The researchers compared historical records of the climate impact of changes in the sun's output with model projections of how a warmer climate driven by greenhouse gases would change rainfall patterns. They found that a warmer future climate likely will produce droughts in the same areas as those observed in ancient times, but potentially with greater severity.
"These findings strongly suggest that greenhouse gases and long-term changes in solar activity both can have major influences on climate via similar processes," said Drew Shindell, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York. Shindell is lead author of a paper that appeared in the Dec. 27, 2006, issue of the American Geophysical Union's "Geophysical Research Letters."
"There is some evidence that rainfall patterns already may be changing," Shindell added. "Much of the Mediterranean area, North Africa and the Middle East rapidly are becoming drier. If the trend continues as expected, the consequences may be severe in only a couple of decades. These changes could pose significant water resource challenges to large segments of the population."
Using the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies climate model, researchers found that changes in solar output in the ancient past increased surface warming and altered atmospheric moisture and circulations. These changes likely led to the severe droughts seen in paleoclimate records.
The same model showed that greenhouse-gas warming has similar effects on the atmosphere, suggesting drier conditions may become more common in the subtropics. Rainfall could decrease further in already water-stressed regions such as the southwest United States, Mexico, parts of North Africa, the Middle East, and Australia. Meanwhile, precipitation may increase across the western Pacific, along much of the equator and in parts of southeast Asia.
The computer model considers changes in the oceans, weather, and chemistry of the atmosphere, like ozone concentrations, and accurately reproduced the broad rainfall shifts toward regionally drier or wetter conditions during the past several hundred years. Sunspot and ice core data also link the historical rainfall shifts to variations in the amount of energy released by the sun. Since the size of solar changes is uncertain, the study focused on the location and pattern of precipitation shifts, not their precise amount.
Increases in solar output break up oxygen molecules, raising ozone concentrations in the upper atmosphere. This adds to upper atmospheric heating that leads to shifts in circulations down to the surface. In turn, surface temperatures warm, and the Earth's basic rainfall patterns are enhanced. For instance, in wet regions such as the tropics, precipitation usually increases, while dry areas become more prone to drought since rainfall decreases and warmer temperatures help remove the small amount of moisture in the soil.
"Precipitation is hard to predict because it is so highly variable, but these results increase our confidence that continued warming will be associated with large-scale changes in rainfall," said Shindell.
Researchers also considered numerous tree-ring, fire, and lake sediment records from across the Americas, including Mexico, Peru, and the Yucatan Peninsula. These data are reliable indicators of historical climate and confirm a pronounced increase in drought frequency in the southern United States, Mexico, and other subtropical locations during periods of increased solar output in the past 1,200 years. This long-term record of solar output is based on chemical isotopes whose production is related to the sun's brightness. Conversely, in parts of the tropics, ocean sediment data, key indicators of precipitation changes, reflect increased rainfall.
According to the researchers, the same processes identified by this new research very likely also affected past civilizations, such as the Pueblo people of New Mexico and Arizona who abandoned cities in the 1300s.
Leslie McCarthy | EurekAlert!
New Study Will Help Find the Best Locations for Thermal Power Stations in Iceland
19.01.2017 | University of Gothenburg
Water - as the underlying driver of the Earth’s carbon cycle
17.01.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biogeochemie
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
20.01.2017 | Awards Funding
20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
20.01.2017 | Life Sciences