Helios – The weather machine in the sky

My hometown Vienna currently experiences the coldest time of the year. That’s normal as January represents the cold peak of the year here. Predictably, July is the hot peak.

But how big is the spread between those two peaks?

Let’s look at official statistics. 

The Maximum average monthly temperature for July is around 24 degrees Celsius. 

The same Maximum average monthly temperature January it is a chill zero degree Celsius. 

That’s a cool 24 degree spread for the maximum monthly averages. Never mind that during multiple decades I have lived here I have experienced summer day highs at 44 degrees Celsius. I also saw winter day lows at minus 12 degrees Celsius in Vienna. 

Quite chilly even with the Urban Heat Island effect making Vienna quite a bit warmer than its surroundings. My parents live in the countryside and experience minus 20 degrees quite regularly. 

Let’s limit it to Vienna this is still a mighty 56 degrees Celsius spread from the coldest to the hottest day.

What drives such a massive spread?

Right – the big yellow disc in the sky. All alone.

There is not much discussion between Alarmists and Realists where the heat comes from. They all agree on the sun as the source. 

The big difference between them and us is that the ones believe that more CO2 makes the atmosphere store more of the heat that comes in. Which – according to them – explains atmospheric warming that correlates with more CO2 in the air. This CO2 comes from human activities so it’s us that heat the planet. That’s what they say.

When we say that, we really mean that the sun still heats the planet. But more CO2 ensures that more of this heat stays with us for longer resulting in a cumulative heat effect.

According to Alarmist doctrine, there are mainly 4 greenhouse gases that heat the planet. CO2, water vapor, nitrous oxides, and methane. The contribution and potency of each are subject to a sometimes nasty debate.

I want to skewer this issue from a different angle. Let’s forget about all those assumptions and mixed up measurements Alarmists swamp us with. Let’s forget about curves and counter curves. Let’s forget about all the voodoo that happens around the Climate change topic. Let’s do what the philosophers of ancient times have done. Lets reason.

And with that, I don’t mean being skittish and pretending that if I can imagine it, it must be real. Let’s look at things in a commonsensical way.

The sun makes it that we don’t freeze. And without its light, our eyes would be close to useless. It does so every day since Earth’s creation. And the Earth’s rotation spreads the sun’s beneficial rays over all the surface of Mother Earth. The day/night change heats and cools the Earth every day by around 10 degrees celsius.

Because the Earth does not rotate around the Sun straight up like a Prussian soldier marched, we have seasons. This also makes our days longer or shorter depending on the season. Just a little change in the Earth’s recess towards the Sun gives us temperature changes of up to 50 degrees Celsius. 

And here we are just talking about the two most obvious and most regular rhythms of sunshine. There are many other such disturbances that make the weather truly unpredictable.

Earth’s orbit is not a perfect circle. Its an ellipse and this excentricity tumbles like a drunk in the night. Its giving Earth cycles of 100 – 400k years with alternating proximities to our parent star.

The orbit itself gyrates like a spinner. This is the precession and it drives another 25,920-year cycle. 

And the Obliquity of the orbit (how skewed the orbit is against the rotation of the sun) creates another cycle that repeats every 41000 years. 

To round it off, Jupiter and to a lesser extent Saturn pull at our orbit every time they are closest to earth.

Confusing, ain’t it? Milutin Milanković, a Serbian mathematician, figured it all out with pen and paper more than 100 years ago. It’s a mind-numbingly complex ballet of all those overlapping cycles and influences.  

OK, that’s it. At least with regards to our position as compared to the sun’s position. But there is more. 

Because what we are really interested in is the changing amounts of sunlight we get over time. 

Because there is also the activity of the Sun itself. Yes, I know. It seems so unaltering as its always there but the Sun has weather too. Every 9 to 14 years (11-year average) the sun enters another sunspot cycle. On top of that, there are other sunspot cycles that last 88, 208, 500, 1000 and 2300 years.

We still do not fully understand the dynamics here which makes us exalted observers of our dominant member of the Solar System.

But even if we don’t understand the underlying mechanics of the sun, we are quite able to predict its workings to a reasonable degree.

The orbital dance around the sun (and through our Milky Way) produces all kinds of weather effects. No surprise here. The distance from the sun as well as the angle by which solar rays hit us to make a marked difference in the way we experience temperature. We have seen that above.

OK, distance makes that we get less or more sunshine. That’s why its a lot colder on Mars and a lot hotter on Venus.

But the amount of energy the sun sends to us has an even more profound effect. If the distance stays the same but there is less energy coming through, it gets colder too. And vice versa.

Why do I tell you all this?

Well, we are at the end of one of the coldest sunspot cycles in recorded history. Yes, the solar cycles produce their own weird temperature dance. Superlow sunspot cycles produce extended cold cycles here on Earth. They are called Solar Minimum events. We have counted 3 so far since those things are being observed. The Maunder, the Dalton, and the Glassberg Minimum. The fourth may just be about to start. We have had one of the calmest sunspot cycles in more than a century. This new Minimum has been dubbed Eddy Minimum and it may last longer than 30 years.

Why is that important?

Reduced output by the sun means much colder weather. Historically, this meant war and pestilence. If Eddy is not upon us right now, it breathes down our necks 11 years later. CO2, even if it had any effect on temperature at all, will not save us. Well, a bit more CO2 in the air makes plants a lot more resilient to cope with the cold. That’s a good thing then.

But as we have seen farther above, sunspot cycles are only one factor in a complex mix jumbling up how much sunshine we get. And this produces temperatures.

Consider this. In June 1991, the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo transported huge amounts of fine ash up until the stratosphere. Most eruptions never manage to do that but Mt. Pinatubo did and there we other. Even bigger ones. That’s important as once stuff is in the stratosphere, it tends to linger a lot longer in the air than down here in the troposphere. 

More dust in the stratosphere blocked enough sunlight. This made average temperatures for the next couple of years dropped by about 0,5 degrees Celsius on average. 

Less sunlight getting to Earth, less energy, less heat. Its the sun that stirs the pot. 

Does this all prove that the Sun is the only driver for temperature development on Earth? No, it ain’t.

But the Sun is not the monolith some seem to believe it is. And its influence far exceeds anything any plant food in the air could possibly do by orders of magnitudes. 

Keep that on top of your mind next time when someone wants to foist another dataset full of assumptions and simulations onto you.

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