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Climate Change Linked to Sun's Magnetic Field 85

-douggy writes "Found this story at Science daily - Assistant Professor of Earth Sciences at Dartmouth, examined existing sets of geophysical data and noticed something remarkable: the sun's magnetic activity is varying in 100,000-year cycles, a much longer time span than previously thought, and this solar activity, in turn, may likely cause the 100,000-year climate cycles on earth. Couple this with the fact that the climate (global temperatures at least) also mirror the sunspot cycle almost perfectly. Makes an interesting case for global warming really."
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Climate Change Linked to Sun's Magnetic Field

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  • Junk Science (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    It is junk science

    I am amused by how many people say "Global warming is junk science", yet never, ever give a concrete example of HOW it is junk science.

    Don't let the research grant loving "we'll say or do anything for another dollar" scientist scare you into believing this.

    And we should instead believe the scientists who are hired by the oil companies?

    • I think the burden of proof is on the proponents of gw, to show that it is real science. I could make the outrageous claim that ailens landed in my backyard, but it would be up to me to cough up the evidence of that extraordinary event, not on /you/ to disprove it. Specifically, we want conclusive proof that GW is a result of human use of CO2 releasing activity before shutting down entire industries and displacing millions of employees, like some kind of primitive race tossing virgins into the volcano to appease an angry weather god or to bring the sun back from winter solstice before it disappears over the horizon forever, or to atone for some communal cosmic guilt trip.
  • by dimator ( 71399 ) on Sunday June 09, 2002 @02:30PM (#3669201) Homepage Journal
    So I can keep driving my Lincoln Navigator around, even if I have no destination in mind? Excellent!

    • Re:Does this mean (Score:3, Informative)

      by cp99 ( 559733 )
      No. It's not that simple. This guy is trying to explain longterm period oscillations in tempertures, something that scientists don't blame on global warming.

      His data is quite interesting, however, it breaks down between 125 000 and 115 000 years ago (something which he notes in his research paper).
  • Even if this guy is right it doesn't mean we can continue to be abusive of our environment. Global Warming is just one concern we face. The link between human activity and a general degredation of the environment is quite clear. Couple that with our dependance on our environment and it is painfully evident that we can no longer afford to treat our environment with disrespect.

    Even when it comes to global warming, to assume that CO2 and greenhouse gasses in general don't have an effect is to ignore a large body of scientific evidence. (Note scientific meaning arrived at by the scientific method)

    • Your assumption that we are abusing our environment has been challenged recently by Bjørn Lomborg []. He is quite the toast of the right-wing now because of his contrarian results and willingness to stand up to recieved dogma.

      I quote from the websites "about the author" frame.

      "Bjørn Lomborg, Ph.D., associate professor in statistics, Department of Political Science, University of Aarhus, Denmark, is a concerned environmentalist, a former Greenpeace member, a left-wing sympathizer who is vegetarian because he does not want to kill animals. When Lomborg started investigating the statistics behind the current gloomy view of the environment, he was genuinely surprised. As the facts clearly pointed towards an ever-improving world, he published these statistics as four lengthy articles in a leading Danish newspaper, unleashing the biggest post-war debate with more than 400 articles in all the major papers.

      Academically, Lomborg has published internationally in the fields of game theory and computer simulations. He is a member of the Learned Society of Aarhus and the American Political Science Association. He participates frequently in public debate, in TV, radio and in the papers. Lomborg has also been offered a tenure-track position at UCLA. Furthermore, he has held lectures on the book widely in Denmark, Scandinavia and the rest of Europe. "

      The point is, that we are NOT abusing our environment. Yes there are abuses, but in aggregate, we are in fine shape.

      • Thank you for providing no factual information whatsoever. While his results may be true, telling us that he is a "left-wing sympathizer who is vegetarian because he does not want to kill animals" is entirely useless. 1) He may be saying this to make people more likely to believe he is an impartial researcher, 2) acceptance of his theories should be based on their reflection of the facts, not what kind of food he eats, 3) giving lectures/debates at famous places does not make a theory true - this is similar to saying, "If it's on TV, it must be true." And remember, Gene Ray of Time Cube [] fame lectured []/debated [] at MIT [].

        Remember: Everyone is biased. That's why you need to look at the facts instead of trying to find someone who can justify your views. But then, you have to be able to overcome your own biases for this to happen.
      • Okay, let's not talk about global warming for a second. What about strip mining? The burning of the rain forest? Toxic waste dumps? hhmmm.... and "we are NOT abusing our environment"??? Somehow, I just don't see that.
      • You should be very careful when quoting Lomborg, as virtually every scientific publication which has reviewed his work has accused him of carefully selecting data, getting basic statistics wrong, ignoring research which disagrees with him etc.

        Also his academic publications aren't that great. According to the web of science (source []), they number 1. That ain't that great (I've got more than that, and I'm just a PhD student)

      • associate professor in statistics
        There are three kinds of lies:
        1. lies
        2. damn lies
        3. statistics
        People on either side of any debate publish "information" that only favors their view.

        The truth, as always, is somewhere in between.
      • It seems that none of you actually got through the first chapter of Lomborg's book. If you had, you would probably realize that his ideas are the middle ground. He puts forth three basic premises. 1) Things are not as good as they could be. 2) Things are not as bad as most of the environmentalists say they are. 3) A careful analysis of the data shows that in many respects, things are getting better, not worse.

        I would recommend this book to anyone on either side of the argument. It does show a lot of effort to collect data from a variety of sources, and to make sense of the long term trends in the environment.
    • Not disagreing with your point, but it should be pointed out the author of the paper (Mukul Sharma) doesn't appear to disagree with global warming. The bit in the slashdot heading is a slashdot addition, and should be treated as such.
    • Personally, I think global warming is at best, improbable. But that doesn't mean we should go ahead and churn out thick black columns of smoke from coal burning smokestacks. I think that our use of fossil fuels doesn't have a global effect, but rather a local one that is even more disastrous than some far-off, dystopian prediction based on data fit to a curve that's iffy at best.

      The really funny thing is that this disaster is happening now, and we don't even notice it, because it's so pervasive as to be "normal." I'm sorry, but it shouldn't be normal for kids to grow up with asthma and serious allergies.
  • First of all, the Sun is obviously unrelated to global warming.

    Second, carbon dioxide isn't the cause of global warming either. That's just a smokescreen (ha!) to cover our USian asses.

    Think about it, CO2 is perfectly transparent. But the real kicker is that even if CO2 was human-caused and even if CO2 caused warming, it would be dwarfed by the real problem: profligate energy consumption.

    Burning a (metric) ton of coal produces about 3 kilograms of CO2. According to the DOE (I can't find the link) those three kilograms of CO2 will cause about 30 kilojoules of energy to be trapped on the planet. But how much energy does a metric ton of coal contain? About 30 gigajoules. That's where all the heat is coming from.

    So cutting carbon emissions, even if that was related, won't work. Why? Because all sources of power produce heat. Nuclear power is only about 30% efficient--the other 70% of E=mc^2 is dumped to the environment. Fusion is even worse. Hell, I wouldn't be at all surprised just burning the 2000 Cal/day for 6 billion humans wasn't enough to cause the effects we're seeing.

    The only solution is a massive program of eliminating energy waste by halting all computer use (computers use 25% of all energy in the US) and anyone who burns more than their allotted share of calories should be put on an enforced diet.

    • This is either a troll (as the last paragraph hints at), or someone who, like the vast majority of people who go on about the environment, have basically no clue about the enviroment, up to and including many environmental scientists (a degree and a lot of schooling is still no guarentee that one can understand on even a superficial level such an interrelated and complicated system). I do not exclude myself from this general condemnation, though IMHO I at least have a clue at how freakin' complicated this sort of thing can be. Let me show you why the parent post is too naive to be of value.

      Basically, heat is aggressively non-linear. Just because you add a thousand gigajoules of heat to the planet does not mean the planet is a thousand gagijoules hotter. That's only true for an instantaneously fast heat addition (asteroid strike?) and then still only true instantaneously after the heat addition. Immediately, the planet begins radiating away any energy it has that brings its temperature above the local background temperature. Within hours, the heat of the planet with the addition of the heat and without the addition of the heat may vary by only a single-digit percentage of your added heat; within days, the effect is negligible.

      To truly heat the planet in this manner, you need huge amounts of energy dumped into the environment on a long-term level. Note that even the energy inputted into the enviroment by the Earth's volcanic activity isn't enough to heat the planet much. Mankind's contribution is virtually nil in this fashion; it's so small it doesn't even register.

      The hotter you want to heat something in this manner, the more energy you'll have to add, exponentially; the hotter the planet is then it "should" be, the faster the heat will leave.

      The CO2 works in another manner; it prevents the heat radiation from leaving the planet. Now, this can have a real, measurable effect, though it is debatable about exactly what that effect is, because the planet's interconnectedness continues to defy our analysis to date. (Ref: Examine the hypothesized "oceanic CO2 sink", which may or may not exist, which may or may not someday fill up, which may or may not be affecting our environment, which may or may not be a disaster waiting to happen... you get the point here, right? The key is "may or may not".) Preventing the radiation from leaving affects the ability of the sun, the only source of heat large enough to matter compared to anything else, to heat the planet. This may directly affect the temperature of the planet.

      Then again, there may be processes to counter this, and our contributions also decay over time (though perhaps not in a time that we care about).

      This sort of problem is the reason why I hesitate to believe anyone who flatly claims that "The world is heating up, it's largely Mankinds fault, and this is a bad thing that we must put a stop to." We are barely capable of giving compelling evidence for the first, though we still can't justify trends into the future very well. The second is still highly speculative, as we can't claim to understand the planet well enough to prove why the temp may be climbing, except that the sun putting out more or less heat is pretty damned obvious, and as the only input to the system of value, pretty damned importent and I think seriously understated in the popular press. (I hope it's not underestimated in the climatology community itself, in a zealous effort to get funded.) The third is downright irresponsible; beyond the first-order effect that the sea level will rise some number of feet, an amazingly unimportent effect overall (what, are we supposed to believe that people are actually going to drown because they refuse to leave their now 3-feet under water homes? Maybe they deserve to, if they're too slow to get out of the way of a multi-year process!), we don't much know what will happen. It may even be wonderfully beneficial; the dinosaur-era plant life seems to have liked it. Perhaps it will double the world's fertile soil? Perhaps it will kill us all? Who knows?

      Chill out a bit and enjoy the ride. The environment should be cared for, but we're still a long way from being able to dogmatically assert much about the environment in general. I'd be much more worried about dumping toxins in our local environment, or just the general inefficiencies of our industrial processes (being slowly rectified), then getting up in arms about a climate process that will probably happen without us anyhow, and nobody has ever made a compelling case for being a disaster anyhow.
      • There's one thing to be said for reducing CO2 emissions. Even if it had zero positive effect on environment as such, to achieve reduced CO2 levels you have to cut back use of fossile fuels dramatically. In my books, that is a Good Thing. Local cuddly nuke plant does not spew crap all over the sky while making electricity to power up my PBEM session!
      • Firstly, it is a troll, and it's one of the best that I've read. If I was wearing a hat, I'd take it off for the author.

        As for the line "The world is heating up, it's largely Mankinds fault, and this is a bad thing that we must put a stop to", I think that first two points can be defending scientifically, the third is harder for me to answer as I haven't studied it.

        The heating of the world has been well and truely observed. The ground, sea surface and deep sea all have been observed heating up at a significant rate. The upper atmosphere has shown a slight cooling, however this is line with loss of ozone and the addition of more particles to the atmosphere. A very diverse range of scientific bodies have agreed on this. Also boreholes, and other paloclimatic data supports this hypothesis.

        That CO2 is significant cause of this is also well known. The greenhouse effect (of which CO2 is a very significant part) is a well accepted scientific principle, and it can be fairly well shown (by studing radioisotopes) that the rising CO2 levels are from human sources.

        As for the third part, I can't say that much about it, but this link [] may interest you. It's a IPCC report on to the regional effects of climate change. I should note that I haven't read it myself (but I do intend to).
        • The heating of the world has been well and truely observed.

          I don't mean to deny the evidence, I just mean that on a global scale, we're just recently and just barely capable of showing it. To a large degree, we're still inferring off of limited data (a scientifically valid thing to do), rather then looking at trillions upon trillions direct measurements of temperature from now to several hundred thousand years ago, which would eliminate the need to infer through direct and complete evidence. It's a scale thing; I meant "barely capable" literally; capable, but not really by a lot.

          The second I don't have much to say. As for the third, I know I'm not a climatologist, but I do know exactly how easy it is to tweak a computer model to make it say what you want it to. There's too much politics involved IMHO to get a clear view of what climate change will mean. And from a sampling of the document you pointed me at, I smell politics more then I smell science. Two reasons: I refuse to believe that global warming would be an unmitigated disaster, and the report seems to be sitting around thinking up ways things might go wrong. Well, that's great and has its place, but things are always going 'wrong', for some rather narrow human definition of 'wrong'.

          Change happens, with or without humans. "Adapt or die" is the motto of nature. It's easy to cast me as excessively blase on this issue by taking this line to the extreme, but that's not my position. I'm just saying that there is nothing holy about the configuration that the world is currently in. That's a good thing, because this configuration is temporary, whether we like it or not. Some forests will die, some grasslands will become forest, some deserts will grow and others shrink. Take the paper you referenced, and replace the concerns in it with new ones concerned about "global cooling". In the parts I sampled, you can hardly tell the difference. "Arid ecosystems are very sensitive to water issues because of a lack of reserves of water and nutrients. Global warming could stress these systems." So could global cooling, an epidemic of rats, or even things staying the same.

          "In conclusion", as you may have guessed, the paper didn't impress me. (Though you are right, it did interest me.) I don't it was a waste of time, but I'm not sure it's all that useful in the end.
      • The hotter you want to heat something in this manner, the more energy you'll have to add, exponentially; the hotter the planet is then it "should" be, the faster the heat will leave.

        Nit-pick: This isn't exponential. The earth's energy loss due to radiative emission is proportional to the fourth power of the temperature. So, the power input you need to (constantly) maintain to raise the earth's temperature by a given amount is:

        dP = a[(T + t)^4 - T^4]

        ...Where T is the usual average temperature of the Earth, and t is the amount you want to raise it by, in degrees Kelvin. "a" is a proportionality constant equal to P0 / T4, where P0 is the solar power absorbed by the Earth (about 1.3e17 W).

        Assuming your change is much smaller than the absolute temperature (around 300 degrees K), this is a roughly linear relation with respect to t:

        a[4T^3 * t]
        P0 * 4t/T
      • Basically, heat is aggressively non-linear. Just because you add a thousand gigajoules of heat to the planet does not mean the planet is a thousand gagijoules hotter. That's only true for an instantaneously fast heat addition (asteroid strike?) and then still only true instantaneously after the heat addition. Immediately, the planet begins radiating away any energy it has that brings its temperature above the local background temperature. Within hours, the heat of the planet with the addition of the heat and without the addition of the heat may vary by only a single-digit percentage of your added heat; within days, the effect is negligible.

        This is a very interesting comment. I'm curious to learn more of this theory. Can you cite a source? In particular, I'm curious to see how much of this theory is based on fundamental thermodynamics, and how much of it is based on global chemistry.

        And yes, this is very complicated subject. That's why I'm glad to see experts from the many fields studying climate change working together [].

        • Simple thermodynamics, rate of heat transfer proportional to the difference in heat. I don't cite a source because it's, well, just simple thermodynamics. I don't give exact numbers because I don't know them, and freely admit so; the principle holds. In days, weeks, even years, doesn't much matter, the heat will be gone into outer space. To affect the sytem, one must either change the input rate in the long term ('raise the room temperature'), or affect the outgoing rate by manipulating things like the CO2 level.

          • First you say:

            at least have a clue at how freakin' complicated this sort of thing can be.

            And then you say:

            I don't cite a source because it's, well, just simple thermodynamics.

            You negate yourself: how can something you admit to be highly complicated be summarized by something you admit to be simple?

            As someone who, at one time, actually studied and researched atmospheric thermodynamics, I can tell you, with certaintly, the simple laws of thermodynamics alone are inadequate to explain the dynamics of the earth's climate. The basic laws of thermodynamics assume ideal conditions, including a vacuum. Atmospheric thermodynamics takes into account chemistry, fluid dynamics, cloud/water physics, radiative transfer, and much more. Climate research combines this singular discipline along with many others, including: oceanography, geology, atmospheric physics, wave dynamics, and much more.

            I appreciate your perpsective, but don't dimiss all of the valid, scientifically sound knowledge we have of the atmosphere and climate. To do that is to dismiss the same scientific process you learned along with the basic laws of thermodynamics. Give your fellow scientists in climate research some credit.

            • You negate yourself: how can something you admit to be highly complicated be summarized by something you admit to be simple?

              Incorrect. The two subjects of the statements are totally different. There is no conflict. The system as a whole is really complicated. The system can merely slow down or speed up the basic thermodynamic processes, though, it can't do away with them, thus I feel justified in claiming that the heat will sooner or later dissapate.

              If you, with your knowlege of atmospheric thermodynamics, know of a way to fully violate the normal processes of thermodynamics such that the heat totally fails to disappate, please share it with us instead of creating non-existant logical conflicts. (Don't fiddle with scale-jumping; I was already talking planetary scales.)
    • A lovely troll :-)

      For those who may think otherwise:

      • The sun may be related to global warming, there is no reason why the sun cannot be a very slow variable star over many years.
      • If you heat up your environment it is radiated away to space very quickly. After all just think how fast deserts lose their heat at night ... you can be cooked in the day and literally freeze at night.
      • "CO2 is perfectly transparent" Um errr. Well yeah at optical frequencies it is , but not at infra red frequencies , which is what radiant heat is ... infra red. At infra red frequencies the atmosphere is partially transparent. Adding CO2 will reduce the transparency thus allowing less heat to escape.

      Good troll though. Liked the 30 gigajoules bit. Lessee , that's enough energy to lift 1 metric ton a distance of 3,000 kilometres. Wooo. Well if you're going to tell a lie better to make it a big one. Or else we could use coal as rocket fuel.

    • Congrats PG, you got them again.

      Just the "fact" that 1 ton of coal produces about 3 kg CO2 instead of about 3 tons is great - and nobody noticed.

  • And people got angry when they announced not to release Solaris 9 for Intel!
  • This is talking about a 100,000 year cycle. So it has NOTHING to do with the Greenhouse debate. Right ? Absolutely.

    Also the Milankovic Cycle of heating due to orbital factors has a very good fit to the onset and end of the various ice ages over the last 2 million years. So I wouldn't agree that this is the trigger of Earth bound climate yet. Again this has nothing to do with current global warming.

  • while these articles don't directly touch on the sun's magnetic field affecting climate it does discuss how the sun affects the Earth's energy balance.

    Solar Radiation and Climate Experiment []
    First Paragraph: "Without the Sun, the Earth would be no more than a frozen rock stranded in space. The Sun warms the Earth and makes life possible. Its energy generates clouds, cleanses our water, produces plants, keeps animals and humans warm, and drives ocean currents and thunderstorms. Despite the Sun's importance, scientists have only begun to study it with high precision in recent decades. Prior to 1979, in fact, astronomers and Earth scientists did not even have accurate data on the total amount of energy from the Sun that reaches the Earth's outermost atmosphere. Variable absorption of sunlight by clouds and aerosols prevented researchers from accurately measuring solar radiatio before it strikes the Earth's atmosphere."

    Watching the Sun: Measuring Variation in Solar Energy Output to Gauge its Effect on Long-term Climate Change []

    and a very cool image [] of a solar storm
  • Instead of arguing over what evidence there is or isn't to support the global warming "theory", why don't we focus on what we DO agree on? Fossil fuels are very bad for us in the long run, and since we have the technology to kick this habit, we have every interrest in doing it ASAP. Most people who disagree with the link between global warming and human activity will agree with some other harmful aspect of using fossil fuels. The rest are simply out of their minds, if you ask me.
  • You guys are generally a lot younger than me; I've seen several of these scams. Here's the drill: get someething no one can prove/disprove, get a couple of scientists to go along with it, and spread it by word of mouth. Sometimes you'll get pretty far.

    Ya see, peacetime is a fertile field of silliness. When we're not playing Chicken Little over one topic, we're doing it over something else.

    Some famous farces:

    - In 1973, we were told that the world's supply of fuel was almost exhausted. Any day we'd all be walking to work. Odd though, as soon as gas was well over a dollar a gallon, we've been able to pump another 30-40 years of fuel without fear.

    - In mid-70's there an episode of Barney Miller that featured a new concept: global cooling. Yep, people thought an Ice Age was coming. Ooh! Time to get out the coats!

    - Every decade or so, we get re-mystified by 'The Bermuda Triangle', but it turns out this was an example of overhype perpetrated by real-estate yahoos. Take ANY section of ocean the size of 1/4 the US and you can make the same claims. Movies, books, fear and panic...How many airliners have we lost going from NYC to Bermuda?

    - Feng Shea (sp?) The perfect farce: only a practitioner can tell if things are 'wrong', and the details are shrouded in mystery, and these people extort millions to 'get things right'. And there's no threat of malpractice; no proof, no lawsuit. What a sweet gig- most city-sized 'readings' cost in excess of $200,000 USD.

    - The Ozone Hole: Same thing. The common man can't see it, but government policy had to change. People were required to change out air conditioner fluids. Once the cost of these new fluids were in place and the old ones were illegal, we learn that it has no effect.

    - Water saving toliets. Thanks, AlGore...
    Flush twice- it's a new toilet.

    It goes on and on. Global warming is one of these. The man on the street can't prove or disprove, and no one wants to believe it's just the increasing amounts of concrete around these weather stations, which are typically in towns, not out in BFE. (At least, in the last few decades).

    People don't understand (that is, grok) the perspective. Most people see the world through a television screen. They think that from space that all towns are back-to-back. (Actually there's a LOT of in-between space!)

    And they see the sky as millions of miles high. In fact, the atomosphere is only a thin, 6-mile high coating on a planet in the neighborhood of 24,000 miles around. On a good-sized globe, the atmosphere's about the thickness of a sheet of paper.

    Maybe people *have* to be afraid of something OR be at war. Maybe now that everyone's already afraid of real dangers, we can stop believing every cock-and-bull story that comes down the line.

    Or, maybe certain people learn how easily we're fooled and how quickly we'll pay money for a good joke.

    But right now I've gotta go. I just bought a Corvette which crashed right from the showroom. The thing was cheap: a man died in it, so I got it for a song! I just have to get the smell outta the fiberglass.

    (Another one of my favorites!)