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Regional atmospheric circulation shifts induced by a grand solar minimum


Large changes in solar ultraviolet radiation can indirectly affect climate1 by inducing atmospheric changes. Specifically, it has been suggested that centennial-scale climate variability during the Holocene epoch was controlled by the Sun2,3. However, the amplitude of solar forcing is small when compared with the climatic effects and, without reliable data sets, it is unclear which feedback mechanisms could have amplified the forcing. Here we analyse annually laminated sediments of Lake Meerfelder Maar, Germany, to derive variations in wind strength and the rate of 10Be accumulation, a proxy for solar activity, from 3,300 to 2,000 years before present. We find a sharp increase in windiness and cosmogenic 10Be deposition 2,759 ± 39 varve years before present and a reduction in both entities 199 ± 9 annual layers later. We infer that the atmospheric circulation reacted abruptly and in phase with the solar minimum. A shift in atmospheric circulation in response to changes in solar activity is broadly consistent with atmospheric circulation patterns in long-term climate model simulations, and in reanalysis data that assimilate observations from recent solar minima into a climate model. We conclude that changes in atmospheric circulation amplified the solar signal and caused abrupt climate change about 2,800 years ago, coincident with a grand solar minimum.

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Figure 1: Lake Meerfelder Maar (MFM).
Figure 2: MFM proxy data.
Figure 3: Modelled solar signal.
Figure 4: ERA-40/ERA-Interim reanalyses22.


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C.M-P. acknowledges financial support from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. The work of K.M., F.H. and C.P. has been carried out within the Helmholtz University Young Investigators Group NATHAN financially supported by the Helmholtz-Association through the President’s Initiative and Networking Fund, the GFZ Potsdam and by FU Berlin and now transferred to the Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel (GEOMAR). The model calculations have been performed at the Deutsche Klimarechenzentrum (DKRZ) Hamburg. R.M. is supported by the Swedish Academy of Sciences (KVA) through the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation. This study is a contribution to the Helmholtz-Association climate initiative REKLIM (Topic 8 ‘Rapid Climate Change from Proxy Data’). The authors thank N. Dräger and F. Ott for varve counting, A. Heinrich for the graphical support and S. Engels for valuable comments.

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Authors and Affiliations



C.M-P. led the writing of the manuscript and was responsible for sediment core data analyses. A.B. led the coring campaign and contributed to varve analyses and chronology. C.M-P., A.B., R.M. and B.v.G. jointly interpreted the proxy data. K.M. was responsible for climate model simulations. K.M., F.H. and C.P. performed the climate model simulations and interpreted the reanalysis data. A.A. and G.P. measured the 10Be samples. All authors contributed to the discussion and the writing of the final manuscript. A.B. and C.M-P. conceived and designed the study.

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Correspondence to Celia Martin-Puertas.

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Martin-Puertas, C., Matthes, K., Brauer, A. et al. Regional atmospheric circulation shifts induced by a grand solar minimum. Nature Geosci 5, 397–401 (2012).

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