Space Science Reviews

, Volume 176, Issue 1–4, pp 237–252 | Cite as

Total Solar Irradiance: What Have We Learned from the Last Three Cycles and the Recent Minimum?

  • Claus FröhlichEmail author


The record of total solar irradiance (TSI) during the past 35 years shows similarities of the three solar cycles, but also important differences. During the recent minimum with an unusually long periods with no sunspots, TSI was also extremely low, namely 25% of a typical cycle amplitude lower than in 1996. Together with the values during the previous minima this points to a long-term change related to the strength of solar activity. On the other hand, activity indices as the 10.7 cm radio flux (F10.7), the CaII and MgII indices and also the Ly-α irradiance, show a much smaller decrease. This means that proxy models for TSI based on the photometric sunspot index (PSI), and on e.g. MgII index to represent faculae and network have to be complemented by a further component for the long-term change. TSI values at minima are correlated with the simultaneous values of the open magnetic field of the Sun at 1 AU and thus, these values may be used as a surrogate for the long-term change component. Such a 4-component model explains almost 85% of the variance of TSI over the three solar cycles available. This result supports also the idea that the long-term change of TSI is not due to manifestations of surface magnetism as the solar cycle modulation, but due to a change of the global temperature of Sun modulated by the strength of activity—being lower during low activity. To explain the difference between the minima in 1996 and 2008 we need a change of only 0.25 K.


Total solar irradiance Solar variability Solar activity 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Physikalisch-Meteorologisches Observatorium DavosWorld Radiation CenterDavos DorfSwitzerland

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