More on risk of new Maunder solar minimum and its implications

Monday 4 November 2013, 15:15

Paul Hudson Paul Hudson

There’s been, as I expected, lots of interest in my blog from last week about the risk of a new Maunder solar minimum reach you can read by clicking HERE


As part of my research into the story I visited Professor Mike Lockwood at Reading University where he told me that solar activity was falling at its fastest rate in 10,000 years, according to his analysis, and we discussed the possible implications.


To that end, I would like to make the following points.


The term ’Little Ice Age’ is one that is well documented by climatologists and is used to describe a period, particularly during the 1600’s,  across the UK and parts of Europe, when exceptionally low solar activity (The Maunder solar minimum), coincided with more frequent harsh winters in North-western Europe.


I stated very clearly that not every winter was harsh.


Professor Hubert Lamb, one of Britain’s most respected climatologists, commented in his work that ‘in many years snowfall (in this period) was much heavier than recorded before or since, and the snow lay on the ground for many months longer than it does today’.


It is also believed that an increase in volcanic eruptions worldwide was a contributory factor to this change in regional climate.


At the end of my article I move away from what I discussed with Professor Lockwood about the regional effects a new maunder solar minimum may have in the UK, and considered possible global impacts.


I refer and directly link to research carried out by Michael Mann et al (2001), which estimated that at the time of the Maunder solar minimum, global temperatures during that period cooled by 0.3C to 0.4C.


Here is the abstract from the Mann et al 2001 research (which you can read in full by clicking HERE)


‘We examine the climate response to solar irradiance changes between the late

17th-century Maunder Minimum and the late 18th century. Global average

temperature changes are small (about 0.3C to 0.4C) in both a climate model

and empirical reconstructions. However, regional temperature changes are

quite large. In the model, these occur primarily through a forced shift toward

the low index state of the Arctic Oscillation/North Atlantic Oscillation as solar

irradiance decreases. This leads to colder temperatures over the Northern

Hemisphere continents, especially in winter (1¡ to 2¡C), in agreement with

historical records and proxy data for surface temperatures.’


In my article I also state very clearly that most scientists believe that should any such global cooling occur, it would be temporary, and ‘swamped’ by global warming caused by greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.


But I would like to make it clear, should there be any confusion that my discussions with Professor Lockwood focused on possible regional climate effects of a new Maunder solar minimum for the UK and not any possible global implications.



Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    So we could continue with the existing problem of colder winters in the UK with rising energy costs all in the name of preventing warming in other parts of the world. We truly are world leaders in stupid.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    I have to say that the implications for the climate models with this Maunder solar minimum period are likely to be complicated, to say the least.

    We already have many saying that the forecasts and models used by the UN's IPCC in it's fifth assessment report are faulty, so how are we to believe that any predicted temperature drop, colder weather and increased snowfall are likely in the future?

    I agree with comment 3 above, made by NTropywins. Our politicians are going to have to do some rapid re-thinking over their green 'renewables' policies, they seem to be very likely wrong footed over natural events.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    'a very well evidenced one however, like the theory of evolution'

    a truly false statement if ever there was one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    #18. newdwr54

    I am surprised that you have fallen into the trap of quoting IPCC statistics as these are now widely regarded as being based upon faulty climate modelling and in consequence somewhat dodgy forecasting, having been based upon supposition that has since found to be inaccurate, if not totally misleading.

    Are you saying that the Maunder solar minimum prediction is any less likely to occur than the continuance of global warming due to increased amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere?

    Where are your proven facts, as opposed to the known effect of past solar minimums that led to climate cooling?

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    Changes in raw TSI of about 0.1% are not enough to account for observed climate shifts.

    Changes in the mix of wavelengths and particles especially UV are far greater and interact with ozone in the stratosphere to change tropopause heights with knock on effects on global cloudiness which then alters the amount of solar energy able to enter the oceans to drive the climate system

    Changes in global cloudiness are enough to explain observations without any contribution from human emissions of CO2.

    Such effects will be global but less in the southern hemisphere due to oceanic thermal inertia.

    There is plenty of evidence that such changes are indeed global but more pronounced in the northern hemisphere downwind of long ocean tracks such as western Europe and Alaska.

    It is a legitimate exercise to accept Lockwood's regional comments but then to enquire whether in fact the phenomenon is actually global.


Comments 5 of 77


This entry is now closed for comments

Share this page

More Posts

Real risk of a Maunder minimum 'Little Ice Age' says leading scientist

Monday 28 October 2013, 06:22

Weather and climate round-up

Thursday 14 November 2013, 18:10

About this Blog

Hello, I’m Paul Hudson, weather presenter and climate correspondent for BBC Look North in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire. 

Blog Updates

Stay updated with the latest posts from the blog.

Subscribe using:

What are feeds?

About Paul

I worked as a forecaster with the Met Office for nearly 15 years locally and at the international unit, after graduating with first class honours in Geophysics and Planetary physics at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in 1992. I then joined the BBC in October 2007, where I divide my time between forecasting and reporting on stories about climate change and its implications for people's everyday lives.

BBC Local

Get the latest news, sport, weather, travel and features from your local area.

Archive posts

For Paul's previous blogs, please click here: