Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Flickering sun switched climate

19.12.2001


Europe’s Little Ice Age coincided with low solar activity.
Pieter Brueghel’s painting ’The Census at Bethlehem’.


A solar slump may have chilled the Northern Hemisphere.

The flickering sun may cause rapid climate change, according to a new comparison of climate records. A 200-year cold snap 10, 300 years ago seems to have coincided with a passing slump in the sun’s activity1.

Svante Bjorck of Lund University in Sweden and colleagues looked at sediments in Lake Starvatn on the Faroe Islands and in the Norwegian Sea, the width of growth rings in ancient German pine trees, and ancient ice drilled from deep within the Greenland ice sheet.



Each of these indicates how some characteristic of the environment has changed over the 11,000 or so years since the last ice age ended. The chemical composition of the ice core, for example, shows how the temperature of the atmosphere has changed. The distance between tree-rings reflects the average ambient temperature during each successive growing season.

Ice and trees show that the climate became suddenly colder about 10,300 years ago, then gradually warmed again over the ensuing century. Other records from the Californian coast and Tibet suggest that the cold snap may have been felt throughout the Northern Hemisphere, and perhaps worldwide.

Bjorck and colleagues propose that a weakening of solar activity may have caused this mini chill. It coincided, they find, with a large increase in the amount of beryllium-10 trapped in Greenland ice - evidence of a solar flicker.

This radioactive form of beryllium is produced when cosmic rays from space collide with nitrogen and oxygen atoms in the atmosphere. The magnetic field around the Earth protects the planet from cosmic rays. This field is stronger when the sun is more active - emitting more ultraviolet radiation and displaying more sunspots - so fewer cosmic rays can penetrate.

The proposed relationship between solar activity and climate change is controversial, partly because some have tried to pin modern-day global warming on it rather than on a human-induced greenhouse effect.

There is evidence, however, linking changes in solar activity to climate fluctuations in the more recent past. Abnormally high activity around AD 1100-1250, for example, has been mooted as the cause of a period of warming in medieval Europe. And the ’Little Ice Age’ between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries coincided with a period of low solar activity.

Core values

The most pronounced climate swings, such as ice ages, happen slowly and last a long time - 100,000 years or so. Gradual, periodic changes in the shape of the Earth’s orbit around the sun are thought to trigger these larger-scale changes.

Evidence of shorter-term climate change has been observed before in ice-core records from Greenland and Antarctica. Apparently the global average temperature can switch between today’s mild climate and ice-age frigidity in just a few decades.

Sudden shifts are thought to be mostly due to ocean circulation. When ice sheets melt at the end of an ice age, the oceans get an injection of fresh water. By making seawater less salty and therefore less dense, this can suppress the conveyor-belt circulation that normally carries warm water from the tropics to the poles. Deprived of this source of heat, the high latitudes grow cold.

References

  1. Bjorck, S. et al. High-resolution analyses of an early Holocene climate event may imply decreased solar forcing as an important climate trigger. Geology, 29, 1107 - 1110, (2001).


PHILIP BALL | © Nature News Service

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Impacts of mass coral die-off on Indian Ocean reefs revealed
21.02.2017 | University of Exeter

nachricht How much biomass grows in the savannah?
16.02.2017 | Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Impacts of mass coral die-off on Indian Ocean reefs revealed

21.02.2017 | Earth Sciences

Novel breast tomosynthesis technique reduces screening recall rate

21.02.2017 | Medical Engineering

Use your Voice – and Smart Homes will “LISTEN”

21.02.2017 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>