The Eleven Year Solar Cycle and the Saucepan Test

The sun waxes and wanes, or rather emits marginally more ultraviolet radiation at some times than it does at others. It seems that there is a cycle for the sun every eleven or so years. Some stages of the cycle are described as “quiet” and others are more energy intensive and it seems that during the quiet stages the sun emits less UV radiation which has an effect upon our weather, but not our climate.

Ultra violet light is absorbed in the upper atmosphere the stratosphere actually) by ozone (mostly) which is layered there. When there is less UV light the ozone layer has less energy to absorb (light is after all energy) and having less energy to absorb the upper stratosphere becomes cooler. This affects precipitation and air oscillations, and according to some research by the UK Met Office, creates colder than usual winters when the UV radiation is low.

Does this affect global warming? I cannot see how it can; the fact that the amount of radiation striking the atmosphere of the sun varies does not necessarily affect the radiation escaping from the earth’s atmosphere.

I remember watching my sister heat a saucepan of milk on a gas hob when i was very young. If she turned up the gas the milk heated quickly but if she lowered the gas the milk still heated but more slowly. In fact virtually any heat from the hob would keep the milk hot until she took it off the hob.

If you heat a saucepan of milk and vary the temperature in doing so as long as the temperature of the water is less than the temperature of the heat source the water gets hotter. It seems to me that the temperature (radiation) striking the atmosphere will always be hotter than the atmosphere whether the sun’s radiation increases or decreases over an eleven year cycle. If the sun’s radiation ever reached levels that were such that the heat from the sun striking the atmosphere was less than the heat in the atmosphere then the effect of global warming would be reduced. However, if that happened we would all be in trouble.

What happens when the solar radiation waxes and wanes is that the atmosphere heats up relatively more quickly and relatively more slowly; that is all; it still heats up.

It is helpful to think of this “saucepan effect” when being faced with arguments, which you certainly will hear from climate change deniers that the eleven year solar cycle explains why climate change is not happening.