Space Science Reviews

, Volume 125, Issue 1–4, pp 67–79

Solar Variability Over the Past Several Millennia



The Sun is the most important energy source for the Earth. Since the incoming solar radiation is not equally distributed and peaks at low latitudes the climate system is continuously transporting energy towards the polar regions. Any variability in the Sun-Earth system may ultimately cause a climate change. There are two main variability components that are related to the Sun. The first is due to changes in the orbital parameters of the Earth induced by the other planets. Their gravitational perturbations induce changes with characteristic time scales in the eccentricity (∼100,000 years), the obliquity (angle between the equator and the orbital plane) (∼40,000 years) and the precession of the Earth’s axis (∼20,000 years). The second component is due to variability within the Sun. A variety of observational proxies reflecting different aspects of solar activity show similar features regarding periodic variability, trends and periods of very low solar activity (so-called grand minima) which seem to be positively correlated with the total and the spectral solar irradiance. The length of these records ranges from 25 years (solar irradiance) to 400 years (sunspots). In order to establish a quantitative relationship between solar variability and solar forcing it is necessary to extend the records of solar variability much further back in time and to identify the physical processes linking solar activity and total and spectral solar irradiance. The first step, the extension of solar variability, can be achieved by using cosmogenic radionuclides such as 10Be in ice cores. After removing the effect of the changing geomagnetic field, a 9000-year long record of solar modulation was obtained. Comparison with paleoclimatic data provides strong evidence for a causal relationship between solar variability and climate change. It will be the subject of the next step to investigate the underlying physical processes that link solar variability with the total and spectral solar irradiance.


Solar activity solar influence on climate cosmogenic radionuclides 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Swiss Federal Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (EAWAG)DübendorfSwitzerland
  2. 2.NASA/Goddard Space Flight CenterGreenbeltUSA

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