The Sun Is Getting Dimmer But That Won't Stop Global Warming

Friday, 09 February 2018 - 10:42AM
Science News
Friday, 09 February 2018 - 10:42AM
The Sun Is Getting Dimmer But That Won't Stop Global Warming
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Image credit: NASA

If you're a big fan of sunbathing, you might want to take advantage of warm, sunny days as much as possible this year; they're not going to last forever.

The future is most certainly not bright, as scientific experts conclude that the next 30 years will see the sun dim significantly, leaving us with a darker, colder world.

This insight comes from a study of the sun's regular 11-year cycle, during which time solar radiation levels fluctuate along fairly predictable patterns. A study published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters has noted that over the past few cycles, the peaks of the sun's radiation have been dropping, and that overall, the amount of light and heat that we get from our life-giving star is beginning to lessen.

According to the report:

Opening quote
"From this linear regression, we estimate a range in UV flux of 9.3 percent over solar cycle 22 and a reduction of 6.9 percent below solar cycle minimum under a grand minimum. The 95 percent confidence interval in this grand-minimum estimate is 5.5 percent to 8.4 percent."
Closing quote


In other words, we're looking at around a 5 to 8 percent drop in the amount of light and heat that the sun will provide us. This is good news for pale people who burn easily while at the beach, but not fantastic news for those who suffer from poor eyesight in low light conditions.

Of course, the sun isn't going to get so dark that we're really going to have a problem getting around, but there is a bigger danger to this drop in solar activity: the ever-creeping self-inflicted specter of complacency.

As has been pointed out by scientists responsible for a similar, shorter-term study into the oncoming darkening of the skies, the drop in heat from the sun may well go some way to balancing out the horrendous damage that we've done to our environment by filling it with greenhouse gases.

As the sun gets colder, and a miniature ice age approaches, we could well see a lot of the ice at our planet's poles refreezing—or at least melting at a slower rate. If we're very lucky, the dip in solar heat could help settle some of the planet's more violent objections to the way we're treating our atmosphere.

So what's so bad about that? Well, the sun's dark, moody phase won't last forever. Eventually, like a grumpy teenager who finally discovers the joy of leaving home for college, the sun will shine forth, embracing its naturally bright and enthusiastic personality, showering us with beautiful golden rays.

If by this point we've all convinced ourselves that global warming was a load of nonsense, we're going to be in trouble. Our increasingly murky planetary atmosphere will cook us all the faster for our continued negligence.

So if over the next few decades world leaders seem particularly pleased with themselves for ending the whole messy climate-change situation, scientists and citizens absolutely must not let them off the hook.

We need sustainable energy and a decrease in the amount of carbon dioxide we allow into our atmosphere. Otherwise, we're going to be in a lot of hot water once the sun wakes up from its coming nap.

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