Mini Ice Age?

June 20th, 2011
in econ_news

Sunspot-Loops-in-Ultra Econintersect:  An interesting climatological tug of war may be developing.  Sunspots have a well established effect on the earth's climate and global temperatures.  Sunspot activity appears to be headed into a period of abnormally low activity which, if it continues to develop, would have a depressing effect on global temperatures.  This would be occurring at a time when the increase in the so-called greenhouse gases are projected by many scientists to be pushing global temperatures higher.

Follow up:

The sun normally follows an 11-year cycle of activity. The current cycle, Cycle 24, is now supposed to be ramping up towards maximum strength. Increased numbers of sunspots and other indications ought to be happening but they are occurring at a much reduced level compared to expectations. Scientists at the NSO (National Solar Observatory) now suspect that the current Cycle 24 may be very weak and Cycle 25 may not happen at all.

At this point in the sunspot cycle relatively accurate projections can be made about sunspot activity over the next 5-10 years.  The following graph from NASA shows the projections:


The predicted size would make this the smallest sunspot cycle in over 100 years, according to NASA.  The following NASA graphs show the cycles over the past several centuries:


The last time the sunspot cycle peaks were at the low levels projected for the coming decade were between 1800 and 1825.  In the graph below (Wikipedia) a dip in the various estimates for temperature of the earth is clearly evident right after 1800.


An even more pronounced dip in temperature estimates occurred in the 1600s.  This was a period that saw a period of sunspot activity called "The Maunder Minimum" and corresponded to a climate period known as "The Little Ice Age."  From NASA:

Early records of sunspots indicate that the Sun went through a period of inactivity in the late 17th century. Very few sunspots were seen on the Sun from about 1645 to 1715 (see graph below). Although the observations were not as extensive as in later years, the Sun was in fact well observed during this time and this lack of sunspots is well documented. This period of solar inactivity also corresponds to a climatic period called the "Little Ice Age" when rivers that are normally ice-free froze and snow fields remained year-round at lower altitudes. There is evidence that the Sun has had similar periods of inactivity in the more distant past. The connection between solar activity and terrestrial climate is an area of on-going research.


Scientists are not sure whether a repeat on the Maunder Minimum is at all likely, but a repeat of something like the early part of the 1800s is certainly possible based on the current data.

This will lead to the possibility of some interesting science to experimentally determine the relative importance of the impact of sunspots and greenhouse gases on the climate of the planet.

Sources: NASA, Wikipedia and The Register

Hat tip to Naked Capitalism.

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  1. Derryl Hermanutz Email says :

    The Little Ice Age was characterized by global cooling with its attendant erratic and extreme weather, devastating to agriculture and human endeavour generally. The last extended period of global warming, the Medieval Warm Period, was characterized by stable and moderate weather that promoted a flourishing of plant life (e.g. vineyards in England) and human prosperity.

    Climate alarmists have backed the wrong horse, "threatening" us with global warming that historically has been highly beneficial to virtually all forms of Earthly life. The credible and perhaps imminent climate threat is global cooling. Indeed, a few years ago a climatologist opined that the past 8000 years of human economic activity (large scale burning of forests to enhance hunting and gathering or to convert forests to
    farmland) is the only thing that has prevented the
    onset of the next ice age. Remember, our current geological era, the Holocene, is just the most recent in a series of relatively brief interglacials that exist between very long deep ice ages of the 3 million year old (and counting) Pleistocene era. There is no evidence or theory to suggest that we are out of the Pleistocene ice age era, which means the next frozen devastation of half of the planet is only a question of time. We should welcome and celebrate whatever global warming we get, while it lasts.

  2. Sanjeev N Kulkarni says :

    Georg Feulnerand Stefan Rahmstorf (of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Potsdam, Germany) as quoted in

    says that even if the sun did actually enter a new Maunder Minimum starting in 2030 it will lead to "a decrease of 0.2 watts of power per meter, which is the equivalent of 0.2 degree Fahrenheit (0.1 degree Celsius) of cooling."

    "The influence of the grand solar minimum is to decrease the effect of the greenhouse gasses by a few tenths of a degree,It's almost down in the noise, it's a blip on the radar screen."

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