Is The Sun Leading Us To The Next Little Ice Age?

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What if against all global warming forecasts, the earth is actually beginning to globally cool? What if we are actually headed for the next Little Ice Age, not in thousands of years but in just a few decades. It sounds like an episode of “It could happen tomorrow”, “mega disasters”, or the movie “The day after tomorrow”. However, according to one Russian scientist we have already begun the decent into the next period of snow and ice. The culprit is…The Sun.

sunspot

The sun goes through a sunspot cycle every 11 years. A sunspot is a cool, black spot on the sun which is often the source of large solar flares. These solar flares carry large amounts of radiation towards the earth. During a solar maximum, the number of sunspots & solar radiation is at its peak. This leads to communication interference, northern lights spanning the entire USA, and warmer global temperatures. During calm periods on the sun, also known as a sunspot minimum, solar activity usually does not interfere with communications, the northern lights is confined closer to the earth’s poles, and the global temperature cools. The sunspot cycle is one of a few mechanisms that leads to natural climate change. Below is a graph of the last 11-year sunspot cycle.

sunspot

This cycle can be seen in the climate patterns over the past 15 years as well. The 1990’s warmed significantly, partially due to global warming (by release of greenhouse gases, man made warming), and a sharp increase of sunspots as the solar cycle reached a maximum (natural warming). Since the peak in solar activity 8 years ago, global temperatures have nearly flat lined. Perhaps global warming has nearly equaled the natural cooling taking place as the sun has shifted into a deep solar minimum. With all of this said, there is another natural sunspot cycle that we don’t know as much about and it has even bigger impacts on our climate. There is a 200-year sunspot cycle as well. Approximately once every 2 centuries the sun goes into a deep solar minimum that lasts several decades. Each 11-year solar maximum during this time is very weak, which leads to significant cooling. During these extended periods of low solar activity such as the Maunder & Dalton minimums, the earth can hurl into deep cooling periods known as a Little Ice Age. A little ice age is not a full Ice Age, but rather a modest drop in global temperature. The last Little Ice Age was believed to have been caused by these deep solar minimums which brought global temperatures about 2 to 5 degrees cooler than Today’s average global temperature. Below is a graph of the observed sunspot data over the past 400 years.

800px-sunspot_numbers

For the past 2 and a half years the sun has been in a solar minimum (11-year cycle). Now the sun has solar weather experts with NOAA and NASA puzzled. 2009 was supposed to be the year we departed from the deepest solar minimum in nearly a century. Late this spring the latest data was suggesting the sun was about to explode with sunspot activity. A few sunspots soon developed not long after and then…(crickets chirping) Quiet. This is a snapshot of the sun today and as you can see it is completely void of any sunspots.

asunblank

This has been the case for the past 44 days in a row. The longest streak of “spotless days” during the current solar minimum was last summer; the streak lasted 52 days long. The current streak could top it. So the million dollar question is when does the solar minimum end? And no one knows for sure. Most scientists believed it would have ended a year ago, the revised forecasts showed spring 2009. Then in the spring the forecast was revised to late 2009, but the forecast stressed NASA’s low confidence. Russian scientist, Khabibullo Abdusamatov, is warning that the bigger concern isn’t when the 11-year solar minimum ends, but rather when the 200-yr solar minimum begins. On both 200-yr solar minimums on record the global temperature took a nose dive. The Maunder Minimum began in approximately 1640, the Dalton Minimum began in approximately 1790. Abdusamatov believes we are now entering the next deep solar minimum. The warning sign of a deep solar minimum such as a Dalton minimum is a very long solar cycle and deep 11-year solar minimum. For example the Dalton minimum started with a solar cycle that lasted 13.6 years (2.6 years longer than average) the 11-yr solar minimum was very deep, and then the following solar maximum was mostly inactive. The current solar cycle has now lasted 13 years (with no end in sight), it has been the deepest 11-yr minimum in nearly a century. Not only is this a possible sign we may be entering another Dalton minimum, but Australian geologist David Archibald has confirmed that for every one-year increase in solar cycle length there is a 0.5 degree Celsius (0.9 degree F) decline in surface air temperature across the globe over the coming solar cycle (11-years). By this definition we are already looking at a 1 degree C (1.8 degrees F) decline in global temperature over the next decade. After taking into consideration the global warming that is already taking place, global temperatures by Archibald’s equation would still drop about 0.6 degrees C (about 1 degree F) over the next decade.

Russian forecaster Abdusamatov is forecasting solar activity will continue to decrease each solar cycle to a minimum in 2041 according to a 200 year cycle. As a result, a deep cooling pattern will hit the earth in approximately 2055 to 2060 despite global warming (due to greenhouse gases). It will last roughly 50 years and the planet will face another Little Ice Age.

21st Century Science & Technology did an article on Abudusamatov’s findings, you can read the article by clicking the link below.

http://www.larouchepub.com/eiw/public/2009/2009_10-19/2009-15/pdf/62-63_3615.pdf

So lets play along with the forecasts and assume they are correct for a moment, what would that mean?

In Northwest Arkansas And The River Valley

Assuming the global temperature falls by 4 degrees F, the river valley’s climate would become similar to today’s climate in northwest Arkansas. High temperatures in the summer would rarely hit 100 degrees and yearly snowfall totals would increase to around 8 inches. Northwest Arkansas’s climate would become similar to today’s climate in Indianapolis, IN. Heat waves would be less intense during the summer, but the biggest adjustment would come during the winter. Snowfall would average 2 to 3 times as much as current levels with seasonal totals near 20 inches.

ice

Across The World

The glaciers would thicken up rapidly and begin to take over areas that have lost glacier mass over the past 150 years, since the end of our last Little Ice Age, such as southeast Alaska, Greenland, and in Glacier National Park. Ocean and sea levels would drop exposing more land in coastal areas and possibly saving New Orleans from future disasters. However, sightings of the northern lights would become extremely rare except for polar locations.

alights

What are the chances of such a massive global cooling occurring in our lifetime?

 If there is one thing I have learned by studying the atmosphere, it is that it can be very humbling. The more you learn, the more questions you uncover. There is much more we don’t understand about our atmosphere then what we do and it will probably always be that way. In my opinion, global warming is still the more likely scenario, unless a Dalton minimum is beginning. In which case Abdusamatov’s forecast of global cooling and the next Little Ice Age is at the very least possible. On the other hand, it is very difficult to accurately predict the sun’s sunspot cycles. Remember just two years ago, scientists overwhelmingly agreed we were heading for one of the biggest solar maximums in recorded history. Not only is that not the case, we are in a deeper minimum now then when the forecast was made. These forecasts are all based on the “predictable” 11-year cycle. We have a very limited knowledge of the 200-year cycle in which Abdusamatov’s forecast is based on. The bottom line is that I don’t know what will happen with our future climate, nor will I pretend to know. Trying to accurately forecast the weather a week in advance is challenging enough. However, at the very least Russian scientist Abdusamatov has an interesting theory to ponder. Now we would like to here from you. Below is a poll of what you believe will happen over the next 50 to 100 years. Please feel free to post a comment as well.

 

Ross Ellet

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7 Responses

  1. Great post. I was just thinking about all this last night in response to this article:

    http://www.leif.org/EOS/2009EO300001.pdf

  2. Brian,

    Thanks for the post and link. This is another very interesting arcticle!

    Ross Ellet

  3. Ross I am not convinced there is manmade global warming. Going back in history the hottest years the earth experienced were before the industrial revolution. I believe we are in a significant cooling trend since 1998 and it will continue for many years. I think it could be a very interesting winter this year after all we haven’t had a really hard winter that I can remember since the 1970’s.

  4. Ross,

    Seriously, great post. Thanks a lot!

    -Scott

  5. Scott,

    Thanks for the comment! It was a lot of fun researching. Very interesting!

    Ross Ellet

  6. Lots of speculation, not much consensus. It is worth looking into whether we have missed or discounted cyclical trends. In the meantime, let’s act on the best science we have.

    Let us reduce our carbon emission. If somehow everything gets turned on it’s head . . . the damage was neutralized anyway by population growth. Cut Carbon Emission.

  7. great article. There are more and more of these popping up on the web. I think people are slowly going to realise the importance of this and there is the possibility that it may turn into a greater real Ice Age of thousands of years. We are also overdue for that. So this may well be the trigger.
    There is also a great article with statistics at http://www.infiniteunknown.net/2009/07/08/solar-physicist-predicts-ice-age-solar-cycle-24-has-now-gone-clearly-below-dalton-level

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