A group of Australian scientists from the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) are on the way to Antarctica to find out what effect solar activity has had on Earth's global warming.
Before the smarmy comments begin, this isn't to do with the existence of the sun — we wouldn't be here without it, after all — but to test for specific conditions relating to phenomena such as sunspots and cosmic rays and their overall effect over a longer span of time on Earth's climate. Dr Andrew Smith and Dr Ulla Heikkila will head to Antarctica for nine days to collect samples which will then be analysed at an atomic level to detect individual Beryllium-7 and Beryllium-10 atoms in the ice. According to Dr Smith — making his third trip to Antarctica —
There is some speculation that over the past thousands of years, solar activity may have had a significant impact on the climate of Earth, and that’s what we are researching. Research of isotopes over long timescales can help us understand whether there was a relationship, and whether the variability of the sun has a direct effect on global temperatures. Satellites and neutron monitors can provide data on solar activity for the last 50 years or so, and prior to that we have the sunspot record that began after Galileo invented the telescope. But it’s through going to Antarctica and bringing back samples of Beryllium that we can get a real indication of how solar activity has affected Earth’s climate over past millennia.
[ANSTO] Image: ANSTO