Climate Change and...

Annotated Bibliography

Global Climate

Solar Variability

J. Beer, W. Mende, R. Stellmacher (2000). The role of the sun in climate forcing. Quaternary Science Reviews 19 (1-5): 403-415

ABSTRACT: The Sun is by far the most important driving force of the climate system. However, only little is known how variable this force is acting on different time scales ranging from minutes to millennia and how the climate system reacts to changes in this forcing. Changes of the global insolation can be related to the nuclear fusion in the core of the Sun, the energy transport through the radiative zone and the convection zone, the emission of radiation from the photosphere, and the distance between Sun and Earth. Satellite based measurements over two decades show a clear correlation between the solar irradiance and the 11-year sunspot cycle. The irradiance amplitude is about 0.1%. This is too small to affect significantly the climate. However, there are indications that, on longer time scales, solar variability could be much larger. The analysis of cosmogenic nuclides stored in natural archives provides a means to extend our knowledge of solar variability over much longer time periods.

The response of the climate system to solar forcing depends not only on the amount of radiation, but also on its spectral composition (e.g. UV contribution), seasonal distribution over the globe, and feedback mechanisms connected with clouds, water vapour, ice cover, atmospheric and oceanic transport and other terrestrial processes. It is therefore difficult to establish a quantitative relationship between observed climate changes in the past and reconstructed solar variability. However, there is growing evidence that periods of low solar activity (so called minima) coincide with advances of glaciers, changes in lake levels, and sudden changes of climatic conditions. These findings point to an active role of the Sun in past climate changes beside other geophysical factors, internal variability of the climate system, and greenhouse gases. In fact a non-linear regression model to separate natural and anthropogenic forcing since 1850 is consistent with a solar contribution of about 40% to the global warming during the last 140 years.

V. Courtillot, Y. Gallet, J. Le Mouël, F. Fluteau, A. Genevey (2007). Are there connections between the Earth's magnetic field and climate?. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 253 (3-4): 328-339

ABSTRACT: Understanding climate change is an active topic of research. Much of the observed increase in global surface temperature over the past 150 years occurred prior to the 1940s and after the 1980s. The main causes invoked are solar variability, changes in atmospheric greenhouse gas content or sulfur due to natural or anthropogenic action, or internal variability of the coupled ocean–atmosphere system. Magnetism has seldom been invoked, and evidence for connections between climate and magnetic field variations have received little attention. We review evidence for correlations which could suggest such (causal or non-causal) connections at various time scales (recent secular variation ~10–100 yr, historical and archeomagnetic change ~100–5000 yr, and excursions and reversals ~103 –106 yr), and attempt to suggest mechanisms. Evidence for correlations, which invoke Milankovic forcing in the core, either directly or through changes in ice distribution and moments of inertia of the Earth, is still tenuous. Correlation between decadal changes in amplitude of geomagnetic variations of external origin, solar irradiance and global temperature is stronger. It suggests that solar irradiance could have been a major forcing function of climate until the mid-1980s, when “anomalous” warming becomes apparent. The most intriguing feature may be the recently proposed archeomagnetic jerks, i.e. fairly abrupt (~100 yr long) geomagnetic field variations found at irregular intervals over the past few millennia, using the archeological record from Europe to the Middle East. These seem to correlate with significant climatic events in the eastern North Atlantic region. A proposed mechanism involves variations in the geometry of the geomagnetic field (f.i. tilt of the dipole to lower latitudes), resulting in enhanced cosmic-ray induced nucleation of clouds. No forcing factor, be it changes in CO2 concentration in the atmosphere or changes in cosmic ray flux modulated by solar activity and geomagnetism, or possibly other factors, can at present be neglected or shown to be the overwhelming single driver of climate change in past centuries. Intensive data acquisition is required to further probe indications that the Earth's and Sun's magnetic fields may have significant bearing on climate change at certain time scales.

Davis, O.K. (1994). The correlation of summer precipitation in the southwestern USA with isotopic records of solar activity during the Medieval Warm Period. Climatic Change 26 (2-3): 271-287

ABSTRACT: Decreased solar activity correlates with positive cosmogenic isotope anomalies, and with cool, wet climate in temperate regions of the world. The relationship of isotope anomalies to climate may be the opposite for areas influenced by monsoonal precipitation, i.e., negative anomalies may be wet and warm. Petersen (1988) has found evidence for increased summer precipitation in the American Southwest that can be shown to be coincident with negative14 C anomalies during the Medieval Warm Period. The present study compares palynological indicators of lake level for the Southwest with Petersen's data and with the14 C isotope chronology. Percentages of aquatic pollen and algae from three sites within the Arizona Monsoon record greater lake depth or fresher water from A.D. 700–1350, between the Roman IV and Wolf positive isotope anomalies, thereby supporting Petersens's findings. Maximum summer moisture coincides with maximum population density of prehistoric people of the Southwest. However, water depth at a more northern site was low at this time, suggesting a climate-isotope relationship similar to that of other temperate regions. Further analysis of latitudinal patterns is hampered by inadequate14 C dating.

P. M. Kelly, T. M. L. Wigley (1992). Solar cycle length, greenhouse forcing and global climate. Nature 360 (26 November): 328-330

ABSTRACT: The recent rise in global-mean surface air temperature is widely thought to be the result of increasing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases1–3 , but there are discrepancies between the predicted response of the atmosphere to this radiative forcing and the observed temperature changes1–5 . Solar irradiance fluctuations have been proposed as a possible explanation for these discrepancies, and various solar properties (for example, radius6 , smoothed sunspot number7 or cycle length8 ) have been suggested as proxies for solar irradiance variations in the absence of direct data. Here we model the effects of a combination of greenhouse and solar-cycle-length forcing and compare the results with observed temperatures. We find that this forcing combination can explain many features of the temperature record, although the results must be interpreted cautiously; even with optimized solar forcing, most of the recent warming trend is explained by greenhouse forcing.

Kerr, R.A. (2001). A variable sun paces millenial climate. Science 294: 1431-1433

ABSTRACT: Most scientists have viewed the sun's unvarying brightness as the one constant in the ever-changing climate system. Now, in a paper published online this week by Science (, paleoceanographers report that the climate of the northern North Atlantic has warmed and cooled nine times in the past 12,000 years in step with the waxing and waning of the sun. Some researchers say the data make solar variability the leading hypothesis to explain the roughly 1500-year oscillation of climate seen since the last ice age, and that the sun could also add to the greenhouse warming of the next few centuries.

J. Lean, J. Beer, R. Bradley (1995). Reconstruction of solar irradiance since 1610: Implications for climate change. Geophysical Research Letters 22 (23): 3195-3198

ABSTRACT: Solar total and ultraviolet (UV) irradiances are reconstructed annually from 1610 to the present. This epoch includes the Maunder Minimum of anomalously low solar activity (circa 1645–1715) and the subsequent increase to the high levels of the present Modern Maximum. In this reconstruction, the Schwabe (11-year) irradiance cycle and a longer term variability component are determined separately, based on contemporary solar and stellar monitoring. The correlation of reconstructed solar irradiance and Northern Hemisphere (NH) surface temperature is 0.86 in the pre-industrial period from 1610 to 1800, implying a predominant solar influence. Extending this correlation to the present suggests that solar forcing may have contributed about half of the observed 0.55°C surface warming since 1860 and one third of the warming since 1970.

Lean, J., D. Rind (1998). Climate forcing by changing solar radiation. Journal of Climate 11 (12): 3069-3094

ABSTRACT: By how much does changing radiation from the sun influence the earth’s climate, presently and in the recent past, compared with other natural and anthropogenic processes? Current knowledge of the amplitudes and timescales of solar radiative output variability needed to address this question is described from contemporary solar monitoring and historical reconstructions. The 17-yr observational database of space-based solar monitoring exhibits an 11-yr irradiance cycle with amplitude of about 0.1%. Larger amplitude solar total radiative output changes—of 0.24% relative to present levels—are estimated for the seventeenth-century Maunder Minimum by parameterizing the variability mechanisms identified for the 11-yr cycle, using proxies of solar and stellar variability. The 11- and 22-yr periods evident in solar activity proxies appear in many climate and paleoclimate records, and some solar and climate time series correlate strongly over multidecadal and centennial timescales. These statistical relationships suggest a response of the climate system to the changing sun. The correlation of reconstructed solar irradiance and Northern Hemisphere (NH) surface temperature anomalies is 0.86 in the pre-industrial period from 1610 to 1800, implying a predominant solar influence. Extending this correlation to the present suggests that solar forcing may have contributed about half of the observed 0.55°C surface warming since 1900 and one-third of the warming since 1970. Climate model simulations using irradiance reconstructions provide a tool with which to identify potential physical mechanism for these implied connections. An equilibrium simulation by the Goddard Institute for Space Studies GCM predicts an NH surface temperature change of 0.51°C for a 0.25% solar irradiance reduction, in general agreement with the preindustrial parameterization. But attributing a significant fraction of recent climate warming to solar forcing presents serious ambiguities about the impact of increasing greenhouse gas concentrations whose radiative forcing has been significantly larger than solar forcing over this time period. Present inability to adequately specify climate forcing by changing solar radiation has implications for policy making regarding anthropogenic global change, which must be detected against natural climate variability.

M. Magny (1993). Solar influences on Holocene climatic changes illustrated by correlations between past lake-level fluctuations and the atmospheric14 C record. Quaternary Research 40 (1): 1-9

ABSTRACT: Chronological correlations established at different time scales among the lake-level fluctuations in the Jura and French Subalpine ranges, glacier movements in the Swiss and Austrian Alps, and the atmospheric14 C record during the last 7 millennia show coincidences between lake-level rises, glacier advances, and high14 C production and vice versa. These correspondences suggest that the short-term14 C variations may be an empirical indicator of Holocene palaeoclimates and argue for possible origins of Holocene climatic oscillations: (1) The varying solar activity refers to secular climatic oscillations and to major climatic deteriorations showing a ca. 2300-yr periodicity. (2) A question is raised about a relationship between the earth's magnetic field and climate. First, the weak-strength periods of the earth's dipole magnetic field (between 3800 and ca. 2500 B.C.) coincide with higher climate variability, and vice versa. Second, the ca. 2300-yr periods revealed by the14 C record and also by the major climatic deteriorations re. corded in Jurassian lakes (ca. 1500 A.D., ca. 800 B.C., and ca. 3500 B.C.) coincide with the ca. 2300-yr periods revealed by the earth's nondipole geomagnetic field. The present warming induced by anthropogenic factors should be intensified during the next few centuries by natural factors of climate evolution.

D. T. Shindell, G. A. Schmidt, M. E. Mann, D. Rind, A. Waple (2001). Solar forcing of regional climate change during the Maunder Minimum. Science 294 (5549): 2149-2152

ABSTRACT: We examine the climate response to solar irradiance changes between the late 17th-century Maunder Minimum and the late 18th century. Global average temperature changes are small (about 0.3° to 0.4°C) in both a climate model and empirical reconstructions. However, regional temperature changes are quite large. In the model, these occur primarily through a forced shift toward the low index state of the Arctic Oscillation/North Atlantic Oscillation as solar irradiance decreases. This leads to colder temperatures over the Northern Hemisphere continents, especially in winter (1° to 2°C), in agreement with historical records and proxy data for surface temperatures.

Solanki, S.K., I.G. Usoskin, B. Kromer, M. Schusser, J. Beer (2004). Unusual activity of the Sun during recent decades compared to the previous 11,000 years. Nature 431 (7012): 1084-1087

ABSTRACT: Direct observations of sunspot numbers are available for the past four centuries but longer time series are required, for example, for the identification of a possible solar influence on climate and for testing models of the solar dynamo. Here we report a reconstruction of the sunspot number covering the past 11,400 years, based on dendrochronologically dated radiocarbon concentrations. We combine physics-based models for each of the processes connecting the radiocarbon concentration with sunspot number. According to our reconstruction, the level of solar activity during the past 70 years is exceptional, and the previous period of equally high activity occurred more than 8,000 years ago. We find that during the past 11,400 years the Sun spent only of the order of 10% of the time at a similarly high level of magnetic activity and almost all of the earlier high-activity periods were shorter than the present episode. Although the rarity of the current episode of high average sunspot numbers may indicate that the Sun has contributed to the unusual climate change during the twentieth century, we point out that solar variability is unlikely to have been the dominant cause of the strong warming during the past three decades.

A. M. Waple (1999). The sun-climate relationship in recent centuries: a review. Progress in Physical Geography 23 (3): 309-328

ABSTRACT: There has been confirmation in the last two decades, through instrumental measurements onboard satellites, that the ‘solar constant’ does, as has long been hypothesized, vary over different timescales and with identifiable periodicities. This being the case, it is necessary to explore how these variations play a role in terrestrial climate change. While there is no consensus as to the best method for estimating past variations in solar output, it seems likely that over the last 500 years the sun has played a role in the changing climate. However, there is little evidence to suggest that changes in irradiance are having a large impact on the current warming trend.

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