Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A new Maunder Minimum?

The Maunder Minimum was a period of anomalously low solar activity that occurred between 1645 and 1715. It corresponded to the coldest part of the "Little Ice Age", which occurred between approximately 1400 and 1850.

During the Little Ice Age, and particularly the Maunder Minimum, the earth was substantially colder than it is today. Glaciation increased markedly, winters were historically harsh, and major ocean areas and seas froze over.

There is some debate (mainly from the Global Warming crowd) about whether there is a correlation between solar activity and climate, but in the case of the Maunder Minimum, it would be one hell of a coincidence.

The Little Ice Age followed the Medieval Warm Period, during which temperatures were substantially warmer than they are today. Unlike the Maunder Minimum, we do not have great observational data on solar activity during the Medieval Warm Period, although studies of solar activity cycles suggest it was much higher than during the subsequent cold period.

The Medieval Warm Period was famous for its disappearance from IPCC data after the advent of the Global Warming craze:

Data now shows that global warming ceased about 10 years ago and global cooling is accelerating, corresponding almost perfectly with the end of a period of very high solar activity. Here's another fun graphic:

Could this theory (that drastically diminished solar activity has ended global warming and is responsible for abrupt global cooling since 2007) be wrong? Could we still be experiencing global warming despite all evidence to the contrary? I'm still looking for science supporting global warming that still holds up.

Although I understand it is in no way scientific, I'm very much fascinated by anecdotal evidence. There are great descriptions about how warm it was during the Medieval Warm Period (descriptions of Scandinavian settlements in Greenland sounded like they were in Central Europe) and the Little Ice Age (ports that have been ice-free since the beginning of the 20th century (like New York) were completely closed by ice for entire winters). I love the old illustrations of life in the 19th century, showing routine travel by sleigh in the mid-Atlantic states, ice skating on lakes that haven't frozen at all in my lifetime, etc.

I certainly noted apparent warming in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s. Years went by with no snow in many places that previously had lots of it. The tropical ocean was nearly 10 degrees warmer in the winter months than it is now.

But in the last 7-8 years I've noticed cooler weather, with a dramatic drop in the last 2. I used to live in the tropics and for years would scuba dive during the winter in a thin wetsuit. The ocean temperature would bottom out in the low 70s in January, then rise steadily. Since 2006 the temps have dropped steadily and are now around 65. (This is based on NOAA automated observations at Key West). My swimming pool in North Carolina was apparently 10 degrees cooler for most of the summer of 2009 than it was in 2008.

In Washington DC there has been more snow by the end of December 2009 than I have ever seen (possibly since 1969, but I was pretty young then so I'm not sure). The ski areas on the east coast have more snow by the end of December 2009 than they did at any point in the winter throughout the 1980s and 1990s. There were many years where there was almost no snow on the ski areas in North Carolina - at one point we thought they might go out of business. This year they already had more snow base by late December than they did by late February last year - and last year was the best I had seen since perhaps the 1970s.

Although this is all anecdotal, these anecdotes seem to be repeated around the world. 2008 was the coldest winter in China in 100 years. Britain expects 2009 to the the coldest winter in 100 years.

I have an increasingly strong feeling that it will be cold and getting colder for at least the next generation and in a very few years "Global Warming" will be one of the biggest jokes of our lifetimes.


Dr. Phil (Physics) said...

Global warming does NOT say that all places will be warmer in all years. In fact, between the displacement of cold air masses from the arctic and changes in air flows from the loss of reflective surfaces due to glacier and ice cap melting, it is inevitable that some cooler air will descend southward. The current problem of unexpected snow in some areas is that there are regions which normally get winter, are too close to the freezing mark. No cold Courier & Ives winters. But the added ice and slush makes for more hazardous driving, making everyone complain more about winter. And those who are getting more winter than usual, add to the chorus.

Anecdotal stories are great stories -- they do not a science make, however.

Dr. Phil

uncentn -- an uncentered uncertainty (grin)

Dr. Phil (Physics) said...

On the other hand, the low solar activity is intriguing -- the Maunder Minimum had a massive effect at the time and a similar medium-term duration could have an effect counter to the greenhouse effects of industrial production.

Data will eventually show what's going on, as will later solar observations.

Dr. Phil

Eric said...

Global warming does NOT say that all places will be warmer in all years.

Indeed, although it's now viewed as a less-likely scenario, there is a hypothetical scenario in which increased global warming leads to an ice age in Western Europe: in this model, melting glaciers dump freshwater into the Gulf Stream, essentially shutting it down. With warm currents no longer flowing from the Mid-Atlantic to lose their heat in the chill North Atlantic, temperatures drop drastically in the British Isles, Northern and Western Europe. Other parts of the world, meanwhile, are dessicated.

This is the kind of thing that makes regional anecdotal stories even less-useful than they might otherwise be: spikes or slumps in local temperature during brief time spans may say little or nothing about the global mean over thirty-or-forty year spans.

Dr. Phil (Physics) said...

What I find especially interesting about the Little Ice Age and the Maunder Minimum, is that there is no evidence that the Southern hemisphere was affected. It's like we've got two planets here -- which would be a helluva advantage for experimental testing, I suppose. (evil grin)

Dr. Phil

hester -- start the Prin jokes now, starting with "A".

Dr. Phil (Physics) said...

Can't resist this captcha:

brallid -- a ballad of a sordid barroom brawl.

CW said...

More anecdotes: I went skiing this past weekend. The ski area had more snow than I've ever seen for mid-January. There were trails open I've only ever seen open a couple of times in my life (and I've been skiing at the same place for 35 years). A local told me they recently broke a local record or the longest period of continuously freezing weather. A mountain lake that I've only ever seen frozen over a couple of times, and then only lightly, was frozen hard enough to walk on. Supposedly that lake had ice skating before the 1930s but I've never seen it in my lifetime. They are very close now, however.

The idea that the southern hemisphere was not affected by the little ice age is very interesting. I've seen that data, but I've seen other data that seems to say it was affected similarly to the northern hemisphere. The problem is that the data is sparse for southern hemisphere regions in the 17th and 18th centuries.

I agree with Dr. Phil - the data will tell the tale soon enough.

Anonymous said...

The present solar cycle 24 looks exactly like a Dalton Minimum repeat. Given that the sunspots may wink out in 2016, this might switch to a new Maunder minimum in mid solar cycle stride. In the past, CO2 was 10 to 15 times higher with no evidence of its causing any warming. Since it is a GHG, does this imply that the atmospheric energies available are at or near exhaustion for Earth's GHGs? Then, like CO2, the rest of the GHGs, if increased, will have little warming effect? Consider this may mean, say 98% or more of the warming effects of all these GHGs may have already occurred and is now limited due to lack of additional solar energies being available for absorption.

Jim said...

Human history is short, and human memory is shorter still, we cannot look back 50 years and say "Hell man, it's getting warmer, and it's our fault". The simple truth is the planet is a complex machine with many contributing factors that conspire together to impact the weather locally and globally. Periods of extreme cold, such as the Little Ice Age, have been shown to correspond very well with periods of Solar inactivity. The Chinese have records sun spots for thousands of years, not as comprehensively as happens now, but enough for a good snap shot. These result have been confirmed with tree ring data sets shows that when the Sun is active, we are warm, when it is inactive, Earth cools dramatically. Volcanic eruptions also impact weather patterns. One volcano can chuck out more carbon dioxide in one week than humans do in a decade or more. It is naive and myopic of humans to only look to one cause of mean global temperature (mgt) change. Humans need to stop dumping toxic gases into the atmosphere and environment, no argument there, but lets keep this in perspective or we risk losing sight of the truth and making things far worse.

Anonymous said...

December 2010: At one point last winter there was snow on the ground in every state of the United States!

That's not natural. So what is it, global warming?!?

Anonymous said...

Coldest December since records began as temperatures plummet to minus 10C bringing travel chaos across Britain

Swathes of Britain skidded to a halt today as the big freeze returned - grounding flights, closing rail links and leaving traffic at a standstill.
And tonight the nation was braced for another 10in of snow and yet more sub-zero temperatures - with no let-up in the bitterly cold weather for at least a month, forecasters have warned.

The Arctic conditions are set to last through the Christmas and New Year bank holidays and beyond and as temperatures plummeted to -10c (14f) the Met Office said this December was ‘almost certain’ to become the coldest since records began in 1910.

Read more:

Anonymous said...

China Likely May See Abnormally Cold 2010 Winter, Xinhua Reports
August 23, 2010, 7:45 PM EDT
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e-mail this story print this story 0diggsdiggadd to Business Exchange By Bloomberg News

Aug. 24 (Bloomberg) -- China will likely have abnormally low temperatures this winter due to La Nina, the official Xinhua News Agency reported yesterday, citing Jiao Meiyan, deputy director of the China Meteorological Administration.

Wrangler Wayne said...

A Maunder like minimum usually follows when two stretched out solar cycles in a row exceed about 13 years. SC23 is the first one. SC24?
If the sunspots wink out in 2015 (solar gauss dropping below 1500), will a new Maunder minimum take hold?

Anonymous said...

GlobL warming is not happening. It is all nonsence, see what science actually says.