According to Valentina Zharkova, professor of mathematics at Northumbria University, U.K., Earth is heading for another ice age in about 15 years due to an impending drop in solar magnetic activity by up to 60 percent. Zharkova's theory has sparked a fierce debate, with researchers who support the theory of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) attacking her findings.
According to Zharkova, since she first presented her findings at the National Astronomy meeting in Llandinam, North Wales, in 2015, researchers who support the theory of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) have been hostile and have even tried to suppress her study.
She claimed that AGW supporters asked the Royal Astronomy Society to withdraw her work.
"Some of them were welcoming and discussing. But some of them were quite — I would say — pushy," Zharkova said in an interview with The Global Warming Policy Forum (GWPF).
"They were trying to actually silence us. Some contacted the Royal Astronomical Society, demanding that they withdraw our press release.""The Royal Astronomical Society replied to them and CCed to us and said, 'Look, this is the work by the scientists who we support, please discuss this with them,'" Zharkova said.
"We had about 8 or 10 exchanges by email, when I tried to prove my point," Zharkova said. "[I told them] I'm willing to look at what you do... we're happy to work with you, and add to your data our results... we can give you our curve. Work with our curve...[but] they didn't want to."
Although AGW researchers did not deny the accuracy of Zharkova's prediction that solar activity will drop significantly in the 2030s they insisted that the upcoming drop predicted by Zharkova's model will not be sufficient to offset ongoing global warming.
But Zharkova insisted that her new mathematical model for predicting cyclical variation in solar radiation, sunspots and other aspects of solar activity over a period of 11 years shows that solar magnetic activity is heading toward the lowest since the 1645-1715 mini ice age, the period known as the Maunder Minimum when major European rivers, such Thames, and the Baltic Sea froze over.
This means that in the next 15 years solar activity will fall by 60 percent and during the 2030s Earth will enter a new ice age that may last several decades.
"Whatever we do to the planet, if everything is done only by the Sun, then the temperature should drop like it was in the Maunder Minimum, at least in the Northern hemisphere," Zharkova said. "We didn't have many measurements in the Southern hemisphere, we don't know what will happen with that, but in the Northern hemisphere, we know."
Zharkova first presented her findings at the National Astronomy meeting in Llandinam, North Wales, in 2015, saying that a new and more accurate mathematical model of the Sun's "11-year heartbeat" predicts the Sun's activity will fall dramatically between 2030 and 2040.
A dramatic reduction in heat-releasing magnetic storms on the solar surface will spark a new ice age in Europe, North America, and Asia, Zharkova said.
The mathematical model developed by Zharkova and co-researchers was based on the theory of solar dynamo effects which describes how convective currents and differential rotation within the Sun generates the Sun's magnetic field. Variations in the solar magnetic field produce the 11-year solar cycle characterized by increasing and decreasing number and size of solar sunspots.
Solar sunspots are dark patches in the Sun's photosphere that reflect concentrations of the magnetic field. During a solar minimum few sun spots are visible, and during a maximum, more sunspots are observed.
Zharkova found that her new model of the solar cycle produced unprecedentedly accurate predictions of irregularities within the "11-year heartbeat" of the Sun. Her model was found to predict the solar cycle with 97 percent accuracy.
The increased accuracy was due to the ability to model dynamo effects in two separate layers of the Sun.
"We found magnetic wave components appearing in pairs, originating in two different layers in the Sun's interior," she said. "They both have a frequency of approximately 11 years, although this frequency is slightly different, and they are offset in time."
"Combining both waves together and comparing to real data for the current solar cycle, we found that our predictions showed an accuracy of 97 percent," she added.
"In Cycle 26, the two waves peak at the same time but in opposite hemispheres of the Sun. We predict that this will lead to a 'Maunder Minimum.'"
Zharkova told Live Science that the upcoming ice age would be much shorter than the one that began in 1645. The new ice age is expected to last only three solar cycles of 11 years each, compared with the previous that covered five solar cycles.
"The upcoming Maunder Minimum is expected to be shorter than the last one in the 17th century. It will last only about three solar cycles."Although scientists do not dispute the ability of Zharkova's new model to predict the solar cycle, some AGW researchers have questioned her claim that the upcoming Maunder Minimum will trigger an ice age. According to George Feulner, at the Potsdam Institute on Climate Change Research, anthropogenic global warming (AGW) will offset the effects of the predicted Maunder Minimum, leading to a much lower drop in global temperatures than during the last mini ice age.
"The expected decrease in global temperature would be 0.1 degrees Celsius at most, compared to about 1.3 degrees Celsius since pre-industrial times by the year 2030," Feulner said in an interview with the Washington Post.
[Featured Image by Geoff Elson/CC BY 4.0/Wikimedia Commons]