Posted by: erl happ | December 19, 2010

The solar wind, shifts in the atmosphere, climate change

It looks like the little puzzle that was the subject of my last post is not engaging too many minds. I will close out the offer of a reward with the following diagrams which provide some clues as to the physics behind shifts in the atmosphere, the forces driving the wind systems and the resulting warming and cooling of the ocean. In short, climate change is driven by the solar wind.

If the following diagrams seem to be obscure click on them to get a full screen view. The text explaining the figures is immediately beneath each figure.

Ring current dynamics affect the distribution of the atmosphere

The Dst index measures the strength of the electromagnetic fields in the Earth’s atmosphere.The Antarctic Oscillation Index and the Arctic Oscillation Indexes represent the balance of pressure between the mid latitude and the respective pole. Practically speaking these indices also represent the flux in polar sea level pressure with the polar index falling as sea level pressure rises.

When the solar wind intensifies the Dst index becomes more negative and it takes a couple of months to fully relax again. In about one half of occasions when it pulses negative both the AO and the AAO move upwards, and on a quarter of occasions it is one and on the other quarter it is the other. There are very few occasions when the polar indices fail to react.

As Dst relaxes the AO and the AAO indices fall indicating a return of atmsopheric mass to the poles

As the atmosphere becomes more compact,  it does towards solar minimum and in low amplitude solar cycles, the swings in the AO and the AAO become wilder, with a greater range in their activity. In an atmosphere where neutrals and changed particles are more closely associated it takes less energy from the solar wind to bring about an equivalent shift in the mass of the atmosphere.

Antarctic Oscillation and Arctic Oscillation from 2005

In the long term the AO and the AAO are locked together. This tells us that a force that must be external to the Earth itself must be responsible. What internal force could give rise to a shift of atmospheric mass from high to lower latitudes and gradually magnify the effort over sixty or 100 years, and then reverse the process?

In the short term there can be shifts of atmosphere from one hemisphere to the other due to seasonal influences (pressure at the pole is much higher in winter) and perhaps to the state of the northern hemisphere temperature in winter and the flux of ozone into the stratosphere and troposphere from the stratospheric vortex.  Perhaps the solar wind itself can preferentially shift the atmosphere from one hemisphere to the other. Certainly there has been a spectacular decline in pressure in the Antarctic since 1948 which is now bottoming. In the Arctic pressure fell from the 1940’s till the early 1990’s and is now recovering.The recovery is faster in winter. Interestingly, the temperature of northern hemisphere winters is strongly tied to the Arctic Oscillation. When pressure rises during an Arctic winter the westerlies weaken and the polar easterlies descend from their usual habitat in the stratosphere to plunge southwards in what is frequently described as an Arctic Outbreak. The Westerlies retreat south and the entire hemisphere outside of the Arctic cools. In the Arctic circle and the usual centres of downdraft activity, Siberia and Greenland, the surface warms when that descending air contains ozone from the upper stratosphere. Every interval of slightly increased pressure at the pole results in an increase in geopotential heights as ozone is gathered up from the interaction zone of the stratosphere and the mesosphere by renewed vortex activity, absorbs long wave radiation from the Earth and warms the surrounding atmosphere. The phenomenon is called a sudden stratospheric warming. Ultimately that ozone finds its way into the troposphere in the mid latitudes where it warms the air so reducing cloud density. The notion that this is all due to ‘planetary waves’ is unphysical. This idea does nothing to explain the propagation of thermal anomalies from upper stratosphere to middle troposphere that occurs every time pressure rises at the pole.

Antarctic Oscillation Index (AAO) and Southern Oscillation Index

Some people have noticed  a relationship between the AAO and the Southern oscillation index, a proxy for ENSO and Sea surface temperatures in tropical waters. It’s frequently out of phase however, sometimes one leading and sometimes the other. This rules out ENSO as a mode of causation of change at the pole. However, it does not rule out polar phenomena as a cause of ENSO because there are two poles that swing independently over the short term. Defend the jab from the south but watch out for the uppercut from the north.

Arctic Oscillation Index (AO) and the Southern Oscillation Index

Some people have noticed  a relationship between the AO and the Southern oscillation index a proxy for ENSO and Sea surface temperatures in tropical waters. It’s frequently out of phase however.

Antarctic Sea Level Pressure and the differential pressure driving the westerly winds between 30-40S and 60-70S latitude

There is nothing sloppy about the relationship between the Antarctic sea level pressure and the differential pressure driving the westerly winds however. The relationship is inverse.

Differential pressure driving the westerlies in the southern hemsiphere and the AAO
Differential pressure driving the westerlies in the southern hemsiphere and the AAO

And the same  can be said of the AAO and the differential pressure driving the westerlies. The relationship and its result in terms of changing sea surface temperature  is stronger in the northern hemisphere (not shown)

dWS and Sea surface temperature 30-50S

As the westerly winds strengthen there is an increase in sea surface temperature. One expects evaporation to increase as the surface of the ocean gets rougher. So, this relationship can only be due to flux in cloud cover. Notice the wider swings in dWS and sea surface temperature in the mid latitudes after 1990. I used to think think that this was due to the expansion of the Hadley cell. Now, I think it due to the gradual collapse of the ionosphere through solar cycle 23. The atmosphere is more reactive now because neutrals are more intimately associated with charged particles that are capable of acceleration when the electromagnetic field changes.

SST between 30N and 50S by wind zone

Sea Surface temperature evolution in the mid latitudes

Beware the differences in the scale on these two figures. It is apparent that the flux in sea surface temperature is greater at 30-50N than it is at 30-50S and that the flux is even less at lower latitudes. This conforms to what we know of the density of mid and upper level cloud according to latitude and the fact that the northern stratosphere has a higher ozone content and experiences a much greater flux in ozone from the stratospheric vortex than is seen in the southern hemisphere.

Going forward, weaker solar cycles will allow atmospheric mass to return to the poles, the westerlies will weaken, the stratosphere and the upper troposphere will cool, cloud cover will increase and the surface will cool. The SOI has been positive most of the time since 2007 whereas it was highly negative over the previous thirty years since the gross climate shift of 1978 when upper atmosphere temperatures jumped. Since that time upper atmosphere temperatures have been in decline.

What is described here is a mechanism that accounts for the change in the climate of the Earth over short and long periods of time that needs no reference to the supposed influence of carbon dioxide or other  ‘greenhouse gases’ of anthropogenic origin.

It is not expected that a better understanding of climate change phenomena will make much difference to the UN driven campaign to control carbon emissions. The ‘science’ of AGW has always been weak. This campaign is driven by an agenda that sees economic growth as unsustainable. Such a view has long been held by a section of the intelligentsia.  They hold this view regardless of evidence that man is highly adaptive, technology is advancing at a faster pace than ever before and individual people (even at times nation states)  frequently exhibit an unselfish attitude towards those in need. Left to his own devices man strives for improvement, organized into political parties and movements, he often loses his way. But, its usually temporary.


Brian H asked for a potted version of my theory of climate change.

From the surface upward.

Sea surface temperature increases due to

Increase in temperature of the cloud bearing layer of the troposphere from about 5km through to 12 km (this thins the cloud layer and lets more light through) due to:

Ozone descending from the stratosphere due to

A pulse of ozone descending via a polar vortex as the vortex recovers activity after a period where the flow has been restricted due to

Loss of atmosphere from the polar region due to

Electromagnetic attraction from the equatorial regions due to

Pulse of energy from the solar wind generating electric currents in the atmosphere…in particular the ‘ring current’ that circulates around the equator.


How can we get  “A pulse of ozone descending via the polar vortex”

Because the upper stratosphere over the pole is a mixing zone for nitrogen ions from the mesosphere and oxygen ions from the stratosphere. When the vortex is strong the flow of nitrogen ions is strong and this depletes the oxygen ions available to form ozone (O3).

When the vortex is weak, the flow of nitrogen ions is reduced, oxygen ions become abundant and more ozone forms.

So the vortex at the poles represents the primary natural regulator of the amount of ozone in the stratosphere and because ozone absorbs long wave energy from the Earth the vortex is also the primary regulator of stratospheric temperature. Because the stratosphere and troposphere are not walled regions that never mix and there is in fact a descent of ozone rich air into the troposphere (especially in the mid latitudes and to a lesser extent the low latitudes) this directly affects cloud density. When the cloud thins, the sea warms. The warming of the sea can be traced back very directly to a shift in the atmosphere (to and from the poles) wrought by the solar wind.

These phenomena are observable on a weekly basis. The loss of atmospheric pressure at the poles and gains elsewhere indicate that the phenomenon also varies on very long time scales of the order of at least 100 years.



  1. Edit: a few places, including a caption, you type “atmsophere” instead of “atmosphere”.

    • Just a bit dyslexic and getting worse.

  2. It would help (me) if you laid this out as a kind of flowchart. Is that possible?

    • I can give you the full fifty figure text on the pressure change story with associated explanation if that will help. There is a separate paper on vortex dynamics and how and where that influences sea surface temperature if that is what you are after. And there is another paper that relates directly to Dst and pressure? I have your email address. Want any of these?

      • Nah!

        I have some b/g in systems, and a flowchart of the possible flows etc. would help me grasp the patterns. But if that’s not useful or convenient for you, never mind. I thought it might be fitting and natural way for you to express the influences and branchings you lay out in the article.

    • A flow chart. That’s terrific. Love to check it out. Send to

  3. Erl: Your longer-term graphs would be much easier to follow if you’d filter out the seasonal components. Many times the alignment of the seasonal components can give the false impression of agreement.

    • Hi Bob,
      I look at the data and I have the same concern. But then I remind myself that the data is de-seasonalised by subtracting the average of all of a particular months for the entire period 1948-2010 from the value for the month concerned. What you see is a shift in the month where the anomaly is expressed and that reflects a shift in the origin of the anomaly from one pole to the other. But to see this you need to compare ten years at the start of the series to ten in the middle and ten at the end. Early in the period pressure over Antarctica was strong, the flux in ozone with short term flux in the AAO is related to sea surface warming in the middle of the year. In the last 10 years it is the Arctic that has strong pressure and the flux in ozone is more influential so the anomaly frequently appears early in the year.

      And what this says is that the system is shifting, the nature of the warming cycle in the tropics, and at other latitudes is changing together with the change in the differential pressure that drives the major winds. This proceeds directly from the change in polar pressure which in turn depends upon the solar wind.

      In my paper ‘The Climate Engine’ the focus was on the difference in the system post 1978 versus pre 1978. What you see in the anomalies is an expression of that. A collapse in pressure over Antarctica late in the year raised temperatures in the stratosphere and upper troposphere tending to promote warming late in the southern winter. So, the warming associated with the southern vortex in August through to December tends to merge with warming associated with the northern vortex from December through to March.

      What I am concerned to show here is the long term swings and the dependence of sea surface temperature on the pressure differential which varies directly with the flux in ozone. The texture of change is really the subject for a separate essay.

  4. Erl Happ,

    Do you think this is at least part of what Piers Corbyn uses for his weather service predictions?

    • I don’t think Piers has told us what he uses. But I do think he understands the importance of the Arctic Oscillation in driving surface temperatures and has an attitude of mind that says the driver is external rather than some internal monotonic force such as greenhouse gases and that’s probably why he is more successful than the UK Met.

  5. Hi Earl, David DuByne writing. I have a series of videos Mini Ice Age 2015-2035 on Youtube. I would like to reference the AO-AAO 2nd graph down in the article. I want to make sure I explain it correctly. The electromagnetic fields in the Earth’s atmosphere due to lack of high solar wind speed/pressure result in the Dst black line effects are reduced solar wind pressure and the deeper the differential to -30 or -40? The linear swings in AO-AAO to -6 reflect the same. Correct or incorrect?

    • Hi David, Thanks for your question. It’s an important subject.
      The second graph shows that as the Dst (left axis) relaxes (more positive) the AO and the AAO indices (right axis) fall indicating a return of atmospheric mass to the poles. When the Dst index heads into the negative it indicates more geomagnetic activity. More geomagnetic activity occurs when charged particles from the sun interact with the Earth’s atmosphere so as to pull atmosphere from both poles towards the equator. The Dst index is just one way of measuring geomagnetic activity. The highest levels of geomagnetic activity engendered by solar flares so electrify the atmosphere as to blow transformers in power grids. The DST index going negative is the same as the aa and the aap indexes going positive. The effect on the atmosphere is modulated by the state of ionization of the atmosphere that in turn depends upon the intensity and composition of very short wave energy from the sun. The state of the Earth’s magnetic field also plays a part in the atmospheric response. At solar maximum the suns magnetic field is reversing and charged particles coming from the sun tend to have self cancelling effects. So far as the Earth’s climate is concerned a loss of atmospheric pressure at the poles induces an increase in stratospheric ozone levels. Ozone enters the troposphere wherever air is descending, especially in high pressure cells in the mid latitudes and to an even greater extent on the margins of Antarctica where a zone of intensely low atmospheric pressure is formed. Ozone in the troposphere means cloud loss because air containing ozone is energised by long wave radiation from the Earth itself. We then see a tell tale pattern of sea surface warming stretching equator wards with a south easterly origin in the southern hemisphere and a north easterly origin in the northern hemisphere. This is ozone travelling in the counter westerlies reducing ice cloud density. Ice cloud is highly reflective. This represents an El Nino warming in all the tropical oceans. It has long been known that surface temperature in the northern hemisphere depends upon the Arctic Oscillation and that there is a correlation with geomagnetic activity. But nobody has ever been able to provide an explanation of why this should be so. A lot of people just don’t want to know. But, it is now being realized that change in the ‘annular modes’ of surface atmospheric pressure variation represents climate change in action and a group of Chinese statisticians have recently demonstrated that Antarctica is the driver of change as it occurs over the entire globe.

      As to what you are describing in your comment, its a bit of a mystery to me but I suspect you have some reading to do.

  6. Erl, Thank you for the answer. I agree that the Antarctic is the driver for changes in the Earth’s climate. Some other research I have done points to Baffin Island, Canada near Greenland as the nucleation point for Northern Hemisphere Little Ice Age conditions.

    With the Earth’s magnetic field declining more rapidly than expected, I wonder what types of changes this would have with the amount of Ozone entering the Troposphere along with increased cosmic rays and low cloud formation in terms of the pace of cooling.

  7. That is a question for a specialist in magnetism and electricity. Leif Svalgaard is the expert in these affairs but he generally poo-poos the idea of atmospheric shifts even though the evidence is staring him in the face. My gut feeling is that a weakening of the Earth’s magnetic field field will make the Earth’s atmospheric environment more susceptible to solar influences but I am a novice in these affairs.
    However whatever caused the big shift that occurred in 1976 to 1978 that set a higher level for southern hemisphere ozone content and stratospheric temperature (greatly increased solar activity after cycle 20) is dissipating slowly. The evidence is in slowly dissipating S Hemisphere stratospheric temperature and increasing winter time Sea Level Pressure in the Arctic. In the last few months we have also see the AAO at quite negative levels indicating a temporary return of atmospheric mass to Antarctica. December temperatures here in the SW of West Aust have been chilly with cold wind from the south. So, the evidence is that we are at a turning point. The last post on my blog documents that. Weak solar cycles in the past have seen big swings in climate. The same tends to occur at solar minimum. A compact atmosphere with a low level of ionization is highly susceptible to atmospheric shifts. The decline phase of cycle 24 has not produced vigorous swings but lets see what happens as we approach solar minimum. A weak sun with low levels of short wave radiation is a new thing, not seen for a very long time. And its going to be different this time round because of the state of the Earth’s magnetic field.

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