The Real Cause of Climate Change

Why do IPCC model predictions fail to fit recent observation of global cooling?

What is the true reason for climate change? Is it CO2, or solar irradiance fluctuations?

For a biblical perspective see: It's God's Weather

For the government perspective see: IPCC Climate Predictions

Get CO2 in Perspective

CO2 is just a very small component of Earth's atmosphere - about 400 ppm or 0.04% of all the gases in the atmosphere. So compared to the major components of the atmosphere (nitrogen 78% and oxygen 21%), CO2 is just a trace gas. Furthermore, of the 186 billion tons of CO2 that enters into the atmosphere yearly only 4% is man-made, the rest is from the oceans, volcanoes, and decaying plant matter. So man's contribution to total atmospheric gases via CO2 is just a small percentage of a trace!

Greenhouse Effect (GHE)

Nevertheless, let's consider the 'greenhouse effect' of CO2. Greenhouse gases such as H2O (water vapour), CO2, and CH4 (methane) in the Earth's atmosphere generate a 'radiative blanketing' effect by decreasing the net escape of terrestrial thermal infrared radiation. So increasing CO2 increases the radiative energy input to the Earth's atmosphere, thereby amplifying the solar warming of the Earth.

Relative greenhouse effect of CO2

Greenhouse Effect of CO2

Image courtesy Global Warming Petition Project

The above diagram is a qualitiative comparison of the current GHE from all atmospheric phenomena (first bar graph), with that from CO2. The "Radiative effect of CO2" (second bar graph) is the added greenhouse radiative effect from doubling CO2 without consideration of other atmospheric components. When the effect of other atmospheric components is accounted for, the effect of CO2 is either amplified ("Hypothesis 1 IPCC") or moderated ("Hypothesis 2"). It is claimed in Robinson et al that

"Experimental evidence favours the latter: while CO2 has increased substantially, its effect on temperature has been so slight that it has not been experimentally detected."

This is not suprising since water vapour accounts for some 95% of the GHE and human activity amounts to just 0.28% of the total greenhouse gases. The greenhouse effect of CO2 is very small compared to that of water vapour! On this analysis, the warming effect of anthropological CO2 is negligible!

A Cooler Europe

Since 1979 the Autumn levels of Arctic sea ice have declined by 30% [National Academy of Sciences, USA]. Between 1978 and 2013, NSIDC data shows a loss of 3.5% per decade.

This loss of ice can affect atmospheric circulation patterns and weaken westerly winds in the North Atlantic (resulting in 'blocking patterns'). In turn this could allow more frequent northerly winds into Europe, with corresponding increase in snowfall. Ice loss could lead to similar cooling in the NE and Midwestern U.S.

Related topics:
End Times
It's God's weather

Glacier shortening

Fig.4: Glacier Shortening

Sea level rise

Fig.5: Sea Level Rise

Correlation of solar irradiance with temperature

Fig.7: Solar Irradiance and Temperature

Correlation of solar irradiance with temperature

Fig.8: Solar Irradiance and Temperature

Images courtesy B. Robinson, N. Robinson,
and W. Soon Global Warming Petition Project

Correlation of solar cycle length with temperature

Fig.9: Solar Cycle Length (yrs) and Temperature Anomaly

Image based on Friis-Christensen and Lassen

Sunspot activity in solar cycle 24

Fig.11: Decreasing Sunspot Activity

Image courtesy NASA Solar Cycle Prediction

Forecasts from the Sun

Piers Corbyn has a first-class degree in astrophysics and operates as a meteorologist in London. He makes weather forecasts based upon the sun's irradiance and how it interacts with the upper atmosphere. He claims 85% accuracy in his forecasts - including the cold, snowy December of 2010 in the UK. Piers says: "The next 30 years will see Arctic ice expand as we head into the new Little Ice Age."

His theory utilises solar activity (eruptions), magnetic clouds in the solar wind and lunar effects to predict world weather. It totally discredits the CO2 warming theory.

Global Sea Surface Temperatures

Fig.13: Monthly Mean Global SST showing global cooling since 2002

Image courtesy NASA GISS

CO2-Temperature Anomalies

Few scientists dispute that the climate is changing; the average global temperature has increased by about 0.8°C since 1880 and two-thirds of the warming has occurred since 1975 [NASA-GISS]. The central question is "What is really causing it"? The official scientific view (that of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC) is that warming over the past 50 years is largely anthropological i.e. man-induced due to the burning of fossil fuels, and that such burning must be curbed to avoid catastrophic effects:

"Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations." [IPCC AR4, 2007]

The science behind such a statement essentially assumes a strong correlation between CO2 and temperature. But is this true? Consider Fig.1.

The weak correlation of CO2 with temperature

Fig.1: The weak correlation of CO2 with temperature (NOAA NCDC data)

Image courtesy Climate4you

Figure 1 shows global monthly surface air temperatures and atmospheric CO2 (March 1958 - June 2013). Clearly, over this period there are two distinct periods when CO2 was negatively correlated with temperature. And note that since 2002 global temperatures have been falling despite CO2 reaching 400 ppm. Clearly, CO2 is not the only contributer to global temperature.

Greenland Ice Sheet Air Temperature

Fig.2: Greenland Ice Sheet Air Temperature

Image courtesy Climate4you (Alley, 2000)

Greenland Temperatures:

Figure 2 shows the air temperature at the summit of the Greenland Ice Sheet, reconstructed by Alley (2000) from GISP2 ice core data. The temperatures tend to reflect global temperature changes over the past 6,000 years (up to 1855 AD) and show several warm periods (green), including the current one. Despite the warm periods, there is a clear cooling trend over the last 4000 years. The significant point here is that over the same 4,000 year period the CO2 concentration (red graph) steady rises! It seems that CO2 is negatively correlated with Greenland temperatures over this time span.

Medieval Temperatures:

Poor correlation between CO2 and temperature is also found in recent history. For example, the CO2 levels c1000 AD were significantly lower than present-day levels despite higher temperatures, and they did not significantly decrease during the 'Little Ice Age' c1600 AD. A similar anomaly occurred in recent times: from 1957-2000 the South Pole temperature decreased by 1.5 deg whilst the corresponding CO2 rose from 314 to 360 ppm.

The CO2-Temperature Causality Issue

Even if there was a strong correlation between CO2 and temperature (and that seems questionable), this does not imply 'causality' i.e. it does not imply that CO2 rise causes temperature rise. In fact, some claim that CO2 rise naturally follows, and probably results from, increases in temperature - not the other way around. This is illustrated in Fig.3.

CO2 and temperature

Fig.3: Long-term CO2-Antarctic Temperature Records

Image under GNU free license

Figure 3 shows CO2 levels and temperature (relative to the mean temperature for the last 100 years) based on Antarctic ice core data. Close inspection of these records shows that CO2 rise (fall) has often followed temperature increase (decrease), sometimes by thousands of years. See also Vostok core research.

Glacier Retreat:

This also highlights the causality issue. It is claimed that glacier retreat is largely a result of warming from CO2 rise. But Fig.4 (opposite) shows that glaciers started retreating around 1820 i.e. warming started around 1800, some 150 years before significant CO2 emissions commenced in 1950. In other words, CO2 increase cannot be the cause of glacier retreat since CO2 increase occurred significantly after glaciers started retreating. And note that the retreating rate does not increase after 1950 (as might be expected if it was due to CO2 increase). Glaciers advance and retreat naturally and their current behaviour is not abnormal. It seems CO2 rise is not a primary cause of glacier retreat.

Sea Level Rise:

Similarly, it is claimed that sea level rise is strongly linked to warming from CO2 rise. But sea levels have been rising at an averaged rate of 7 inches per century or 1.8mm per year since about 1860 - well before any CO2 induced warming (Fig.5). Also, sea level rises partly because of the expansion of warmer water, but sea surface temperatures in the North Atlantic have been increasing since 1700 (since the 'Little Ice Age') and currently they are only at the mean value for the last 3,000 years (J. Bluemle, 1999)! It seems CO2 rise is not a primary cause of sea level rise.

Poor Model Predictions

The IPCC, NASA GISS, UK Met Office and others claim recent warming is largely man-induced (anthropological), and predictions from their models are shown in Fig.6:

IPCC surface temperature prediction

Fig.6: IPCC surface temperature prediction

Image in Public Domain

Figure 6 shows observed globally and annually averaged surface temperature (°C) since 1990 compared with the temperature projections from previous IPCC assessments e.g. AR4 2007. Values are aligned to match the average observed value at 1990. Observed global annual temperature change, relative to 1961-1990, is shown as black squares. But the observed temperatures are very near or below the low end projections of IPCC report AR4 (2007)! Are the models reliable?

Conclusions so Far

As outlined, there seems little correlation or causality between rising CO2 and rising temperature:

"CO2 has not a causal relation with global warming ... the main argument is the absence of immediate correlation between CO2 changes preceding temperature" [ Soares, 2010 ]

In other words, CO2 rise is not the principal cause of temperature rise, glacier retreat, or sea level rise; in fact, CO2 rise often lags warming by hundreds or thousands of years. Add to this the unconvincing IPCC model predictions of observed temperature change and we are led to ask "Is there another major player in climate change?" Is the observed warming over the last century largely due to a natural recovery from the Little Ice Age (or indeed from the one and only ice age of a young earth). If so, are other climate changing mechanisms more significant - variations in the sun, and variations in water vapour in the atmosphere perhaps?

Effect of Solar Irradiance Changes

Solar irradiance is the solar power per unit area falling on the earth (in W/square metre). The sun's irradiance fluctuates constantly in conjunction with the sunspot number, which varies over an approximate 11 year cycle. The total solar irradiance (TSI) is larger during the portion of the 11 year cycle when there are more sunspots. Solar cycle 24 peaked around 2013 and cycle 25 is expected to peak around 2025.

What observed evidence is there that global temperatures are correlated with solar irradiance? Consider the arctic air temperature measurements in Fig.7, and the U.S. surface temperature measurements in Fig.8. It is clear from both graphs that temperature correlates well with solar irradiance even after industrialisation started in earnest around 1900. Moreover, world hydrocarbon use started rising sharply around 1950 whilst temperatures actually fell between 1940 and 1975 following reduced solar irradiance!

Good correlation was also found by Friis-Christensen and Lassen, 1991 when they graphed solar cycle length against temperature, Fig.9. The significance of solar cycle length is not to be underestimated. It is claimed at Global Warming and the Climate that solar cycle 23 was extended considerably to about 12.7 years, and this might translate to a global temperature drop of 1.2°C by 2020. Similar high correlation with cycle length over 1880-2006 is found at Strum, which suggests a 1°C drop in temperature in the coming decade.

On the theoretical side, a significant link between global surface temperature (GST) and total solar irradiance (TSI) has been shown statistically [Scafetta and West, Physics Today, March 2008]. Specifically, the time distribution between solar events e.g. flares is the same as that for global temperature fluctuations! The authors comment: "the sun is influencing climate significantly more then the IPCC (2007) report claims.". Their comments are supported by other theorists:

"CO2 is not responsible for heating the earth, the cause is the activity of the sun. The movement of the sun affects temperature, which influences the levels of CO2, and these levels have risen and fallen for centuries." [Professor Emeritus Giora Shaviv, professor of physics and the Swartzmann-Medvedi chair in Space Sciences at The Technion in Haifa].

Is Solar Irradiance Reduction Causing Global Cooling?

If global temperatures correlate better with solar irradiance than with CO2, then solar activity should be studied for future climate prediction, rather than CO2. Low sunspot activity correlates with lower temperatures e.g. during the 17th century Maunder Minimum, sunspots were rare and the northern hemisphere experienced the "Little Ice Age". Between 1790 and 1820, a minor decline in solar activity called the Dalton Minimum also correlated with lower global temperatures. This sunspot low is shown in Fig.10.

Sunspot activity

Fig.10: Sunspot Activity (red line is running 11 year average)

Image courtesy SIDC, (Solar Influences Data Analysis Center)

Figure 10 also shows that the sun has declined in activity since about 2002, and it reached a record low value in 2009. Figure 11 shows this in more detail. Note that sunspot activity for the current solar cycle (cycle 24) is low compared to recent sunspot peaks. Peaking at around 67, this is the smallest sunspot cycle since 1906. It is predicted that solar cycle 25 (peaking at around 2025) will show very low solar activity.

Is this declining sunspot activity leading to global cooling? Perhaps. Figure 12 shows there has been a slight fall in mean global sea surface temperature (SST) since 2002, with current temperatures approaching 1990 levels. And NASA GISS, RSS MSU, UAH AMSU and Hadley data (Fig. 13) show a definite global SST cooling since 2002 (the peak is the 1997-98 "El Niņo of the century").

Fig.12: Global Cooling. Image courtesy ICECAP

Global Cooling

Global cooling is discussed in Zbigniew Jaworowski, where it is pointed out that none of the climate models relied upon by the IPCC had predicted this cooling e.g. Fig.6. Some members of the Russian Academy of Sciences say we may be at the start of a period like the Dalton Minimum. They estimate that the Sun's reduced activity may cause a global temperature drop of 1.5 °C by 2020.

Global cooling arising from reduced solar activity is also supported by the Space and Science Research Corporation, which strongly refutes the 2013 UN-IPCC AR5 Report. SSRC President John Casey (see video below) presents their scientific case based upon solar cycles in the book Cold Sun. There are many recent cooling examples from record low temperatures to ocean cooling. See also Global Temperatures.

Solar Irradiance and Cloud Cover

One theory is that reduced solar activity affects Earth's atmosphere which in turn creates more cloud cover. Bago and Butler found significant correlation between low (thick) cloud cover and the cosmic ray flux, and the sun's magnetic field can affect these particles. It is known that high thin cloud tends to increase earth surface temperature, whilst low thick cloud reflects solar radiation and cools the earth, but averaging the effect around the globe shows that cooling predominates. So the net effect of reduced solar activity is increased cloud cover and a cooling of the Earth surface. Conversely, during the last few decades of the 20th century, solar activity increased, cloud cover decreased (by about 0.4% per decade), and the mean global surface temperature rose (see Fig.7, Fig.8).

Bago and Butler [Astronomy and Geophysics, August 2000] conclude:

"Most of the global warming of the twentieth century can be quantitatively explained by the combined direct (irradiance) and indirect (cosmic ray induced low cloud) effects of solar activity. Similarly, we find the lower level of solar activity in the Maunder Minimum predicts an increase in the low cloud factor that gives rise to an increased albedo for the Earth and lower global temperatures."

To counter the solar irradiance theory, a UK Met Office study claims that:

"... although solar output is likely to reduce over the next 90 years this will not substantially delay expected increases in global temperatures caused by greenhouse gases. The study found that the expected decrease in solar activity would only most likely cause a reduction in global temperatures of 0.08 °C. This compares to an expected warming of about 2.5 °C over the same period due to greenhouse gases (according to the IPCC B2 scenario). In addition the study also showed that if solar output reduced below that seen in the Maunder Minimum - a period between 1645 and 1715 when solar activity was at its lowest observed level - the global temperature reduction would be 0.13C." [UK Met Office, Jan 2012].

Kinky Jet Streams!

The polar jet stream is a high-altitude air current that separates low-pressure Arctic air (the polar vortex) from warmer, high-pressure air to the south. It is this temperature contrast that generates most of the energy of the jet stream and a high contrast generates a strong west-east flow of air circulating in northern latitudes. But over recent decades the Arctic has warmed faster than lower latitudes and the pressure gradient has decreased. One theory is that this has caused the jet stream to weaken and slowly meander, resulting in huge kinks in the jet stream, link. For example, Arctic air can be brought far south, or warm air can be transported into northern latitudes.

Low solar irradiance can also form giant kinks in jetstreams, affecting northern Europe in particular. Conversely, analysis of the cloud cover reduction during the last decades of the 20th century suggested poleward shifts of the jet streams in both hemispheres. Whatever the cause, erratic jet streams can cause extreme and persistent (long-lasting) weather events.

A Wobbly Earth

Another cause of extreme temperatures (both hot and cold) could arise if the 'normal' wobble on earth's axis increased and became erratic. For example, an increase from the nominal 23.5 degree tilt to 24 degrees could give hotter summers and colder winters, link. Is this happening? NASA sees an increase in tilt wobble arising from both melting arctic ice sheets (Greenland) and from water depletion in Eurasia (the Indian subcontinent and the Caspian Sea area). This gives the spinning earth a 'nudge' and increases its wobble (like a nudge gives to a spinning top). More at A Wobbly Earth.

Conspiracy Theories

Noting the extremely small contribution to greenhouse gases from human activity (just 0.28%), the poor correlation between temperature and CO2, the non-causality between CO2 and temperature, the significant correlation of solar irradiance with temperature, recent global cooling, and unconvincing IPCC climate model predictions - then the alarmist reports from the IPCC appear questionable. And the fact that these reports are accepted by the UN, EU, WTO and national bureaucracies as the basis of long-term political and economic decisions has led many to cry 'conspiracy'. They claim that the flawed concept of anthropogenic warming is being used by climate change talks to raise taxes and to bring about one-world government. Western governments now charge a climate change levy (CCL) (tax) on taxable commodities such as electricity, natural gas, liquid petroleum gas (LPG), coal and coal products. This adds an unnecessary burden on industry, commerce and agriculture:

In other words, they claim there is an agenda behind all IPCC reports. Many are now referring to this as Climategate. But is there an even larger agenda - God's agenda?