Glory in the Sky: New Satellite Set to Monitor the Sun and Reflected Heat to Determine Climate Effects


HOT SHOT:  The sun released its most powerful solar flare in four years on Sunday. It is the largest solar flare so far from this solar cycle based on x-ray irradiance magnitude.

HOT SHOT: The sun released its most powerful solar flare in four years on Sunday. It is the largest solar flare so far from this solar cycle based on x-ray irradiance magnitude. Image: NASA/Solar Dynamics Observatory

Just how the sun’s cycles of activity and Earth’s atmospheric particles influence our climate is unclear, but NASA’s Glory mission should provide some answers

The solar forecast calls for sluggish times ahead, according to scientists in Boulder, Colo.—which could have a cooling effect on Earth. A better understanding of solar processes and their climatic impacts will be key to understanding how far such quiescence could go to counteract global warming caused by pollution from fossil fuels.

There’s little doubt the sun’s been in a funk ever since solar cycle 23 wound down in 2007. (Astronomers began to number the solar activity cycles in 1755.) The ramp-up to the peak of the next cycle is taking longer than expected and has been feeble, with precious few sunspots. …

Predictions of global cooling became popular among climate change contrarians during the unexpected pause between solar cycles 23 and 24 and haven’t completely subsided. But the degree to which a quiet sun could chill Earth, especially in the face of pollution that’s warming the planet, is uncertain. Solar researchers are increasingly eager to quantify the sun’s role, given the global importance of the question. …

Judith Lean, senior scientist for Sun–Earth System Research in the Space Science Division of the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, says greenhouse gases influence climate change much more than the sun can: Although solar variations may change Earth’s temperature by 0.1 to 0.2 degree Celsius globally over a couple of centuries—more in specific regions—human-induced global warming is projected to raise temperatures up to three or four degrees C globally in that same time frame.

More (click here) Anne Minard, Scientific American

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