Solar Forcing of Global Climate Change Since The Mid-17th Century
- Cite this article as:
- Reid, G.C. Climatic Change (1997) 37: 391. doi:10.1023/A:1005307009726
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Spacecraft measurements of the sun's total irradiance since 1980 have revealed a long-term variation that is roughly in phase with the 11-year solar cycle. Its origin is uncertain, but may be related to the overall level of solar magnetic activity as well as to the concurrent activity on the visible disk. A low-pass Gaussian filtered time series of the annual sunspot number has been developed as a suitable proxy for solar magnetic activity that contains a long-term component related to the average level of activity as well as a short-term component related to the current phase of the 11-year cycle. This time series is also assumed to be a proxy for solar total irradiance, and the irradiance is reconstructed for the period since 1617 based on the estimate from climatic evidence that global temperatures during the Maunder Minimum of solar activity, which coincided with one of the coldest periods of the Little Ice Age, were about 1 °C colder than modern temperatures. This irradiance variation is used as the variable radiative forcing function in a one-dimensional ocean–climate model, leading to a reconstruction of global temperatures over the same period, and to a suggestion that solar forcing and anthropogenic greenhouse-gas forcing made roughly equal contributions to the rise in global temperature that took place between 1900 and 1955. The importance of solar variability as a factor in climate change over the last few decades may have been underestimated in recent studies.