Earth facing a mini-Ice Age ‘within ten years’ due to rare drop in sunspot activity
- Sunspots are expected to disappear for years, maybe decades, after 2020
- A sharp decrease in global warming might result
The sun is heading into an unusual and extended period of hibernation that could trigger a mini-Ice Age on Earth, scientists claim.
While the effects of a calmer sun are mostly good – there’d be fewer disruptions of satellites and power systems – it could see a sharp turnaround in global warming.
A giant magnetic loop (right) filled with glowing-hot gas blasts away from the sun in 2003, while two Jupiter-sized sunspots also erupt. Within ten years the sun will be in an unusual and extended period of hibernation that could trigger a mini-Ice Age on Earth, scientists claim
An absence of sunspots is not an unprecedented situation. It has happened before, but not since the early 18th century.
Lead researcher Frank Hill, of the National Solar Observatory, said: ‘The solar cycle is maybe going into hiatus, sort of like a summertime TV show.’
While scientists don’t know why the sun is going quiet, all the signs are that it will.
Dr Hill and his team have based their prediction on three changes in the sun spotted by scientific teams – weakening sunspots; fewer streams spewing from the poles of the sun’s corona; and a disappearing solar jet stream.
Dr Richard Altrock, the study’s co-author and an astrophysicist at the Air Force Research Laboratory, said these three cues show that ‘there’s a good possibility that the sun could be going into some sort of state from which it takes a long time to recover’.
Their prediction is specifically aimed at the solar cycle starting in 2020.
Experts say the sun has already been unusually quiet for about four years with few sunspots – higher magnetic areas that appear as dark spots.
The enormous magnetic field of the sun dictates the solar cycle, which includes sunspots, solar wind and ejection of fast-moving particles that sometimes hit Earth.
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