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The Spring 2011 issue of The Earth Scientist is focused on modernizing seismology education. Thanks to IRIS, you can download this issue for free as a pdf. Print copies are available in our online store.
This image shows wind speeds and directions over a segment of the ocean. The red color denotes faster wind speeds while the blue color denotes slower wind speeds. Scientists once wondered if changes in the Sun affected wind patterns on Earth.
Click on image for full size
Courtesy of U.S. Navy/NRL/NOAA

Sun's Effect on Earth's Weather (Wind)

The Sun affects many things on Earth. One of the main things the Sun does is warm our planet, including the atmosphere. This energy drives much of Earth's weather.

The solar cycle is the rise and fall of the number of sunspots on the Sun. Sometimes there are lots of sunspots and sometimes there are few sunspots. Scientists know that solar activity (like coronal mass ejections) is higher when there are more sunspots. Last century, scientists started to ask how the solar cycle might affect Earth's weather.

Scientists tried, but were not able to find correlations between the solar cycle and the Earth's weather.

One example was a study by Willet in 1949 to see if the solar cycle affected wind patterns on Earth. He saw the solar cycle as a definite factor in affecting wind variations. However, attempts to confirm his conclusions were not successful.

Over time, with more and more studies and better instruments (especially space satellites), connections between the solar cycle and Earth's weather have been found to be unlikely. In fact, through much study by scientists around the world, Sun-weather connections have largely been rejected by the science community.

Last modified April 3, 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 is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA