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Cold Weather? Blame the Sun

Can the sun cause cold weather? Cold winters that have dumped tons of snow on areas like the Northeastern US may have their origins in the sun's varying ultraviolet emissions. Recent satellite data shows that the sun's UV output is far more changeable than scientists had previously thought, and these changes lead to warmer winters in some places and colder winters in others.

The sun has been in a quiet phase of its regular 11-year cycle, which coincided with three years in which northern Europe and parts of the US, experienced colder conditions than usual. In BBC News, Richard Black quotes meteorologist Adam Scaife as saying, "The key point is that this effect is a change in the circulation, moving air from one place to another, which is why some places get cold and others get warm. It's a jigsaw puzzle, and when you average it up over the globe, there is no effect on global temperatures."

By that he means that the sun has no basic effect on climate change. Along with its 11-year cycle, the sun's output also varies on a longer scale. For instance, its intensity has increased since the 1600s when the period known as the Little Ice Age began, with astronomers of that time documenting a fewer sunspots over many decades. Colder winters followed. Black quotes meteorologist Mike Lockwood as saying, "We now have a viable explanation of why that happened--nothing to do with global warming, but in terms of temperature re-distribution around the north Atlantic."

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