Life as we know it depends on the sun. There’s no arguing that and while there has been an argument about climate change and temperatures sky rocketing, it appears that we’re in for much cooler temperatures in the next 15 years. According to a recent announcement from solar scientists, the sun may enter into a significantly reduced activity period that could potentially lead to a mini ice age by the year 2030.
Announced at the National Astronomy meeting in Llandudno, Wales, these predictions have yet to be evaluated. Even so, Professor Valentina Zharkova from the University of Northumbira, the person who made this announcement, claims the results found from a computer model of sunspots, has made “unprecedentedly accurate predictions.” This is based off the fact that the model has shown a 97 percent accuracy in mapping previous movements of sunspots based off solar cycle data from the years 1976-2007.
In order to achieve these findings, scientists mapped movement of solar fluid that movies in 11-year cycles. Sometime near the year 2022 (cycle 25) a pair of waves will be moving to the northern hemisphere and southern hemisphere of the sun and will slowly put it out of sync, thus reducing solar activity.
“In cycle 26, the two waves exactly mirror each other – peaking at the same time but in opposite hemispheres of the Sun. Their interaction will be disruptive, or they will nearly cancel each other. We predict that this will lead to the properties of a ‘Maunder minimum,'” Zharkova said.
For those who don’t know, the Maunder minimum was a 70-year period between 1645 and 1715 where the sun only produced a few sunspots and the planet experienced a mini ice age. In that period, parts of the US and northern Europe experienced winters that were uncharacteristically cold. The river Thames froze over for a period of seven weeks and allowed people to pass by foot.
Sunspots typically last anywhere from one to 100 days and are relatively cool areas on the sun. They appear darker when photographed and despite being cooler than the rest of the sun, still come in at around 4,500 K (4,200ºC, 7,600ºF). They rotate around the sun by following the flow of solar fluid and are caused by concentrations of intense, magnetic fields from the sun. Because of the motion of the fluid cycles, sunspots can go through cycles of intensity and sparsity. There are two main waves that become slightly offset over time and that produces periods of maximum and minimum solar activity.
“Effectively, when the waves are approximately in phase, they can show strong interaction, or resonance, and we have strong solar activity,” Zharkova said. “When they are out of phase, we have solar minimums. When there is full phase separation, we have the conditions last seen during the Maunder minimum, 370 years ago.”
With that, the Earth could in for an extended cold snap. Just how long of one is another question entirely. Either way, you’d better dig out that parka.Source: IFL Science