Modelling the Sun’s influence on the Earth’s climate
Solar irradiance provides heat and light for life. It waxes and wanes with the cycle of solar activity, which currently cannot be predicted accurately. Researchers in Davos are collaborating on several space experiments to find out more about solar physics.
In 1904 the Prussian businessman Carl Dorno travelled to Davos with his daughter, who was suffering from tuberculosis. In those days the Alpine town was a health resort for tuberculosis patients. As an amateur meteorologist, he began to build scientific instruments with the aim of investigating how the climate influenced our health. This was the birth of the Physical Meteorological Observatory Davos (PMOD)External link.
In the early 1970s the observatory also became home to an international calibration centre for radiation measurements, the World Radiation Center (WRC). The radiometers developed there are used by weather stations all over the world, not only on the ground but also in space. For instance, two instruments are on board the Solar OrbiterExternal link, a Sun-observing satellite developed by the European Space Agency (ESA).
To make more accurate predictions about climate change, researchers in Davos need to better understand solar cycles, which last about 11 years. Why is there a lot of activity in some cycles and very little in others? Understanding these mechanisms also helps predict solar flares, which can interfere with technologies such as electricity grids, navigation and communications.
In this episode of our Science in Davos series, PMOD/WRC director Louise Harra gives us an insight into the research with the Solar Orbiter instruments.
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