Although the Earth is currently heating up due to climate change, a new prediction taking the internet by storm warns that the sun could cool off in the next 15 years, throwing the world into a mini ice age. At the National Astronomy Meeting in Wales, solar scientists predicted that shifting sunspots could drop temperatures here on Earth by the year 2030. While solar activity may slow in the coming years, scientists warn that it won’t throw the planet into a perpetual winter. In fact, they say, the opposite is true: in 15 years, the world will be much, much hotter.
Professor Valentina Zharkova from the University of Northumbria made predictions using a computer model that has shown a high degree of accuracy in calculating sunspot activity – it’s been 97% accurate when mapping the movement of sunspots from 1997-2008.
The model maps the movement of solar fluid in “roughly 11-year cycles, which correspond to weather cycles on Earth.” By the year 2022 (labeled cycle 25), it appears that a pair of waves will move to the Northern and Southern Hemispheres of the Sun, “getting slowly out of synch and reducing solar activity – and thus our warm weather.” Zharkova said that in cycle 26, the two waves mirror each other exactly – peaking at the same time but in opposite hemispheres of the Sun.
This prompted researchers to predict conditions similar to the “Maunder Minimum” – a period of time from 1645 to 1715 when the sun produced hardly any sunspots and the Earth experienced a mini ice-age .
Don’t think that means a cooler planet, however – study after study shows that global warming is expected to increase at an accelerated rate. And furthermore, a study published last month shows that any reduction in temperature from solar activity won’t be nearly enough to overcome the effect of human-driven climate change.
There are also concerns over whether the last mini ice-age was caused by a reduction in solar activity. Some research suggests that it was the result of volcanic activity, while other studies show that the term “age” is really a misnomer, because the global cooling was just a small blip in the Earth’s timeline. The bottom line is that we aren’t off the hook for global warming – and no “mini ice age” is coming to rescue us from the consequences of anthropogenic climate change.
Images via NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Update: This post was edited to reflect evidence that the “mini ice age” won’t reduce global temperatures