Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

RAS Gold Medal winner: greenhouse gases not Sun driving climate change

18.04.2007
Professor Nigel Weiss, 2007 winner of the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) Gold medal, will rebut claims that a fall in solar activity could cancel out the effects of man-made global warming.

In a lecture on Wednesday 18 April at the RAS-sponsored National Astronomy Meeting in Preston, Professor Weiss, who is Emeritus Professor in Mathematical Astrophysics at the University of Cambridge, will describe how solar activity was an important factor in past climate change but that current global warming is very much driven by human activity – specifically the emission of greenhouse gases.

Solar magnetic activity manifests itself in sunspots, flares and coronal mass ejections, which give rise to magnetic storms on earth. The incidence of sunspots, which are the sites of strong magnetic fields, varies cyclically with a period of about 11 years. This cyclic pattern is occasionally interrupted by grand minima, like the Maunder Minimum in the 17th century, when scarcely any spots appeared. From variations in Carbon-14 (which is preserved in trees) and Beryllium-10 (which can be measured in polar ice cores) we know that grand minima have recurred irregularly for at least the last 50,000 years.

For the past 50 years, solar activity has in fact been abnormally high, but such grand maxima do not last forever. The current boom will inevitably be followed by a slump, though it is impossible to forecast quite when this will happen, or how deep the ensuing grand minimum will be.

Although sunspots are themselves dark, they are accompanied by bright faculae. Satellite observations show that the solar output of radiation (irradiance) is actually greater at sunspot maximum than at sunspot minimum, though the change of only 0.1% is slight, corresponding to a variation of 0.1 degrees Celsius in average global temperature. A grand minimum might lead to a similar reduction in irradiance.

Of course, the effects of solar variability on the earth's climate, which is a very complex system, could be amplified by other processes. For instance, the Sun's ultra-violet emission doubles from sunspot minimum to maximum, and ultra-violet radiation affects the ozone content of the stratosphere, which is coupled to the troposphere below it and so influences the overall climate. Again, it has been suggested that solar modulation of the flux of galactic cosmic rays affects cloud formation, altering the amount of radiation the Earth reflects back into space and affecting climate (though this hypothesis is very shaky). There might also be a coupling between variations in solar activity and natural oscillations in the atmosphere or ocean.

The extent of any such climatic modulation can be estimated from the long-term record of global temperatures. Until the beginning of the last century, variations in solar activity, along with aerosol emission from volcanoes, dominated climatic variability. There is persuasive evidence that grand minima were indeed associated with colder periods and grand maxima with warm periods. During the past millennium, there were several such maxima and minima, with associated fluctuations of around 0.3 degrees Celsius in global temperature. But these changes are significantly smaller than the increase of almost one degree over the last hundred years so it follows that solar activity is not a major contributor to current global warming.

A minority of commentators have suggested that solar activity is a more important cause than human, and that a fall in solar activity would lead to cooling that could cancel out the effects of greenhouse gases.

While there have been reports that Professor Weiss backs this view, he stressed that this was untrue and that the man-made causes of global warming were of grave and far greater concern.

“Although solar activity has an effect on the climate, these changes are small compared to those associated with global warming,” he said. “Any global cooling associated with a fall in solar activity would not significantly affect the global warming caused by greenhouse gases.”

“This is of course a controversial issue and there is a vocal lobby arguing against the link between anthropogenic gas emissions and climatic change. However I share the view of the majority of the scientific community that the evidence for such a link and thus the occurrence of man-made global warming is significant and a matter of grave concern.”

Robert Massey | alfa
Further information:
http://www.ras.org.uk

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Unraveling the nature of 'whistlers' from space in the lab
15.08.2018 | American Institute of Physics

nachricht Early opaque universe linked to galaxy scarcity
15.08.2018 | University of California - Riverside

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Unraveling the nature of 'whistlers' from space in the lab

A new study sheds light on how ultralow frequency radio waves and plasmas interact

Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles present new research on a curious cosmic phenomenon known as "whistlers" -- very low frequency packets...

Im Focus: New interactive machine learning tool makes car designs more aerodynamic

Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.

When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...

Im Focus: Robots as 'pump attendants': TU Graz develops robot-controlled rapid charging system for e-vehicles

Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.

Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....

Im Focus: The “TRiC” to folding actin

Proteins must be folded correctly to fulfill their molecular functions in cells. Molecular assistants called chaperones help proteins exploit their inbuilt folding potential and reach the correct three-dimensional structure. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) have demonstrated that actin, the most abundant protein in higher developed cells, does not have the inbuilt potential to fold and instead requires special assistance to fold into its active state. The chaperone TRiC uses a previously undescribed mechanism to perform actin folding. The study was recently published in the journal Cell.

Actin is the most abundant protein in highly developed cells and has diverse functions in processes like cell stabilization, cell division and muscle...

Im Focus: Lining up surprising behaviors of superconductor with one of the world's strongest magnets

Scientists have discovered that the electrical resistance of a copper-oxide compound depends on the magnetic field in a very unusual way -- a finding that could help direct the search for materials that can perfectly conduct electricity at room temperatur

What happens when really powerful magnets--capable of producing magnetic fields nearly two million times stronger than Earth's--are applied to materials that...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Within reach of the Universe

08.08.2018 | Event News

A journey through the history of microscopy – new exhibition opens at the MDC

27.07.2018 | Event News

2018 Work Research Conference

25.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Diving robots find Antarctic seas exhale surprising amounts of carbon dioxide in winter

16.08.2018 | Earth Sciences

Protein droplets keep neurons at the ready and immune system in balance

16.08.2018 | Life Sciences

3D inks that can be erased selectively

16.08.2018 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>