Research Articles

The Seasons, Global Temperature, and Precession

Science  07 Apr 1995:
Vol. 268, Issue 5207, pp. 59-68
DOI: 10.1126/science.268.5207.59


Analysis of instrumental temperature records beginning in 1659 shows that in much of the world the dominant frequency of the seasons is one cycle per anomalistic year (the time from perihelion to perihelion, 365.25964 days), not one cycle per tropical year (the time from equinox to equinox, 365.24220 days), and that the timing of the annual temperature cycle is controlled by perihelion. The assumption that the seasons were timed by the equinoxes has caused many statistical analyses of climate data to be badly biased. Coherence between changes in the amplitude of the annual cycle and those in the average temperature show that between 1854 and 1922 there were small temperature variations, probably of solar origin. Since 1922, the phase of the Northern Hemisphere coherence between these quantities switched from 0° to 180° and implies that solar variability cannot be the sole cause of the increasing temperature over the last century. About 1940, the phase patterns of the previous 300 years began to change and now appear to be changing at an unprecedented rate. The average change in phase is now coherent with the logarithm of atmospheric CO2 concentration.

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