The absolute value of total solar irradiance is not known to better than ca.0.3% but measurements from satellite instruments over the past two solar cycles have shown that it varies by ca.0.1% on this time-scale. Over longer periods its value has been reconstructed using proxy measures of solar activity, and these suggest that during the Maunder minimum in solar activity of the late 17th century it was 3−4 W m−2 lower than at present. Observational data suggest that the Sun has influenced temperatures on decadal, centennial and millennial time-scales, but radiative forcing considerations and the results of energy-balance models and general circulation models suggest that the warming during the latter part of the 20th century cannot be ascribed entirely to solar effects. However, chemical and dynamical processes in the middle atmosphere may act to amplify the solar impact. An analysis of zonal mean temperature data shows that solar effects may be differentiated from those associated with other factors such as volcanic eruptions and the El Niño Southern Oscillation.