Remember our last article on Little Ice Age? That happened back in 17th century and it is going to happen again somewhere in 2030’s, scientists say so. According to experts, the next Mini Ice Age is already heading our way and will hit Earth may be 15 years from now! It is quite natural for us to think that this next bout of cooling that may happen will be a result of relentless human exploits of the nature but scientists have made it clear that this time, humans are innocent and the main culprit will be our very own Sun.
A little terrifying right? The very thought of earth becoming cold actually manages to strike fear into our hearts. But, did you know that we are actually in middle of an Ice Age? You may choose not to believe this with all the rants about global warming but it is true. We are in the middle of an Ice Age and we are living in a phase that we called Intergalcial – a period in which Earth remains relatively warm. Go through our article on 40 interesting Ice Age Facts for details.
Anyway, getting back to our Mini Ice Age problem, scientists have deduced this from a mathematical model which reveals that 15 years from now, our Sun will suddenly go silent. Well, it will not die out but solar activities will drop significantly. We are very much aware today that solar cycles impact climates on this planet and when Sun goes silent, Earth will become much colder.
Only a few months ago in last year, NASA came up with a shocking revelation about Antarctica’s ice. NASA said that Antarctica is actually gaining more ice rather than losing it. The organization published a paper titled “Mass gains of Antarctic ice sheet grater than losses”. This paper was published in Journal of Glaciology and can be accessed through NASA’s website here.
So, why did NASA say so and how? We have been told for years that Antarctica is losing its ice. Well it was true! Ice was indeed retreating but recently things have changed. Satellite imagery helped NASA to calculate the heights of ice sheets in the region and found that there was a net gain in height. The paper was produced by the members of Goddard Space Flight Center of NASA.
The authors did make it clear that the exact reason for such a gain in height by the ice sheets is not fully known but they came up with a number of theories. We humans are often plagued with our myopic view of events occurring on this planet and very often we end up blaming ourselves for the nasty faces of nature we see from time to time. Of course we are culprits to a great extent but we also need to widen our gaze and look beyond because Earth’s climate is certainly not solely dependent on just human activities.
It is a well-established fact the extent of Antarctic ice reached its all-time high a few years back (sources 1, 2) and many of us already jumped to the conclusion that global warming was the major culprit. Well, not everyone agreed to this and several other theories were also put forward.
But is this really connected to the approaching Mini Ice Age? Not really! The only reason for bringing this point up is to assert that there are forces far beyond human exploits that can play dirty as well. This however doesn’t make us – the humans, any less criminals. The truth however is that Earth, since its birth has went through climate changes and humans weren’t even present back then! So, what caused such changes. Of course the ancient animals weren’t that advanced to wreak havoc on this planet. This is where the scientist explored the possibility that may be our Sun has some major role to play.
Several studies have been conducted on this and the most recent one came from Northumbria University, UK where a mathematics professor named Valentina Zharkova came up with a mathematical model. He study was revealed in National Astronomy Meeting held in Wales. Valentina presented a mathematical model based on a method known as principal component analysis. The model is capable of predicting influences of solar cycles on Earth’s climate with a whooping 97% accuracy – the best model so far!
Based on this model, Valentina deduced that the Mini Ice Age is headed our way in some 15 years from now. This is precisely what Royal Astronomical Society (abbreviated as RAS) said after putting Valentina’s model to work:
A new model of the Sun’s solar cycle is producing unprecedentedly accurate predictions of irregularities within the Sun’s 11-year heartbeat. The model draws on dynamo effects in two layers of the Sun, one close to the surface and one deep within its convection zone. Predictions from the model suggest that solar activity will fall by 60 per cent during the 2030s to conditions last seen during the ‘mini ice age’ that began in 1645. (Source to be found here)
This mathematical model was not the brain child of Valentina Zharkova alone. There were other members too as a part of the team. The whole team used principal component analysis of observations of magnetic fields from California’s Wilcox Solar Observatory. The model was used by Valentina and her team to look the upcoming solar cycles and predict that Earth will be experiencing a climatic change between 2030 and 2040 because that’s when, according to the model’s prediction, the solar activities will be significantly dampened.
In professor Valentina Zharkova’s words (source):
In cycle 26, the two waves exactly mirror each other – peaking at the same time but in opposite hemispheres of the Sun. Their interaction will be disruptive, or they will nearly cancel each other. We predict that this will lead to the properties of a “Maunder minimum.” Effectively, when the waves are approximately in phase, they can show strong interaction, or resonance, and we have strong solar activity. When they are out of phase, we have solar minimums. When there is full phase separation, we have the conditions last seen during the Maunder minimum, 370 years ago.
So, if this model’s predictions are nearly as accurate as claimed we are heading for some serious trouble. If the Mini Ice Age really happens, a lot can change. For instance, some crops and even animal species can completely be wiped out from the face of this planet. There may be a significant reduction in human population. Famines may become rampant. However, unlike our ancestors 300 years ago, we are pretty well-prepared today. We will easily ride out this period of cooling.
Unfortunately however, we don’t know the exact extent of temperature drop that will take place. May be it will not be as harsh as the previous one or may be it will be worse, rendering our defensive setup useless. Whatever the case be, we will have to face it if it happens.