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Posted Fri Aug 28 2009: from Environmental Research Web:
Scientists uncover solar cycle, stratosphere and ocean connections
Subtle connections between the 11-year solar cycle, the stratosphere, and the tropical Pacific Ocean work in sync to generate periodic weather patterns that affect much of the globe, according to research appearing this week in the journal Science. The study can help scientists get an edge on eventually predicting the intensity of certain climate phenomena, such as the Indian monsoon and tropical Pacific rainfall, years in advance.... [I]f the total energy that reaches Earth from the Sun varies by only 0.1 percent across the approximately 11-year solar cycle, how can such a small variation drive major changes in weather patterns on Earth? ... The team first confirmed a theory that the slight increase in solar energy during the peak production of sunspots is absorbed by stratospheric ozone. The energy warms the air in the stratosphere over the tropics, where sunlight is most intense, while also stimulating the production of additional ozone there that absorbs even more solar energy. Since the stratosphere warms unevenly, with the most pronounced warming occurring at lower latitudes, stratospheric winds are altered and, through a chain of interconnected processes, end up strengthening tropical precipitation. At the same time, the increased sunlight at solar maximum causes a slight warming of ocean surface waters across the subtropical Pacific, where Sun-blocking clouds are normally scarce. That small amount of extra heat leads to more evaporation, producing additional water vapor. In turn, the moisture is carried by trade winds to the normally rainy areas of the western tropical Pacific, fueling heavier rains and reinforcing the effects of the stratospheric mechanism.
[Read more stories about: albedo effect, weather extremes]

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I'm not sure I like the idea of such little things making such a big difference... because we're doing some pretty big things.

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