Richard Harrison, who is the lead of space physics at a laboratory in Oxfordshire, England is worried because our Sun appears to be falling asleep and a mini ice age could be on the way for the Earth. He states that he has been a solar physicist for nearly three decades, and he has never saw the sun do anything quite like what it is doing now. The Sun is very inactive, so much so that one would have to go back around 100 years to compare the difference. Such a solar lull is totally baffling to other scientists as well because the Sun should be full of activity right now.
It seems that the Sun’s activity might be dropping faster than at any time in the past 10,000 years. It had hit a solar maximum, the point in its 11-year cycle where activity is supposed to hit a peak. Therefore, our personal star should be covered with sunspots, setting off flares and discharging large clouds of particles out into space in the form of coronal ejections.
The only things that seem to be going on are a few solar flares. Other than that it has been extremely quiet. This small maximum which followed a solar minimum, that was the period where the Sun’s activity slowed down. That also was lower than what scientists expected. Dr. Lucie Green, who works at University College in London’s Space Science Laboratory also stated that what the Sun is doing has taken her and numerous other solar scientists completely by surprise. The drop in activity has happened very quickly and scientists all over the world have now started to watch it very closely to see if this continues.
If it does, this could mean the Sun could become an extremely inactive star. It would seem like the Sun has fallen asleep. Our star would be basically a dormant ball of gas at the center of our Solar System. But it would not be the first time that the Sun has done this. Apparently during the last part of the 17th Century, the Sun went through a similar quiet phase. It was known as the Maunder Minimum and historical records state that all sunspots basically vanished during this time period. It appears the Sun is behaving in the same way it did then, however this decline in activity is the fastest that has occurred in nearly 10,000 years. Researchers state that the decline is unusually rapid.
With the Sun doing this, during the time in the 17th Century, Europe had periods of harshly cold winters. It was so frigid that some called it a mini-Ice Age. It is thought that this will happen again if the Sun continues to wane. Very cold, snowy winters will become the norm for Europe and America. So what do this mean for global warming?
In a recent study that was released by the United Nations climate panel, scientists decided with 95 percent certainty that humans were the main reason behind global warming since the 1950’s, and if greenhouse gases were to continue to go up at the present rate, then the world temperature might go up as much nearly 5 C.
Professor Harrison stated that this all feels very strange and unexpected. It also shows that scientists really do not understand the Sun. It is believed that the polar lights will dim greatly and there will be few to no displays of the northern lights. But on a positive note, there may be calmer times of space weather which may help keep steady the technological substructure which is relied so heavily upon.
There is no way to know what the total consequences of a quieting Sun will be, one thing the scientists are positive about is that the Earth’s star is extremely unpredictable, and anything might occur next. Yes our Sun appears to be falling asleep and a mini ice age is most likely on the way.
By Kimberly Ruble