In the "year without a summer", a volcanic eruptions caused enough sunlight to be blocked for average global temperatures to drop by 0.4–0.7 °C. What would be the effect of this sort of event on a society that relies largely on solar power for energy (the hypothetical society that many strive for)? Based solely on temperature drop information, it doesn't seem possible to calculate the average drop in solar irradiation because we can't assume that the planet had reached a steady state at the point where temperatures had dropped by 0.4–0.7 °C.


closed as off-topic by AccidentalFourierTransform, Kyle Kanos, stafusa, Sebastian Riese, hft Jun 26 '18 at 4:45

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  • $\begingroup$ I believe this question would receive much more attention at World Building SE. $\endgroup$ – Physicist137 Jun 24 '18 at 23:48
  • $\begingroup$ @Physicist137 I have faith in the physics gang. $\endgroup$ – Cedric Eveleigh Jun 25 '18 at 0:05
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    $\begingroup$ I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it's about the impacts of a society using solar power during/after a catastrophic event. $\endgroup$ – Kyle Kanos Jun 25 '18 at 10:13
  • $\begingroup$ @KyleKanos You're right that I could've worded the question to be more focused on the drop in solar irradiation. $\endgroup$ – Cedric Eveleigh Jun 25 '18 at 12:28

A quick look for estimates of optical depth gives figure 1 B of this paper, which suggests a decline between 2 and 10 W/m$^2$ of solar flux. So the impact will be modest on a solar panel, since it gets on the order of 100 W/m$^2$ in England and more on southerly latitudes - so let's say less than 2 to 10% reduction in energy input.

Since a solar economy needs to handle natural variations due to weather, presumably there will be alternative sources like water, wind, fossil or nuclear that can be increased. A 10% loss for a year is however likely to have an effect on the prices.


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