Cold Hard Facts and the 'Big-Boned Climate' Theory
Global warming alarmists love to tell us that the debate is over, that "climate change" -- their new term for a catchall theory that allows them to stick their noses into literally everything -- is established fact. "Do not believe your lying senses!" we are commanded, because the unusually cold winter we are enjoying here in North America isn't really cold; it's, uh, just a lull! This is much like the family of the overweight child telling everyone that their son isn't fat but big-boned; everyone knows the kid is obese, but the parents refuse to admit it. Well, anthropogenic global warming is just big-boned.
Global warming stopped in 1997 and we have had no statistically significant warming since 1995, according to Richard Lindzen; meanwhile the Gang Green, the alarmists with such big-boned ideas, twist themselves into pretzels to argue otherwise. (Of course, it doesn't help to have Al Gore jetting around the world, bringing temperature drops that make Dante's Cocytus feel sultry.) Sea levels refuse to increase their rate of rise; some glaciers and sea ice have melted but more ice has been added elsewhere to counterbalance this. Of course, keeping track of all that ice is tricky; the National Snow and Ice Data Center inconveniently lost 193,000 miles of such ice the other day and was quite fortunate to find it -- doubtlessly hidden by the girth of our big-boned theory. For that matter, Roy Spencer has spun out some calculations suggesting that a good portion of the CO2 increase we've seen in the Earth's atmosphere may be natural. We've had the predictions of doom founder on the iceberg of reality for the global warming crowd. Mostly, it's been just plain cold!
But our friends haven't given up; at least, not yet.
The ace in the hole for global warming alarmists of every shape and size is that the Earth has warmed (by under one degree Fahrenheit) during the 20th century and solar irradiance does not seem to adequately account for the temperature increase.
Solar irradiance is measured in watts/meter-squared (W/m2). The solar constant is estimated at 1,366 W/m2, which is an average based on measurements taken at the top of the atmosphere and is a measure of the entire electromagnetic spectrum -- not just visible light. It is an average because this varies depending on the time of year, based on the Earth's position and angle.
During the first half of the 20th century, scientists, most notably Charles Greeley Abbot, labored to obtain accurate measurements of total solar irradiance (TSI). He corrected the work of Samuel Pierpoint Langley, who had estimated the solar constant at 2,903 W/m2, making measurements based on high-altitude studies (Abbot had to content himself with surface observations, since his work came before airflight) and determined values between 1,318 and 1,548 W/m2. Since 1978 satellite data has given us a good picture of solar irradiance, although we have much to learn about the direct impact. For example, it seems we haven't understood how solar flares contribute to the overall energy balance.
Our knowledge of solar irradiance prior to 1978 is based on radiosonde (balloon) and other high-altitude measurements, and our knowledge of solar irradiance prior to high-altitude research is based entirely on proxy data (inferred). We cannot state confidently that solar irradiance was "thus" because it is mere guesswork.
But the GW crowd will boldly claim that prior to the 20th century it was indeed "thus" and will then show charts that suggest we have somehow changed, with the Earth warming despite a lack of solar increase. Yes, they will admit that the sun got a bit more energetic in parts of the 20th century, but it does not account for the increase in temperature, or so they claim.
Since the late 1970s, the amount of solar radiation the sun emits, during times of quiet sunspot activity, has increased by nearly .05 percent per decade, according to a NASA-funded study.
"This trend is important because, if sustained over many decades, it could cause significant climate change," said Richard Willson, a researcher affiliated with NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Columbia University's Earth Institute, New York. He is the lead author of the study recently published in Geophysical Research Letters.
"Historical records of solar activity indicate that solar radiation has been increasing since the late 19th century. If a trend, comparable to the one found in this study, persisted throughout the 20th century, it would have provided a significant component of the global warming the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports to have occurred over the past 100 years," he said.
"But, this doesn't account for all the warming, meaning that what we are doing to the Earth's atmosphere is even more dangerous!" we are told. We still cannot account for that extra heat!
Well, how much do we understand about the way the Earth absorbs energy?
A recent paper by Nir Shaviv in the Journal of Geophysical Research has this to say:
Over the 11-year solar cycle, small changes in the total solar irradiance (TSI) give rise to small variations in the global energy budget. It was suggested, however, that different mechanisms could amplify solar activity variations to give large climatic effects, a possibility which is still a subject of debate. With this in mind, we use the oceans as a calorimeter to measure the radiative forcing variations associated with the solar cycle. This is achieved through the study of three independent records, the net heat flux into the oceans over 5 decades, the sea-level change rate based on tide gauge records over the 20th century, and the sea-surface temperature variations. Each of the records can be used to consistently derive the same oceanic heat flux. We find that the total radiative forcing associated with solar cycle variations is about 5 to 7 times larger than just those associated with the TSI variations, thus implying the necessary existence of an amplification mechanism, although without pointing to which one.
And here's the conclusion:
In summary, we find clear evidence indicating that the total flux entering the oceans in response to the solar cycle is about an order of magnitude larger than the globally averaged irradiance variations of 0.17 W/m2. The sheer size of the heat flux, and the lack of any phase lag between the flux and the driving force, further implies that it cannot be part of an atmospheric feedback and very unlikely to be part of a coupled atmosphere-ocean oscillation mode. It must therefore be the manifestation of real variations in the global radiative forcing.
So, a modest increase in the total solar irradiance can amplify in the oceans into a larger temperature variation.
Couple this with other solar-related effects, such as Heinrick Svensmark's theory on cosmic rays -- he argues that cosmic rays generate clouds, which reflect energy back into space; heavy sunspot activity sweeps those rays away from the Earth much like a broom -- and the question of TSI begins to fall into line.
I'm curious to see how the alarmists try to spin this. They are beginning to sound like little children caught with their hands in the cookie jar, desperate to find a better explanation than that they were stealing cookies.
Gobbling cookies can make you "big-boned." Someone should tell that to James Hansen and Al Gore.