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18 New Papers Link High Solar Activity to Warm Eras, Low Solar Activity to Cooling Periods

Written by Kenneth Richard

“It is generally accepted that the climate warms during periods of strong solar activity (e.g., the Medieval Warm Period) and cools during periods of low solar activity (e.g., the Little Ice Age).” —Lyu et al., 2016

Within the last 1,000 years, global-scale surface temperatures underwent a warm period during Medieval times, centennial-scale cooling during the 14th to 19th centuries, and another warm period since the early 20th century.   According to scientists publishing in the peer-reviewed scientific literature within the last several months (2016), these long-term thermal changes are well correlated with long-term variations in solar activity, namely the Medieval Solar Maximum (Medieval Warm Period), Spörer, Maunder and Dalton Minimums (Little Ice Age), andModern Grand Maximum (20th Century).   Scientists Zharkova and colleagues (2015) provide a cogent summary with a user-friendly graphic denoting the solar changes and their correspondence with warming and cooling trends.

Zharkova et al., 2015

“The longest direct observation of solar activity is the 400-year sunspot-number series, which depicts a dramatic contrast between the almost spotless Maunder and Dalton minima, andthe period of very high activity in the most recent 5 cycles [1950s – 2000s], prior to cycle 24. … The records show that solar activity in the current cycle 24 is much lower than in the previous three cycles 21–23 revealing more than a two-year minimum period between cycles 23 and 24. This reduced activity in cycle 24 was very surprising because the previous five cycles were extremely active and sunspot productive forming the Modern Maximum.   We predict correctly many features from the past, such as: 1) an increase in solar activity during the Medieval Warm period; 2) a clear decrease in the activity during the Little Ice Age, the Maunder Minimum and the Dalton Minimum; 3) an increase in solar activity during a modern maximum in 20th century.”


Usoskin et al., 2016

“The corrected series is provided as supplementary material in electronic form and displays secular minima around 1800 (Dalton Minimum) and 1900 (Gleissberg Minimum), as well as the Modern Grand Maximum of [solar] activity in the second half of the twentieth century. The uniqueness of the grand maximum is confirmed for the last 250 years.”

Usoskin et al., 2014

[T]he modern Grand maximum (which occurred during solar cycles 19–23, i.e., 1950–2009) was a rare or even unique event, in both magnitude and duration, in the past three millennia. Except for these extreme cases, our reconstruction otherwise reveals that solar activity is well confined within a relatively narrow range.”


Below is a list of 18 peer-reviewed papers published in 2016 that support the position that changes in solar activity are well correlated with warming and cooling periods for the last millennium.

Sanchez-Sesma, 2016

Solar activity (SA) has non-linear characteristics that influence multiple scales in solar processes (Vlahos and Georgoulis, 2004). For instance, millennia-scale solar oscillations have been recently detected, like those of about 6000 and 2400 years, by Xapsos and Burke (2009) and Charvátová (2000), respectively, with important and interesting influences in the near, past and future climate. These millennialscale patterns of reconstructed SA [solar activity]variability could justify epochs of low activity, such as the Maunder minimum [Little Ice Age cooling], as well as epochs of enhanced [solar] activity, such as the current Modern Maximum[20th century warming], and the Medieval maximum [Medieval Warm Period] in the 12th century.  … We can conclude that the evidence provided is sufficient to justify a complete updating and reviewing of present climate models to better consider these detected natural recurrences and lags in solar processes.”

Miettinen et al., 2016

“The results demonstrate both abrupt changes and a clear centennial-bicentennial variability for the last millennium. The Medieval Climate Anomaly (MCA) between 1000 and 1200 CE represents the warmest ocean surface conditions of the SE Greenland shelf over the late Holocene (880 BCE-1910 CE). MCA in the current record is characterized by abrupt, decadal to multidecadal changes, such as an abrupt warming of ~2.4 °C in 55 years around 1000 CE. [0,5 Temperature changes of these magnitudes are rarely observed in other proxy records from the North Atlantic. … A cool phase, from 1200-1890 CE, associated with the Little Ice Age (LIA), ends with the rapid warming of aSST and diminished aSIC in the early 20th century. The phases of warm aSST and aSIC minima on the SE Greenland shelf and solar minima of the last millennium are antiphased, suggesting that solar forcing possibly amplified by atmospheric forcing has been behind the aSST variability on the SE Greenland over the last millennium.”

Lyu et al., 2016

“The reconstructed April–July MMT series exhibited six cold and seven warm periods. The longest cold period lasted from AD 1645 to 1677 (33 years), with an average temperature of 0.5 ◦C below the mean value.The longest warm period, however, lasted from AD 1767 to 1785 (19 years), and the average temperature was 0.69 ◦C above the mean value (Table 4). Four cold (1605–1616, 1645–1677, 1911–1924, and 1951–1969) and warm (1795–1807, 1838– 1848, 1856–1873, and 1991–2008) periods were consistent with other results of tree-ring reconstructions in northeast China (Shao and Wu, 1997; Yin et al., 2009; Wang et al., 2012; Zhu et al., 2015). In addition, two cold periods (1645– 1677 and 1684–1691) were consistent with the Maunder Minimum (1645–1715), an interval of decreased solar irradiance (Bard et al., 2000). … The three temperature series exhibited significantly low temperature periods during the 1950s–1970s, which coincided with a slight decrease in solar activity from AD 1940 to 1970 (Beer et al., 2000; Fig. 7).”

“[P]revious studies suggest that climate change in northeast China was also linked to the solar activities and global land–sea atmospheric circulation during certain pre-instrumental periods (Chen et al., 2006; Wang et al., 2011; Liu et al., 2013). It is generally accepted that the climate warms during periods of strong solar activity (e.g., the Medieval Warm Period) and cools during periods of low solar activity (e.g., the Little Ice Age; Lean and Rind, 1999; Bond et al., 2001).”

Zhu et al., 2016

“During the period 1875–1955, late summer temperature fluctuated less strongly than before or thereafter. In general, the average length of cold periods was shorter than that of warm periods. The cold period of 1869–1877 was the longest and coldest cool period had a mean of 17.63°C. The longest warm period extended from 1655 to 1668, and the warmest period in AD 1719–1730 had a mean of 20.37°C. However, we should point out that the rapid warming during the 20th century was not especially obvious in our reconstructed RLST.”

[S]even cold periods and three warm periods were identified during the past 368 years (Fig. 4d). All the cold periods were during the Maunder (1708–1711) or Dalton (1818– 1821, 1824–1828, 1832–1836, and 1839–1842) solar minima periods, except for the cold periods of 1765–1769 and 1869–1877 (Eddy, 1976; Shindell et al., 1999), which indicated that RLST [mean maximum temperature] variations in the NWSP [northwestern Sichuan Plateau, China ] might be driven by solar activity.  … Warm periods of 1719–1730 and 1858–1859 both had more sunspots (Eddy, 1976; Shindell et al., 1999) and lower volcanic forcing (Fig. 7b).”

[S]ignificant multidecadal- and centennial-scale cycles of our temperature reconstruction might include the signs of solar activity, such as the Gleissberg cycles (Peristykh and Damon, 2003), Suess cycles (Braun et al., 2005), Bruckner cycles (Raspopov et al., 2004), and Schwabe cycles (Braun et al., 2005). The Maunder (ca. AD 1645–1715) and Dalton (ca. AD 1790–1840) solar minima periods were generally associated with temperature depressions (Eddy, 1976), and the Damon (ca. AD 1890– 1920) solar maximum period occurred in a relatively warm period, which further confirmed that late summer temperature variation in the NWSP [northwestern Sichuan Plateau, China ] might be driven by solar activity (Fig. 7b).”


Sanchez-Lopez et al., 2016

The dominant warm and arid conditions during the MCA [Medieval Climate Anomaly, 900-1300  CE], and the cold and wet conditions during the LIA [Little Ice Age, 1300-1850 CE] indicate the interplay of the NAO+, EA+ and NAO- , EA- [positive/negative North Atlantic Oscillation, East Atlantic phases], respectively. Furthermore, the higher solar irradiance during the [“warm conditions”] RP [Roman Period, 200 BCE – 500 CE] and MCA [Medieval Climate Anomaly, 900-1300 CE] may support the predominance of the EA+ [positive East Atlantic] phase, whereas the opposite scenario [“colder temperatures”] during the EMA [Early Middle Age, 500-900 CE] and LIA [Little Ice Age, 1300-1850 CE] may support the predominance of the EA- [negative East Atlantic] phase, which would favour the occurrence of frequent and persistent blocking events in the Atlantic region during these periods.”


Chambers, 2016

“The so-called ‘Little Ice Age’ (LIA) of the 15th–19th centuries [1400-1900 AD] is a fascinating period of time, for many reasons. … [I]t includes evidence for glacier re-advance – in northern Europe, particularly, to positions not otherwise (or seldom) reached within the mid–late Holocene (McCarroll, 1991; Matthews and Shakesby, 1984; Nesje, 2009) … [I]t follows the Medieval Climate Anomaly (MCA) and precedes the period of recent ‘Global Warming’, and therefore, it post-dates the Medieval Solar Maximum, encompasses up to three solar minima (Spörer, Maunder and Dalton) (Grove, 1988), and precedes the ‘Contemporary’ (namely, late 20th century) Solar Maximum (Hoyt and Schatten, 1997; Pan and Yau, 2002); (4) there are multiple hypotheses as to the cause of its onset (cf. Miller et al., 2012), although it is widely considered that reduced solar activity is the cause of at least its most intense phases (cf. Mauquoy et al., 2002) …. [R]ecent work implies an in-phase relationship between the Southern and Northern Hemispheres [the Little Ice Age was global in extent] (Chambers et al., 2014; Simms et al., 2012).”

Voarintsoa et al., 2016

Multiple proxies … from Dante Cave [southwestern Africa] indicate a linkage between changes in hydroclimate in northeastern Namibia and changes in solar activity and changes in global temperatures. The record suggests that during solar minima and globally cooler conditions (ca. 1660–1710 and ca. 1790–1830 [Little Ice Age]), wetter periods (reflecting longer summer seasons) in northeastern Namibia were linked to advances of the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) and the Inter-Ocean Convergence Zone (IOCZ) southwestward.”

Gogou et al., 2016

“We provide new evidence on sea surface temperature (SST) variations and paleoceanographic/paleoenvironmental changes over the past 1500 years for the north Aegean Sea (NE Mediterranean). …  Reconstructed SSTs show an increase from ca. 850 to 950 AD and from ca. 1100 to 1300 AD [Medieval Warm Period]. A cooling phase of almost 1.5 °C is observed from ca. 1600 AD to 1700 AD [Little Ice Age]. This seems to have been the starting point of a continuous SST warming trend until the end of the reconstructed period, interrupted by two prominent cooling events at 1832 ± 15 AD and 1995 ± 1 AD. … Internal variability in atmospheric/oceanic circulations systems as well as external forcing such as solar radiation and volcanic activity could have affected temperature variations in the north Aegean Sea over the past 1500 years. The marked temperature drop of approximately ∼2 °C at 1832 ± 15 yr AD could be related to the 1809 ΑD ‘unknown’ and the 1815 AD Tambora volcanic eruptions.”

Andres, 2016

“Reconstructions of historical climate changes indicate that surface air temperatures decreased over the preindustrial last millennium. Conflicting explanations have been proposed for the cause of the transition from the Medieval Climate Anomaly (MCA) in the early part of the last millennium to the Little Ice Age (LIA) near its end. The possible causes include volcanic emissions, total solar irradiance (TSI) variations, greenhouse gas concentration fluctuations and orbital forcing variations. In the present paper, we demonstrate that all of these climate forcings contribute significantly to simulated surface air temperature and sea ice concentration changes over this period. On the other hand, simulated ocean heat content appears to respond significantly only to volcanic and TSI [total solar irradiance] variations.   In simulations at T85 resolution, TSI [total solar irradiance] reductions and volcanic emissions together generate significant increases in sea ice extent in the Barents Sea, which we find to be responsible for most of the temperature reductions over north-western Europe.”

Bauchi Danladi and Akçer-Ön, 2016

Due to the variability of the Little Ice Age (LIA) and Medieval Climatic Anomaly (MCA), several climatic forcing mechanisms have been invoked to enlighten the issue. The focus of this study is on the influence of the solar activity proxy (Total Solar Irradiance) during the LIA and MCA in a high altitude Lake Salda in south-western Anatolia.  … [T]he sediment records cover the last millennium. We have observed the effect of the solar activity throughout the LIA and MCA in Lake Salda, with wet and dry spells corresponding to high and low TSI respectively. In addition, the Dalton Minimum, Maunder Minimum, Spörer Minimum, Wolf Minimum, the Medieval Maximum and the Oort Minimum have been observed.”

Li et al., 2016

“Our results support the view that over the past millennium, on a multi-centennial timescale, the moisture variations in ACA [arid Central Asia] were generally out-of-phase with those in the region affected by the Asian summer monsoon. The humid, unstable LIA [Little Ice Age] climate in ACA [arid Central Asia] may have been associated with changes in the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) index and/or with variations in solar irradiance.”

Chae and Park, 2016

“We present a multi-proxy record (pollen, microscopic charcoal, carbon-isotopic composition [δ13C], organic content, and particle size) of the late-Holocene climate change and human impact from central-eastern South Korea. The Medieval Climate Anomaly (MCA) and Little Ice Age (LIA), the most recent major climate events, have not been accurately investigated by paleolimnological studies in Korea, mainly due to a lack of undisturbed sediments and indifference to the past climate change. Our pollen records show late- Holocene centennial climate variations characterized by the successive solar minimums of the Oort, Wolf, Spörer, Maunder, and Dalton. We find paleoenvironmental evidence for shifting cultivation associated with serious droughts and consequent famines during the early 19th-century Dalton minimum. Our interpretation of human activities is well supported by Korean historical documents describing socioeconomic suffering induced by LIA climate deteriorations [cooling].”

Xing et al., 2016

“The comparison between MDVM reconstructed temperature and the variation of external forcing (solar activity and volcanic activity) is shown in Fig. 5. The smoothed MDVM reconstruction exhibited a general agreement with the variation of the reconstructed total solar irradiance (TSI), and the correlation between the two series during the common period 849–2000 AD was significant (r = 0.498, edf = 34, p<0.01). Specially, the records shared high correlation coefficients in the epochs of the solar maximum (i.e. during the Medieval and Modern age), but poor correlation around 1500–1700 AD when the Spörer Minimum and Maunder Minimum occurred. It was similar to some other dendrochronological researches concerning the relation with solar activity. The relatively cold conditions between the two warm peaks around AD 1000 and 1100 seemed to be related to the Oort Minimum. …. Therefore, the temperature reconstructions based on the MDVM method agreed well in general with the characteristic variations of the solar and volcanic forcings.”

“It is quite plausible that the long-term climate variations in the past millennium have been largely linked to the periodical solar activity …According to mainstream opinions, the LIA type events were probably attributed to a combination of solar minima and volcanic eruptions.”

Hanna, 2016

“Temperature reconstructions from Simpson Lagoon also show similarities with regional and pan-Arctic climate records over the last few millennia, with evidence of temperature departures correlative with noted climate events (i.e., Little Ice Age, Medieval Climate Anomaly). In addition, temporal variability in sediment sourcing to the lagoon, determined using a multi-proxy approach (i.e., granulometry, elemental analysis, clay mineralogy), broadly corresponds with temperature fluctuations, indicating relative increases in fluvial sediment discharge during colder intervals and decreased river discharge/increased coastal erosion during warmer periods. This paleoclimate variability may be driven by variations in solar output and/or shifts in the regional ocean-atmosphere circulation patterns (e.g., the Aleutian Low).”

Weißbach et al., 2016

“Compared to single records, this stack represents the mean δ18O signal for northern Greenland that is interpreted as proxy for temperature. Our northern Greenland δ18O stack indicates distinctly enriched [warm]δ18O values during medieval times, about AD 1420 ± 20 and from AD 1870 onwards. The period between AD 1420 and AD 1850 has depleted [cold] δ18O values compared to the average for the entire millennium and represents the Little Ice Age. The δ18O values of the 20th century are comparable to the medieval period but are lower than that about AD 1420.  …. The solar activity and internal Arctic climate dynamics are likely the main factors influencing the temperature in northern Greenland.”

Camenisch et al., 2016

“Climate reconstructions from a multitude of natural and human archives indicate that, during winter, the period of the early Spörer Minimum (1431–1440 CE) was the coldest decade in Central Europe in the 15th century. The particularly cold winters and normal but wet summers resulted in a strong seasonal cycle that challenged food production and led to increasing food prices, a subsistence crisis, and a famine in parts of Europe. As a consequence, authorities implemented adaptation measures, such as the installation of grain storage capacities, in order to be prepared for future events. The 15th century is characterised by a grand solar minimum and enhanced volcanic activity, which both imply a reduction of seasonality.”

Yndestad and Solheim, 2016

“In 1890´s G. Spörer and E. W. Maunder (1890) reported that the solar activity stopped in a period of 70 years from 1645 to 1715. Later a reconstruction of the solar activity confirms the grand minima Maunder (1640-1720), Spörer (1390-1550), Wolf (1270-1340), and the minima Oort (1010-1070) and Dalton (1785-1810) since the year 1000 A.D. (Usoskin et al. 2007). These minimum periods have been associated with less irradiation from the Sun and cold climate periods on Earth. An identification of a three grand Maunder type periods and two Dalton type periods in a period thousand years, indicates that sooner or later there will be a colder climate on Earth from a new Maunder- or Dalton- type period. …. The result shows that the TSI variability and the sunspots variability have deterministic oscillations, controlled by the large planets Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune, as the first cause. A deterministic model of TSI variability and sunspot variability confirms the known minimum and grand minimum periods since 1000. From this deterministic model we may expect a new Maunder type sunspot minimum period from about 2018 to 2055. The deterministic model of a TSI ACRIM data series from 1700 computes a new Maunder type grand minimum period from 2015 to 2071. A model of the longer TSI ACRIM data series from 1000 computes a new Dalton to Maunder type minimum irradiation period from 2047 to 2068.”

Büntgen et al., 2016

“Climatic changes during the first half of the Common Era have been suggested to play a role in societal reorganizations in Europe and Asia. In particular, the sixth century coincides with rising and falling civilizations, pandemics, human migration and political turmoil.… Here we use tree-ring chronologies from the Russian Altai and European Alps to reconstruct summer temperatures over the past two millennia. We find an unprecedented, long-lasting and spatially synchronized cooling following a cluster of large volcanic eruptions in 536, 540 and 547 AD, which was probably sustained by ocean and sea-ice feedbacks, as well as a solar minimum. We thus identify the interval from 536 to about 660 AD as the Late Antique Little Ice Age.”

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