Rare solar cycle has cold implications for UK climate

Thursday 12 September 2013, 17:39

Paul Hudson Paul Hudson

NASA last week confirmed their prediction that the current solar cycle 24 is likely to be the weakest since 1906.

 

Intriguingly, the current solar cycle shows a striking similarity with solar cycle 5 which was also very weak, with the same double peak as the current cycle, and ran from approximately the mid 1790s to around 1810.

 

Solar cycle 6 was weaker still and stretched from around 1810 to the early 1820s.

 

Solar cycles 5 and 6 were so unusual that they were named the Dalton solar minimum after meteorologist John Dalton and coincided with a period of increasingly cold winters and poor summers.

 

This type of climate is a result of a jet stream that’s positioned further south than normal – caused, it’s thought at least in part, by the behaviour of the sun.

 

The mechanism as to why weak solar cycles may affect the position of the jet stream is poorly understood.

 

But a more southerly positioned jet stream is the reason why the UK has recently seen a return of cold snowy winters and a run of poor summers.

 

Should solar activity continue to mirror that which was observed from 1795 to 1820 then it’s possible that our weather could be similar too.

 

The Central England Temperature (CET) record, which began in 1659, gives an intriguing insight into what might lie ahead.

 

The period was littered with examples of cold, wet summers and cold winters – indeed the decade from 1810-1819 was the coldest since the 1690s.

 

There were exceptions, for example the very warm summer of 1818; and not every winter was harsh.

 

It’s worth noting that the year 1816 was complicated by a huge volcanic eruption in Indonesia the year before, which depressed temperatures worldwide.

 

But despite some temporary warmer interludes, historical weather records give a good indication of the type of weather the UK could experience should current solar activity continue to mirror that which was observed during the Dalton minimum over 200 years ago.

 

And it’s sobering to remember that the Dalton solar minimum lasted for 25 years.

 

END

 

My guest on this weekends weather show is former BBC weather forecaster John Kettley, who offers interesting opinions on climate past, present and future. It will be available on the BBC iplayer later on sunday, click HERE

Comments

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  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1.

    If NASA did predict a low peak for cycle 24, I don't think it's much of a prediction at this stage in the cycle.
    I am fairly convinced that much earlier, NASA predicted a high maximum for the cycle, although I may be wrong.
    Anyway, if it is a low maximum it will be an interesting test for the solar cycle theory of temperature change.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 2.

    I think someone has been reading to much David Archibald...

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 3.

    That looks OK for SOLO Cycling then Tuesday onwards next week

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 4.

    Glad that you are willing to raise this issue pre AR5 release, as cloud cover is seriously under represented as a controlling factor.
    Your timing, as a Yorkshire man, is just right to reduce the number of Christmas cards required this year, heh, heh, heh.
    You may expect some serious comment from climate personalities but I'm sure that will be expected, well done sir.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 5.

    "This type of climate is a result of a jet stream that’s positioned further south than normal – caused, it’s thought at least in part, by the behaviour of the sun. "

    Quite so.

    See here:

    http://www.newclimatemodel.com/new-climate-model/

    I've been telling everyone just that since 2008 having noted the change in Jetstream behaviour around 2000 since when this has happened:

    http://notrickszone.com/2013/09/12/no-warming-left-to-deny-global-cooling-takes-over-cet-annual-mean-temperature-plunges-1c-since-2000/

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 6.

    4. ukpahonta

    May I second your comment - "Glad that you are willing to raise this issue pre AR5 release, as cloud cover is seriously under represented as a controlling factor."

    We live in interesting times!

    If, BIG IF, we are entering a Dalton type solar minimum and BIG IF again it carries a similar climatic effect as 200 years ago. Could it be further compounded by the suggested potential downturn from the 60 year cycle?

    Answer is nobody knows! But it is going to be interesting to watch. Mother Earth is still very much in infant teaching mode, but that doesn't seem to stop one branch of her pupils (homo superbus) thinking that they have no need for any further awareness, they are convinced that they have an answer for all climate issues.

    One thing for sure it ain't going to simply go the way any of us think or how any of our puny models predict, there are going to be lots of mirages and false horizons. Enjoy the ride!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 7.

    Paul, its worth mentioning from a previous blog that Habibullo Abdusamatov a leading Russian scientist in Astrophysics, leading projects on the Russian section of the ISS has stated that recent global warming was a result of lengthy high levels of solar radiation and peaked between 1998 & 2005. He has said that the sun has 11, 100 & 200 year cycles & are approaching a 200 year minimum cycle & solar activity will reach its minimum 200 year cycle by 2041, as a consequence deep cooling will hit earth 2055 to 2060 & will last 45 to 65 years.
    Amazingly the very latest HMI intensitygram of the sun shows no sunspot activity.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 8.

    Does this mean we are going into another mini ice age, with all the rivers freezing over for a month or so each year. If so we could put in for a winter olympics, and just hope we don't get the warm year...

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 9.

    8. Wheelspinner

    Lol, we should make an all out pitch, the awarding of the Winter Olympics to the UK would ensure the mildest of mild winters making the return on monies spent extremely good value!

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 10.

    One difference between solar cycles 5 & 6 and solar cycles 24 & 25 that Paul doesn't mention is that during the former, global atmospheric CO2 concentrations were below 300 ppm. During the latter, they are touching 400 ppm.

    We'll soon see if that makes any difference to how global surface temperatures behave.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 11.

    10. newdwr54

    "....During the latter, they are touching 400 ppm.

    We'll soon see if that makes any difference to how global surface temperatures behave...."

    How? That can only be the case if it can be proved to be THE only difference.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 12.

    A sound and much needed post Mr Hudson, you are gifted that seemingly rare thing called common sense.. We have already had Maunder style temperatures at both ends of 2010, Feb 2012, and March 2013, and that's with a currently higher global average temperature. The solar linkage to the AO/NAO is there somehow, it has to be, as I forecast these temperature deviations very accurately at very long range from planetary ordered Solar based forecasts, and can hindcast back through CET at such scales. So I am in a position to map out the coming decades at such scales too, and recent findings confirm a weak solar cycle 25 also. I would urge you to personally take a look at my work so you have a clearer picture of what is ahead.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 13.

    'But despite some temporary warmer interludes, historical weather records give a good indication of the type of weather the UK could experience should current solar activity continue to mirror that which was observed during the Dalton minimum over 200 years ago. '

    How low do ya go?
    http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/hadobs/hadcet/graphs/HadCET_graph_ylybars_uptodate.gif

    Could we be in a period of empirical experiment? Perhaps the next five years could provide the data required to amend GCM's so that they can better predict our climate in the fashion that the Met Office is doing.
    http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/research/climate/seasonal-to-decadal/long-range/decadal-fc
    Still too warm an outlook I would say.

    If newdwr54 and friends are correct and cloud cover has no effect on surface temperature:
    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2013/aug/14/global-warming-solar-minimum-barely-dent
    then there will be little change in our predicted northern hemisphere climate even as the jet stream keeps heading South and all our tax money will have been well spent on preparing us for Mediterranean type weather in the UK.

    Thinking that I should re-consider the section of the garden where the grape vines were going!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 14.

    I think it is a matter of solar variations affecting the balance of ozone creation / destruction in the stratosphere differently above the equator as compared to above the poles.

    The only reason we have a tropopause in the first place with its temperature rising instead of falling with height is the fact that ozone is heated directly by incoming solar radiation.

    More ozone in the stratosphere above the poles relative to that in the stratosphere above the equator when the sun is less active will warm the stratosphere above the poles, push tropopause height down and send more surface cold air towards the equator.

    When the sun is active the opposite seems to occur.

    In effect, the jets and climate zones shift latitudinally beneath the tropopause in response to solar variations which then affects total global cloudiness and the amount of solar energy able to enter the oceans.

    That also explains why the ozone holes became larger and the stratosphere cooled when the sun was active whereas the opposite seems to be happening now.

    CFCs may not have been a significant culprit at all.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 15.

    But, but but......the additional amounts of CO2 we are putting into the atmosphere which are causing the runaway global warming and tipping points, melting ice and dead polar bears and massive sea level rises and all that are still going to happen, yes?

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 16.

    11. greensand

    "That can only be the case if [increased CO2] can be proved to be THE only difference."

    I was thinking of Paul Hudson's comment:

    "....historical weather records give a good indication of the type of weather the UK could experience should current solar activity continue to mirror that which was observed during the Dalton minimum over 200 years ago."

    This infers that future UK weather could be controlled mainly by changes in solar activity, in a similar way in which it apparently was 200 years ago.

    A significant omission from this outlook is the large difference between global atmospheric CO2 concentrations present at the time of the Dalton minimum and those present today.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 17.

    So it's the sun, as some of us have said all along.

    Arctic ice levels are now at 67% above this time last year, this comes from NASA.

    Models assume 3C warming with doubling of CO2, sensitivity, when this should be ZERO and a residence time of 200years which is meaningless.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 18.

    newdr54
    if this general theory is correct and UK weather is significantly influenced by solar activity then why should a marginal increase in global temps overpower an unknown/poorly understood mechanism?
    That's like arguing that any solar related effect can only happen if the planet is at a particular temp (very small window) to start with.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 19.

    17. John Marshall

    "Arctic ice levels are now at 67% above this time last year, this comes from NASA."

    Can you quote your NASA source please?

    JAXA (Japanese Space Agency) latest extent is +48.7% above 2012 minimum but melt is currently continuing.

    http://www.ijis.iarc.uaf.edu/en/home/seaice_extent.htm

    Latest NSIDC figure also puts this years increase at ~ +50% of 2012 (NSIDC down due to bad weather, ironically).

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 20.

    18. lateintheday

    "if this general theory is correct and UK weather is significantly influenced by solar activity then why should a marginal increase in global temps overpower an unknown/poorly understood mechanism?"

    It's not clear that solar activity is the cause of the wandering jetstream. But even if it is, there's no way we can predict that future UK weather will replicate that seen during the Dalton Minimum. Increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations by 30% in 200 years introduces a wild card that makes local predictions based on observations of past solar variation very uncertain.

 

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Hello, I’m Paul Hudson, weather presenter and climate correspondent for BBC Look North in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire. 

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I worked as a forecaster with the Met Office for nearly 15 years locally and at the international unit, after graduating with first class honours in Geophysics and Planetary physics at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in 1992. I then joined the BBC in October 2007, where I divide my time between forecasting and reporting on stories about climate change and its implications for people's everyday lives.

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