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Shivering Britain

Little Ice Age could be on its way

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3 Jul 11 - "Scientists think Britain and Europe could be in for a chilly few years predicting a 'Little Ice Age' could be on its way," says an article today on Mail Online.

According to the study led by Mike Lockwood, professor of space environment physics at Reading University, the average winter temperature in Britain could drop below 2.5C (36.5F) compared to the average winter now of 5C (41F).

This drop in temperature would be caused by a decline in sunspot activity.

Sunspot size compared to Earth

Lockwood's discoveries mirror three different studies announced just last month from heavyweight scientists at the US National Solar Observatory, at NASA, and at the US Air Force Research Laboratory, which concluded that sunspot activity looks set to decline over the next 10 years.

Those three studies found that sunspots, the enormous magnetic storms that erupt on the sun's surface during what is called the sunspot cycle, might not be as abundant as normal or might even disappear entirely for the first time since the Maunder Minimum, almost 400 years ago.

During the Maunder Minimum, sunspots disappeared from sight and Europe endured unusually harsh winters now known as the Little Ice Age.

According to the renowned British climatologist H. H. Lamb, Britain's rainy season lasted a few weeks longer in the spring and began a few weeks earlier in the fall during the Little Ice Age. This prevented farmers from planting their crops at the proper time, prevented them from harvesting the crops at the proper time, or at all, and literally millions of people died of starvation.  

NASA on the Maunder Minimum:

"Early records of sunspots indicate that the Sun went through a period of inactivity in the late 17th century. Very few sunspots were seen on the Sun from about 1645 to 1715.... This period of solar inactivity also corresponds to a climatic period called the "Little Ice Age" when rivers that are normally ice-free froze and snow fields remained year-round at lower altitudes. There is evidence that the Sun has had similar periods of inactivity in the more distant past."

Professor Lockwood's team looked at the sun's activity of the past 9,300 years using Met Office data.

Their findings, which were presented at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society's solar physics division and published by the Institute of Physics, "showed that in the next 50 years there is a one in 10 chance of the sun returning to conditions seen between 1645 and 1715 when the River Thames in London regularly froze over, as did the Baltic Sea."

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Thanks to Linda in Australia, Michael Riemann, Mike McEvoy and Marc Morano for this link



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