Solar Flares and Global Warming - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

Solar Flares and Global Warming

Question:

I was wondering if the 11 year cycle of solar flares (which will supposedly peak again in 2011) might have anything to do with warming the earth? I have heard that it played a role in hurricane frequency.  Personally, I do not believe in Global Warming at all.

Answer:
 
I am not an "alarmist" when it comes to global warming (G/W) ... but I
take my "weathercaster hat" off and put on my "climatologist hat" to
suggest that there is fairly strong evidence that the planet has warmed
recently ... especially over the past 30-40 years.  I'd say that we are
about 95% sure (maybe even close to 99%) that the planet is warmer now
than it was in the 1970s.
 
I greatly prefer to label global warming as climate change.
 
Based on all the media attention and political impact, the QUESTION
should be: "how much of that warming is human-made?" While
many scientists are convinced that most of the recent warming is the
result of human activities, I am not convinced that "we" are the sole,
or even primary, culprit.  More importantly, I do not think we have
enough skill to determine what percentage of the recent "warming" is
natural vs. human-generated.
 
But do we figure in?  Very likely, almost a certainty!
 
Keep in mind that the climate is "changed" by more than just carbon
dioxide. Every time we turn a forest into a pasture ... or a field into
a WalMart shopping complex .. we are changing the local climate.  Change
enough local climates and you change the regional climate ... so on and
so on.
 
Yes, plenty of reasons to believe that humans are a part of the G/W
equation ... but I remain unclear on how BIG a part of the formula.
 
As for sunspots/solar activity ... I agree that MUCH more needs to be
done here, and the sun continues to be one of the big potential
contributors to our ever-changing climate.  Now, to be honest, there's
pretty good evidence that the added energy emitted by a "flare-active"
sun is not enough to account for all of the recent warming, but climate
science is still a very "young" science, and I do not believe that we
have a sufficient degree of understanding about all the "feedbacks" and
"interactions" that changing solar loads can have on the earth-energy
system.
 
Other factors include a somewhat weak understanding of the roles of
clouds, water vapor (Mother Nature's GREATEST greenhouse gas by far!),
and atmospheric particulates, which a recent NASA study suggests has
been steadily decreasing sicne the early 1990s (less "dust" could mean
more sunshine getting to the earth's surface).  And there is even a
recent controversial study that suggests that increased sunshine
actually reduces overall cloud cover!!  Although hotly debated, if this
proves true that will really shake things up!
 
As for our recent run-up of hurricane activity since the mid-1990s --
this too is HOTLY debated as to whether it is a result of global warming
or part of a 30-70 year cycle related to large scale ocean temperatures
and circulation patterns.  Many today are saying that it is some of
both!  I am far more oriented to the cyclic-pattern explanation, with
our ever-improving monitoring skills also playing a role in the
hyper-activity of the past dozen years.
 
I could go on for while, but I'll let you digest the above!

Jay Grymes
Chief Meteorologist
WAFB Storm Team

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