Global Cooling the inverse consensus
In 2005, Russian astronomer Khabibullo Abdusamatov predicted the sun would soon peak, triggering a rapid decline in world temperatures. Only last month, the view was echoed by Dr. Oleg Sorokhtin, a fellow of the
In 2003 Schatten and Tobiska in a paper Solar Activity Heading for a Maunder Minimum? Suggested that cooler times are ahead.
Long-range (few years to decades) solar activity prediction techniques vary greatly in their methods. They range from examining planetary orbits, to spectral analyses (e.g. Fourier, wavelet and spectral analyses), to artificial intelligence methods, to simply using general statistical techniques. Rather than concentrate on statistical/mathematical/numerical methods, we discuss a class of methods which appears to have a "physical basis." Not only does it have a physical basis, but this basis is rooted in both "basic" physics (dynamo theory), but also solar physics (Babcock dynamo theory). The class we discuss is referred to as "precursor methods," originally developed by Ohl, Brown and Williams and others, using geomagnetic observations.
My colleagues and I have developed some understanding for how these methods work and have expanded the prediction methods using "solar dynamo precursor" methods, notably a "SODA" index (SOlar Dynamo Amplitude). These methods are now based upon an understanding of the Sun's dynamo processes- to explain a connection between how the Sun's fields are generated and how the Sun broadcasts its future activity levels to Earth. This has led to better monitoring of the Sun's dynamo fields and is leading to more accurate prediction techniques. Related to the Sun's polar and toroidal magnetic fields, we explain how these methods work, past predictions, the current cycle, and predictions of future of solar activity levels for the next few solar cycles.
The surprising result of these long-range predictions is a rapid decline in solar activity, starting with cycle #24. If this trend continues, we may see the Sun heading towards a "Maunder" type of solar activity minimum - an extensive period of reduced levels of solar activity. For the solar physicists, who enjoy studying solar activity, we hope this isn't so, but for NASA, which must place and maintain satellites in low earth orbit (LEO), it may help with reboost problems. Space debris, and other aspects of objects in LEO will also be affected.
What is the significance of the icy 2007-2008 record-breaking winter and the past 6-year cooling trend? Some of the possible ramifications of this are really interesting. Keeping in mind that any single year is weather, not climate, some interesting patterns are beginning to emerge, and when considered in terms of past climate changes, may be pointing to some truly significant changes in store for the world. For example:
Global temperatures during the Medieval Warm Period (900-1300 AD) were slightly higher than at present but plunged about 4° in only 20 years, initiating the Little Ice Age that caused severe famines in Europe and leading to the deaths of about one third of the population. Unfortunately, the Medieval Warm Period pre-dated direct observation of sun spots, but for about 100 years (beginning in 1609), sun spots were rare (the Maunder Minimum) and global climate was icy. Virtually all scientists now accept a solar cause of the Little Ice Age. The concern of the Canadian and Russian astrophysicists is that, leading into the coming predictable solar cycle, they are seeing a much lower level of sun spot activity than expected, resembling that which accompanied the plunging global temperatures at the beginning of the Little Ice Age. This is a distinct possibility. However, I think a more likely scenario is that we may be heading for a deeper global cooling than the last one (~1945 to 1977), perhaps similar to the 30-year cool period from 1880 to 1910 when many cold weather records were set.
What is the significance of the present globally icy winter? By itself, it’s weather and arguably not statistically important. However, when considered in the light of the past 5-year cooling trend, the continuation of that pattern is important because if we are to believe the IPCC’s prediction of a 1° F warming by 2011, that will require warming of almost 1° F in the next three years! As pointed out in your column, the IPCC recasts its predictions every year to match actual conditions so they appear to stay ‘on-track.’ However, they made finite predictions some years ago and if IPCC is to remain credible, those predictions need to be accountable. In a nutshell, in 2001, I put my reputation on the line and published my predictions for entering a global cooling cycle about 2007 plus or minus 3-5 years, based on past glacial, ice core, and other data. As right now, my prediction seems to be right on target and what we would expect from the past climatic record, but the IPCC prediction is getting farther and farther off the mark. Now with the apparent solar cooling cycle upon us, we have a ready explanation for global warming and cooling.
Over a reasonable period of time 20-30 years we see the pendulum of climatic oscillation return to its previous state as the set remembers its previous position in phase space.like an elastic band..