Monday, May 7th 2012, 12:44 PM EDT
An abrupt cooling in Europe together with an increase in humidity and particularly in windiness coincided with a sustained reduction in solar activity 2800 years ago. Scientists from the German Research Centre for Geosciences GFZ in collaboration with Swedish and Dutch colleagues provide evidence for a direct solar-climate linkage on centennial timescales. Using the most modern methodological approach, they analysed sediments from Lake Meerfelder Maar, a maar lake in the Eifel/Germany, to determine annual variations in climate proxies and solar activity.
The study published online this week in Nature Geosience (06/05/2012) reports the climatic change that occurred at the beginning of the pre-Roman Iron Age and demonstrates that especially the so-called Grand Minima of solar activity can affect climate conditions in western Europe through changes in regional atmospheric circulation pattern. Around 2800 years ago, one of these Grand Solar Minima, the Homeric Minimum, caused a distinct climatic change in less than a decade in Western Europe.
The exceptional seasonally laminated sediments from the studied maar lake allow a precise dating even of short-term climate changes. The results show for a 200 year long period strongly increased springtime winds during a period of cool and wet climate in Europe. In combination with model studies they suggest a mechanism that can explain the relation between a weak sun and climate change. "The change and strengthening of the tropospheric wind systems likely is related to stratospheric processes which in turn are affected by the ultraviolet radiation" explains Achim Brauer (GFZ), the initiator of the study. "This complex chain of processes thus acts as a positive feedback mechanism that could explain why assumingly too small variations in solar activity have caused regional climate changes."
Updated below with MUST READ comments from Stephen Wilde & Piers Corbyn