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Oceans on brink of mass extinction: study
Brain exercises delay mental decline
Meaning of life changes across cosmos
Ancient Nubians drank antibiotic beer
First mission to touch the Sun
There's gold in them thar bacteria!
Low vitamin D linked to schizophrenia
Weight loss may be toxic: study
Pilbara find points to earliest life
Researchers uncover dance moves to impress
Visual trickery key to luring lover
Scientists find short-sightedness gene
Artificial 'skin' can sense pressure
Study confirms antibiotics mess with gut
Phone chatter could power mobiles
Stowaways found hitching ride on seaweed
Fishing could feed millions more: report
Amateurs make an astronomical impact
Study reveals new piece in autism puzzle
Genome map may help devil fight cancer
Report says ozone layer depletion stopped
Moon's surface at saturation point
Gene sweeps nets female cancer clues
Australia birthplace of astronomy: study
Solar surprise for climate models
Scientists found that a decline in the Sun's activity did not lead as expected to a cooling of the Earth, a surprise finding that could have repercussions for computer models on climate change.

The Sun's activity is known to wax and wane over 11-year cycles, which means that in theory the amount of radiation reaching Earth declines during the "waning" phase.

The new study, which appears in the journal Nature, was carried out between 2004 and 2007 during a solar waning phase.

The amount of energy in the ultraviolet part of the energy spectrum fell, the researchers found.

But, contrary to expectation, radiation in the visible part of the energy spectrum increased, rather than declined, which caused a warming effect.

The investigation, based mainly on satellite data, is important because of a debate over how far global warming is attributable to humans or to natural causes.

Climatologists say that warming is overwhelmingly due to human-produced greenhouse gases - invisible carbon emissions from coal, gas and coal that linger in the atmosphere and trap solar heat.

But a vocal lobby of sceptics say that this is flawed or alarmist, and point out that Earth has known periods of cooling and warming that are due to variations in the Sun's output.

"These results are challenging what we thought we knew about the Sun's effect on our climate," says lead author Professor Joanna Haigh of Imperial College London where she is also a member of the Grantham Institute for Climate change.

"However, they only show us a snapshot of the Sun's activity and its behaviour over the three years of our study could be an anomaly."

Insisting on caution, Haigh says that if the Sun turned out to have a warming effect during the "waning" part of the cycle, it might also turn out to have a cooling effect during the "waxing" part of the cycle.

In that case, greenhouse gases would be more to blame than thought for the perceptible rise in global temperatures over the past century.

"We cannot jump to any conclusions based on what we have found during this comparatively short period," Haigh says. "We need to carry out further studies to explore the Sun's activity, and the patterns that we have uncovered, on longer timescales."

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Water on Moon bad news for astronomy
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