A new story made headlines this past weekend when members of the press started quoting a paper that warned planet Earth will enter a mini Ice Age in as little as 15 years from now.
Supposedly a group of scientists studying sunspots had found that solar activity is set to go on decline by 60 percent (60%) and that the change would take place sometime by the end of the 2030s. The warning was that solar activity would fall so drastically that it would resemble that associated with what scientists refer to as “The Little Ice Age”, an event that destroyed crops and froze rivers in Europe 300 years ago.
The only problem is that the research was falsely understood. While Valentina Zharkova, lead author on the study and professor of mathematics over at the University of Northumbria, actually revealed that the magnetic waves responsible for producing sunspots are set to counteract one another in the near future in a atypical fashion, professor Zharkova’s work did not address any climate changes that the Earth may or may not see, and she certainly didn’t come up with the phrasing “mini Ice Age”.
The scientific community has been looking at sunspots for 400 years, at least. What experts have found is that there is a link between how many sunspots there are and what out planet’s temperature is, however sunspots are also known to fluctuate once every 11 years, without causing an Ice Age.
The most notable drop in sunspots in recorded history happened between the years of 1645 and 1715, when a phenomenon known as “the Maunder minimum” coincided with Europe entering “The Little Ice Age”, a period in time full of brutal winters. This is where the confusion might have started from, as some people assumed that one is caused by the other.
But the truth is the lowest number of sunspots in the last 100 years coincided with the Earth’s hottest year in recent history – 2014. On top of this, “The Little Ice Age” was not a global phenomenon, but something that Europe experienced, and it is believed to have been caused by clouds of ash that formed as a consequence of volcanic eruptions.
Upon hearing the news, Chris Colose took to Twitter to remind everyone that our Sun is a very stable star which only has very small changes (0.1 percent change) in orbit, and that they happen very slow. So an Ice Age is almost impossible to create.
Many other people got on their Twitter or Facebook accounts either to express concern over the supposedly upcoming mini Ice Age and the food shortage that it would bring with it, or to make jokes about the news needing to be hidden from climate scientists and environmentalists who worry about the damage caused by global warming.
Even if the Earth’s core temperature was set to drop, many previous studies (especially one from 2010) have warmed that our planet is seeing an increasingly dangerous rise in temperature because of greenhouse gas emission. Researchers inform that the biggest drop that we might see in the planet’s core temperature by 2100 is 0.3 degrees Celsius.
If you compare that to the 1 to 5 degrees rise in temperature that’s expected to take place due to human activity, the 0.3 degree drop would not even enough to return the planet back to normal, let alone cause an Ice Age.
Image Source: space.com