Earth May Be Headed for Big Chill From Little Ice Age

Wednesday, 15 Jun 2011 03:53 PM

By David Alliot

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The Earth could be heading straight for a little ice age — and not a global warming phase as dictated by Al Gore and others — posits the U.S. National Solar Observatory (NSO) and the U.S. Air force Research Laboratory.

The news comes from the results of three separate analyses according to The Register. Low sun activity is cited as the reason. In recent measurements, sunspot activity, intense solar eruptions caused by magnetic activity, has been astonishingly lower than predicted, which translates into a period of cooling — what scientists dub a “little ice age.”

Scientists expected to find sun activity in much greater strength, meaning increased sunspot activity. They have seen this type of slowdown before, during a 70-year period, from 1645-1715. Scientists called this period the “Maunder Minimum.”
little ice age, sunspots, sun, earth, al gore, global warming
Solar activity (AP)


During this period, researchers reported, “rivers that are normally ice-free froze and snow fields remained year-round at lower altitudes” — the culmination of a little ice age. Many rivers that do not freeze over today, such as the Thames, in fact did freeze over, at times allowing people to walk on the Thames and even armies to cross.

The trends that led to that Maunder Minimum seem to be repeating in the current cycle, leading scientists to predict another little ice age. Dr. Frank Hill of the NSO told The Register, “Three different views of the Sun point in the same direction . . . a powerful indicator that the sunspot cycle may be going into hibernation.” In short, less sunspot activity, more ice skating.

Hill’s research matched 13 years of sunspot data from the McMath-Pierce Telescope at Kitt Peak in Arizona, analyzed by physicists Matt Penn and William Livingston. Richard Altrock, an astrophysicist studying Air Force data, found a 40-year decline in magnetic activity in the corona of the Sun — further evidence of a cooling period. “Changes we see in the corona reflect changes deep in the Sun,” he reported to The Register.

If proven, the upcoming little ice age could impact legislation being drawn up to deal with CO2 emissions — including cap and trade. Not all is rosy with such a cooling period, however. Future generations may find that dealing with significantly colder temperatures is no ice skate in the park. Bundle up, Al Gore.

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