January 24, 2012
Researchers Say Decreased Solar Activity Won’t Offset Global Warning
According to a study published Monday, the slightly weaker activity of the sun expected in the coming 90 years will not be enough to significantly curb rising global temperatures.
The research collaboration between the UK´s Meteorological Office and the University of Reading predicts that the energy output of the sun would decrease marginally throughout the 21 century. Unfortunately, they say, the modest 0.14 degrees Fahrenheit fall in global temperatures that this solar weakening is expect to bring will not be enough to offset the general trend towards global warming.“This research shows that the most likely change in the sun's output will not have a big impact on global temperatures or do much to slow the warming we expect from greenhouse gases,” explained climatologist Gareth Jones of the Meteorological Office.
Noting, however, that the results of the study are not conclusive, he added: “It´s important to note this study is based on a single climate model, rather than multiple models which would capture more of the uncertainties in the climate system.”
By the year 2100, some scientists expect global temperatures to rise by as much as 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degree Celsius), a phenomenon not unprecedented in the Earth´s natural history but which many scientists are this time attributing to the emission of man-made greenhouse gasses.
Regardless of the source of rising temperatures, climatologists warn that we can expect to see increasingly drastic shifts in global weather patterns throughout the coming years as the climate warms and the planet readjusts.
“The 11-year solar cycle of waxing and waning sunspot numbers is perhaps the best-known way the Sun changes, but longer-term changes in its brightness are more important for possible influences on climate,” explained meteorologist and expert in solar studies Mike Lockwood, part of the research team at the University of Reading.
Researchers say that the intensity of solar activity has been on the rise since the 20th century, although there has been some debate as to when exactly it will reach a high point or if, in fact, it has already.
The report also noted that if solar output dips below a value known to scientists as the Maunder Minimum–a threshold of low solar activity reached sometime between 1645 and 1715–then global temperatures could be lowered by an average of 0.23 degrees Fahrenheit.
“The most likely scenario is that we´ll see an overall reduction of the sun´s activity compared to the 20th Century, such that solar outputs drop to the values of the Dalton Minimum [c. 1820],” said Lockwood.
“The probability of activity dropping as low as the Maunder Minimum–or indeed returning to the high activity of the 20th Century–is about 8 percent,” he added.
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