Friday, September 14, 2007

Solar minimum and the price of wheat

Reap the harvest ,hence you will sow,
Except fallow years, and depths of snow

Wheat Prices Send Italian Pasta Costs Up Is the headlines from the world press.

Consumer groups organized protests in Rome, Milan and Palermo — and even handed out free pasta, bread and milk to passers-by to help ease the pain for those who decided to support the strike and forego pasta purchases at supermarkets and restaurants.
Activists say Italians will soon be paying up to 20 percent more for their daily serving of fettuccine, spaghetti or linguine. They say prices are being driven up by middlemen, while earnings for farmers and producers remain flat.
"Prices increase by five times between production and consumption," Toni De Amicis, a leader of Italian farm lobby Coldiretti, said during a protest in Rome. "The right recipe is to reduce the gap between production and consumption."
Similar charges have been lodged in France, where shoppers are grumbling that their aromatic baguettes will soon cost more because of rising flour prices. A consumer group warned in August of likely bread price increases of about 8 percent.
The warning prompted accusations that supermarket chains were disproportionately hiking prices on breads, as producers noted that the price of flour only represents 5 percent of the total price of bread.

Competition for supply from non food manufacturers (biofuels) ,globalization,and climate change, have been arraigned as suspects.The effects of the solar cycle and wheat price behavior are well documented due to the importance of long life staples in the pre industrial era.

The first suggestion of a connection between wheat price and sunspots was made by William Hershel (1801). Over 40 years (1779 – 1818), Hershel regularly observed sunspots and their variations in number, form and size. Unfortunately, most of his observations took place in a period characterized by the lowest solar activity since the Maunder Minimum (later called the Dalton Minimum), when solar activity behaved very unusually: spots in minimums disappeared totally, and the max-max interval increased up to 17 years (1788-1805). These irregular variations of sunspot numbers prevented Hershel from discovering the 11-year period in solar activity. However, he paid attention to an evident correlation between the observed number of spots and the state of the wheat market, based on a series of wheat prices published by Adam Smith in his classical work “Wealth of Nations” (1776). As Herschel showed in his report to the Royal Society (1801), five prolonged periods of few sunspots correlated with costly wheat. In 1801, Hershel published the results of his observations of sunspots, remarking on the possible connection between sunspots and wheat prices, in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. Unfortunately, his conclusions met with such strong and widespread rejection, even ridicule, that in spite of his great authority and his status as Royal Astronomer, he had to cancel his next public presentations of his results. However, it is known from his biography, that he continued sunspot observations and analysis up to last days of his life. Hershel suggested that a possible reason for the influence of sunspots on wheat prices was changes in the Earth climate produced by modulations in solar radiation, caused by variation of the emitted surface.

The next scientist in this field was the well-known English economist and logician William Stanley Jevons, one of the creators of Neoclassical Economic Theory. In his study (1875), he focused on the first part of the data published by Professor Rogers in the first volume of his work. Wheat prices over 140 years, from 1259 to 1400, were presented in this volume. Jevons discovered that the time intervals between high prices were close to 10-11 years. The coincidence of these intervals with the period of the recently discovered 11-year cycle of solar activity led him to suggest a solar cycle as a “synchronization” factor for fluctuations in wheat prices3 (Jevons, 1878).

In a paper by Lev A. Pustilnik , Gregory Yom Din entitled INFLUENCE OF SOLAR ACTIVITY ON STATE OF WHEAT MARKET IN MEDIEVAL ENGLAND the authors correlate a direct link between prices of wheat and sunspots over 10 solar minimum periods from the 17th century.

ABSTRACT. The database of Prof. Rogers (1887), which includes wheat prices in England in the Middle Ages, was used to search for a possible influence of solar activity on the wheat market.We present a conceptual model of possible modes for sensitivity of wheat prices to weather conditions,caused by solar cycle variations, and compare expected price fluctuations with price variations recorded in medieval England.

We compared statistical properties of the intervals between wheat price bursts during years 1249-1703 with statistical properties of the intervals between minimums of solar cycles during years 1700-2000. We show that statistical properties of these two samples are similar, both for characteristics of the distributions and for histograms of the distributions.We analyze a direct link between wheat prices and solar activity in the 17th Century, for which wheat prices and solar activity data (derived from 10Be isotope) are available. We show that for all 10 time moments of the solar activity minimums the observed prices were higher than prices for the correspondent time moments of maximal solar activity (100% sign correlation, on a significance level <>

Whilst we have posted on this prior, the present depth of the solar cycle is the deepest for some time,TSI showing solar minimum was in early 2006,other indices show we maybe approachink it later this year.


Blogger Erl said...

Swings to extreme values in the Southern Oscillation Index are associated with periods of generalised cooling or warming across all low latitudes. This in turn drives global temperature change.

The SOI is driven by the magnetic signature of the solar wind. Between solar maximum and solar minimum a fall in the SOI is associated with high levels of geomagnetic activity as indicated by the aa index.

A fall in the aa index is due to wide swings in magnetometer readings at the surface of the Earth. This is a High/Low situation where one extreme is forcing auroras and thinning the atmosphere above the tropics, causing localised surface heating resulting in a fall in air density and reduced interception of solar radiation by the atmosphere, more getting through to the surface in the tropics and so on.

A rise in the SOI is associated with cooling in the tropics and frequently occurs at sunspot maximum (fall in the aa index is commonly seen at magnetic reversal) and in the steep decline in the aa index that occurs in the closing phases of every solar cycle. Hence the strengthening La Nina in late 2007. Cooler conditions in Northern Hemisphere summer of 2007 and 2008 could see a widespread failure of the Canadian wheat crop.

The La Nina of 2007-8 will be followed by a very strong El Nino in the first couple of years of solar cycle 24 corresponding with a trough in the aa index of geomagnetic activity. Paradox. But, at solar minimum there are no sunspots to diminish the magnetic signal of the sun and this is the period where the suns magnetic influence is strong and unwavering.

The aa index has been rising for a hundred and thirty years. Recent minimas of Solar cycles 20 plus have gone close to exceeding the maximas of the solar cycles 12,13,14. It appears that the strength of the suns magnetic activity has been increasing for perhaps a couple of hundred years but is now in decline.

If the monthly SOI values are aggregated for each solar cycle we see that the tendency to positive or negative values across succeeding cycles identifies the periods when the Earth warms and cools. Hence, aggregated SOI values were heavily negative between 1910 and 1944, positive between 1944 and 1976 and heavily negative from 1976 on. However, with Solar Cycle 24 we will see a swing to the positive and strong cooling.

The mechanism is very simple and it starts in the upper atmosphere where highly energetic low frequency radiation creates the ionosphere and the solar wind pressurises the magnetosphere, skittles electrons towards the poles and opens up a window for more solar radiation to penetrate the atmosphere through to the surface in the tropics.

Extra radiation over the tropics evaporates more water and drives the Hadley cell that expands pushing the westerlies south and drying out the Mediterranean climates. Australia has droughts. The Monsoons of South and East Asia are less intense.

During La Ninas the tropical air is cooler and closer to its dewpoint. If this air finds its way to mid latitudes there are sudden deluges. Hence the English floods. Floods also in Bangladesh and Southern China.


7:35 AM  
Blogger Erl said...

Solar minimum, the price of wheat and the solar driver for temperature on Earth

Errata Paragraph 3: A fall in the aa index. Should read: A rise in the aa index

While my text of yesterday relates to the tendency of wheat prices to peak during Strong La Nina’s that happen to occur in the late descending phase of the solar cycle, these events do not happen in every cycle (positive for four of the last six) and nor do they have the same intensity on each occasion.

It is rare in this day and age to see wheat prices move with the solar cycle because we now have diverse sources of supply in both hemispheres and to the east, centre and west of continents and the pattern of climatic change is a little out of step from one to the other. Our ability to carry stocks and control product deterioration has also improved. Atmosphere control with CO2 is the friendliest agent for that.

The comment is actually an opportunity to describe the main mechanism by which the sun influences the Earth's climate. The mechanism is unrelated to the amplitude of sunspot activity and quite unrelated to the changes in total solar irradiance. It is not accounted for in terms of the I.P.C.C.’s list of recognised forcing agents. It does not appear as a parameter in climate models. If it did, my impression is that it would stand supreme as the major agent driving temperature on Earth and render all other considerations of little consequence.

Why have we not found it earlier? Because the guys who study the upper atmosphere are not the same guys who study the lower atmosphere and there are another set of guys who study the sun.

And then there are the meteorologists who with hand on heart solemnly pronounce that:

"Indeed a closer inspection of the spatial structure of climate variability, in particular on seasonal and longer time-scales, shows that it occurs predominantly in preferred large-scale and geographically anchored spatial patterns. Such patterns result from interactions between the atmospheric circulation and the land and ocean surfaces. Though geographically anchored, their amplitude can change in time as, for example, the heat exchange with the underlying ocean changes.
A well-known example is the quasi-periodically varying ENSO phenomenon, caused by atmosphere-ocean interaction in the tropical Pacific. The resulting El Niño and La Niña events have a worldwide impact on weather and climate."

Ye gods and little fishes.


4:45 AM  
Blogger maksimovich said...

Hi Erl .I saw the mention of the aa index.Here it is best to divide the index into Two concomitant solar mechanisms causing geomagnetic activity.

1) Interplanetary perturbations (CMEs) causing sudden commencement storms
Occuring mostly during solar maximum and connected with toroidal components of the solar magnetic field.

2) Fast solar winds causing recurrent storms,Occuring mostly during declining phase of cycle and connected with poloidal (i.e. open-field) component of solar magnetic field.

Lockwood 1999 and Froelich 2004 made arithmetic errors in adding the components together.

Stix (1958) showed: these poloidal and toroidal components should be ~180° out of phase Ruzmaikin & Feynman (2001) provided experimental evidence for such a double driver as did Veselovsky et al.2000 Richardson 1999 .

Assuming the two contributions reflect the strength of the solar magnetic field:
Toroidal field = almost constant
Poloidal field = has more than doubled since 1868

This increase is amplified by the phase shift : storms may now occur anytime during the solar cycle.

Solar cycles are clearly seen in the energy, momentum and mass fluxes of the solar
wind. The Sun as a star emits by a factor of 1.5–2 more solar wind mass and energy
during solar minima in comparison with solar maxima years. Moreover, the overall
rising trend of the same order of magnitude during the past 30 years has been shown.

Changes in the spectral components, and the species of solar emissions,and their effects on Joule heating in the Ionosphere and the chemical composition of the atmosphere being important drivers to the biosphere amplitude of growth and decline.

This is well documented in say plankton bloom and bust cycles in the SOI, both as responders and amplifiers of the SST.

The atmospheric Gyres such as the SOI and AO are these responders to the Solar cycle and spectra,such as changes in UV and the intergrated Nitrogen,methane,ozone cycles and say Raleigh –Bernard convection?

12:32 AM  
Blogger Erl said...

Hi Maksimovich,
You know a lot more about the sun and it's magnetism than I do. Phase shifts are beyond me. You say: (The Sun as a star emits by a factor of 1.5–2 more solar wind mass and energy during solar minima in comparison with solar maxima years.) Good to have it confirmed that there is a lot of strength in the suns magnetic field at solar minimum. That had me bothered until I could infer that the magnetic strength must have been greater when the sunspots disappeared.

That gives a reason for the consistency in the occurrence of heating events (falling SOI) at low latitudes at aa index minimum. This is where a straight correlation between the two would be completely misleading. (let the statisticians note).

Is there an index that better reflects the power of the solar wind to affect the ionosphere and will it cover a period sufficiently long for a comparison with the S.O.I.?

The coincidence of peaks in the aa index with heating events (falling SOI) across low latitudes at other times than at solar minimum is plain as can be. Between solar maximum and solar minimum in the falling phase there are one to three El Nino events. These are rarely but sometimes seen in the rising phase. The relationship between aa activity (or the magnetic strength of the sun) and temperature change globally has been noted by many authors when looking at the two series over long periods of time. However, these studies do not reveal the mechanism. One needs to look within the 11 year period to see the micro situation and the mechanism at work.

The role of low latitude heating in driving global temperature change is also as plain as it can be. Just plot the two series on the same axis and you will see Low Latitude temperature leading and exceeding global change in both directions. It should be possible to do some pretty simple mathematics and check the relationship. Most of the carriage of heat from low to high latitudes is via the sea. Convection at the Intertropical convergence eliminates atmospheric transfer. I imagine almost all of the heat transfer from low to high latitudes will be via the ocean. The tropical ocean gathers heat in its passage from East to West. This can be plainly seen on a global map of ocean temperatures. Then the heat is delivered to the Eastern side of the major land masses. Hence the good correlation with solar activity of phenomena in China and Japan.

If bioactivity in the sea responds to magnetic activity the causative mechanism has got to be water temperature. Have you checked out the move to lower sea surface temperatures occurring with the current La Nina? It is spectacular. See:

So, the solar mechanism I am talking about is strong. Can’t see any reference to it in the literature. By the time it is quantified and incorporated in a climate model there will not be much room for anything else.

The hypothesis is that the solar wind forces changes in the ionosphere that are accompanied by a thinning of the atmosphere within the stratosphere and troposphere with a consequent increase in energy transmitted. There is less lost via reflection or absorption in the atmosphere over low latitudes. Once the process starts, heating will further reduce atmospheric density and the process will be reinforced. Convection in the tropics can create clouds at 25 km above the surface. Due to consistent high temperatures, air density is low over low latitudes anyway and it is maintained in that state via the release of heat with condensation. Two metres of seawater is evaporated annually at the equator. The energy released as the latent heat of condensation drives the Hadley cell and intensifies subsistence in the high pressure cells elsewhere, the biggest ones being in Antarctica and at about 30° Latitude across the Southern Hemisphere. That descending air is always starts off being very cold. At the South Pole in winter it is at the temperature of the Tropopause. This factor and the melting of ice equal in area to the entire continent of Antarctica as the ice sheet that is built up in the winter breaks up in summer explains to some extent the differential heating between the hemispheres. Apart from that the land area is much less and water needs a lot more insolation to change its temperature by a degree C than the land.

However, I have seen little documentation of this process in the literature. This probably reflects the fact that most climate research is conducted at mid latitudes.

While Meteorologists maintain the mystical nonsense that the SOI is driven by atmosphere/ocean interaction, little progress will be made. Perhaps they think they have discovered the source of perpetual motion! For a summary of current theories as to the cause of La Ninas see:
There is the observation that an extra La Nina like phenomenon occurs in the Atlantic in some years and that the combination intensifies the phenomena. However, a lag is mentioned. Nevertheless, that could be a big step forward in approaching the actual cause.

I can’t help wondering whether the determination to install carbon dioxide as the cause of global warming interferes with the power of reason.

I note with interest your comments on the Russian work on the connection between aa index of geomagnetic activity and seismic phenomena.

I need to get a paper to a place where it can be accessed or send it to you. Blogging is new to me.

7:10 AM  
Blogger maksimovich said...

There is a clear relationship between the magnetic flux and the associated power dissipation throughout heliophysics is one the themes of International Heliophysical year

Under theme 2 you will find a link to comparative aeronomy,there are links to a number of papers on Ionosphere heating and photochemical coupling

There is a paper by Michael Mendillo on simultaneous Ionosphere variability on earth and mars.

Electromagentic radiation responses by photoplankton you can find by searching plankton on this blog

Snell et al shows how biological activity can change sst by 1.5c in very small periods of time.

Contact you later in week.

12:17 AM  
Blogger Erl said...

I like a lot of the sentiments and reasoning on this blog of yours. Would you be so kind as to examine the reasoning in my argument for the solar connection with Earth temperature that you will find at:

Let me know if it stands up. I want to judge what chance I have of making a difference to the argument. At the moment I am being met by a deafening silence. Don't know whether to think this is good or bad!


11:21 PM  
Blogger maksimovich said...

Apologies Earl,time constraints at present,I will look it over the next week.

4:59 PM  

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