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A cloudy future for PV?

Could Europe’s solar dream be derailed by something as elemental as… the weather?

Some believe, following some of the harshest winter weather on record, that the Earth is entering a sustained period of low temperatures. If true, what effect will the gathering clouds have for PV? PES investigates…

In 2010, northern Europe suffered its coldest winter in over 300 years. Now, some researchers and scientists are predicting an increasingly cold climate for the next 20 to 30 years. The theory predicting up to three decades of colder weather is based on the idea of ‘global cooling’; a theory as controversial with those who believe the planet is warming through man’s intervention as global warming is with climate change sceptics. Much of the thinking involved with global cooling is centred on research that has found low solar activity – marked by a decrease in the sun’s magnetic field – influences the weather conditions across northern Europe. The link between weaker solar activity and cold winters was made after experts found similarities between early weather records and data collected in 2010. “Last year, winter in the UK, for example, was the fourteenth coldest in the last 160 years and yet the global average temperature for the same period has been the fifth highest,” said Professor Lockwood, a space physicist at the University of Reading’s department of meteorology. “We have discovered that this kind of anomaly is significantly more common when solar activity is low,” he added. “We can expect an increased number of cold winters.”

A paper published online last year in the Journal of Geophysical Research, Atmospheres lends credence to the cosmoclimatology theory that increases in Galactic Cosmic Ray counts (GCRs) have a statistically significant correlation to increased cloud formation.


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