The Sun's Role in Climate Variations

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Science  26 Apr 2002:
Vol. 296, Issue 5568, pp. 673-677
DOI: 10.1126/science.1069562

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Is the Sun the controller of climate changes, only the instigator of changes that are mostly forced by the system feedbacks, or simply a convenient scapegoat for climate variations lacking any other obvious cause? This question is addressed for suggested solar forcing mechanisms operating on time scales from billions of years to decades. Each mechanism fails to generate the expected climate response in important respects, although some relations are found. The magnitude of the system feedbacks or variability appears as large or larger than that of the solar forcing, making the Sun's true role ambiguous. As the Sun provides an explicit external forcing, a better understanding of its cause and effect in climate change could help us evaluate the importance of other climate forcings (such as past and future greenhouse gas changes).

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