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The Sun and Climate Change: Truth is Stranger Than Fiction

Dan Lubin, Ph.D., UC San Diego
Apr 18, 2013 from 12:00 PM to 01:30 PM (America/Los_Angeles / UTC-700)
1130 K Street, Room LL3
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This seminar will introduce the physics of the Sun and its role in governing Earth’s climate. This is often a source of confusion in public understanding of climate change. Throughout the past century, while greenhouse gas (GHG) abundances have been steadily increasing and influencing Earth’s climate, the Sun has remained relatively bright and quiescent. The global climate warming we have experienced since the beginning of the modern industrial era cannot be attributed to the Sun. However, there are indications that the Sun may be headed into a period of significantly reduced output by mid-century, perhaps comparable to the historical Maunder Minimum (1645-1715). During this period, the core of the “Little Ice Age,” the Thames and regions of the Baltic Sea regularly froze over during winter. Biological proxy data indicate substantial climate changes in North America as well. A new Maunder Minimum would not “offset” the projected GHG-induced warming: the GHG radiation trapping is at least three times larger than best estimates of the solar radiation change. Instead, major atmospheric circulation patterns would change unexpectedly. A new program underway at UC Lick Observatory will investigate solar variability in the context of terrestrial climate change, through study of several hundred nearby stars that are analogs of the Sun.

Dan Lubin is a Research Physicist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, where he has worked since 1990. He holds a bachelor’s degree in physics from Northwestern University, and an MS in Astronomy and Astrophysics and Ph.D. in Geophysical Sciences from The University of Chicago. His research in global climate change has involved satellite remote sensing of Earth’s polar regions, and he has participated in several major Arctic and Antarctic field campaigns. He is also affiliated with the UCSD Center for Astrophysics and Space Sciences, where he has worked in ultraviolet astronomical observing related to cosmology. He is a recipient of the US Navy Antarctica Service Medal, the NSF Arctic Service Award, and a NASA Goddard Earth Science and Technology fellowship.

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