Some workshop participants also found encouraging progress in the “top-down” perspective, according to which solar variability affects surface climate by first perturbing the stratosphere, which then forces the troposphere and surface. This work is now informing and being informed by research on tropospheric responses to the Antarctic ozone hole and volcanic aerosols. In contrast to the top-down perspective is the “bottom-up” view that the interaction of solar energy with the ocean and surface leads to changes in dynamics and temperature. During the discussion of how dynamical air-sea coupling in the tropical Pacific and solar variability interact from a bottom-up perspective, several participants remarked on the wealth of open research questions in the dynamics of the climatic response to TSI and spectral variability.
The discussion of the paleoclimate record emphasized that the link between solar variability and Earth’s climate is multifaceted and that some components are understood better than others. According to two presenters on paleoclimate, there is a need to study the idiosyncrasies of each key proxy record. Yet they also emphasized that there may be an emerging pattern of paleoclimate change coincident with periods of solar activity and inactivity, but only on long timescales of multiple decades to millennia. Several speakers discussed the effects of particle events and cosmic-ray variability. These are all areas of exciting fundamental research; however, they have not yet led to conclusive evidence for significant related climate effects. The key problem of attribution of climate variability on the timescales of the Little Ice Age and the Maunder Minimum were directly addressed in several presentations. Several workshop participants remarked that the combination of solar, paleoclimatic, and climate modeling research has the potential to dramatically improve the credibility of these attribution studies.