New Instrument Continues Gathering Sun’s Effects on the Earth

New Instrument Continues Gathering Sun’s Effects on the Earth
Dec. 5, 2013

Total solar irradiance

Total solar irradiance (shown in color) over the past three solar cycles since 1978 adjusted to a ground-based cryogenic instrument funded by NASA in collaboration with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
Image Credit: Greg Kopp, LASP, University of Colorado / NASA

Maintaining a record of solar measurements is important in understanding the sun’s effect on Earth and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA), Total solar irradiance Calibration Transfer Experiment, or TCTE, is now providing that information.

Many natural conditions on Earth such as the surface temperature or air temperature depend on energy that comes from the sun in the form of electromagnetic radiation. A solar cycle lasts about 11 years and typically has modest changes in solar radiation. There are also dramatic solar events that eject solar material, but the energy variation caused by these particle emissions, when averaged over a year or longer, is small compared to variations in the sun’s electromagnetic radiation.

Scientists have noted these changes in the sun’s energy by observing from Earth’s surface for more than a hundred years, but were only able to begin to determine their magnitude and impact on Earth’s climate with more accurate measurements from space, starting in 1978 with measurements of the “total solar irradiance,” or TSI, made by NASA’s Nimbus 7 satellite.

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