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Solar Cycle Variations and Effect on Earth's Climate - Windows to the Universe

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Earth with Sun (bodies are not to scale). We all know the Sun provides Earth with light and warmth. It also provides energy that drives our weather. But how much influence do changes in the Sun have on the Earth's climate?
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Courtesy of UCAR

Solar Cycle Variations and Effect on Earth's Climate

Did you know that the Sun has spots on it? The number of spots on the Sun changes. Sometimes there are lots of spots and other times there few spots.

Scientists have wondered for a long time if the number of spots on the Sun affects the Earth in any way. You see, the energy coming from the Sun increases the tiniest bit when there are lots and lots of sunspots. Scientists think that this energy change does NOT affect Earth's weather but it DOES affect global climate on Earth.

Because of the energy changes of the Sun, scientists think that there is a global temperature difference of 0.5oC to 1.0oC (1). Modern climate models take these changes into account. The changes in solar energy are not big enough to cause the large global temperature changes we've seen in the last 100 years. The only way that climate models can match the recent warming of the atmosphere is with the addition of greenhouse gases.

Last modified April 7, 2008 by Jennifer Bergman.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF