Proxy reconstruction of ultraviolet-B irradiance at the Earth’s surface, and its relationship with solar activity and ozone thickness

Jardine, Phillip E; Fraser, Wesley T; Gosling, William D; Roberts, C Neil; Eastwood, Warren J and Lomax, Barry H (2019). Proxy reconstruction of ultraviolet-B irradiance at the Earth’s surface, and its relationship with solar activity and ozone thickness. The Holocene (Early Access).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0959683619875798

Abstract

Solar ultraviolet-B (UV-B) irradiance that reaches the Earth’s surface acts as a biotic stressor and has the potential to modify ecological and environmental functioning. The challenges of reconstructing ultraviolent (UV) irradiance prior to the satellite era mean that there is uncertainty over long-term surface UV-B patterns, especially in relation to variations in solar activity over centennial and millennial timescales. Here, we reconstruct surface UV-B irradiance over the last 650 years using a novel UV-B proxy based on the chemical signature of pollen grains. We demonstrate a statistically significant positive relationship between the abundance of UV-B absorbing compounds in Pinus pollen and modelled solar UV-B irradiance. These results show that trends in surface UV-B follow the overall solar activity pattern over centennial timescales, and that variations in solar output are the dominant control on surface level UV-B flux, rather than solar modulated changes in ozone thickness. The Pinus biochemical response demonstrated here confirms the potential for solar activity driven surface UV-B variations to impact upon terrestrial biotas and environments over long timescales.

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