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Date posted - January 7, 2014
From BBC’s Paul Hudson It’s known by climatologists as the ‘Little Ice Age’, a period in the 1600s when harsh winters across the UK and Europe were often severe. The severe cold went hand in hand with an exceptionally inactive sun, and was called the Maunder solar minimum. The current rate of decline in solar activity is such that there’s a real risk of seeing a return of such conditions. A look into the possible link between solar activity and climate patterns shows that the late 20th century was a period when the sun was unusually active and a so called ‘grand maximum’ occurred around 1985. Since then the sun has been getting quieter. By looking back at certain isotopes in ice cores, we are able to determine how active the sun has been over thousands of years. Following analysis of the data solar activity is now falling more rapidly than at any time in the last 10,000 years. He found 24 different occasions in the last 10,000 years when the sun was in exactly the same state as it is now – and the present decline is faster than any of those 24. Based on his findings he’s raised the risk of a new Maunder minimum from less than 10% just a few years ago to 25-30%. A repeat of the Dalton solar minimum which occurred in the early 1800s, with its cold winters and poor summers, is ‘more likely than not’ to happen. He believes that we are already beginning to see a change in our climate – witness the colder winters and poor summers of recent years – and that over the next few decades there could be a slide to a new Maunder minimum. It’s worth stressing that not every winter would be severe; nor would every summer be such a change to our climate.