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Has the sun done anything special to cause a .5C rise in global temperature since 1880? No it hasn't. It's had it's normal cycles with some extended minimums.
Modulation of the solar luminosity by magnetically active regions was confirmed by satellite measurements of total solar irradiance (TSI) by the ACRIM1 experiment on the Solar Maximum Mission (launched in 1980). The modulations were later confirmed in the results of the ERB experiment launched on the Nimbus 7 satellite in 1978, and satellite observation of solar irradiance continues today with ACRIM-3 and other satellite measurements. Sunspots in magnetically active regions are cooler and 'darker' than the average photosphere and cause temporary decreases in TSI of as much as 0.3%. Faculae in magnetically active regions are hotter and 'brighter' than the average photosphere and cause temporary increases in TSI.
The net effect during periods of enhanced solar magnetic activity is increased radiant output of the sun because faculae are larger and persist longer than sunspots. Conversely, periods of lower solar magnetic activity and fewer sunspots (such as the Maunder Minimum) may correlate with times of lower terrestrial irradiance from the sun.
The solar magnetic sector structure appears to be related to the average area of high positive vorticity centers (low-pressure troughs) observed during winter in the Northern Hemisphere at the 300-millibar level. The average area of high vorticity decreases (low-pressure troughs become less intense) during a few days near the times at which sector boundaries are carried past the earth by the solar wind. The amplitude of the effect is about 10 percent.
Source: Journal of Geophysical Research
The record of globally averaged sea surface temperature (SST) over the past 130 years shows a highly significant correlation with the envelope of the 11-year cycle of solar activity over the same period. This correlation could be explained by a variation in the sun's total irradiance (the solar “constant”) that is in phase with the solar-cycle envelope, supporting and updating an earlier conclusion by Eddy (1976) that such variations could have played a major role in climate change over the past millennium. Measurements of the total irradiance from spacecraft, rockets, and balloons over the past 25 years have provided evidence of long-term variations and have been used to develop a simple linear relationship between irradiance and the envelope of the sunspot cycle.
Source: Sage Journals
Current concern over ‘greenhouse’ warming and possible human influence upon global climate has been countered by claims that recent advances in solar theory demonstrate a greater role than previously thought for solar forcing in recent climate change. This is still disputed for this century, but new evidence from a range of palaeoenvironmental indicators lends strong support to the notion that not only the long-term (105 to 103 years) climate changes of the Pleistocene but also short-term (101 to 102 years) climate changes in the Holocene may derive in large or small part from solar variability.
Source: Geophysical Research Letters
The mean surface temperature of the Earth depends on various climate factors with much attention directed toward possible anthropogenic causes. However, one must first determine the stronger effects such as El Niño/La Niña and volcanoes. A weaker effect, which must exist, is solar irradiance. We have determined the solar effect on the temperature from satellites measurements (available since 1979) of the solar irradiance and the temperature of the lower troposphere. We find the sensitivity to solar irradiance to be about twice that expected from a no-feedback Stefan-Boltzmann radiation balance model. This climate gain of a factor of two implies positive feedback.