Zharkova et al.: an update

Last year I wrote a couple of posts about a paper by Valentina Zharkova and colleagues, which suggested that global warming was partly due to the Earth moving closer to the Sun as the Sun moves around the Solar System barycentre. If you read my posts, the comments, and this pubpeer thread you’ll notice a number of people pointing out that this was wrong; the Earth-Sun distance doesn’t change as the Sun goes around the Solar System barycentre.

Recently, an editorial response and comments from two reviewers have been released, as has a response from the authors. They’ve also released an erratum. You can find some discussion of this on Geoff Sharp’s post.

Unsurprisingly, the editorial response and the recviewers agree with the criticisms of the paper. The editor says:

There is a legitimate, and based on my reading, completely correct concern about the Earth-Sun distance calculation.

Similarly, reviewer 1 says:

Earth is orbiting about the sun and the barycentric motion of the sun is irrelevant for computing/predicting Earth’s temperature. In a simpler term, the Sun is very close to being the prime focus of the Earth orbit.

In their erratum, the authors acknowledge that they were wrong to suggest that the Earth-Sun distance changed as the Sun goes around the Solar System barycentre. However, they then go on to claim that there is still quite a substantial change in the Earth-Sun distance on century timescales. However, as pointed out in Geoff Sharp’s post, what they’ve done is to consider only the perihelion distance. This is the distance between the Sun and the Earth when the Earth is closest to the Sun. It’s well known that there is a slow change in the eccentricity of the Earth’s orbit; it goes from being almost circular, to being slightly elliptical.

This does indeed then lead to a slow change in the perhelion distance. However, there is an equivalent, but opposite, change in the aphelion distance, so that the average distance remains unchanged. This is illustrated in the figure in this comment. So, despite acknowledging a pretty fundamental error when discussing the motion of the Sun around the Solar System barycentre, they’ve gone on to make another pretty fundamental error.

I don’t know what the outcome of this is yet. It’s the authors who have released the editorial response, reviewers comments, and their erratum. Their erratum is still not published and it may be that it goes through further review. Would certainly hope so.

This entry was posted in Global warming, Philosophy for Bloggers, Research, Sound Science (tm), The philosophy of science and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to Zharkova et al.: an update

  1. Joshua says:

    It’s surprising that she acknowledged any errors at all, given that the errors were pointed out by alarmists

    Following criticism of the paper, lead author Valentina Zharkova, of Northumbria University, described Rice as a “climate alarmist” in an online discussion.

  2. I was accused of being in denial during our email exchange.

  3. Everett F Sargent says:

    What goes up …

    Must come down …

  4. EFS,
    Where did you get that from. The reason I ask is that the figure in Zharkova’s seems to show the distance decreasing, while yours shows it increasing (which is what I was expecting). I’m not entirely sure quite what they’ve shown in their erratum.

  5. Everett F Sargent says:

    On the above plots. I mentioned in the old thread that you can obtain the full ~30.4 kyr JPL ephemeris data from here …
    I did that for daily data for a total of 11,100,020 data points.

    In this particular exercise, I did a time domain analysis for minmax (the peaks and valleys of the annual cycle, also did zero crossings before that, to define the respective minmax ranges). I even fit a quadratic to each 3-day minmax (to get a form of interpolation for fractional date and distance, BTW makes no substantive difference).

    The full 30 kyr look like …

    (same units as previous plots)

    One final note. The above are a factor of ~six lower then as shown in their Figure 3 (the rate of change is 6X lower then their claim for the current ~1000 year era (1650-2650 CE).

    I actually don;t know what all they are doing. Each interation of their paper only gets worse (and they lost an author, four is now three in their erratum). :/

  6. EFS,
    Great, thanks. That’s what I was getting. I was assuming that they’re plotting perihelion (because the values are all less than 1) but I’m really not entirely sure.

  7. Everett F Sargent says:


    I think I’ve done the above correctly, I used this subset (minmax and zero crossings) to define the eccentricity per the standard definition. These two curves define the envelope of Earth’s motion in AU.

    Again, I have absolutely no idea what all they are doing anymore.

    The both claim, at the exact same time or era, a so-called GSM (within the next few decades) and state that Earth will warm by 0.5C/Century over the next ~six centuries.

  8. EFS,
    Looks very similar to what I got with my code (the x-axis should be relative to about now).

  9. Everett F Sargent says:

    Also, h/t to Geoff Sharp, as that made me look into their Figure 3. It would appear that they all are still hung up on the four ice giants and their own misunderstanding of what the JPL documentation explicitly states,

    So that plot might be something to do with including or excluding the 3/4 ice giants, who knows.

    They go all conspiratorial here in the erratum …

    “Note. We wish to point out that after we submitted the previous reply to the Editorial Board in September 2019, this option to include all four large planets for the Sun-Earth distance in the JPL ephemeris has been removed from this software from October 2019.”

    They use some 3rd party software instead of the JPL or INPOP or EPM. I don’t know why. :/

  10. Everett F Sargent says:

    ice giants = Gas giants = Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune = those four large planets outside of the Solar System Asteroid Belt, or some such.

  11. Everett F Sargent says:

    VV et. al. are using this software in their ephemeris calcs …
    Like really up to date stuff if your clock stopped a decade or so ago …

    “The ephemeris calculation is based upon Steve Moshier’s analytical ephemeris using trigonometric expansions for the earth and planets and the lunar ephemeris ELP2000-85 of Chapront-Touzé and Chapront for the moon, both adjusted to Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s DE404 (see http://www.moshier.net). There are further adjustments in Alcyone Ephemeris, some optional, to JPL’s more recent DE406, the most accurate long-term ephemeris.”

    The trial version of this software dates to 2013-04-03, coming up on seven years old. The http://www.moshier.net no longer works.

    This so-called paper has drowned repeatedly and often, no amount of resuscitation will ever revive it, it should have been declared DOA from the get go.

    The GSM might actually happen, but this paper isn’t proof, it is more like Roulette, enough people bet and the table is 100% covered, someone will always win, and that is what this is all about, someone will get lucky and unfortunately famous for guessing correctly. :/

  12. Everett F Sargent says:

    My bad, The http://www.moshier.net link works. Don’t know how recent their version of the sourced software is. I installed the trial version it dates to 2011-12-03 version v4.3.0.680 in the About pane. :/

  13. Everett F Sargent says:

    I just wanted to post the main link to the review and response comments at …

    There are a total of three relatively recent documents (not counting the erratum) …

    “2a. Reviews N2 of our published paper in December 2019 by two referees and the Deputy Editor of Scientific Reports after the paper published” (2019-12-06)

    ”2b. Our replies N2 to the reviews above by two referees and the Deputy Editor of Scientific Reports after the paper was published” (2019-12-17)

    “5. Reply to the reviewer comments N1 done for the Editorial Board in September 2019 after the paper was published on 24 June 2019” (2019-10-24)

    The 2nd of these is what I have called the crazy train to crazy town document (promotes a bogus conspiracy theory) …

    “Furthermore, after we submitted the answer to the Editorial Board in September 2019 and the plots of S-E distance derived from the current JPL ephemeris considering all four large planets (Jupiter, Neptune, Saturn and Uranus) taken from the Alcyone ephemeris software website, this option has been removed in October 2019. This looks like a cover up of someone’s wrong results, which they do not want to be known to other researchers and the general public.

    The removal in October 2019 of the option to consider the gravitational effects of four large planets for calculation of S-E distance in the Alcyone Ephemeris software speaks for itself revealing that someone does not want the scientists and general public to learn about this missing SIM effect, which was not considered in the well-advertised models predicting the terrestrial temperature variations.

    We hope that the Editorial Boar of Scientific Reports will not be tricked to take part in the cover up process of someone’s scientific omissions and will not retract our paper.”

    Or maybe their 30-day trial licence expired on this eight year old piece of software and they are too cheap and lazy to buy a $50 licence!!! 😉

  14. David B. Benson says:

    Just consider conservation of energy.

  15. izen says:

    My shallow grasp of orbital mechanics suggests that not only does the average distance remain unchanged, but that the orbital speed is greater at perihelion as the eccentricity increases; and the planet slows and spends longer at the maximum distance.
    I lack the maths to determine whether this changes the total energy received.

    There has been a strand in soviet science that holds that the Sun is the primary control knob of the Earth’s climate. When TSI failed to comply by showing an increasing minimum as warming continued, attention turned to any other factor in the Earth – Sun relationship to support this a priori conviction.
    It is a measure of the motivated reasoning that any attempt to show that the correlations found between the barycentre, perihelion, axial tilt is too small and too slow to be an explanation of the observed warming will be dismissed as a conspiracy to den… suppress the ‘self-evident Truth’ that the Sun controls the climate.

    That the Russian economy is primarily dependent on the export of fossil fuels may have no influence on this.

  16. Everett F Sargent says:

    The motif of these two graphs (the top one is the same as Figure 3 in the erratum) …

    Is the same as the motif of the Alcyone Ephemeris software …

    Many more examples of Alcyone Ephemeris plots here …

    So, I conclude that Figure 3 is some form of artifact (or counterfactual) time series plot using the Alcyone Ephemeris software with an unknown number of Solar System bodies used.

    And boohoo, their trial licence expired or they have since forgotten the software settings that produced that plot. In other words, it would appear that they can no longer reproduce their own results from just a few months ago. Ergo their conspiracy theory. 😦

  17. Holger says:

    I followed that on Geoff Sharp’s blog. Quite interesting, especially using (stealing?) a graph from Sharp and claiming it as her own work. As Sharp wrote: “Recently I questioned Zharkova re stealing my plot and she stated it was just a coincidence and an artefact of her plot building software (the colors matched etc) which is clearly impossible”.

  18. David B. Benson says:

    Back to the main point, it looks very bad:

    Climate sensitivity is very high.

  19. Holger,
    Yes, using Geoff Sharp’s figure without credit and suggesting that they produced it themselves is very questionable. It is obviously his figure.

  20. The changes in aphelion and perihelion seems enough to start an iceage. The interesting thing is that on average there is no change at all in solar-energy globaly and over the year. Just very small redistributions over the seasons and latitudes. But this seems to be enough to start it some how.

  21. Dave_Geologist says:

    As a clue Raymond, consider two things: the unequal distribution of land and water between the Northern and Southern hemispheres; and whether or not there is a continent at either pole. Combine that with which way the Earth’s rotation axis is pointing at aphelion and perihelion. Other factors include whether a polar continent is surrounded by ocean or joined to temperate continent(s), and whether it is low-lying or is the continent with the highest mean elevation; and whether a polar ocean is land-locked.

    Of course that is all well understood, and has nothing to do with our current warming. Indeed IIRC it currently contributes to a cooling trend, and is part of the explanation for our own contribution to the present warming being more than 100%.

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