These studies obtained the average temperatures between December and February for the past 352 years from the Central England Temperature (CET) data series the world's longest instrumental temperature record, maintained by the UK Met Office, extending back to 1659.
This data set was combined with records of the Sun's activity obtained through the analysis of 'cosmogenic isotopes', which are specific types of carbon and beryllium that are known to be influenced by the Sun.
The magnetic field of the Sun protects the Earth from galactic cosmic rays, which, as they hit the Earth's atmosphere, generate the cosmogenic isotopes which are then deposited in tree trunks and ice sheets. These cosmogenic isotopes can be collected and dated providing a unique insight into the Sun's variability on timescales ranging from years to millennia.
Data from the cosmogenic isotopes suggests that we are currently coming to the end of a grand solar maximum a period of intense activity in the Sun and will therefore experience lower solar activity conditions in future,.
Many researchers have argued that temperature changes attributed to the Sun are, in reality, just caused by the internal variability of the climate system; however, the authors have used this 352-year temperature record to show that there is some, albeit small, predictive skill to be gained from solar activity despite it being just one of a number of factors that influence UK weather.
One mechanism that suggests a link between the Sun and recent cold winters is 'blocking'. Low solar activity causes extensive anticyclones that persist for several weeks in the Atlantic Ocean, causing the warm westerly winds to be replaced by cold, continental north-easterly winds. Depending on the position of the anticyclone, this can also lead to clear skies at night ca
|Contact: Michael Bishop|
Institute of Physics