For centuries many scientists have been recording the sun and its dark mysterious spots. The purpose for these records would soon become vitally important in the study of global warming. In the 1992 Conference in Dubai many scientists sat down to discuss the threat of global warming. One of the more intriguing data presented was the sunspot cycle and how it seemed to correlate with the increase in temperature. Although they decided that there was not enough information to go on, they found this correlation fascinating. Last year Rob Greene sat down with Kevin Czajkowski, one of the scientists who was studying the sun activity and the role of global warming, and learned about how the number of sunspots was a record and its correlation to the amount of energy the sun gave off. The numbers of sunspots were in a constant flux and were usually taken by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on bi-hourly basis. On the overall fascination of this knowledge our group decided to create our own lab to test the validity of this theory.
The purpose of this lab was to investigate the relationship between sunspot activity and the EarthŐs temperature. We hypothesized that the level of sunspot activity affects the temperature on Earth, and predicted that a large amount of sunspots would correlate to a higher average temperature in Oxford. We decided to investigate sunspot activity after discussing a study with Kevin Czajkowski at the University of Toledo that suggested that fluctuations in the level of energy produced by the Sun could cause the global warm-up.
The sun is "a mass of incandescent gas, a gigantic nuclear furnace where hydrogen is built into helium at a temperature of millions of degrees" (They). Energy produced in the sunŐs core moves outwards through radiation and, in "the outer 20% or so" of the sun, convection currents which also generate the magnetic field which "extends out into the sun's corona" (Exploratorium). A sunspot is visible as "a dark part of the sun's surface" that is about one-third cooler than its surroundings because "a strong magnetic field there... inhibits the transport of heat via convective motion in the sun" (Exploratorium). Although research is still ongoing as to the link between sunspot activity and the sunŐs total energy output, a period of unusually low sunspot activity from 1645-1715 known as the Maunder Minimum coincided with a period of severe cold temperatures in Europe (Ribes 550). This led to the theory that sunspots arise when the Sun's energy output is higher than normal (Geerts). This diagram provides a visual approach to the link [diagram from SUNY]
We used RobŐs telescope a Meade 64mm equipped with a solar filter to avoid retinal damage. We observed the sun, counting the number of sunspots on those days when the sun was visible. Our first goal was to be able to take solar measurements twice a week but the cloud coverage would limit it to once a week. Every day we took note of the max, min and average temperature, along with cloud cover and any other conditions that may have affected the temperature. The temperature readings would come from the weather station above Boyd Hall. That data was then transmitted on to a web site at: http://jrscience.wcp.muohio.edu/vantagepro/latestweather.html. We also filled in the Sunspot gaps from the days no measurements were taken (due to cloud coverage) from http://science.nasa.gov/ssl/pad/solar/greenwch/g2002.txt. We would find that our current data we had taken was not accurate but the increase or decrease in sunspots still followed the path that the NASA site had recorded.
In Fig 1 you will notice that there seems to be a correlation between the number of Sunspots and the average temperature. As the temperature decreases, the number of sunspots also decreases which supports our hypothesis that the more sunspots, the higher the temperature will be. The two trend lines show this correlation. Looking at the graph, the first impression is that the two lines follow a rather similar route, and evidence direct correlation. From a purely seasonal viewpoint, we would expect for the blue line (indicating average temperature) to decrease fairly evenly as fall progresses into winter. However, our graphs show a marked apex in temperatures on the 5th of November, which coincides with a similarly large number of sunspots. This, along with the fairly close similarity between the two lines, suggests that the average temperature is indeed affected by sunspot levels. Thus, we have shown that a larger amount of sunspots will correlate to a higher average temperature, proving our hypothesis.
These results we believe are due to the decrease in sunspots and the changing of seasons from fall to winter. SomethingŐs that need to be looked at and questions to consider is this trend also the same for the Southern Hemisphere? Our theory is that since the Southern Hemisphere is hotter on average then the Northern and since the decrease of sunspots occurs during the changes of seasons, logically our hypothesis should be that the decrease in sunspots would mean more energy omitted from the sun. The facts of hemispheres presented would explain the hotter temperatures in the Southern Hemisphere due to the position of the Sun and the tilt of the sun would allow more energy to be concentrated on the Southern Hemisphere. However, the correlation between the sunspots and temperatures disproves this theory so more information is needed. In order to extend this study, we could continue our observations over the winter and the temperatures in the Southern Hemisphere. We could also take other conditions more into account, focusing on the effect of weather on temperature. We would prefer to study a much longer period of time: perhaps a year or more. We would also procure a more powerful telescope, as cloud cover proved prohibitive to observations. We would also compare our sunspot observation numbers with those of other groups in different locations.
Burroughs, W.J. Weather cycles: Real or Imaginary. New York, NY, USA : Cambridge University Press, 1992.
Czajkowski, Kevin. Personal Interview. November 25, 2001.
Coyne, GV. Sunspots: The Historical Background in Sonett, CP et al (eds): The Sun In Time. Tucson : University of Arizona Press, 1991.
Eddy, J.A. 1976, The Maunder Minimum, Science, 192, 1189-1203.
Eddy, J.A. Climate And The Role Of The Sun (1981, in Rotberg).
Eddy, J.A. 1983, The Maunder Minimum: a Reappraisal, Solar Phys., 89, 195-207.
Exploratorium.edu. Modern research: Sunspots. http://www.exploratorium.edu/sunspots/research.html 25 September 2002.
Geerts, B and E. Linacre. Sunspots And Climate. Reproduced at uwyo.edu.
Hoyt, DV. Variations in Sunspot Structure And Climate. Climactic Change, 2 (1979): 79-92.
Hoyt, D.V. & Schatten, K.H. 1997, The Role of the Sun in Climate Change, Oxford University Press.
Lane, LJ, MH Nichols and HB Osborn. Time Series analysis of global change data. Environ. Pollut, 83 (1994): 63-68.
Naked eye sunspots. ips.gov.au. 25 September 2002.
Ribes, J. C., and Nesme-Ribes, E. 1993, The Solar Sunspot Cycle in the Maunder Minimum AD1645 to AD1715, Astronomy and Astrophysics, 276, 549-563.
Rotberg, I and TK Rabb (eds). Climate And History. Princeton University Press: Princeton. 1981.
Schaefer, Bradley E., 1997, "Sunspots that Changed the World," Sky & Telescope, May: Pp. 34-38.
They Might Be Giants - Why Does the Sun Shine? (The Sun Is a Mass of Incandescent Gas). Severe Tire Damage. August 11, 1998. Restless Records.
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