back to article Satellite gives better picture of solar flares' effects on Earth

Top boffins reviewing data from a NASA satellite dedicated to probing the secrets of the Sun say that some solar flares directed towards Earth deliver much more energy than had previously been thought. Solar flares are massive releases of radiation associated with sunspots. If they hit Earth, they can deliver large amounts of …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    Oh dear oh dear oh dear ....

    "With doomsday postponed well into the 2100s, it could be very difficult indeed to get anyone to care about it."

    How on earth can the governments of the world raise those green taxes now ?

  2. Adrian Challinor

    ...the possibility of effects on the Earth's climate.

    lumme, you mean to tell me that the Sun, a massive thermonuclear fusion reactor, might have an effect on little old Earth?

    Well, who'd have thunk it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      yeah yeah

      but the point is this:

      do typical variations in the sun's output have a greater or lesser effect on global climate than the accumulation of CO2 from all that fossil burning we're doing?

      1. Ammaross Danan

        Question of a question

        "do typical variations in the sun's output have a greater or lesser effect on global climate than the accumulation of CO2 from all that fossil burning we're doing?"

        One hates to answer a question with a question, but just consider what the CO2 in the atmosphere causes to be "trapped?"

  3. Brandon 2

    new religion...

    70% more energy seems like a lot to me... oh, my, god! Does that mean that green house gases are also causing 70% more energy to be retained by these solar flares??? We're all gonna bake, unless you give Al Gore money!!!

    If you have to believe in global warming, if you have to believe in Al Gore, if you have to believe in science, then it's not science, it's religion, mass hysteria, intellectual dishonesty, politics, whatever you want to call it.

    Flames because we're gonna need them to keep warm without as many 70% stronger than realized solar flares keeping us warm at night.

    1. Potemkine Silver badge


      Global warming is not a belief, it's a fact, google for NASA's GISTEMP.

  4. swisstoni

    Maunder Minimum

    So the last minimum lasted 70 years?

    So that's 70 years of summers like that last one, and loads of snow at winter again?

    Sod this, I'm moving.

  5. Some Beggar

    "What is carefully not being mentioned here ..."

    That's pretty much the standard preamble for a Bush-dun-911 Troofer or a Moon Landing Faker.

    Piss poor.

  6. Hoop-a-joop

    What's missing

    Where are the inane Yank/Fox news/Tea party comments that you witless brits and El Reg are known for?

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Dunno but ya filling in nicely, bro!

  7. Dave Rickmers

    No Maunder Minimum

    Scientists (or more quaintly "Boffins") have already determined that the cumulative effect from a Maunder Minimum type solar event would be to reduce the temperature gain by less than 0.5 degrees Celsius. The 70% enhanced energy striking the planet is ultraviolet radiation, not infrared. It doesn't even reach the ground.

    1. itzman

      Its not what the energy does directly...

      ..its the effect higher muon flux at low altitudes has, (allegedly), in high albedo cloud formation.


    2. edward wright

      @Dave UV radiation it's UV, it doesn't reach the surface. Where does it go? Either it's reflected into space, or transformed into another form of energy.... such as heat? One reason the thermosphere is toasty.

    3. Ron 6

      No Maunder Minimum

      "The 70% enhanced energy striking the planet is ultraviolet radiation, not infrared. It doesn't even reach the ground."

      That's the worst kind, all of the energy is absorbed in to the atmosphere and turned in to kinetic energy or re-radiated at lower frequencies (visible and IR.)

  8. James Micallef Silver badge


    commentard trollfest ahoy

    <sits back and reaches for popcorn>

  9. Some Beggar

    "fewer solar flares and less warming energy reaching Earth"

    This is scientifically illiterate.

    The average "warming energy" from sunlight is about 1.3 kW/m2.

    The measurements in these experiments are down in the mW/m2. And the primary effects of solar flares are caused by xrays ionising the atmosphere which are down in the uW/m2.

    Solar activity clearly has an impact on the atmosphere and the climate, but it is bugger all to do with extra "warming energy".

    1. scarshapedstar

      Lewis Page Logic

      Fukushima radiation rises to yearly dose in one hour: no big deal.

      Solar flare bombards Earth with an extra second's worth of solar energy: proof that the polar ice caps were gonna melt on their own anyway, and did I mention that it still snows sometimes, so if anything the solar flares must be cooling the planet, but even if they're not there's nothing we can do to mitigate it so:

      Yay for the perfect status quo! Tune in for my next deep thought.

  10. itzman

    The political ramifiactions are..interesting..

    IF (and I stress the IF) it becomes a widely held view that most climate change is beyond human control, then the excuse for government interference in it falls away. With terrorism no longer fashionable, and Climate change falling off the popularity scale, what new piece of FUD will our Glorious Leaders come up with to justify yet more taxation, centralised bureaucracies and effective transfer from the real working class, to the super rich apparatchiks and their supporters, the welfare state beneficiaries?

    I guess 'civil unrest' will be the working population simply go on the rampage refusing to pay taxes. Or buy I-pods.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Murdoch's revenge

      You've spotted it too! Government by FUD has grown out of all proportion over the last two decades. It's what has us mired in recession right now.

      It's either a concerted push by special interests trying to grow their share of the pie, or for politicians to bandwagon, probably both.

      With the media being led by Murdoch banging the drum at the front of the parade, we have become a nation of Chicken Littles.

      It's time to get real again and take back control. Let's stop commemorating 9/11 - 10 years are enough. Let's stop using "al Qaeda" in the same sentence as Satan (322 people holding the world to ransom - Get out of here!). Let's cut Big Sis and DHS back from 850,000 employees and hangers on to say maybe 250,000. (let's face it, most of them are useless paper-pushers).

      Let's take 10 Million of Britain's security cams and point them at MP's houses.....well you see the stupidity of what is going on. And, you pay for it!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      My money is on bird flu

      Or similar.

      That is all.

  11. Graham Marsden

    "Carbon-hating Greens...

    "...would naturally point out at this stage that humanity still ought to curtail carbon emissions"

    Or just point out that we should use energy *more efficiently* which would make the most of a limited resource *and* cut emissions at the same time.

    Win, win.

  12. anti-addick

    70% increase eh?

    That's frightening! That is unless the previous 100% was negligible...... I find it all very amusing that the people who jump onto this solar flare crap are the very same that deride similar science us unproven and unpredictable.

    Yet another sh*t article Lewis Page adds to his collection of obtuse, biased drivel.

  13. This post has been deleted by its author

  14. Brent Beach
    Thumb Down

    What is the point?

    Additional hard facts can be used to change the climate models - that is a good thing.

    With this new parameter value past observations of climate can used to better understand the rest of the model - what other parameters must be adjusted to bring the model results into conformity with observations.

    Those changes to the model may even decrease the importance of these flares. If the flares contain almost twice as much energy, perhaps the adjustment is to cut the contribution of those flares in half with a net zero change to the model.

    We don't yet know how the 10% probable maunder minimum will affect the climate. We do know how increased CO2 affects the climate.

    The article appears to be putting its faith in the unknown result of a one in ten chance rather than start to deal with an absolute certainty.


  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Don't knock the Greens

    The Greens can't help their knee jerk reaction to articles like this. Their Church demands that all science be avoided unless it can be presented in a way to bolster the faith. The Church of the Holy Warming would never accept that slow sunspot activity causes more cosmic rays to reach Earth, causing more clouds, causing C.O.O.L.I.N.G.

    Now they won't accept that high sunspot activity not only reduces cloud formation, it adds energy to the atmosphere at twice the rate before. Maybe a newly 'adjusted' data set will show actual cooling, once sunspot cyclicity is removed. But, of course, IPCC will suppress those reports and call the authors "paid slaves of corporate interests".

    PS. A factoid: Less selective choosing (than IPCC) of temperature graphs for cities and rural areas shows that the majority have a cooling trend for the last decade.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Less selective?

      I think you'll find that specifically selective choice shows cooling, I can't remember off-hand but it was 1995 or 1997, sometime like that, when we had the biggest el ninio in memory. Take one year before or one year after and we have net heating, not cooling.

    2. Some Beggar

      optional title

      fac·toid Noun /ˈfaktoid/

      "An assumption or speculation that is reported and repeated so often that it becomes accepted as fact."

      In fact, it's complete bollocks. The only way to show a cooling trend is to make a very specific choice of years, and even with careful cherry picking it is almost impossible to find a statistically significant downwards trend. Longer term and statistically significant temperature trends are all upwards.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @AC 2105

      I showed your post to a friend of mine who is currently doing a phd in atmospheric physics. She got to the end of the first paragraph and said "Well, that's bollocks for a start". In very simple layman's terms, clouds reflect up as well as down, in effect if they are reflecting the suns rays away from the earth, they are also reflecting the energy from the earth back to the earth.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        ok - I'll bite

        Your phd person on "Well, that's bollocks for a start".

        Lets go with the reflection of the clouds and reduce this to smaller analogy and then see if the statement she is referring to is bollocks.

        earth is equal to a match

        sun is equal to a roaring coal fire

        And if the clouds are reflecting heat back to their sources and we have /more/ clouds then a hell of a lot more "roaring coal file" gets reflected back to space than the match get's reflected back to the ground. That pretty much sums up what the original poster was saying - more clouds will equal more cooling.

        Methinks that your friend is a fully paid up member of that church which shall not be mentioned (or at least her tutor / center of learning is)

        1. Some Beggar

          @nibbling ac 09.27

          Your analogy is broken. The heat being reflected downwards by clouds (or anything else in the atmosphere) is almost entirely made up of heat from the sun that is being reflected/re-radiated from the earth. That's a little thing we call the "greenhouse effect". You might want to google it before jumping into a conversation about climate.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            How so?

            If there are more clouds then more of the suns heat is reflected back out into space meaning less getting down to the earth meaning less fed into the "greenhouse effect" - ergo a cooling effect.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              @AC 1214

              re How so: Because the energy that is already here (from the Sun) is being kept here because the clouds a preventing it from leaving.

              Energy can't be created or destroyed, *this is physics 101*. The energy already at the Earth has to go somewhere, it can't get through the cloud, so it's trapped near the earth.

            2. Some Beggar

              @ac 12.14

              The energy being reflected/re-radiated is at a different frequency and different frequencies interact with things in different ways. It's considerably more complicated than you are assuming.

              You know when I suggested you google the greenhouse effect ... you didn't bother, did you?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @AC 0927

          I'll try again: Clouds are reflective on the top and the bottom. Heat arriving from the sun may well be reflected back away from the planet by a cloud, but heat escaping from the earth is also reflected back to the earth and doesn't escape.

          As it goes, I think I'll stick with the opinions of an atmospheric physicist, rather than someone on the internet who suggest that because someone disagrees with them that they're some sort of eco-religeous nutter. This is a highly complex issue there are people doing entire PHd studies on the way that specific types of cloud insulate and what happens above and below them. My analogy isn't perfect because it's too complex a subject to get into there, but the OP and your opinion that clouds cause cooling is just dead wrong.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            I'll also try again.

            "Clouds are reflective on the top and the bottom. Heat arriving from the sun may well be reflected back away from the planet by a cloud, but heat escaping from the earth is also reflected back to the earth and doesn't escape."

            Well said - couldn't agree more, especially that last sentence starting "but heat escaping"...


            Let's see if this helps...

            1) try taking a torch with a beam radius of say 20cm and a piece of tin foil with a radius of 20cm and line them up so the beam just covers the tin foil.

            2) Then hold a piece of tin foil with a radius of 5 cm halfway between the torch and bottom piece of foil and then see how much light is reflected from the bottom piece to underside of the top piece of tin foil.

            3) Repeat 2 with a 15cm piece of tin foil

            4) Compare and then assume clouds instead - hey presto, more cover means less heat hitting the earth's surface

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              @AC 1342

              Sorry, but visible light isn't heat, they don't work in the same way. If the clouds were blocking visible light, you'd see the effect you describe, but they're not.

              Very simply and there are lots of caveats: There is a certain amount of energy being delivered to the earth and a certain amount leaving the earth at any point in time. If you put something in the way that reflects the energy arriving and leaving back where it came from (ie: to The Sun/Surface, respectively), you do not end up with net energy leaving, therefore you don't end up with cooling.

              It may also help to consider that heat energy can be stored in things, light can't, therefore if you heat something up with a flame, it can continue to emit heat after it has stopped being heated. If you illuminate something with light, it stops being illuminated when the light is switched off.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                @ AC 15:12


                D'oh - Think of the "light" as "heat" - you and "some beggar" obvious lack the ability to apply lateral thinking to these situations.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  @ac 0924

                  As I pointed out - Don't think of light as heat, they're not analogous. If you turn off a light that has been shining on something that thing ceases to be illuminated, if you turn off a heater that has been heating something that thing does not cease to be heated or emit heat for quite some time. Furthermore, light doesn't get absorbed by things (CO2, for instance) and get re-emitted at different wavelengths.

            2. Some Beggar

              @ac 13.42

              You live in a universe where clouds can be modelled as pieces of tinfoil and the interaction of the sun and earth can be reduced to a flashlight? Cool.

              Sadly, the rest of us live in the real world.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                @ some beggar 16:20


                Look it up and try to use some lateral thinking.

                1. Some Beggar

                  @ac 08:58

                  Your simplistic model is not an analogy. And it isn't lateral thinking. It's bollocks.

                  Is there any point me suggesting once again that you actually look up the greenhouse effect? Or are you determined to remain ignorant?

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    @some beggar 09:24

                    it is an anology and I feel sorry for you, that you're unable to see that.

                    I've read up on your beloved greenhouse effect and even they cannot state with 100% that it is the cause of the earth warming - IT IS AN UNPOVEN THEORY with a lot of poltical and financial clout behind it. I added the * - "Global warming, a recent warming of the Earth's surface and lower atmosphere,[11] is ****** believed ****** to be the result of a strengthening of the greenhouse effect mostly due to human-produced increases in atmospheric greenhouse gases.[12]"

                    If we are entering a period of low sunspot activity (ala maunder minimum) and the temperature starts to drop - where does that leave this "theory"

                    1. Some Beggar

                      @ac 10:02

                      Nobody doubts the greenhouse effect - it's a well-understood bit of physics. And nobody seriously doubts that the globe is warming. The controversy is about how much man's activities have contributed to that warming ... and that is only controversial in the sense that pundits keep attempting to cast doubt on the scientific consensus despite it being supported by 95% of relevant scientists and 100% of relevant scientific bodies.

                      Either way, clouds do not behave like tinfoil in any useful sense. Your "analogy" was bollocks. In fact, if you'd suggested that clouds could be modelled by bollocks then you'd have been closer to the truth ... at least they're not entirely reflective and contain some liquid.

  16. Hud Dunlap

    Mini- ice age yes

    Here in Texas we are looking forward to it.

  17. Jolyon Smith

    @Dave Rickmers... these would be the same scientists who...

    ... only just realised that solar flares have a much bigger impact on this Blue Pearl than they previously believed, right?

    So what you are saying is, that conclusions drawn from new knowledge can be disproved - or at least summarily dismissed - based solely on _theories_ that were in turn based on prior, less complete knowledge... ?

    Just checking.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I''ve just noticed that the title now says optional...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yes, and I get a message saying "A C's cannot choose their icon" in the middle of a whole slew of AC posts awash with icons, especially the "I'll get my coat" icon.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I also fear change.

  19. PeterM42

    Who teaches Physics these days??

    "The latest SDO results would seem to indicate a greater cooling effect from a calming Sun than would previously have been expected by physicists."

    These "Physicists" obviously didn't have as good a Physics teacher as I had.

    Blazing furnace nearby, turn up the heat - you get hotter, turn down the heat - you get colder.


    1. Some Beggar


      I should imagine your physics teacher would be deeply embarrassed that you've reduced the complex interaction between the sun and the earth to a simplistic heat dial on a "blazing furnace".

      The variation due to these cycles is about 0.1% peak-to-peak. If it were a case of turning up the heat that would be equivalent to taking a 3kW domestic heater on full power and putting a little 3W night light next to it.

      Oo. Feel that extra lovely night light warmth.

  20. Nick Galloway

    Sun drives weather

    Without the sun and planetary rotation we wouldn't have the weather that we do. If there is variation in the suns activity we have variations in our weather. Minor variations in atmospheric CO2 has significantly less influence.

    The climate is changing, it does that. Don't try to stop it as that isn't going to work. Just get ready for the change as that is an inevitability!

  21. bugalugs


    where we live, the sun changes the temperature by as much as 30 degrees C or more within one 24 hour period. Relocation assistance please...?

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