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.



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  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Ooooh that should do it, back on the consensus Xmas card list.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Well done paul for sticking to your original story and ignoring the hysteria.

  • 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 5.

    This time it only took 6 days to try and get the disclaimers in!

    Though I am not sure why, seems to be the same message as the original. Just appears to have rattled a few cages. Nobody knows if there IS going to be a Grand Solar Minimum, nobody knows what, if any effect, it will have, locally, regional or globally. Just have to wait and see.

    All I see from this is Prof Lockwood reckons the chances of a Global Solar Minimum have increased - end! Is he right? Nobody knows but he does have every right, and some may say an obligation, to announce his findings and Paul Hudson has every right to report them and to state that the Maunder "coincided with more frequent harsh winters in North-western Europe."

    Quite frankly can't see what all the fuss has been about.

    As an illustration of how clear "solar science" is:-

    "According to Professor Lockwood the late 20th century was a period when the sun was unusually active and a so called ‘grand maximum’ occurred around 1985."

    When posed with the above Leif Svaalgaard replied:-

    “There has been no Grand Maximum”.

    So I asked:-

    "Leif, has there ever been a Grand Minimum?"


    "Good question. I would tend to say NO. What stand out in the record are the Grand Minima. It is as if the Sun has an upper limit to how much solar activity it can produce. I think there is both an upper limit and a lower limit, but that is just my speculation."

    So there appears to be a little "distance" between these two "Solar Scientists", yet many who have not studied the subject are convinced about the potential effects of a new "Global Solar Minimum"

    What is wrong with a simple truthful "we don't know"?

    Just how much credence our politicos and officers give to Prof Lockwood's increasing chance and the view of some that it could mean harsher UK winters is their responsibility, that's their call. I am sure they have got it covered new minimum or nay:-)


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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.

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