Sun's Strange Activity May Trigger Another Little Ice Age

Solar Activity July Decline

The sun is acting bizarrely and scientists have no idea why. Solar activity is in gradual decline, a change from the norm which in the past triggered a 300-year-long mini ice age. We are supposed to be at a peak of activity, at solar maximum. The current situation, however, is outside the norm and the number of sunspots seems in steady decline. The sun was undergoing “bizarre behaviour” said Dr Craig DeForest of the society. “It is the smallest solar maximum we have seen in 100 years,” said Dr David Hathaway of Nasa. –Dick Ahlstrom, The Irish Times, 12 July 2013

Illustration mapping the steady decline in sunspot activity over the last two solar cycles with predicted figures for the current cycle 24

The fall-off in sunspot activity still has the potential to affect our weather for the worse, Dr Elliott said. “It all points to perhaps another little ice age,” he said. “It seems likely we are going to enter a period of very low solar activity and could mean we are in for very cold winters.” And while the researchers in the US said the data showed a decline in activity, they had no way to predict what that might mean for the future. –Dick Ahlstrom, The Irish Times, 12 July 2013

“We’re in a new age of solar physics,” says David Hathaway of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, who analysed the same data and came to the same conclusion. “We don’t know why the Gleissberg cycle takes place but understanding it is now a focus.” As for when the next Maunder minimum may happen, DeToma will not even hazard a guess. “We still do not know how or why the Maunder minimum started, so we cannot predict the next one.” –Stuart Clark, New Scientist, 12 July 2013

Those hoping that the sun could save us from climate change look set for disappointment. The recent lapse in solar activity is not the beginning of a decades-long absence of sunspots – a dip that might have cooled the climate. Instead, it represents a shorter, less pronounced downturn that happens every century or so. –Stuart Clark, New Scientist, 12 July 2013

A number of authors think it is probable that the sun is headed for a grand minimum similar to the Maunder-Minimums of 1649-1715. That may already manifest itself in 2020. There have been studies that attempt to project the impacts on global temperatures. Included here is a study by Meehl et al. 2013. The authors look at an approximately 0.25% reduction in Total Solar Irradiance (TSI) between 2020 and 2070: They fed this into a climate model. Result: global temperatures could drop around 0.2-0.3 degrees Celsius with local peak values of up to 0.8°C, especially in the middle and upper latitudes of the northern hemispheres. –Frank Bosse, NoTricksZone, 14 July 2013

When the history of the global warming scare comes to be written, a chapter should be devoted to the way the message had to be altered to keep the show on the road. Global warming became climate change so as to be able to take the blame for cold spells and wet seasons as well as hot days. Then, to keep its options open, the movement began to talk about “extreme weather”. Those who made their living from alarm, and by then there were lots, switched tactics and began to jump on any unusual weather event, whether it was a storm, a drought, a blizzard or a flood, and blame it on man-made carbon dioxide emissions. –Matt Ridley, The Australian, 10 July 2013