The sun has gone quiet and this has not only puzzled scientists but concerned them as well, as it could signal the earth is entering a mini ice age.
The ‘quiet’ they are talking about is an unexpected drop in sunspots and flare activity on the sun.
When it comes to these types of solar activities, the sun has a regular 11 year cycle where it goes from a solar maximum — lots of sunspots and solar storms — to a solar minimum with very few.
But the sun is breaking all the solar rules. The sun was supposed to be at its maximum in 2013, but instead it is strangely quiet. In fact, this is the quietest the sun has been in 100 years.
In an interview with BBC, Richard Harrison with Oxfordshire’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory said:
“I’ve been a solar physicist for 30 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this.”
What does it mean?
Astronomers have studied and recorded sun spot activity for nearly 400 years.
Studying these records, they noticed a distinct pattern with historical climate records. When sun spot activity declined for an extended period, the earth entered a distinct cooling period.
They attributed this lack of solar activity to the mini ice age the earth experienced during the Middle Ages. Because of this, scientists are concerned the earth is again entering what they call a Maunder Minimum — a prolonged period of low solar activity — which would trigger a significant cooling period.
Describing the mini ice age, Harrison said:
There were cold winters, almost a mini ice age. You had a period where the River Thames froze.
In an interview with World Net Daily, Dr. Tim Ball a former climatology professor at the University of Winnipeg, Canada expressed similar concerns:
“There’s a debate about how much cooling will occur, but it’s related to the changes in the sun, the sunspot cycles. That’s the predominant control of long-term temperature patterns. The scientists that I’ve been working with a lot, we think, as I said, that it’s going to continue cooling until 2040, certainly getting to cooler temperatures than we experienced around 1800 or 1820 and possibly get as cold as it was back in what’s called the ‘Little Ice Age’ when you had three feet of ice on the Thames in England in 1683.”
What’s a mini ice age like?
So what happens during a mini ice age? Perhaps the best way to understand this is to look at the what happened during the Middle Age’s mini ice age.
There is disagreement, but it is generally thought it started in 1350 and lasted to 1850. It coincided with the ending of the medieval warming period in 1300.
Some consider 1250 as the start as that’s when the Atlantic Ice pack started to grow. The cooling peaked between 1550 to 1700s at the height of the Maunder Minimum.
Medieval society was severely impacted by the mini ice age:
As you would expect, the weather cooled in both summer and winter.
- Paintings of England’s Thames River show it frozen over. Ice carnivals were held annually on the Thames starting in 1607 lasting until 1814. Canals froze solid in Holland.
- Heavier than normal snowfalls particularly during the winters of 1665, 1744 and 1886. At times, there were reports of snow on the ground well into the summer months.
- In Holland during the winter of 1794-95, the Dutch fleet was frozen in the Den Helder harbour.
- The New York harbour froze in 1780 allowing people to walk across the ice from Manhattan to Staten Island.
- Violent storms rocked Europe bringing with it serious flooding and loss of life.
Colder and wetter springs, along with an earlier start of winter shortened the growing seasons. This contributed to many crop failures. It also made it difficult to maintain livestock due to lack of food and extreme cold.
As a result, there were a number of famines:
- Excessive rain and cool weather caused the Great Famine of Europe (1315-1317). Millions of people died. It resulted in dramatic increase in crime, mass death and even cannibalism. Famines continued through Europe for the rest of the century.
- Countries also experienced famines: France 1693-94, Sweden, Estonia and Finland 1696-97, and Norway 1695-96. These localized famines resulted in significant loss of life. In Estonia as an example, it’s estimated 20% of the people died and in Finland 30%.
- Even in North America, Indian tribes joined together due to food shortages.
The world also experienced a number of plagues during this period, including the great Black plague. Though these can’t be attributed directly to the mini ice age, they were a by product of the famine and cold that weakened the human condition.
- Bubonic or Black plague hit between 1340 to 1400 AD killing as many as a third of the population of Europe.
- Later more localized outbreaks were recorded in such places as Seville (1647), London (1665–1666), and Vienna (1679), with the last outbreak recorded in Marseille (1720).