Little Ice Age By 2030?

Professor Valentian Zharkova of Northumbria University presented her results Cold-Weather-Cartoonfor a new model of the Sun’s interior dynamo to the Royal Astronomical Society. Zharkova and her team believe they have made a discovery that allows them to predict solar activity. From the Royal Astronomical Society’s National Astronomy Meeting 2015 – report 4” posting:

“We found magnetic wave components appearing in pairs; originating in two different layers in the Sun’s interior. They both have a frequency of approximately 11 years, although this frequency is slightly different [for both] and they are offset in time,” says Zharkova. The two magnetic waves either reinforce one another to produce high activity or cancel out to create lull periods.

The model predicts that the magnetic wave pairs will become increasingly offset during Cycle 25, which peaks in 2022. Then during Cycle 26, which covers the decade from 2030-2040, the two waves will become exactly out of synch, cancelling one another out. This will cause a significant reduction in solar activity. “In cycle 26, the two waves exactly mirror each other, peaking at the same time but in opposite hemispheres of the Sun. We predict that this will lead to the properties of a ‘Maunder minimum’,” says Zharkova”

The Maunder Minimum occurred in roughly from 1645 to 1715 and this period was included in the time called the Little Ice Age when temperatures were notably cold. The chart below shows 400 years of Sunspot observations:

400yearsofSunspot_Numbers(Chart from: “Sunspot Numbers”. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons –“)

When Sunspot counts are down, as in the Maunder and Dalton Minimums, the global temperatures have cooled. Sunspot numbers are believed to be an excellent proxy for solar activity.   There have been allegations that the recording of the Sunspot numbers in the early years was not rigorous. Wiki disagrees:

“The Maunder Minimum occurred between 1645 and 1715 when very few sunspots were observed. This was not due to a lack of observations; during the 17th century, Giovanni Domenico Cassini carried out a systematic program of solar observations at the Observatoire de Paris, thanks to the astronomers Jean Picard and Philippe de La Hire. Johannes Hevelius also performed observations on his own.”

The (Zharkova) team’s predictions, using the model, suggest an interesting longer-term trend beyond the 11-year cycle. It shows that solar activity will fall by 60 percent during the 2030s, to conditions last seen during the Maunder Minimum of 1645-1715.

“Over the cycle, the waves fluctuate between the Sun’s northern and southern hemispheres. Combining both waves together and comparing to real data for the current solar cycle, we found that our predictions showed an accuracy of 97 percent,” says Zharkova.

The Jonova blog, titled “Is a mini-ice age coming in 2030, and does the sun have two dynamos?” reproduced a chart from the Zharkova team’s report that portrays what they expect Solar Cycles 25 and 26 will look like in contrast to preceding Cycles below:


{Figure 4. Modulus summary principal component (solid curve) calculated from Equations (6) and (7) for cycles 21–23 and predicted for cycles 24–26, the modulus summary PC derived from SBMF in cycles 21–23 (dotted curve) and in cycle 24 (dashed curve).}

The chart shows that Solar Cycle 24 activity is mirrored by the models projections. Cycles 25 and 26 are predicted by the model to have reduced activity. Note the Y-axis units are arbitrary but presumably meaningful in this context.

The consequence of low solar activity as indicated by the Sunspots appears to be pretty well settled in most people’s minds. The missing link is the connection between solar activity and its effect on the Globe. The amount of solar radiation seems pretty constant as measured by the satellites.  There are some commonly cited theories that are not yet proven. It is well established that high energy Gamma Rays are more prominent in the Earth’s atmosphere in times of low solar activity. The Svensmark theory says this results in more cloud formation and these clouds reduce global temperatures. This theory is being tested and results are mixed.

Some believe the while the solar radiation is steady, the ultra violet and x-rays fraction of the radiation can vary widely. Ultraviolet, for example, affects Ozone formation and maybe more or less ozone could have an important effect on the global temperatures.

The Zharkova theory seems promising as it appears to have good correlation with Solar Cycle 24.   Because solar cycles are all nominally 11 years in length, proof or failure of these solar theories comes very slowly.

















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