To what extent does solar variability contribute to climate change
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To what extent does solar variability contribute to climate change?. Dr. David H. Hathaway NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center National Space Science and Technology Center. Outline. Solar Variability The Solar Sunspot Cycle Solar Variability and NH Temperature

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To what extent does solar variability contribute to climate change l.jpg

To what extent does solar variability contribute to climate change?

Dr. David H. Hathaway

NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center

National Space Science and Technology Center


Outline l.jpg
Outline change?

  • Solar Variability

  • The Solar Sunspot Cycle

  • Solar Variability and NH Temperature

  • Total Solar Irradiance Variations

  • Solar Spectral Irradiance Variations

  • Galactic Cosmic Ray Variations


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Solar Activity – Space Weather change?

Solar activity includes flares, prominence eruptions, and coronal mass ejections (CMEs) along with associated electromagnetic emission at wavelengths from gamma-rays to radio-waves and energetic particles from electrons and protons to heavy nuclei.


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Solar Evolution change?

Over its 4.5 billion year history the Sun has slowly increased in brightness (Luminosity) as it has burned hydrogen to form helium in its core. It is now some 30% brighter than is was 4 billion years ago.


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The Sunspot Cycle change?

The sunspot cycle was discovered in 1844 by a Swiss Apothecary – Heinrich Schwabe. The number of sunspots rises and falls with a period of about 11-years. Individual cycles vary in amplitude, cycle length, and cycle shape. In 1854 Rudolf Wolf proposed the “Relative Sunspot Number” index and used historical records to extend the record back to 1749.


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It’s All Magnetic! change?

Sunspots are regions where intense magnetic fields loop up out of the Sun and back into its interior. These fields are shuffled around by flows at, and below, the surface. This leads to the generation of waves and magnetic reconnection above the surface – heating the corona and driving flares, prominence eruptions, and CMEs.


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The Sun’s Magnetic Cycle change?

Active regions erupt in two bands on either side of the Sun’s equator that start at about 30° north and south and slowly drift toward the equator over each sunspot cycle. A broad equatorial jet and a poleward meridional flow advect magnetic elements across the surface while cellular convective flows shred the field and scatter the elements in random directions.


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The Sun’s Magnetic Cycle change?

30-years of magnetic measurements reveal the characteristics of the Sun’s magnetic cycle: different polarities at low- and high-latitudes that reverse from hemisphere-to-hemisphere and cycle-to-cycle; poleward drift of high-latitude polarity that reverses the polar fields at about the time of cycle maximum.


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Sunspot Area change?

10.7cm Radio Flux

GOES X-Ray Flares

Climax Cosmic-Ray Flux

Total Irradiance

Geomagnetic aa index

Solar Activity and Sunspots

Sunspot number is well correlated with solar activity. The 400-year length of the sunspot number record helps to characterize the solar cycle. The connection with cosmic rays leaves even longer records of solar activity in tree rings (14C) and ice cores (10Be).


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Solar Variability and Climate change?

Yearly sunspot numbers back to 1610 (the invention of the telescope) show significant variations in the amplitudes of the sunspot cycles. This includes periods of inactivity like the Maunder Minimum (1645-1715) and the Dalton Minimum (1800-1825). Similar variations are seen in estimates of the Northern Hemisphere temperatures as given by Mann et al. (1998), Moberg et al. (2005), and others (variations of a few tenths of a degree Celsius).


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The Total Solar Irradiance change?

Formerly known as the “Solar Constant,” the Total Solar Irradiance (TSI) varies by about 0.1% over the last three solar cycles. (Larger dips in TSI are due to the passage of large sunspots across the visible disk of the Sun.) This 0.1% variation only produces a 0.1 °C change in Northern Hemisphere Temperature when introduced in most climate models.


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TSI Successes change?

Efforts to model the TSI appear to be quite successful. Models include dark sunspot umbrae and lighter (but still dark) sunspot penumbrae from “white light” images of the Sun. And bright faculae as determined by locations of small-scale, weaker, magnetic features.


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TSI Modelling During Cycle 23 change?

Magnetic features explain more than 90% of the variability. Both the day-to-day variations and the overall rise from minimum to maximum are modeled very well with just one parameter – a filling factor for faculae.

Krivova et al. 2003 A&A Lett


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TSI Complications change?

TSI measurements have been taken by satellite-based instruments for 30 years. The measurements are very precise (able to distinguish small variations) but the accuracy (actual value) varies from one instrument to another.

The ACRIM reconstruction showed a significant difference in TSI for the 1986 and 1996 minima. The PMOD reconstruction showed no such variation but now shows a significant variation between the 1996 and 2007 minimum.

This variation cannot be explained by magnetic features and raises the question: Could TSI have varied by more than 0.1% during the Maunder and Dalton Minima?


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Spectral Irradiance Variations change?

Although TSI only varies by about 0.1% over the last three cycles, the Sun’s UV irradiance (at wavelengths that influence ozone production in the stratosphere) varies by several percent. These variations may produce more significant tropospheric variations than TSI.




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Cosmic Ray Modulation change?

The flux of cosmic rays has been measured at mountain-top observatories for several decades. These measurements show significant (~20%) decreases at mid-latitudes that are associated with solar activity.



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Cosmic Rays and change?14C & 10Be

The solar cycle modulation of cosmic rays leaves a record of solar activity in 14C in tree rings and 10Be in ice cores.

Carslaw et al. (2002) as lifted from Lockwood (2002)


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Cosmic Rays and Clouds change?

There are indications that the modulation of cosmic rays may modulate cloud cover.

Carslaw et al. (2002) as lifted from Marsh & Svensmark (2000)


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Cosmic Ray/Cloud Mechanism change?

Carslaw et al. (2002)


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Conclusions change?

  • Solar variability appears to produce a significant signal in the tropospheric temperature record

  • Recent changes in the total solar irradiance should produce smaller temperature variations

  • Long-term changes in total solar irradiance may be larger than suggested by recent behavior

  • Solar UV variability may produce larger temperature variations

  • Solar cycle modulation of cosmic rays may influence cloud cover and produce larger temperature variations

  • More work is needed with Global Circulation Models that include: 1) stratospheric layers with solar UV forcing and 2) Cosmic ray induced cloud cover changes


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