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

Summary.

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.

Conclusion.

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.


REFERENCES

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

Update on:
http://strat-www.met.fu-berlin.de/labitzke/moreqbo/MZ-Labitzke-et-al-2006.pdf

NOAA, 2010: AO-data on:
http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/precip/CWlink/daily_ao_index/monthly.ao.index.b50.current.ascii

NOAA, 2010: QBO-data on:
http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd/data/climateindices/

NOAA, 2010: Sunspot data on:
ftp://ftp.ngdc.noaa.gov/STP/SOLAR_DATA/SUNSPOT_NUMBERS/MONTHLY


APPENDIX 1.

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

Feb 25th 2020
EXTRACT: "The world economy has clearly caught a cold. The outbreak of COVID-19 came at a particularly vulnerable point in the global business cycle. ...........This matters little to the optimistic consensus of investors. After all, by definition shocks are merely temporary disruptions of an underlying trend. While it is tempting to dismiss this shock for that very reason, the key is to heed the implications of the underlying trend. The world economy was weak, and getting weaker, when COVID-19 struck. The V-shaped recovery trajectory of a SARS-like episode will thus be much tougher to replicate – especially with monetary and fiscal authorities in the US, Japan, and Europe having such little ammunition at their disposal. That, of course, was the big risk all along. In these days of dip-buying froth, China’s sneeze may prove to be especially vexing for long-complacent financial markets."
Feb 25th 2020
EXTRACT: "It is becoming increasingly clear, however, that this new coronavirus is likely to do much more damage than SARS. Not only has COVID-19 already caused more deaths than its predecessor; its economic consequences are likely to be compounded by unfavorable conditions – beginning with China’s increased economic vulnerability.................So far, US investors seem unconcerned about these risks. But they may be taking too much comfort from the US Federal Reserve’s three interest-rate cuts last year. Should the US economy falter, there is nowhere near enough room for the Fed to cut interest rates by 500 basis points, as it has in past recessions."
Feb 18th 2020
EXTRACT: "Beyond the usual economic and policy risks that most financial analysts worry about, a number of potentially seismic white swans are visible on the horizon this year. Any of them could trigger severe economic, financial, political, and geopolitical disturbances unlike anything since the 2008 crisis."
Feb 18th 2020
Extract: "In late 2019, Zogby Research Services (ZRS) once again had the opportunity to poll public opinion across the Middle East and North Africa about many of these issues that are of such critical concern to the region and its peoples..............One of the more intriguing results in our 2019 survey were the changes in Arab views toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Most Arabs still blame the US and Israel for the absence of peace and have little confidence that the conflict can be resolved in the near future. Maybe as a result of this despair, this issue now ranks low as an Arab priority. Also noteworthy is the fact that majorities in most Arab countries now say that normalization with Israel, which they acknowledge is already happening, may be a good thing. This development shouldn’t be overstated, however, since there is still no love for Israel. It appears, from our survey, to be born of frustration, weariness with Palestinians being victims of war, and the possibility that normalization might bring some economic benefits and could give Arabs leverage to press Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians."
Feb 15th 2020
EXTRACT: "Global dissatisfaction with democracy has increased over the past 25 years, according to our recent report. Drawing upon the HUMAN Surveys project, the report covered 154 countries, with 77 countries covered continuously for the period from 1995 to 2020. These samples were possible thanks to the combination of data from over 25 sources, 3,500 national surveys, and 4 million respondents. Not surprisingly, the gloomy headline finding – rising democratic dissatisfaction – attracted the most attention. Less widely discussed, however, is the “good news” – that a small sample of countries has bucked the trend, and have record high levels of satisfaction with their democracies."
Feb 14th 2020
EXTRACT: "This is how dictatorships begin. As the US prepares for its next presidential election in November, it is every citizen’s responsibility rationally to examine Trump’s dictatorial impulses, which reelection would only reinforce. It is not safe to assume that he won’t go too far, or that he is too much of a “mediocrity” – as Leon Trotsky called Stalin (an assessment with which many Bolsheviks agreed) – to transform his country......Vladimir Lenin, himself a ruthless Bolshevik, wrote in 1922 that, “Stalin concentrated in his hands enormous power, which he won’t be able to use responsibly,” owing to traits like rudeness, intolerance, and capriciousness. Trump has all of them in spades. The more power he concentrates in his own hands, the dimmer the long-term outlook for American democracy becomes. His reelection could mean lights out."
Feb 9th 2020
EXTRACT: "Does this mean that the dream of European unity is over? Does the exodus of a member state obliterate the vision of Victor Hugo and Václav Havel? Does Europe now fit the description of what the great American president Abraham Lincoln called a house divided against itself? Not necessarily. History is more imaginative than we are. The EU still has the option of keeping Britain close in heart and mind. We can still benefit from our absent partner, by resurrecting the partnership through our actions."
Feb 7th 2020
EXTRACT: "There, no formal change from a republican system to an autocratic system ever occurred. Rather, there was an erosion of the republican institutions, a steady creep over decades of authoritarian decision-making, and the consolidation of power within one individual – all with the name “Republic” preserved.........Will the GOP-led Senate’s endorsement of this defense clear a path for more of the manifestations – and consequences – of authoritarianism? The case of the Roman Republic’s rapid slippage into an autocratic regime masquerading as a republic shows how easily that transformation can occur."
Feb 7th 2020
EXTRACT: "So all that is why Cramer is talking about the death knell of petroleum stocks. We probably agree on almost nothing else, but when people are right, you have to give them credit. He is right."
Feb 3rd 2020
EXTRACT: "........as the citizens of the remaining 27 states have observed the destabilising impact that the referendum decision has had on British politics, they have been inoculated against the desire to secede from the EU. Outside the UK, national-populist parties have moderated their anti-EU rhetoric and nowadays profess to want to change the EU from within instead of destroying it."
Feb 2nd 2020
EXTRACT: "Senators will soon decide whether to dismiss the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump without hearing any witnesses. In making this decision, I believe they should consider words spoken at the Constitutional Convention, when the Founders decided that an impeachment process was needed to provide a “regular examination,” to quote Benjamin Franklin. A critical debate took place on July 20, 1787, which resulted in adding the impeachment clause to the U.S. Constitution. Franklin, the oldest and probably wisest delegate at the Constitutional Convention, said that when the president falls under suspicion, a “regular and peaceable inquiry” is needed."
Feb 1st 2020
EXTRACT: "Britain will be celebrating its glorious independence from the complications of international cooperation at a time when the intellectual, political, and economic hostility between China’s communist leadership and liberal democracies is becoming ever clearer. If liberal democracy is to survive, it must stand up for itself. And we should be under no illusion: open societies under the rule of law, from the Americas to Europe, Africa, and Asia, are in China’s hostile sights. The West should not aim to encircle or pen in China. But liberal democracies cannot allow it to distort international norms in its own favor."
Jan 29th 2020
EXTRACT: "Switzerland and Denmark have gone furthest into negative territory, both offering unprecedentedly low rates of -0.75%. The Swiss National Bank, which has kept its rate at this level since 2015, signalled recently that it intends to stick with this experiment and is not ruling out going even more negative. It has said that negative rates were boosting the economy and that the country’s fundamentals were not being significantly affected."
Jan 28th 2020
EXTRACT: "Electricity will dominate the future global energy system. Currently, it accounts for only 20% of final energy demand,......Without assuming any fundamental technological breakthroughs, we could certainly build by 2050 a global economy in which electricity met 65-70% of final energy demand,....."
Jan 27th 2020
EXTRACT: "With the world economy operating dangerously close to stall speed, the confluence of ever-present shocks and a sharply diminished trade cushion raises serious questions about financial markets’ increasingly optimistic view of global economic prospects."
Jan 26th 2020
EXTRACT: "Gibson’s diagnosis is supported by international attitude surveys. One found that most Americans rarely think about the future and only a few think about the distant future. When they are forced to think about it, they don’t like what they see. Another poll by the Pew Research Centre found that 44% of Americans were pessimistic about what lies ahead. But pessimism about the future isn’t just limited to the US. One international poll of over 400,000 people from 26 countries found that people in developed countries tended to think that the lives of today’s children will be worse than their own. And a 2015 international survey by YouGov found that people in developed countries were particularly pessimistic. For instance, only 4% of people in Britain thought things were improving. This contrasted with 41% of Chinese people who thought things were getting better."
Jan 24th 2020
EXTRACT: "........while over 80% of the ECB scheme buys government and other public sector bonds, a huge chunk still goes into corporate bonds and other assets. At the time of writing, the ECB holds €263 billion worth of corporate bonds – a very significant amount in relation to individual firms and the sectors in question. According to the ECB, 29% of these bonds were issued by French firms, 25% by German firms and 11% each by Spanish and Italian firms. As at September 2017, the sectors they came from included utilities (16%), infrastructure (12%), automotive (10%) and energy (7%)."
Jan 17th 2020
EXTRACT: "Thanks to cutting-edge digital technology, cars are increasingly like “smartphones on wheels”, so manufacturers need to have access to the latest patented 4G and 5G technologies essential to navigation and communications. But often the companies that hold the patents are reluctant to license them because manufacturers will not accept the high fees involved, which leads to patent disputes and licensing rows."
Jan 13th 2020
EXTRACT: "Recent polling from Pew Research demonstrates how the public’s attitudes toward the US and President Trump have witnessed sharp declines in many nations across the world. In Europe, the Americas, and the Middle East favorable attitudes toward the US went from lows during the years of George W. Bush’s presidency to highs in the early Obama years to lows, once again, in the Trump era. And in our Zogby Research Services (ZRS) polling we found, with a few exceptions, much the same trajectory across the Middle East."