Mar 17th 2010

Future low solar activity periods may cause extremely cold winters in North America, Europe and Russia

by Jarl R. Ahlbeck

The writer is D.Sc. and lecturer at Abo Akademi University, Finland


The observed winter temperatures for Turku, Finland (and also generally for North America, Europe and Russia) for the past 60 winters have been strongly dependent on the Arctic Oscillation index (AO). When the Arctic Oscillation index is in "positive phase", high atmospheric pressure persists south of the North Pole, and lower pressures on the North Pole. In the positive phase, very cold winter air does not extend as far south into the middle of North America as it would during the negative phase. The AO positive phase is often called the "Warm" phase in North America. In this report I analyzed the statistical relation between the Quasi-Biennial Oscillation index (QBO is a measure of the direction and strength of the stratospheric wind in the Tropics), the solar activity, and the Arctic Oscillation index and obtained a statistically significant regression equation. According to this equation, during negative (easterly) values of the QBO, low solar activity causes a negative Arctic Oscillation index and cold winters in North America, Europe and Russia, but during positive (westerly) values of the QBO the relation reverses. However, the influence of the combination of an easterly value of the QBO and low solar activity on the AO is stronger and this combination is much more probable than the opposite. Therefore, prolonged low solar activity periods in the future may cause the domination of a strongly negative AO and extremely cold winters in North America, Europe and Russia.

Arctic oscillation index and Turku winter temperature.

Turku is located in the SW corner of Finland where the Arctic Oscillation Index for December-February almost completely controls the winter temperature for these months. See Figures 1 and 2.

Figure 1. Turku Winter temperature December-February 1951-2010 and corresponding Arctic Oscillation index, data from NOAA (2010).

Figure 2. Same as Figure 1., but the Arctic Oscillation index is by means of regression analysis converted to the same scale as the Turku winter temperature.

In January and February 1989 the Arctic Oscillation index jumped up to a very high level causing a warm winter. The index stayed at a higher level, but collapsed back to a record low level in December 2009 - February 2010. This kind of behavior of a time series is very typical for 1-lag and 2-lag random walk mechanisms.

The data for the Arctic Oscillation index (AO) December-February 1951-2010 (NOAA 2010) are presented in Appendix 1., and the probability density diagram in Figure 3.

Figure 3. Probability density diagram for the Arctic Oscillation index for December-February 1951-2010.

The Arctic Oscillation index for the winter months 1951-2010 follows a Gaussian distribution with an arithmetic mean value of -0.375.

The random walk behavior of the Arctic Oscillation index points towards a mechanism whereby the index consists of white noise that is driven by two or more harmonic oscillations. Most probable candidates for these oscillations are the Quasi-Biennial Oscillation with a period length of about 28 months, and the solar activity cycle with a period length of about 138 months.

A clear influence of the solar activity and the Quasi-Biennial Oscillation index on the Arctic Oscillation index has been discovered by Labitzke (2005) and will here be verified by means of statistical methods.

Quasi-Biennial Oscillation index.

The Quasi-Biennial Oscillation index is a measure of the strength and direction of tropical stratospheric wind. A negative value corresponds to easterly wind, and a positive value to westerly wind. The data for the Quasi-Biennial oscillation index (QBO) December-February 1951-2010 (NOAA 2010) are presented in Appendix 1. and the probability density diagram in Figure 4.

Figure 4. Probability density diagram for the Quasi-Biennial Oscillation index for December-February 1951-2010.

For the winter months 1951-2010 the distribution is almost rectangular with an arithmetic mean value of -2.9. Thus, negative or easterly values of the QBOhave been predominant during the winter months.

The solar activity.

Labitzke (2005) used the 10.7 cm solar flux as a measure of solar activity. As the correlation coefficient between this measure and the sunspot number is 0.98, we may as well use the sunspot number directly.

The data for sunspot number (SUN) December-February 1951-2010 (NOAA 2010) is presented in Appendix 1. and the probability density diagram in Figure 5.

Figure 5. Probability density diagram for the sunspot numbers for December-February 1951-2010.

As the sunspot number can never be negative, a log-Gauss curve fit can describe the observations. We can see that low solar activity has been more common than high solar activity. Taken together with theQBO, the combination low QBO- low SUNhas been much more common during the winters than the combination high QBO- high SUN.

AOas a function of QBOand SUN.

By means of multiple regression analysis, the following equation was tested:

AO = b0+ b1*QBO+b2*SUN+b3*QBO*SUN+b4*QBO2+b5*SUN2 (1)

where b0- b5are regression coefficients. The result is shown in Appendix 1. b2, b4, and b5were eliminated as statistically insignificant.

The final statistically significant regression equation (p < 0.05) is:

AO = -0.2779 + 0.06096*QBO- 0.0005149*QBO*SUN (2)

Graphical presentation of the regression equation.

On order to obtain a picture of the Equation (2), AO was plotted as a function of SUN for two values of QBO in Figure 6. These values were chosen as minimum and maximum values from the rectangular probability density in Figure 4.

Figure 6. Statistically significant (p< 0.05) regression model for the Arctic Oscillation index as a function of Sunspot Number plotted for minimum (east), neutral, and maximum (west) values of the Quasi-Biennial Oscillation index.

It is very obvious that a predominantly low sunspot solar activity at negative (easterly) Quasi-Biennial oscillation index is able to decrease the Arctic Oscillation index much more than the other combinations are able to change the Arctic Oscillation index.

At high solar activity, the Arctic Oscillation index has not been very sensitive to the Quasi-Biennial oscillation.

Turku winter temperature.

The fact that the solar activity and the Quasi-Biennial Oscillation together with stochastic noise control the Arctic Oscillation means that the Turku winter temperature too is dependent on these two oscillating parameters.

Equation (2) together with the connection obtained from Figure 2. give the result shown in Figure 7. Despite considerably high variations between different winters, the combination low QBO-low SUN is more likely to correspond to colder winter temperatures in Turku than all other combinations.

Figure 7. Turku winter temperature as a function of solar activity and Quasi-Biennial oscillation.


Historically, low solar activity has been connected to cold winters in Europe. A definitive physical mechanism for this fact has not yet been presented. This analysis however shows that the influence of solar activity together with stratospheric mechanisms acting on the Arctic Oscillation is statistically significant. It also explains why the Arctic Oscillation seems to behave according to a random walk mechanism. If the solar activity in the future goes into a new Dalton or Maunder Minimum, the winters inNorth America, Europe and Russia may become very cold.


Labitzke, K., 2005: On The Solar Cycle-QBO relationship, a summary. J. Atm. Sol-Terr. Phys., 67, 45-54

Update on:

NOAA, 2010: AO-data on:

NOAA, 2010: QBO-data on:

NOAA, 2010: Sunspot data on:


Data matrix1951-2010 Dec-Feb QBO-index, SUNspot Number, and AO-index

           QBO       SUN    QBO*SUN sq(QBO) sq(SUN)   AO-index (dependent)
1951 -4.8800     59.700    -291.34     23.814     3564.1    -.80400              -6.1600     34.400    -211.90     37.946     1183.4     .20300              -2.4200     21.400    -51.788     5.8564     457.96    -1.0370              -4.7000     .70000    -3.2900     22.090     .49000     .82100E-01          -8.4600     17.900    -151.43     71.572     320.41    -.71700              -.14000     80.400    -11.256     .19600E-01 6464.2    -1.2250              -13.320     132.00    -1758.2     177.42     17424.     .18600               5.5700     189.70     1056.6     31.025     35986.    -.94600              -18.750     163.60    -3067.5     351.56     26765.    -.38500
1960  5.4900     126.40     693.94     30.140     15977.    -1.5790              -5.8200     52.500    -305.55     33.872     2756.3    -.40900               4.2400     35.000     148.40     17.978     1225.0    -.13100              -16.390     17.100    -280.27     268.63     292.41    -1.9140               4.8900     11.400     55.746     23.912     129.96    -.45600              -1.0800     14.100    -15.228     1.1664     198.81    -1.1250              -20.100     19.300    -387.93     404.01     372.49    -1.5020               11.590     83.800     971.24     134.33     7022.4    -.26600              -8.6200     46.600    -401.69     74.304     2171.6    -.97000              -8.1200     106.40    -863.97     65.934     11321.    -2.2880
1970  1.3000     117.50     152.75     1.6900     13806.    -1.8670              -10.580     86.300    -913.05     111.94     7447.7    -.49500               8.4200     76.700     645.81     70.896     5882.9     .26500              -7.0300     40.500    -284.71     49.421     1640.3     1.0850               .30000E-01 24.400     .73200     .90000E-03 595.36    -.14600              -18.220     15.500    -282.41     331.97     240.25     .78200               9.8900     6.2000     61.318     97.812     38.440     .99300              -13.640     18.000    -245.52     186.05     324.00    -2.6170               3.9300     60.800     238.94     15.445     3696.6    -1.2000               2.5100     140.70     353.16     6.3001     19797.    -1.3030
1980 -10.920     145.10    -1584.5     119.25     21054.    -.56800               8.3200     142.00     1181.4     69.222     20164.    -.16800              -13.180     138.80    -1829.4     173.71     19265.    -.37500               10.870     86.000     934.82     118.16     7396.0     .17300              -11.140     56.100    -624.95     124.10     3147.2     .26300              -1.4400     15.900    -22.896     2.0736     252.81    -1.2670               9.4700     12.100     114.59     89.681     146.41    -1.8060              -10.600     5.8000    -61.480     112.36     33.640    -.85400               7.4600     40.900     305.11     55.652     1672.8    -.44700              -2.9500     167.40    -493.83     8.7025     28023.     2.6880
1990 -9.6700     157.90    -1526.9     93.509     24932.     1.2530               9.2500     152.80     1413.4     85.563     23348.     .37500              -13.660     147.70    -2017.6     186.60     21815.     1.0950               9.5400     78.900     752.71     91.012     6225.2     1.1790              -7.8300     50.700    -396.98     61.309     2570.5    -.41800               7.4400     26.900     200.14     55.354     723.61     .72300              -5.7500     8.9000    -51.175     33.063     79.210    -1.0550              -3.8300     8.5000    -32.555     14.669     72.250    -.96000E-01          -1.0100     34.900    -35.249     1.0201     1218.0    -.77800               1.6600     71.000     117.86     2.7556     5041.0     .64900
2000  5.1600     98.000     505.68     26.626     9604.0     1.1300              -15.260     97.100    -1481.8     232.87     9428.4    -1.3120               4.7100     128.50     605.23     22.184     16512.     .45400              -1.1000     74.800    -82.280     1.2100     5595.0    -.64500              -1.2000     45.700    -54.840     1.4400     2088.5    -.94300               .31000     25.930     8.0383     .96100E-01 672.36     .10500              -18.370     22.800    -418.84     337.46     519.84    -.81000               3.7500     14.600     54.750     14.063     213.16     1.0030              -12.200     4.8000    -58.560     148.84     23.040     .85900               11.170     .80000     8.9360     124.77     .64000     .25800
2010 -15.000     4.5000    -67.500     225.00     20.250    -3.4220

Mean of Var.( 1) = -2.9428 stdev. = 8.98
Mean of Var.( 2) = 64.414 stdev. = 53.7
Mean of Var.( 3) = -163.12 stdev. = 798.
Mean of Var.( 4) = 87.990 stdev. = 98.1
Mean of Var.( 5) = 6982.6 stdev. = .908E+04
Mean of Var.( 6) = -.37535 stdev. = 1.08

Backward Elimination Multiple Regression Analysis:
Number 4 is insignificant and eliminated (square of QBO insignificant)
Number 2 is insignificant and eliminated (linear SUN insignificant)
Number 5 is insignificant and eliminated (square of SUN insignificant)

Statistically significant regression coefficients at 0.05 significance level:

b 0 ... -.27994110 Intercept
b 1 ... .60961730E-01 stdev. ... .220E-01 Linear coefficient for QBO
b 3 ... -.51492850E-03 stdev. ... .247E-03 Coefficient for QBO*SUN

F( 1) = ........ 7.68
F( 3) = ........ 4.33

Editor's note - Watch also video:

The Cloud Mystery - click here

Browse articles by author

More Current Affairs

Oct 20th 2020
EXTRACTS: Disney has announced a significant restructuring of its media and entertainment business, boldly placing most of its growth ambitions and investments into its recently launched streaming service, Disney+…. From a corporate strategy perspective, the move is remarkable on two fronts. Firstly, the sheer velocity of this pivot for a company the size and age of Disney is, for lack of a better word, unprecedented….Let’s not forget that it was just last year that Disney held a near 40% revenue share of the US box office….. The fact that in just seven months of the pandemic breaking out, Disney decided to reinvent itself primarily around streaming speaks volumes about its expectations regarding the pandemic length. Clearly the group decided that waiting it out was no longer an option.”
Oct 10th 2020
EXTRACTS: "Strange as it is to say, but it is no longer uncommon to hear talk of insurrection, martial law, and civil war in the United States......... Apocalyptic warnings that next month’s election will descend into crisis are coming hard and fast....... While the atmosphere in the US is already alarming, it is worth considering just how bad things could become. There is ample reason to worry that an election-related conflict could devolve into atrocity crimes against black and brown civilians on US soil........ Genocide and mass atrocities have happened all too often, including in America. The question is not whether it could happen here, but whether it can be prevented."
Oct 9th 2020
EXTRACT: "Fifty years ago, Milton Friedman published an article in the New York Times that articulated what has come to be known as the Friedman doctrine: “the social responsibility of business is to increase its profits.” It was a theme he had developed in his 1962 book Capitalism and Freedom, where he argued that the “one and only” responsibility business owes to society is the pursuit of profits within the legal rules of the game. The Friedman doctrine put its stamp on our era. It legitimized the freewheeling capitalism that produced economic insecurity, fueled rising inequality, deepened regional divides, and intensified climate change and other environmental problems. Ultimately, it also led to a social and political backlash. Many large businesses have responded by engaging in – or paying lip service to – the notion of corporate social responsibility."
Oct 7th 2020
EXTRACT: "China is well on its way to becoming a cashless society. More than 600 million Chinese already use Alibaba’s Alipay and Tencent’s WeChat Pay to pay for much of what they purchase. Between them, the two companies control approximately 90% of China’s mobile payments market, which totaled some $17 trillion in 2019. A wide variety of sectors throughout China have since adopted Blockchain to pay bills, settle disputes in court and track shipments. The Chinese government understands that, via Blockchain, the issuance of its own cryptocurrency is an excellent way to track and record the movement of payments, goods and people."
Oct 6th 2020
EXTRACT: "The American Republic was founded by Protestants, and American elites were for a long time largely Protestant........But something extraordinary has happened since the republic was founded by Protestants in 1776. Five of the eight current Supreme Court justices are Catholics, and soon there may be six. The one Protestant on the court, Neil Gorsuch, was raised Catholic. (The other two justices are Jewish.) Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House of Representatives, is Catholic, as is the US attorney general, William Barr. And Joe Biden, who might be the next president, is Catholic, too."
Oct 5th 2020
EXTRACT: "...... the economic pain inflicted by COVID-19 is not being borne by publicly traded companies. It is falling on small businesses and individual service proprietors – from dry cleaners to restaurants to entertainment providers – that are not listed on the stock market (which leans more toward manufacturing). These smaller players simply do not have the capital needed to survive a shock of this duration and magnitude. And government programs that have helped keep them afloat for a while are beginning to lapse, raising the risk of a snowball effect in the event of a second wave."
Oct 4th 2020
EXTRACT: "Trump’s disinclination – and perhaps inability – to reach beyond his right-wing base, which is insufficient to elect him, also calls into question his political acumen, and is one of many reasons to doubt his basic intelligence (an issue on which he is quite sensitive). But one thing about the president is now clearer than ever: in order to perpetuate his hold on power, Trump is testing the constitution in unprecedented ways. "
Sep 30th 2020
EXTRACT: "With the US presidential election barely a month away, former Vice President Joe Biden and his advisers are devising his national-security policy and creating shortlists to fill the cabinet’s ranking positions in the event that he defeats President Donald Trump. But while presidential hopefuls traditionally have focused first on contenders to run the state, defense, and treasury departments, this time is different. With the intelligence community in an increasingly perilous state, Biden should choose a top spymaster before making any other personnel decisions."
Sep 29th 2020
While today's mounting global disruptions have accelerated an ongoing shift in global power dynamics, neither China's rise nor the emergence of COVID-19 can be blamed for the West's lost primacy. The United States and the United Kingdom took care of that on their own, with a complacent Europe watching it happen.
Sep 28th 2020
EXTRACT: "One thing is clear: the world cannot trust Xi’s dictatorship. The sooner we recognize this and act together, the sooner the Beijing bullies will have to behave better. The world will be safer and more prosperous for it."
Sep 27th 2020
EXTRACT: "Four years of political turmoil under Trump may well end with massive violence akin to a civil war. Trump is priming his base to act violently, and with over 390 million firearms in the hands of Americans, one can only imagine the calamitous consequences if violence is to erupt between his supporters and those who oppose him..... The Republican leadership in every state and every municipality are the prime body that can stop this potential calamity from occurring. Time is of the essence. Should the Republican Party as a whole fall short of taking a stand against Trump at this juncture, they will subject the nation to turmoil unseen since the Civil War. Not a single Republican leader will be able to claim that he or she were not warned."
Sep 27th 2020
EXTRACT: "I continue to expect this broad dollar index to plunge by as much as 35% by the end of 2021. This reflects three considerations: rapid deterioration in US macroeconomic imbalances, the ascendancy of the euro and the renminbi as viable alternatives, and the end of that special aura of American exceptionalism that has given the dollar Teflon-like resilience for most of the post-World War II era."
Sep 26th 2020
EXTRACT: "Covid-19 essentially hit the “fast forward” button on emerging trends in a variety of sectors of national economies, hastening the demise of the shopping mall, laying bare how unnecessary being physically located in commercial work spaces is, and sounding the death knell for numerous 100+ year-old brands that had failed to adapt to the blistering pace of change in the digital economy. Failure to contemplate and embrace the future is leaving carnage in its wake.......The onslaught of dramatic change that has accompanied Covid-19 reminds us that fragile systems crack when exposed to unexpected events while antifragile systems have the ability to resist shocks."
Sep 24th 2020
EXTRACT: "China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, recently declared that aggression and expansionism have never been in the Chinese nation’s “genes.” It is almost astonishing that he managed to say it with a straight face. Aggression and expansionism obviously are not genetic traits, but they have defined President Xi Jinping’s tenure. Xi, who in some ways has taken up the expansionist mantle of Mao Zedong, is attempting to implement a modern version of the tributary system that Chinese emperors used to establish authority over vassal states: submit to the emperor, and reap the benefits of peace and trade with the empire."
Sep 16th 2020
EXTRACT: "Seventy-five years ago, the prestige of the United States and the United Kingdom could not have been higher. They had defeated imperial Japan and Nazi Germany, and they did so in the name of freedom and democracy. True, their ally, Stalin’s Soviet Union, had different ideas about these fine ideals, and did most of the fighting against Hitler’s Wehrmacht. Still, the English-speaking victors shaped the post-war order in large parts of the world. The basic principles of this order had been laid down in the Atlantic Charter, drawn up in 1941 by Winston Churchill and President Franklin D. Roosevelt on a battleship off the coast of Newfoundland."
Sep 14th 2020
EXTRACT: "After Trump’s inauguration in January of 2017, millions demonstrated their disapproval. We can expect the same, no matter how this election turns out. With both sides framing this election in “end of the world” terms; with the president calling into question the legitimacy of the vote, even before it happens; and with the president warning his supporters that they may have to take up arms to defend him – we have a recipe for disaster that may occur in the days that follow this election. This may very well be the Armageddon election of our lifetime."
Sep 8th 2020
EXTRACT: "The Huawei case is a harbinger of a world in which national security, privacy, and economics will interact in complicated ways. Global governance and multilateralism will often fail, for both good and bad reasons. The best we can expect is a regulatory patchwork, based on clear ground rules that help empower countries to pursue their core national interests without exporting their problems to others. Either we design this patchwork ourselves, or we will end up, willy-nilly, with a messy, less efficient, and more dangerous version."
Sep 7th 2020
EXTRACT: "China’s footprint in global foreign direct investment (FDI) has increased notably since the launch of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2013. That served to bring Chinese overseas FDI closer to a level that one would expect, based on the country’s weight in the global economy. China accounted for about 12% of global cross-border mergers and acquisitions and 9% of announced greenfield FDI projects between 2013 and 2018. Chinese overseas FDI rose from $10 billion in 2005 (0.5% of Chinese GDP) to nearly $180 billion in 2017 (1.5% of GDP). Likewise, annual construction contracts awarded to Chinese companies increased from $10 billion in 2005 to more than $100 billion in 2017."
Sep 2nd 2020
EXTRACT: "Emergence and spread of the coronavirus COVID-19 have created and still creating health issues, economic challenges, political crises and social conflicts around the world. These challenges and conflicts lead the international community to re-evaluate global governance and international structures, which is based on the second world-war and post-cold war. The pandemic will emerge a new era of international society that will not be similar to the pre-Corona world."
Aug 28th 2020
EXTRACT: "Russia has changed, and has been changing, since its beginnings in ancient Muscovy to its current condition as Putin’s realm. Some general features appear in much of Russian history. Most of its rulers have been authoritarian—but so, too, were most of England’s, France’s, and Germany’s. Many of its political and intellectual elites have considered Russia a special civilization deserving a place in the sun—but just as many have not, wanting to transform Russia into a Western state with Western values. Many Russians have been enamored of their country, but even more have probably damned it for destroying them and their children. What, then, is Russia? It is, and has always been, many, oftentimes contradictory, things—sometimes coexisting, sometimes getting the upper hand, always shifting, always eluding simplistic analysis. But, and this needs to be emphasized, the same holds true for every other country in the world."