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Journal Article

Eleven-year solar cycles over the last millennium revealed by radiocarbon in tree rings


Solanki,  Sami K.
Department Sun and Heliosphere, Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Max Planck Society;

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Brehm, N., Bayliss, A., Christl, M., Synal, H.-A., Adolphi, F., Beer, J., et al. (2021). Eleven-year solar cycles over the last millennium revealed by radiocarbon in tree rings. Nature Geoscience, 14(1), 10-15. doi:10.1038/s41561-020-00674-0.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0007-F527-9
The Sun provides the principal energy input into the Earth system and solar variability represents a significant external climate forcing. Although observations of solar activity (sunspots) cover only the last about 400 years, radionuclides produced by cosmic rays and stored in tree rings or ice cores serve as proxies for solar activity extending back thousands of years. However, the presence of weather-induced noise or low temporal resolution of long, precisely dated records hampers cosmogenic nuclide-based studies of short-term solar variability such as the 11-yr Schwabe cycle. Here we present a continuous, annually resolved atmospheric C-14 concentration (fractionation-corrected ratio of (CO2)-C-14 to CO2) record reconstructed from absolutely dated tree rings covering nearly all of the last millennium (ad 969-1933). The high-resolution and precision C-14 record reveals the presence of the Schwabe cycle over the entire time range. The record confirms the ad 993 solar energetic particle event and reveals two new candidates (ad 1052 and ad 1279), indicating that strong solar events that might be harmful to modern electronic systems probably occur more frequently than previously thought. In addition to showing decadal-scale solar variability over the last millennium, the high-temporal-resolution record of atmospheric radiocarbon also provides a useful benchmark for making radiocarbon dating more accurate over this interval. 11-year solar cycles consistently occurred throughout the last thousand years, according to a synthesis of annually resolved tree ring radiocarbon records from central Europe.