Improved Measurement of Solar Output Will Help Understand Climate Change

In determining whether humans are the sole cause for the warming currently taking place in our atmosphere, accurate data is needed for how much energy the sun is putting into that same atmosphere, and according to a new study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, scientists have made a big step towards accurate determining that figure.

Measurements taken by a satellite which has a new optical design and was calibrated in a new way have reported a lower value of the energy being input into out atmosphere from the sun, known as total solar irradiance, than has previously been measured before, and has allowed scientists to feel that they have greatly improved the accuracy and consistency of such measurements.

Satellites set to launch starting early this year will follow with the modifications, and give scientists hope that they will get solid measurements of total solar irradiance with adequate repeatability with little uncertainty, which they hope will help them answer the long-standing question of just how much impact the sun has on our warming climate.

“Improved accuracies and stabilities in the long-term total solar irradiance record mean improved estimates of the sun’s influence on Earth’s climate,” said Greg Kopp of the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) of the University of Colorado Boulder.

“Scientists estimating Earth’s climate sensitivities need accurate and stable solar irradiance records to know exactly how much warming to attribute to changes in the sun’s output, versus anthropogenic or other natural forcings,” said co-author Judith Lean of the Naval Research Laboratory, in Washington, D.C.

“We are eager to see how this lower irradiance value affects global climate models, which use various parameters to reproduce current climate: incoming solar radiation is a decisive factor. An improved and extended solar data record will make it easier for us to understand how fluctuations in the sun’s energy output over time affect temperatures, and how Earth’s climate responds to radiative forcing.”

Source: University of Colorado at Boulder
Image Source: NASA

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