How Does The Sun Affect Global Warming – An image of the Sun showing a sunspot (a large, bright feature protruding from the surface of the Sun). Credit: ESA/NASA
Time for the ‘pink elephant in the room’: There is no imminent ‘ice age’ or ‘mini-ice age’ of declining solar energy production in the coming decades.
How Does The Sun Affect Global Warming
Throughout its life, the sun naturally undergoes changes in energy production. Some of this occurs during the normal 11-year period of high (many sunspots) and low activity (fewer sunspots), which is fairly predictable.
What Is Climate Change?
The graph above compares changes in global surface temperature (red line) and solar energy received by Earth (yellow line) in watts per square meter since 1880. Lighter/thin lines show annual values, and heavier/thick lines show 11-year average trends. Eleven-year averages are used to reduce natural annual noise in the data, making major trends more apparent.
The amount of solar energy the Earth receives follows the Sun’s natural 11-year cycle, with slight ups and downs, with no net increase since the 1950s. During the same period, the temperature of the earth rose significantly. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that the sun has caused the Earth’s temperature to rise over the past half century. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
But occasionally the sun becomes quieter for longer periods of time, experiencing far fewer sunspots and emitting less energy. This is called the “Great Solar Minimum” and the last time it happened coincided with a period called the “Little Ice Age” (a period of extremely low solar activity from about 1650 to 1715 in the Northern Hemisphere when a. cooling from volcanic aerosols and low solar activity led to a decrease in surface temperature).
Anomalous periods such as Grand Solar Minimum show that magnetic activity and energy production from the Sun can vary over decades, although space-based measurements over the past 35 years have shown little change from cycle to cycle in terms of total radiation. Solstice 24, which began in December 2008 and is likely to end in 2020, was shorter than the previous two cycles.
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Sometimes scientists predict that the coming 24-hour period may also show extended periods of minimal activity. However, the models for such predictions are not yet as strong as the models for our time, and are not considered definitive.
But if such a large solar minimum did occur, how big of an impact could it have? As for the force—the factor that can push in a certain direction—solar scientists estimate it to be about -0.1 W/m
Therefore, the new Grand Solar Minimum will only serve to compensate for several years of anthropogenic warming.
What does that mean? The warming from greenhouse gas emissions caused by human burning of fossil fuels is six times the potential cooling over several decades from the prolonged Grand Solar Minimum.
Sun And Climate Change
Even if the Grand Solar Minimum lasted for a century, global temperatures would continue to rise. The reason for this is that many factors are changing global temperatures on Earth, not just changes in solar output, and most of the warming today is caused by anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.
The sun rules life on earth; it helps keep the planet warm enough for us to survive. It also affects Earth: We know that subtle changes in Earth’s orbit around the Sun are responsible for the coming and going of past ice ages. But the warming we’ve seen in recent decades is too fast to be related to changes in Earth’s orbit, and too large to be caused by solar activity.
The sun does not always shine with the same intensity; it brightens and dims slightly, so it takes about 11 years to complete one solar cycle. In each cycle, the Sun undergoes various changes in its activity and appearance. The intensity of solar radiation increases or decreases, as does the amount of material ejected by the sun into space, and the size and number of sunspots and solar flares. These changes have many effects in space, in the Earth’s atmosphere, and on the Earth’s surface.
The current 24-hour cycle began in December 2008 and is less active than the previous two. It is expected to end sometime in 2020. Scientists don’t yet know exactly how strong the next 24 hours could be.
The Sun Joins The Climate Club
According to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the current scientific consensus is that long-term and short-term changes in solar activity play a very small role on Earth. The warming due to increased levels of anthropogenic greenhouse gases is actually many times greater than any effect due to recent changes in solar activity.
For more than 40 years, satellites have tracked solar energy production, which has increased or decreased by less than 0.1 percent over that period. Since 1750, the warming caused by greenhouse gases caused by human burning of fossil fuels has been more than 50 times greater than the small additional warming that came from the Sun itself over the same period.
As mentioned, the sun is currently experiencing less sunspot activity. Some scientists believe it could be the start of a grand solar minimum – a period of low solar activity lasting decades to centuries – while others say there is insufficient evidence to support this position. At maximum minimum, the Sun’s magnetism decreases, sunspots are rare, and less ultraviolet radiation reaches Earth.
The largest recent event, the Maunder Minimum, which lasted from 1645 to 1715, coincided with the Little Ice Age (13
Section 5: Climate Cycles & Recent Climate Change
Century). While scientists continue to investigate whether the prolonged solar minimum may have contributed to the cooling, there is little evidence that the Maunder Minimum triggered the Little Ice Age, or at least not by itself (in particular, the Little Ice Age began before the Maunder Minimum). . . Current theories about what caused the Little Ice Age suggest that a variety of events may have contributed, including natural fluctuations in ocean circulation, changes in human land use, and cooling from a less active sun also played a role. In general, cooling caused by volcanic aerosols probably played an important role.
Several studies in recent years have looked at the effect of the second major solar minimum on Earth’s surface temperature. These studies suggest that while the maximum minimum could cool the planet by 0.3 degrees Celsius, it would at best slow but not reverse human-caused global warming. There would be a slight reduction in the energy reaching the Earth; However, only three years of the current increase in CO2 concentrations will offset this. Additionally, the Grand Solar Minimum will be modest and temporary, with Earth’s temperature returning quickly once the event is over.
Moreover, even a prolonged Grand Solar Minimum or Maunder Minimum will only briefly offset anthropogenic warming. The graph above compares changes in global surface temperature (red line) with solar energy received by Earth (yellow line) in watts (units) of energy) per square meter since 1880. Lighter/thin lines show annual values, while heavier/thick lines show the average trend over 11 years. Eleven-year averages are used to reduce natural annual noise in the data, making major trends more apparent.
The amount of solar energy the Earth receives follows the Sun’s natural 11-year cycle of slight ups and downs with no net increase since the 1950s. During the same period, the temperature of the earth rose significantly. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that the sun has caused the Earth’s temperature to rise over the past half century.
How Would A Solar Grand Minimum Affect Global Warming?
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How Does Climate Change Affect Our Weather
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How The Sun’s Relationship With Earth Affects Our Climate
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