, Volume 94, Issue 1-2, pp 53-66

Long-term indirect indices of solar variability

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Abstract

Continuous direct records of solar variability are limited to the telescopic era covering approximately the past four centuries. For longer records one has to rely on indirect indices such as cosmogenic radionuclides. Their production rate is modulated by magnetic properties of the solar wind. Using a parameterisation of the solar activity and a Monte Carlo simulation model describing the interaction of the cosmic rays with the atmosphere, the production rate for each cosmogenic nuclide of interest can be calculated as a function of solar activity. Analysis of appropriate well-dated natural archives such as ice cores or tree rings offers the possibility to reconstruct the solar activity over many millennia. However, the interpretation of the cosmogenic nuclide records from these archives is difficult. The measured concentrations contain not only information on solar activity but also on changes in the geomagnetic field intensity and the transport from the atmosphere into the archive where, under ideal conditions, no further processes take place. Comparison of different nuclides (e.g. 10Be and 14C) that are produced in a very similar way but exhibit a completely different geochemical behaviour, allows us to separate production effects from system effects.

The presently available data show cyclic variability ranging from 11-year to millennial time scale periodicities with changing amplitudes, as well as irregularly distributed intervals of very low solar activity (so called minima, e.g. Maunder minimum) lasting typically 100 years.