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 A close-up look at an uncommon underwater eruption
11.01.2018 | Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

nachricht Environmental history told by sludge: Global warming lets the dead zones in the Black Sea grow
10.01.2018 | Leibniz-Institut für Ostseeforschung Warnemünde

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Scientists decipher key principle behind reaction of metalloenzymes

So-called pre-distorted states accelerate photochemical reactions too

What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...

Im Focus: The first precise measurement of a single molecule's effective charge

For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.

Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...

Im Focus: Paradigm shift in Paris: Encouraging an holistic view of laser machining

At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.

No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...

Im Focus: Room-temperature multiferroic thin films and their properties

Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.

Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...

Im Focus: A thermometer for the oceans

Measurement of noble gases in Antarctic ice cores

The oceans are the largest global heat reservoir. As a result of man-made global warming, the temperature in the global climate system increases; around 90% of...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

10th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Münster, 10-11 April 2018

08.01.2018 | Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Gran Chaco: Biodiversity at High Risk

17.01.2018 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Only an atom thick: Physicists succeed in measuring mechanical properties of 2D monolayer materials

17.01.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Fraunhofer HHI receives AIS Technology Innovation Award 2018 for 3D Human Body Reconstruction

17.01.2018 | Awards Funding

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>