There's growing speculation that the decrease in sunspot activity may herald the arrival of a new Maunder Minimum - a period of relatively low temperatures, where summers are cooler and shorter than normal, and winters are longer, colder and much more severe. LiveScience reports:
Valentina Zharkova, a professor of mathematics at Northumbria University in the United Kingdom, used a new model of the sun's solar cycle, which is the periodic change in solar radiation, sunspots and other solar activity over a span of 11 years, to predict that "solar activity will fall by 60 percent during the 2030s to conditions last seen during the 'mini ice age' that began in 1645," according to a statement.
At the National Astronomy meeting in Llanduno, north Wales last week, Zharkova said that a series of solar phenomena will lead to a "Maunder Minimum," which refers to the seven decades, from 1645 to 1715, when the sun's surface ceased its heat-releasing magnetic storms and coincided with the Little Ice Age, a period of chillier temperatures, from around 1550 to 1850 in Europe, North America and Asia, according to NASA.
"The upcoming Maunder Minimum is expected to be shorter than the last one in 17th century (five solar cycles of 11 years)," Zharkova told Live Science in an email. "It will be lasting about three solar cycles."
However, many scientists are not convinced. Georg Feulner, the deputy chair of the Earth system analysis research domain at the Potsdam Institute on Climate Change Research, has studied the effect a solar minimum might have on Earth's climate. His research has shown that temperature drops correlated to a less intense sun would be insignificant compared with anthropogenic global warming, according to the Washington Post.
. . .
The Little Ice Age saw rapid expansion of mountain glaciers, especially in the Alps, Norway, Ireland and Alaska. There were three cycles of particularly chilly periods, beginning around 1650, 1770 and 1850, each separated by slight warming intervals, according to NASA. Although the Maunder Minimum corresponds with the first of the three cooling periods, the connection between solar activity and terrestrial climate are topics of on-going research, according to NASA.
There's more at the link.
Everything's speculative at the moment, of course. No-one's quite sure what the data mean; but with satellites observing the sun, we've got more data coming in than we've ever had before, and they seem to be pointing in the direction of less heat from the sun arriving on Earth. Global warming alarmists claim that man-made heating of the atmosphere will alleviate that cooling effect to a very great extent . . . but again, nobody knows.
As to what it would be like to live under such conditions, Appalachian Magazine published an article in May titled '200 Years Ago: The Year Without a Summer'. It refers to the effects of the eruption of the Tambora supervolcano, but it's likely that at least some of the same effects would be produced by an extended Maunder Minimum.
Remembered by many American survivors as “Eighteen Hundred and Froze to Death,” the summer of 1816 presented an abnormality that has not since been experienced in modern world history – an entire summer filled with frost, snow and extreme cold.
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... on June 6, 1816, residents of Albany, New York, were shocked to discover snow falling onto the ground.
Writing in his diary, New Lebanon, New York, resident Nicholas Bennet wrote “all was froze… and the hills were barren like winter.”
. . .
In July and August, lake and river ice was observed as far south as Pennsylvania. Frost was reported as far south as Virginia on August 20th and 21st.
Rapid, dramatic temperature swings were common, with temperatures sometimes reverting from normal or above-normal summer temperatures as high as 95 °F to near-freezing within hours.
On September 13, a Virginia newspaper reported that corn crops would be up to two-thirds short, complaining that “the cold as well as the drought has nipt the buds of hope”.
Again, more at the link.
Food for thought. This isn't something to panic over, but it will bear watching.