Watt about another Maunder Minimum?

There’s a recent post on Watts Up With That (WUWT) which seems to simply be a copy of a BBC blog post by Paul Hudson. The blog post is titled Real risk of a Mauder Minimum “Little Ice Age” says leading scientist. The BBC blog post refers to the work of Mike Lockwood from the University of Reading. A few years ago, Mike Lockwood suggested there was about an 8% chance that the Sun was returning to Maunder Minimum-like conditions. He’s now, apparently, upped that to between 20-30%.

The BBC blog post comments that

And a repeat of the Dalton solar minimum which occurred in the early 1800s, which also had its fair share of cold winters and poor summers, is, according to him, ‘more likely than not’ to happen.

He believes that we are already beginning to see a change in our climate – witness the colder winters and poor summers of recent years – and that over the next few decades there could be a slide to a new Maunder minimum.

So, the article appears to be implying that we might be heading towards a new “Little Ice Age”. Now this is a little odd as I’ve read some of Mike Lockwood’s papers and that’s not what I would have expected him to be proposing. While writing this post, I noticed this tweet from Oliver Bothe

I haven’t actually checked Mike Lockwood’s facebook comment, but it would be surprising if it – coincidentally – was referring to something else. If we want to get a sense of what Mike Lockwood’s views are, we can look at one of his recent papers. In 2012, Mike Lockwood published a paper called Solar influence on Global and Regional Climates. In the conclusions of this paper, Mike Lockwood says

From solar-induced variations of cosmogenic isotopes over the past 104 years, Lockwood (2010) and Barnard et al. (2011) have deduced that there is an 8% chance that the Sun will return to Maunder Minimum conditions within 50 years. The recent evolution of solar cycle 24 indicates that the Sun may well be following such a trajectory (Owens et al. 2011).

Here, he suggests an 8% chance that the Sun will return to Maunder Minimum conditions within 50 years. The BBC blog post suggests that he has upped this to between 20 and 30%. Fair enough, that’s quite possible. The conclusions continue with

Feulner and Rahmstorf (2010) and Jones et al. (2012) have used GCMs and EBMs to predict that this will offset anthropogenically rising global temperatures by no more than about 0.2°C in the year 2100, relative to what would happen if the solar output remained constant. Similarly, Lean and Rind (2009) find that the solar decline would delay the arrival at a given temperature level by no more than about 5 years. Thus, these predictions show that continued solar decline will do little to alleviate anthropogenically driven global warming.

This seems to be fairly clear. The Sun returning to Maunder Minimum conditions will do little to alleviate anthropogenically driven global warming. This is actually a fairly obvious conclusion. The anthropogenic forcings by the end of the 21st century will likely be about 4 Wm-2 relative to the mid 1800s, and 2Wm-2 relative to today. The Sun returning to Maunder Minimum conditions means that solar forcing will likely be a few tenths of a Wm-2 less than today. Anthropogenic forcings will therefore be about an order of magnitude greater than solar forcings and will therefore almost certainly dominate.

Possibly, the most significant point made in the conclusions of Mike Lockwood’s paper are

However, the decline should do much to end the debate about the fraction of global warming that can be attributed to solar change. For the first time since about 1900, long-term solar and anthropogenic trends are now in opposite directions.

In other words, if the Sun returns to Maunder Minimum conditions it will become extremely clear that anthropogenic influences are dominating the warming of the climate system. So, in some sense, a return to Maunder Minimum-like conditions could help to at least make it clear that the Sun is not a significant driver of global warming. Having said that, there are many aspects of the science associated with global warming that I would argue are obvious, that many still refuse to accept. So, maybe this is more wishful thinking than anything else.

Anyway, unless Mike Lockwood has changed his mind in the last year, he doesn’t appear to be suggesting that the Sun returning to Maunder Minimum-like conditions will herald the onset of another Little Ice Age. If anything, he’s arguing that it will have very little effect and will make it much more apparent that the warming of the climate system is anthropogenic. So, it seems that even if Paul Hudson has not been completely dishonest, his article is somewhat misleading. I also found it odd that he ends with a reference to Michael Mann as being

a vociferous advocate of man-made global warming,

An advocate? Michael Mann happens to be a leading scientist who understands the science associated with global warming and can explain and present the evidence that it is almost certainly anthropogenic. Is Paul Hudson seriously suggesting that Michael Mann is just expressing his opinion about this? There is actual scientific evidence to support this.

One aspect of this that is maybe topical is that I’ve had a couple of discussions recently with people who regard the BBC as being biased (in one case, it was presented as a statement of fact). If this blog post qualifies as the BBC being balanced, then it appears to be a very strange way to do so. It appears to require that you misrepresent what a scientist is saying and then suggest that the views of other scientists is a form of advocacy, rather than a view based on the actual scientific evidence. A very strange way to introduce balance, in my opinion at least.

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18 Responses to Watt about another Maunder Minimum?

  1. See-also me: http://scienceblogs.com/stoat/2013/10/28/lockwood-hudson-beeb-maunder-sigh/

    Note the comment from Hudson and the confusion between global and regional. I think that Lockwoods facebook comments (https://www.facebook.com/MichaelMannScientist/posts/604799366242936) are at least partially responding to a distorted report of what Hudson said.

  2. OPatrick says:

    I’m not sure if Mike Lockwood has commented on this on his own facebook page or not but I think his quote comes from a discussion at Michael Mann’s page here.

  3. Marco says:

    Comments by Lockwood (and Hudson) are on Mann’s facebook here:

    You’ll have to scroll down a bit and make sure to show all replies

    The most telling response by Hudson
    “Has anyone actually read my article? It makes it very clear that the main effect would be regional. It says that most scientists believe global impact – along the lines of research my Michael mann in 2001 of 0.3c to 0.4c cooling (research I specifically link to) – would be temporary and ‘swamped’ by global warming. That element wasn’t even attributed to my interview with mike who did only discuss with me regional impacts. I added the mann research.I think you guys need to take a deep breath and calm down. Anyone point to any inaccuracies in the article do please tell me I’d he very curious to know where they are.”

    Ah yes, he added a link to Mann’s research…and pointed out he is a “a vociferous advocate of man-made global warming”. Why was that addition needed?

    Then there’s the title of the blog, which explicitely links it to the LIA, while in the blog itself making it “much of the warming since 1950”. 1950 is not the LIA. Not even close to the LIA. At the very, very best halfway to the LIA in terms of temperature.

    Paul Hudson should be a man and admit that his title doesn’t cover the content, and that the qualifier added to Mann’s name was completely unnecessary and in fact from a psychological point of view directly diminishes any trust towards the research cited – especially amongst those who do not know Mike Mann. I am in sincere doubt that this was accidental.

  4. Joshua says:

    Very interesting post, Wotts. Thanks.

    Being skeptics, I’m sure that the scientifically informed commenters at WUWT could not have missed the misleading nature of the WUWT post, and were all over this to make points similar to those you make here. After all, to do otherwise would be “skeptical” and not skeptical.

  5. OPatrick says:

    I see Paul Hudson now says:
    Speaking generally now, I do often conclude when reading reaction to some of my blogs that individuals latch on to snippets that suit them or their agenda rather than reading it objectively.

    Yes, how could it possibly be that anyone could misinterpret what he was saying? His blog is designed as a whistle to a ‘sceptic’ audience. There is no doubt at all how many of his commenters, and many more of those at WUWT, latch on to the snippets he throws out as chum.

    I do also wonder at his claim that “…global temperatures may fall enough, albeit temporarily, to eliminate much of the warming which has occurred since the 1950s.“. This seems highly improbable unless the cooling effect of the Maunder minimum happens almost instantaneously, or unless he is assuming that there will not be ongoing warming from anthropogenic sources.

  6. dana1981 says:

    Carbon Brief talked to Lockwood about the BBC article:

    I also examined the scientific literature on the effects of another solar minimum on global temps here:

    It’s really sad to see the BBC going further and further down the road of climate false balance and misinformation. I believe it was just last week they had Jo Nova on to deny the link between Australian bushfires and climate change. Leading up to the IPCC report release they had Montford, Carter, and Ridley on. They’ve been repeatedly criticized and keep defending their horrid “journalism”. The Guardian has led the way in trying to hold them accountable.

  7. Thanks Dana. The BBC really is getting it quite badly wrong at the moment. I was quite amazed by how Paul Hudson responded on Facebook. He’s adamant that he hasn’t misrepresented Mike Lockwood. It’s almost as if he thinks that as long as he correctly quotes a scientists, he has the freedom to interpret what they say any way he likes. That his article has implied something quite different to what the scientists he’s quoted would present, doesn’t seem to bother him.

  8. I’ve just had an exchange with Paul Hudson on Twitter. Didn’t end well. Anyway, Paul Hudson says

    The title of his article is Real risk of a Maunder Minimum ‘Little Ice Age’ says leading scientist.

    When asked who the “leading scientist” in the title is, Paul Hudson responds

    Unless my basic comprehension is wrong, Paul Hudson is more than implying that Mike Lockwood has claimed we’re heading for another little ice age. Mike Lockwood seems to think that he didn’t say this. It appears that Paul Hudson has clearly implied this and yet thinks he hasn’t mis-represented Mike Lockwood.

    I have a feeling that Paul Hudson is claiming that he didn’t say “the world” was heading for another LIA, only regions of the world. However, as far as I’m aware, even this mis-represents Mike Lockwood’s views.

    Here’s where I find this potentially interesting. How much should we expect journalists to correctly represent the scientific views of scientists that they base their articles on. I don’t think that journalist should have their articles approved by the scientists as that would impinge on journalistic freedom and where would you draw the line. Scientists aren’t, however, politicians and so a journalist trying to interpret what a scientist means seems odd. Unless the journalist happens to be an expert, how do they do this. The scientist is actually meant to be presenting the scientific evidence, not their opinion. So, I can see how this is a balancing act, but I still fail to see how Paul Hudson can continue to claim that he has not mis-represented Mike Lockwood and appears, now, to be suggesting that Mike Lockwood is mis-representing him.

  9. Rachel says:

    I think journalists have a responsibility to report information accurately and to correct mistakes when they are pointed out. Perhaps someone needs to lodge a complaint with the Press Complaints Commission. I had a look at their code of practice and the very first point deals with accuracy. Here are the sub-points:

    i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.

    ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and – where appropriate – an apology published. In cases involving the Commission, prominence should be agreed with the PCC in advance.

    iii) The Press, whilst free to be partisan, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.

    iv) A publication must report fairly and accurately the outcome of an action for defamation to which it has been a party, unless an agreed settlement states otherwise, or an agreed statement is published.

  10. The issue with this article is that it’s kind of okay if you read it very carefully. There are enough caveats that I think Paul Hudson can claim that he’s done alright. It’s mainly that it clearly seems to imply that Mike Lockwood is claiming that we’re heading for another LIA which, as far as I’m aware, he is not and, of course, it’s been picked up and mis-represented elsewhere. Poor journalism, in my opinion.

    What I find a little more remarkable is that instead of addressing this with Mike Lockwood and maybe adding a proper clarification, Paul Hudson has simply justified his first article and now appears to be suggesting that Mike Lockwood is mis-representing him. Fine, but I would think twice about talking to Paul Hudson – in future – if I was a climate scientist.

  11. Rachel says:

    I don’t think his article is kind of okay. Not when you read Mike Lockwood’s account of it. The headline is wrong for a start and then the third paragraph down makes out that Lockwood says there’s a real risk of returning to “little ice age” conditions, which when you read what Lockwood actually says, is not correct at all. Lockwood says the Maunder minimum would have very little impact globally. No-where, that I can see, does he suggest Europe is at risk of a “little ice age”.

  12. Marco says:

    I still wonder why Paul Hudson added the “vociferous advocate of man-made warming” when referring to Mike Mann. There is no journalistic reason to add this other than to deliberately invoke negative feelings.

  13. I personally don’t think his article is okay, but – objectively – I think he can get away with arguing that he added sufficient caveats.

    The Mike Mann comment was very strange and does imply that he was trying to present Mann as some kind of biased advocate rather than as a professional scientist.

  14. BBD says:

    It is a misrepresentation. Mike Lockwood’s response was unambiguous.

    Here’s the thing: I understood what Lockwood said, and I would not have written as Hudson did. That’s how I know it was a misrepresentation. A corollary is that this was Hudson on his blog, so the usual excuse that the subs buggered the story around will not stand.

  15. Rachel says:

    Well, I made a complaint anyway. Will let you know if it comes to anything. I suspect the code of practice does not apply to blog posts which is what Paul Hudson’s article is but it’s worth a try. I do think we need to hold the press to account more often.

  16. BBD says:

    As a bitter little side-dish this is indicative of just how successful the denial industry has been in smearing Mann and by extension (according to the smearers) the entire field of climate science.

  17. > Didn’t end well.

    The audit never ends, Wotts.

  18. Rachel says:

    It turns out the correct place to make a complaint about this is here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints/

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