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.
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.