National Post’s Lawrence Solomon touts global cooling, part 2: Meandering towards Maunder

Few columnists writing about climate science are as brazen in their open contempt for the truth as Lawrence Solomon, as I showed in my analysis of  Solomon’s recent musings about Arctic sea ice.

But the second half of that article, Solomon outdoes even his own dismal record, as he takes on a New Scientist article describing new research that posits a link between declining solar activity and colder Northern European winters over the coming decades. That research is held by Solomon to be evidence that “Earth could be in for a period of global cooling”.  Yet a cursory examination of the New Scientist article and the research paper it is based on, shows clearly that the phenomenon is a strictly regional and seasonal one, with little import for hemispheric or global temperature trends.

Here’s how Solomon segues from the Arctic to northern Europe:

The expansion of the Arctic ice also acts to support a growing number of reports that Earth could be in for a period of global cooling. In one recent example, on April 14 New Scientist in an article entitled “Quiet Sun Puts Europe on Ice” warned its readers as follows: “BRACE yourself for more winters like the last one, northern Europe. Freezing conditions could become more likely: winter temperatures may even plummet to depths last seen at the end of the 17th century, a time known as the Little Ice Age. That’s the message from a new study that identifies a compelling link between solar activity and winter temperatures in northern Europe.”

The quote is accurate of course; it’s right at the beginning of the New Scientist article (written by Stuart Clark and published April 14). But careful readers might smell a rat in the cavalier marshalling of a possible regional trend as evidence of  coming “global cooling”. Sure enough, here is some of what Solomon left out, namely the comments from lead researcher Mike Lockwood:

The effects of the sun on the stratosphere are not global, says Lockwood. “They change the way the atmospheric energy is distributed around the world rather than change the total amount of energy being put into it.”

But that doesn’t mean much to Solomon, apparently, who even claims that the New Scientist has abandoned its support the scientific case for anthropogenic global warming!

New Scientist, a widely respected magazine that until recently had blamed human activity for the global warming, is now advising its readers that climate scientists may have had their blinders on in ignoring a dominant role for the Sun. New research, the article explains, “is helping to overcome a long-standing reticence among climate scientists to tackle the influence of solar cycles on the climate and weather.”

Yet in the accompanying sidebar, New Scientist demolishes many of the common “skeptic” talking points concerning the solar influence. For example:

Sunspots: People have tried to link the number of sunspots during the 20th century with rising global temperatures. But average sunspot numbers have been dropping since the 1990s. Global mean temperatures, meanwhile, have risen over the same period.

The bottom line for solar influence on global climate?

Since about 1985, all the solar factors that could have warmed the climate have been going in the wrong direction, says Lockwood. “If they were really a big factor we would have cooling by now.”

I’ll say one thing for Solomon though. Unlike, say, Lorne Gunter (whose scatter gun discussion of global cooling sent me  through a maze of Morano press releases and various blogs and misinterpreted papers), Solomon gives the exact sources.  In this case, the underlying research is from Are cold winters in Europe associated with low solar activity? by Lockwood et al (IOP Environmental Research Letters, 5 (2010) 024001).

I wonder, though, if Solomon bothered to even read the abstract, as it gives away the game:

We show that cold winter excursions from the hemispheric trend occur more commonly in the UK during low solar activity, consistent with the solar influence on the occurrence of persistent blocking events in the eastern Atlantic. We stress that this is a regional and seasonal effect relating to European winters and not a global effect. [emphasis added] Average solar activity has declined rapidly since 1985 and cosmogenic isotopes suggest an 8% chance of a return to Maunder minimum conditions within the next 50 years … [T]he results presented here indicate that, despite hemispheric warming, the UK and Europe could experience more cold winters than during recent decades. [Emphasis added]

That suggests something of a quibble with the New Scientist version; in fact, nowhere do Lockwood et al posit that temperatures would return to those of the late 17th century, even in the unlikely event of  “Maunder minimum conditions”. Indeed, that is unlikely since any regional “excursion” presumably would be from a higher hemispheric trend.

Still the overarching point here is that once again Lawrence Solomon has misrepresented climate science. And you can add Mike Lockwood to the long list of scientists whose work has been distorted by Solomon in the pages of the National Post.

The target of the Solomon’s most egregious mischaracterization of scientists’ research and views was astrophysicist Nigel Weiss, who had to threaten a law suit against the Post to obtain a retraction of Solomon’s article.

Apparently that’s the only way to make the Post do the right thing, as Solomon knows all too well.


12 responses to “National Post’s Lawrence Solomon touts global cooling, part 2: Meandering towards Maunder

  1. “Sunspots: People have tried to link the number of sunspots during the 20th century with rising global temperatures. But average sunspot numbers have been dropping since the 1990s. Global mean temperatures, meanwhile, have risen over the same period.”

    Actually there has been no significant change in global mean temps since about 1995. Which does still suggest sunspot changes are not relevant.

  2. Robert Murphy

    “Actually there has been no significant change in global mean temps since about 1995.”

    Sure there has. The trend since then has been a warming of about .12 C/decade. The ten warmest years on record after 1995, with this current year possibly being the warmest.

    I know you are just using the denialist talking points where Jones’ answer to the question about the statistical significance of the trend from 1995-2009 was distorted to mean there has been no warming, but please, that nonsense has been refuted so many times you surely know better. If the questioner had chosen 1994-2009, the trend would have been the same and it would have been *statistically significant*. The question was the very definition of cherry picking.

    Statistical significance is an arbitrary threshold at any rate.

  3. Punksta,

    Why do you choose 1995 and not 1994? Do you understand what significant means? If so, are you being purposefully misleading? Choosing 1994 or earlier DOES result in a statistically significant change.

    Global mean temps have risen and are still rising even with a “weak sun” the last several years. The 2000s were the warmest decade in the last 2000 years and each of the last three decades has been warmer than the one before. 2010 is likely to set a new record.

    The evidence for warming is everywhere.

    See: Modern Day Climate Change

    Scott A. Mandia, Professor of Physical Sciences
    Selden, NY
    Global Warming: Man or Myth?
    My Global Warming Blog
    Twitter: AGW_Prof
    “Global Warming Fact of the Day” Facebook Group

  4. Punksta,

    It looks like you missed my previous posts on the “no statistically significant warming since 1995” talking point, as seen here and here.

    Also note that the GISS record, the only surface record to include Arctic temperature estimates in the analysis, shows 0.15C per decade trend since 1995, with 98% statistical significance.

    And if 2010 is only just as warm as 2009, a new starting point will have to be cherrypicked even for the HadCRU data set.

  5. @DeepClimate,
    There’s a paper you might want to cite to strengthen your conclusions about the effects of a Maunder minimum in the 21th century:
    Feulner , G. and S. Rahmstorf (2010), On the effect of a new grand minimum of solar activity on the future climate on Earth, Geophys. Res. Lett., 37, L05707, doi:10.1029/2010GL042710
    PDF here:

    • Here’s the abstract:

      The current exceptionally long minimum of solar activity has led to the suggestion that the Sun might experience a new grand minimum in the next decades, a prolonged period of low activity similar to the Maunder minimum in the late 17th century. The Maunder minimum is connected to the Little Ice Age, a time of markedly lower temperatures, in particular in the Northern hemisphere. Here we use a coupled climate model to explore the effect of a 21st‐century grand minimum on future global temperatures, finding a moderate temperature offset of no more than −0.3°C in the year 2100 relative to a scenario with solar activity similar to recent decades. This temperature decrease is much smaller than the warming expected from anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions by the end of the century.

  6. 2 questionable denier talks at GeoCanada 2010 this week.

    If you attend the meeting, please visit the session an ask critical questions.

    Info here:

    [DC: FWIW, this had to be rescued from the spam filter. ]

  7. This alarmist denialism – ie the pretence that temperatures haven’t levelled out in the last decade or so – is plainly absurd.

    [DC: The “global warming has stopped” talking poiint has been debunked over and over again, (along with related variants such as “no since statistically significant warming” since the earliest possible cherrypicked date.]

    What interests me me is why you do it. Totalitarian political objectives – ie justification for massive tax and bureaucracy increases? Grant farming for government climate science? What?

    [DC: This says more about your motivation than mine, or that of the scientists, quite frankly. Indeed, much of the relentless attack on climate science can be traced to an ideologically based refusal to accept that a strong policy response to anthropogenic climate change is required.

    I’m going to accord myself the last word on these talking points. So no more off this nonsense, please. Thanks!]

  8. DC,

    This obsession that the denialists have with an alleged imminent Maunder like minimum is odd in view of the facts. This from NASA (released in June 2009):

    “The current solar minimum has been so long and deep, it prompted some scientists to speculate that the sun might enter a long period with no sunspot activity at all, akin to the Maunder Minimum of the 17th century. This new result dispells those concerns. The sun’s internal magnetic dynamo is still operating, and the sunspot cycle is not “broken.” “


    1) It appears that we are not about to enter a Maunder-like min., this is evidenced by the resurgence of solar activity in recent months,
    2) And even if we did, the Feulner and Rahmstorf paper shows the impacts of such a solar min. on global SATs to be of little consequence.

  9. [DC: Deleted – Off topic and misleading references and links.]

  10. [DC: If you want to comment here, you can start by not misrepresenting my reasons for deletion of a particular comment. Please read the comment policy carefully and make sure your comments are on topic and do not link to highly misleading material.

    I make no apology for my comment policy, which attempts to strike a balance between allowing reasonable conversation and preventing discussions from wandering off into unproductive directions. If you prefer a blog where one may comment without regard for relevance or factual content, may I suggest Roger Pielke’s blog. Thanks! ]

  11. The sheer “make-stuff-up” factor in ‘skeptical journalism’ no longer surprises me … sadly.

    Thank you for keeping a skeptical eye on the skeptics.