Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Sun's impact on climate change quantified for first time

27.03.2017

For the first time, model calculations show a plausible way that fluctuations in solar activity could have a tangible impact on the climate. Studies funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation expect human-induced global warming to tail off slightly over the next few decades. A weaker sun could reduce temperatures by half a degree.

There is human-induced climate change, and there are natural climate fluctuations. One important factor in the unchanging rise and fall of the Earth's temperature and its different cycles is the sun. As its activity varies, so does the intensity of the sunlight that reaches us.

One of the key questions facing climate researchers is whether these fluctuations have any effect at all on the Earth's climate. IPCC reports assume that recent solar activity is insignificant for climate change, and that the same will apply to activity in the near future.

Researchers from the Physical Meteorological Observatory Davos (PMOD), the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (EAWAG), ETH Zurich and the University of Bern are now qualifying this assumption. Their elaborate model calculations are supplying a robust estimate of the contribution that the sun is expected to make to temperature change in the next 100 years. For the first time, a significant effect is apparent. They expect the Earth's temperature to fall by half a degree when solar activity reaches its next minimum.

According to project head Werner Schmutz, who is also Director of PMOD, this reduction in temperature is significant, even though it will do little to compensate for human-induced climate change. "We could win valuable time if solar activity declines and slows the pace of global warming a little. That might help us to deal with the consequences of climate change." But this will be no more than borrowed time, warns Schmutz, since the next minimum will inevitably be followed by a maximum.

Strong fluctuations could explain past climate

At the end of March, the researchers working on the project will meet in Davos for a conference to discuss the final results. The project brought together various research institutions' capabilities in terms of climate effect modelling. PMOD calculated what is known as "radiative forcing" taking account of particle as well as electromagnetic radiation, ETH Zurich worked out its further effects in the Earth's atmosphere and the University of Bern investigated the interactions between the atmosphere and oceans.

The Swiss researchers assumed a greater fluctuation in the radiation striking the Earth than previous models had done. Schmutz is convinced that "this is the only way that we can understand the natural fluctuations in our climate over the last few millennia." He says that other hypotheses, such as the effect of major volcanic eruptions, are less conclusive.

Exactly how the sun will behave over the next few years remains a matter of speculation, however, since appropriate data series have only been available for a few decades and they reveal no evidence of fluctuations during this time. "To that extent, our latest results are still a hypothesis," says Schmutz, "and it remains difficult for solar physicists to predict the next cycle." But since we have been observing a consistently strong phase since 1950, it is highly likely that we will experience another low point in 50 to 100 years' time. It could be every bit as intense as the Maunder Minimum, which brought particularly cold weather during the 17th century.

Important historical data

The research project also placed great importance on the historical perspective. The Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of Bern compared data series on past solar activity with other specific climatic conditions. People have been recording the number of sunspots, which correlates well with solar activity levels, for some three centuries now. However, it is much more difficult to quantify exactly how cold it was on Earth back then. "We know that the winters during the last minimum were very cold, at least in northern Europe," says Schmutz. The researchers still have a fair amount of work to do before they have a detailed understanding of the relationship between solar activity and the global climate both in the past and in the future.

Sinergia: facilitating interdisciplinary research

The SNSF's Sinergia programme promotes collaboration between two to four research groups carrying out interdisciplinary research that is expected to deliver groundbreaking findings. Funding is dependent on the number of research groups and duration of the project and ranges from 50,000 to 3.2 million francs. Projects should last from one to four years.

Contact

Werner Schmutz
Physical Meteorological Observatory Davos
Dorfstrasse 33
CH-7260 Davos Dorf
E-mail werner.schmutz@pmodwrc.ch
Tel. +41 58 467 5145

Weitere Informationen:

http://www.snf.ch/en/researchinFocus/newsroom/Pages/news-170327-press-release-su...
http://p3.snf.ch/project-147659
http://www.snf.ch/SiteCollectionDocuments/Schmutz_Fupsol_publications.pdf Publications related to the research
http://www.snf.ch/press-releases

Media Abteilung Kommunikation | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht New research calculates capacity of North American forests to sequester carbon
16.07.2018 | University of California - Santa Cruz

nachricht Scientists discover Earth's youngest banded iron formation in western China
12.07.2018 | University of Alberta

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

Im Focus: Chemical reactions in the light of ultrashort X-ray pulses from free-electron lasers

Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.

Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

NYSCF researchers develop novel bioengineering technique for personalized bone grafts

18.07.2018 | Life Sciences

Machine-learning predicted a superhard and high-energy-density tungsten nitride

18.07.2018 | Materials Sciences

Why might reading make myopic?

18.07.2018 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>