to Fisher, "It's controversial whether the solar cycle has an effect
on the earth's climate. One thing that is known for sure is that solar activity,
which is what we call the general feature of having magnetic fields on the
sun, changes the sun's luminosity--that is, how much energy is coming out
of the sun--on the level of a few tenths of a percent. That could change
the earth's climate in this cyclical way, but it's controversial."
The controversy is due to the complexity of the earth's climate. It is difficult
to disentangle the many factors that contribute to climate change. For instance,
how do you separate the effects of global warming from the possible effects
incurred by changes in solar activity?
Dearborn is also cautious about ascribing
climate effects to sunspot cycles: "People have speculated, but I don't
think the connection is absolute yet....there is some speculation that sunspots
result in climate effects, but that's a very, very hard area, and one that
requires much more research before we can be certain of climate effects."
As far as we can currently tell, variations
in the sunspot cycle seem to have far less impact on the earth's climate
than human actions, such as burning fossil fuels or clear-cutting forests,
do. However, more research into sunspots needs to done. In the next section,
you can conduct some of your own research into sunspots.