Science fiction hasn’t got around to this one yet. Astronomers are described as “baffled” by the sun’s sudden reduction in output. One prediction even suggests that the Thames might freeze over.
The UK Express:
"If you want to go back to see when the Sun was this inactive... you've got to go back about 100 years," Richard Harrison, head of space physics at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire told the BBC.
One of the Sun's biggest lulls came in the 17th century, known as the Maunder Minimum, at the same time as freezing winters swept across Europe.Space.com reported that the Sun’s activity in 2013 was very weak, as flagged by NASA:
This year's solar maximum is shaping up to be the weakest in 100 years and the next one could be even more quiescent, scientists said Thursday (July 11).
"It's the smallest maximum we've seen in the Space Age," David Hathaway of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., told reporters in a teleconference.
If this is so far sounding like a less than authoritative romp through astronomical prediction, it is.
As you can see, the recent spike is atypical. A mini Ice Age, however, is likely to be a mixed blessing.
Theory says that solar minimums caused the Little Ice Age of the 14th century. It also says that the Black Death, happening at the same time, helped the number of dead people reducing the number of trees cut down. An Indonesian volcano is also believed to have contributed…
So we’re not exactly oversupplied with hard facts. The difference between the 14th century and the present may not always be obvious to modern citizens, but a similar event now would be chaotic.
The last Little Ice age was pretty grim:
The Little Ice Age (LIA) was a period of cooling that occurred after the Medieval Warm Period (Medieval Climate Optimum). While it was not a true ice age, the term was introduced into the scientific literature by François E. Matthes in 1939. It has been conventionally defined as a period extending from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries, or alternatively, from about 1350 to about 1850... NASA defines the term as a cold period between AD 1550 and 1850 and notes three particularly cold intervals: one beginning about 1650, another about 1770, and the last in 1850, each separated by intervals of slight warming.
Apparently, even timber was affected and helped produce the unique wood of the legendary Stradivarius violins, and many famines. Despite looking forward to more great violins and famines, the Northern Hemisphere was the more severely affected.
The recorded scenario, for 400 years from Wikipedia:
• 1250 for when Atlantic pack ice began to grow
• 1275 to 1300 based on radiocarbon dating of plants killed by glaciation
• 1300 for when warm summers stopped being dependable in Northern Europe
• 1315 for the rains and Great Famine of 1315–1317
• 1550 for theorized beginning of worldwide glacial expansion
• 1650 for the first climatic minimum.
The Little Ice Age ended in the latter half of the nineteenth century or early in the twentieth century.
How long would a new mini Ice Age last?
What about the effects on the climate of a lot of fresh water freezing and getting taken out of the global water cycle?
How to manage food for 7-10 billion people in a global fridge?
If the big freeze earlier this month is any guide, things could get rough.
Mars is suddenly looking pretty good.
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