The effects of changing solar activity on climate: contributions from palaeoclimatological studies
Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics, University of Amsterdam, Science Park 904, P.O. Box 94248, NL-1090 GE Amsterdam, The Netherlands
* corresponding author: e-mail: email@example.com
Accepted: 9 July 2012
Natural climate change currently acts in concert with human-induced changes in the climate system. To disentangle the natural variability in the climate system and the human-induced effects on the global climate, a critical analysis of climate change in the past may offer a better understanding of the processes that drive the global climate system. In this review paper, we present palaeoclimatological evidence for the past influence of solar variability on Earth’s climate, highlighting the effects of solar forcing on a range of timescales. On a decadal timescale, instrumental measurements as well as historical records show the effects of the 11-year Schwabe cycle on climate. The variation in total solar irradiance that is associated with a Schwabe cycle is only ~1 W m−2 between a solar minimum and a maximum, but winter and spring temperatures on the Northern Hemisphere show a response even to this small-scale variability. There is a large body of evidence from palaeoclimatic reconstructions that shows the influence of solar activity on a centennial to millennial timescale. We highlight a period of low solar activity starting at 2800 years before present when Europe experienced a shift to colder and wetter climate conditions. The spatial pattern of climate change that can be recognized in the palaeoclimatological data is in line with the suggested pattern of climate change as simulated by climate models. Millennial-scale climate oscillations can be recognized in sediment records from the Atlantic Ocean as well as in records of lake-level fluctuations in southeastern France. These oscillations coincide with variation in 14C production as recognized in the atmospheric 14C record (which is a proxy-record for solar activity), suggesting that Earth’s climate is sensitive to changes in solar activity on a millennial timescale as well.
Key words: solar activity / sunspot / paleoclimatology / proxies
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