Thursday, November 04, 2010

It's not the sun It's not the Sun overheating the planets The Sun is

I like reading the science section of "The Register". It's a British newspaper. The science writers are enthusiastic and have a good sense of humor. You'll see me post the occasional link to an article there. But they're not without their biases.

They're global warming deniers. Or, rather, they deny the human factor whenever possible. The fact of global warming can only be denied by Flat Earthers and the like. They publish research that casts doubt on global warming, but never publish the articles that debunk the doubters.

I'll go ahead and post the article before I discuss it. [the article]

The short version is that they think the Sun is responsible for global warming. Or, rather, increased energy output along certain wavelengths is responsible for warmer weather in recent years. Towards the end of the article they do start to equivocate. They try to say that these changes are just as responsible as increased CO2 in the atmosphere.

Then they say they have to have their study verified. This is a bad sign. Their research hasn't been peer reviewed or submitted to any science journals. They went straight to the press. This type of behavior from people claiming to be scientists generally indicates that they have an agenda and need to convince the public quick since real scientists will gut their findings.

I'm just an arm chair scientist, but even I learned their new discoveries about solar energy production relative to sunspots back in high school. Freshman year, I think. The energy fluctuation over the course of the cycle is only 1/10th of 1%. And there is a fluctuation of what frequencies the energy is produced along. At the peak of sunspot activity we have to shut down a lot of our satellites to protect them from bursts of certain types of radiation. It gets bad enough that it's been known to knock out the power grid for large parts of the country. If you used rabbit ears on your TV as a kid you may remember periods where your reception when straight to hell for the same reason. But when the sunspots go away energy is released in other ways.

Solar activity has an 11 year cycle. As the article hints, we are just leaving the low sunspot period of activity for a period of higher activity. Winter of 2012 should be good for northern lights. But if the solar cycle had that kind of impact on global climate we'd see it in tree rings and have a few hundred years of records indicating a similar cycle in temperature, rainfall, and crop quality. We don't have any of that.

What this article seems to be doing is trying to support an idea that's become popular in circles hostile to human caused global warming. They see evidence of warming on a few other planets in the Solar System and claim that it must be the Sun doing it.

There's a one rather obvious problem with the idea that the Sun is suddenly warming Earth, Mars, Pluto, and a moon around Neptune more than normal, but not other planets and moons. So I'm not getting into that one.

But the amount of energy in an area drops as you get away from it's source consistent with the Inverse Square Law. What this means is that if you're 1,000 miles from the Sun (or any energy source) and get all the energy you need from a solar panel 1ft on each side then when you're 2,000 miles you'll need a solar panel 2ft on each side. That means your solar panel is 4 times as big. At 3,000 miles you'll need a solar panel 3ft on each side. That'd make it 9 times the size of your original solar panel. And at 4,000 miles, 4ft on each side and 16 times the size of the original. You follow?

So, if the changes on Pluto are due to increased solar radiation of any frequency then Earth would be little more than a smoldering cinder. If the Sun were responsible for this amount of warming on Earth it wouldn't be noticeable on Triton.

Again, I like The Register's science section for the most part. But just like with any news outlet you have to read with a certain amount skepticism. Trust but verify and all that rot.

This article I just couldn't let pass without comment.

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