Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Sun's energy influences 1,000 years of natural climate variability in North Atlantic

10.03.2014

Changes in the sun's energy output may have led to marked natural climate change in Europe over the last 1000 years, according to researchers at Cardiff University.

Scientists studied seafloor sediments to determine how the temperature of the North Atlantic and its localised atmospheric circulation had altered. Warm surface waters flowing across the North Atlantic, an extension of the Gulf Stream, and warm westerly winds are responsible for the relatively mild climate of Europe, especially in winter. Slight changes in the transport of heat associated with these systems can led to regional climate variability, and the study findings matched historic accounts of climate change, including the notoriously severe winters of the 16th and 18th centuries which pre-date global industrialisation.


This is a composite created from three images received from MODIS instruments carried on NASA's Terra and Aqua polar orbiting satellites. The images were received at the Dundee Satellite Receiving Station at 1151, 1205 and 1342 UTC on 7th Jan. 2010.

Credit: NASA

The study found that changes in the Sun's activity can have a considerable impact on the ocean-atmospheric dynamics in the North Atlantic, with potential effects on regional climate.

Predictions suggest a prolonged period of low sun activity over the next few decades, but any associated natural temperature changes will be much smaller than those created by human carbon dioxide emissions, say researchers.

The study, led by Cardiff University scientists, in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Bern, is published today in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Dr Paola Moffa-Sanchez, lead author from Cardiff University School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, explained: "We used seafloor sediments taken from south of Iceland to study changes in the warm surface ocean current. This was done by analysing the chemical composition of fossilised microorganisms that had once lived in the surface of the ocean. These measurements were then used to reconstruct the seawater temperature and the salinity of this key ocean current over the past 1000 years."

The results of these analyses revealed large and abrupt temperature and salinity changes in the north-flowing warm current on time-scales of several decades to centuries. Cold ocean conditions were found to match periods of low solar energy output, corresponding to intervals of low sunspot activity observed on the surface of the sun. Using a physics-based climate model, the authors were able to test the response of the ocean to changes in the solar output and found similar results to the data.

"By using the climate model it was also possible to explore how the changes in solar output affected the surface circulation of the Atlantic Ocean," said Prof Ian Hall, a co-author of the study. "The circulation of the surface of the Atlantic Ocean is typically tightly linked to changes in the wind patterns. Analysis of the atmosphere component in the climate model revealed that during periods of solar minima there was a high-pressure system located west of the British Isles. This feature is often referred to as atmospheric blocking, and it is called this because it blocks the warm westerly winds diverting them and allowing cold Arctic air to flow south bringing harsh winters to Europe, such as those recently experienced in 2010 and 2013."

Meteorological studies have previously found similar effects of solar variability on the strength and duration of atmospheric winter blockings over the last 50 years, and although the exact nature of this relationship is not yet clear, it is thought to be due to complex processes happening in the upper layers of the atmosphere known as the stratosphere.

Dr Paola Moffa-Sanchez added: "In this study we show that this relationship is also at play on longer time-scales and the large ocean changes, recorded in the microfossils, may have helped sustain this atmospheric pattern. Indeed we propose that this combined ocean-atmospheric response to solar output minima may help explain the notoriously severe winters experienced across Europe between the 16th and 18th centuries, so vividly depicted in many paintings, including those of the famous London Frost Fairs on the River Thames, but also leading to extensive crop failures and famine as corroborated in the record of wheat prices during these periods."

The study concludes that although the temperature changes expected from future solar activity are much smaller than the warming from human carbon dioxide emissions, regional climate variability associated with the effects of solar output on the ocean and atmosphere should be taken into account when making future climate projections.

###

Notes for Editors:

Funding for this research has come from the Natural Environment Research Council, UK, the National Science Foundation, Switzerland, the European Commission and NCAR's Computational and Information Systems Laboratory (CISL). This research forms part of the Climate Change Consortium of Wales (C3W; http://c3wales.org/).

To arrange media interviews with Professor Ian Hall or Dr Paola Moffa-Sanchez, please contact Heath Jeffries, Media Manager, Cardiff University, on 07908 824029 or 02920 870917; email jeffrieshv1@cardiff.ac.uk

Cardiff University is recognised in independent government assessments as one of Britain's leading teaching and research universities and is a member of the Russell Group of the UK's most research intensive universities. Among its academic staff are two Nobel Laureates, including the winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize for Medicine, University Chancellor Professor Sir Martin Evans. Founded by Royal Charter in 1883, today the University combines impressive modern facilities and a dynamic approach to teaching and research. The University's breadth of expertise encompasses: the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences; the College of Biomedical and Life Sciences; and the College of Physical Sciences, along with a longstanding commitment to lifelong learning. Cardiff's four flagship Research Institutes are offering radical new approaches to cancer stem cells, catalysis, neurosciences and mental health and sustainable places.

Heath Jeffries | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.cardiff.ac.uk

Further reports about: Cardiff Ocean activity atmosphere dioxide severe temperature variability winds

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Clouds and climate in the pre-industrial age
30.05.2016 | Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main

nachricht Researchers find higher than expected carbon emissions from inland waterways
25.05.2016 | Washington State University

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Worldwide Success of Tyrolean Wastewater Treatment Technology

A biological and energy-efficient process, developed and patented by the University of Innsbruck, converts nitrogen compounds in wastewater treatment facilities into harmless atmospheric nitrogen gas. This innovative technology is now being refined and marketed jointly with the United States’ DC Water and Sewer Authority (DC Water). The largest DEMON®-system in a wastewater treatment plant is currently being built in Washington, DC.

The DEMON®-system was developed and patented by the University of Innsbruck 11 years ago. Today this successful technology has been implemented in about 70...

Im Focus: Computational high-throughput screening finds hard magnets containing less rare earth elements

Permanent magnets are very important for technologies of the future like electromobility and renewable energy, and rare earth elements (REE) are necessary for their manufacture. The Fraunhofer Institute for Mechanics of Materials IWM in Freiburg, Germany, has now succeeded in identifying promising approaches and materials for new permanent magnets through use of an in-house simulation process based on high-throughput screening (HTS). The team was able to improve magnetic properties this way and at the same time replaced REE with elements that are less expensive and readily available. The results were published in the online technical journal “Scientific Reports”.

The starting point for IWM researchers Wolfgang Körner, Georg Krugel, and Christian Elsässer was a neodymium-iron-nitrogen compound based on a type of...

Im Focus: Atomic precision: technologies for the next-but-one generation of microchips

In the Beyond EUV project, the Fraunhofer Institutes for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen and for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering IOF in Jena are developing key technologies for the manufacture of a new generation of microchips using EUV radiation at a wavelength of 6.7 nm. The resulting structures are barely thicker than single atoms, and they make it possible to produce extremely integrated circuits for such items as wearables or mind-controlled prosthetic limbs.

In 1965 Gordon Moore formulated the law that came to be named after him, which states that the complexity of integrated circuits doubles every one to two...

Im Focus: Researchers demonstrate size quantization of Dirac fermions in graphene

Characterization of high-quality material reveals important details relevant to next generation nanoelectronic devices

Quantum mechanics is the field of physics governing the behavior of things on atomic scales, where things work very differently from our everyday world.

Im Focus: Graphene: A quantum of current

When current comes in discrete packages: Viennese scientists unravel the quantum properties of the carbon material graphene

In 2010 the Nobel Prize in physics was awarded for the discovery of the exceptional material graphene, which consists of a single layer of carbon atoms...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Networking 4.0: International Laser Technology Congress AKL’16 Shows New Ways of Cooperations

24.05.2016 | Event News

Challenges of rural labor markets

20.05.2016 | Event News

International expert meeting “Health Business Connect” in France

19.05.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

3-D model reveals how invisible waves move materials within aquatic ecosystems

30.05.2016 | Materials Sciences

Spin glass physics with trapped ions

30.05.2016 | Materials Sciences

Optatec 2016: Robust glass optical elements for LED lighting

30.05.2016 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>