Sunday, January 26, 2014

Inactive sun could herald new mini-Ice Age

Scientists remain perplexed by the inexplicable and severe lack of activity being exhibited by the sun.

The sun's activity has dropped to such an extent that there are fears that it could trigger a miniature Ice Age similar to the one that occurred during the 17th century when the sun entered an extremely quiet phase that became known as the Maunder Minimum.

"I've been a solar physicist for 30 years, and I've never seen anything quite like this," said astrophysicist Richard Harrison. The lack of solar activity is particularly surprising because the sun is currently at the peak of its cycle at a time when activity should be at its most intense.

Scientists have warned that it is quite possible that the sun will become increasingly quiet, leading to much colder winters, especially in Europe. The last time this happened both the Baltic Sea and the River Thames froze over.

"It's a very active research topic at the present time, but we do think there is a mechanism in Europe where we should expect more cold winters when solar activity is low," said space environment physicist Professor Mike Lockwood.