Sunspot activity on the surface of the Sun follows a well-known but little understood 11-year cycle. Activity rises and falls creating the so-called solar maximum and then a solar minimum. During a solar maximum, the Sun is more powerful and is littered with sunspots.
Conversely, when the Sun enters a solar minimum – which it did about two years ago – energy from our host star begins to lessen.
However, one expert has warned that the Sun will enter a period of “hibernation” this year, in what as known as a Grand Solar Minimum (GSM).
Prof Valentina Zharkova, from the department of mathematics, physics and electrical engineering at Northumbria University, warned this could cause global temperatures to drop by one degrees Celsius.
While that sounds like an insignificant drop, it could have major ramifications for the planet, including a slow down in agricultural production.
The expert added the Sun’s hibernation period could last for three decades, which will lead to wetter and colder summers.
Prof Zharkova told The Sun: “The Sun is approaching a hibernation period.
“Less sunspots will be formed on the solar surface and thus less energy and radiation will be emitted towards the planets and the Earth.”
“The reduction in temperature will result in cold weather on Earth, wet and cold summers, cold and wet winters.”
“We will possibly get big frosts as is happening now in Canada where they see [temperatures] of -50C.
“But this is only the start of GSM, there is more to come in the next 33 years.”
The last GSM, which comes around roughly every 400 years, came in the 17th century.
Research produced by NASA indicated during this last prolonged solar minimum the cooling temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere were indeed exacerbated by that Maunder minimum.
In 2006, NASA said: “From 1650 to 1710, temperatures across much of the Northern Hemisphere plunged when the Sun entered a quiet phase now called the Maunder Minimum.
“During this period, very few sunspots appeared on the surface of the Sun, and the overall brightness of the Sun decreased slightly.
“Already in the midst of a colder-than-average period called the Little Ice Age, Europe, and North America went into a deep freeze: alpine glaciers extended over valley farmland; sea ice crept south from the Arctic; and the famous canals in the Netherlands froze regularly—an event that is rare today.”
During this period, temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere on land and in the winter were reportedly 1.3C lower than yesterday leading to shorter seasons and ultimately food shortages in what NASA described as a “little Ice Age”.
Prof Zharkova said: “We can only hope that the mini ice age will not be as severe as it was during the Maunder Minimum.
“This would dramatically affect food harvests in middle latitudes because the vegetables and fruits will not have enough time for harvesting.
“So it could lead to a food deficit for people and animals, as we [have seen] in the past couple of years when the snow in Spain and Greece in April and May demolished they veggie fields, and the UK had a deficit of broccoli, and other fruits and veggies.”
Read rest at Express
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