Vol 22, No 12

Erroneous use of Statistics behind Claims of a Major Solar Role in Recent Warming

Mark T. Richardson and Rasmus E. Benestad


In a study that attempted to relate solar and human activity to Earth's recent temperature change, Connolly et al. committed a basic error in the choice of statistical methods and so overreported the effect of the Sun. A major theme of their study was that there are many data sets of past solar activity, and some of these allegedly provide statistical evidence of "most of the recent global warming being due to changes in solar activity." We avoid methods that are known to give inaccurate results and show that for 1970–2005 Northern Hemisphere land the corrected solar attribution fraction is −7% to +5%, compared with values of up to 64% reported in Connolly et al. Their higher values are entirely due to mistaken application of statistics. Unfortunately, we cannot test truly "recent" global warming since most of their solar data sets end before 2015, and two finish in the 1990s, but all tested post-1970 periods show similarly small solar contributions. The solar-climate linkage is an area of fascinating and ongoing research with rigorous technical discussion. We argue that instead of repeating errors, they should be acknowledged and corrected so that the debate can focus on areas of legitimate scientific uncertainty.


Earth – (Sun:) solar-terrestrial relations – Physical Data and Processes

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