Mini Ice Age Prediction Creates Controversy And Renews Climate Debate

A number of scientists are beginning to cast doubts over a predicted “mini ice age.”

A team of researchers have recently announced that flunctuations in solar activity that may have caused a previous freeze over the Earth are expected to occur again from 2030 to 2040.

According to Science Alert, a team of researchers and scientists in the UK have presented a forecast model that can predict fluctuations in the Sun’s activity “with an accuracy of 97 percent.” Based on the model, many people jumped to the conclusion that a new ‘mini ice age’ will blast the world in cold temperatures in the next 15 years.

Northumbria University math professor Valentina Zharkova talked on behalf of the research team at the recent National Astronomy Meeting in the UK. According to Zharkova, the 17th century’s mini ice age, or Maunder Minimum in scientific terms, was caused by the Sun’s “heartbeat,” 11-year periods in which solar activity fluctuates. These heartbeats occur as a result of changes in magnetic waves within the Sun’s interior levels. These magnetic wave alterations cause a drop in sunspots across the surface of the Sun, resulting in reduced temperatures on Earth.

The last time the Earth experienced a mini ice age was in the late 17th century. Wired mentions that, during that mini ice age, sea water was frozen “for miles around the UK,” France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. London’s River Thames was also frozen completely then, with paintings of that time depicting people traveling on it in horse-drawn carriages, and “frost fairs” markets were held on the river itself.

Sunspots were also reported to have been rare during the decades-long freeze.

Mini Ice Age
1683, Frost Fair on the Thames, with tents and coaches on the ice. (Photo by Edward Gooch/Getty Images)

The Independent states that, if Zharkova’s theory proves correct, solar activity will drop by over half of its current level.

While the study suggests that drops in solar activity levels may cause drops in temperatures on Earth, such a conclusion does not necessarily mean that we are heading for another mini ice age. And, according to the Guardian, even if the upcoming mini ice age occurs, it is would only to delay the inevitable emissions-caused rise in global temperatures by two years, rather than cancel it out completely.

The Guardian, citing other climate experts, says frozen rivers, such as those seen in London during the last mini ice age, will probably not be seen this time as modern-day carbon emissions will likely limit such drops in temperatures. As a matter of fact, according to the Guardian article, researchers predict that temperatures may actually increase despite the predicted Maunder Minimum if action is not taken soon to cut emissions.

Eric Holthaus, a meterologist who writes for Slate Magazine, also wrote an article rejecting the idea that a mini ice age was approaching and says we still need to worry about global warming.

Eric Holthaus also questioned the relationship between drops in solar activity and temperatures on Earth.

“The current [solar] cycle is the weakest in 100 years—yet 2014 was the planet’s hottest year in recorded history.”

He also posted a tweet ridiculing the idea.

Are you a skeptic or a believer in the upcoming mini ice age?

[Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images]