOTHING to do with climate.

Gee, can the propaganda get any more obvious?

Aaron Turpen

Once again, an article about a study by a group whose best interest is held in proposing a singular point of view so that they can continue to receive funding and all published on a website that has NOTHING to do with climate.

Gee, can the propaganda get any more obvious?

ai_vin

Aaron, what you think this website should be about "has NOTHING to do with" what the site owner thinks the GREEN Car Congress should be about.

If you don't like the way he runs his website you are free to start your own site with what even rules you wish to apply and with the knowledge that we won't visit it to criticize how you run it.

ai_vin

"what even" = whatever

BTW I'm sorry if that sounded harsh but I missed an hour of sleep today because some fool thought it would be fun to set all the clocks ahead. ;^)

Will S

Thanks for this article, right in line with understanding the need for Green Cars.

Henry Gibson

FINDS????

How about predicts?

No study of the future of nature can find the absolute truth about anything. Solar minimums may be big enough to freeze the entire planet. Why were parts of the inhabited UK underneath much ice and parts of the Channel dry land just a few hundred thousand years ago.

Under the silt of the Mediterranian sea are salt deposits from when it was dry, before water started flowing through the Pillars of Hercules to fill it from the rising Atlantic.

The CO2 caused by man did not end the ice age over 20,000 years ago, but it may have increased the earths temperature a few degrees since then.

It has been proven in the last hundred years that a massive volcanic explosion will cool most of the earth a few degrees in a few days for many months.

Global warming is only a problem caused by nature since humans are a part of nature, and it is really only a problem to people who are well fed.

Finding food every day eliminates global warming as a problem to other people.

If global warming got rid of all humans, it would well serve almost all other radioactive live things.

The scientists predict that in a few billion years, the sun will expand to a size that will envelope the earth, so no reduction of CO2 will stop this eventuall global warming.

It is well known how to reduce the anthropomorphic production of CO2, eliminating anthropomorhps is one way, but because of false beliefs and deliberate misinformation, they reject this solution and others. ..HG..

HarveyD

Methane evaporation from Northern tundra and arctic ocean bottom is increasing at a higher rate than expected. Since methane is about 30 times as efficient as CO2 with regards to GHG, would it be one of the reason why the Northern areas are having warmer climate?

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