Earth is bracing for a solar minimum: a dormant period in which the Sun radiates less energy or heat at our planet than usual. Scientists have warned that as a result of the Sun’s inactivity, Earth is likely to witness a ‘mini ice age’ that could bring extreme winters and chilly cold storms over the next 30 years.
According to NASA, the Sun will reach its lowest activity in over 200 years in 2020. As it further goes into its natural hibernation phase, Earth will experience extremely cold spells which will trigger food shortages across the planet. The average temperatures could drop as much as one degree Celsius in a period lasting about 12 months. That might not sound a lot but a whole degree fall would have a significant impact on global average temperatures.
Solar minimums are part of the Sun’s natural life cycle and occur once every 11 years. However, 2020’s minimum is going to be a special case. That’s because it marks the start of a rare event known as a Grand Solar Minimum, in which energy emitted from the Sun plummets down even more than usual. These only occur once every 400 years or so.
As per Northumbria University expert Valentina Zharkova, the icy spells and wet summers could be around until 2053, when solar activity picks up again. She told The Sun that the onset of the Grand Solar Minimum is already evident in Canada and Iceland, “We will possibly get big frosts as is happening now in Canada where they see [temperatures] of -50 degree Celsuis.”
The last Grand Solar Minimum, according to the report, was the Maunder Minimum which lasted from 1645 to 1715. The cruel cold decades saw the Thames and Amsterdam canals to freeze from time to time, something which is quite unusual today. This cold spell was likely set off by a number of factors including a slew of massive volcanic eruptions. In the forthcoming GSM, scientists are expecting a shift in the global temperatures caused due to human activity like rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.