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Modern Solar Grand Maximum Ends: ‘Little Ice Age’ Cooling Coming!

Written by Kenneth Richard


During the 20th and early 21st centuries, Earth’s inhabitants have enjoyed an epoch of very high solar activity that is rare or unique in the context of the last several thousand years.  The higher solar activity and warmer temperatures have allowed the planet to briefly emerge from the depths of the successive solar minima periods and “Little Ice Age” cooling that lasted from the 1300s to the early 1900s.  Unfortunately, solar scientists have increasingly been forecasting a return to a solar minimum period in the coming decades, as well as the concomitant cooler temperatures.

In several newly published (2017) papers, scientists have suggested that a substantial deterioration into solar minimum conditions and global cooling may be imminent (see, for example, here and here and here).  What follows is a collection of dozens of other papers that have also projected a solar minimum-induced “Little Ice Age” climate for the foreseeable future.

The analysis concludes with references to recently published papers that indicate the North Atlantic region has already begun cooling rapidly within the last decade.  Scientists have long suggested that what happens in the North Atlantic may have global-scale implications, and thus the observed North Atlantic cooling trend may be a harbinger of the climate that is to come.


The Modern Grand Maximum Of Solar Activity A ‘Rare’ Or ‘Unique’ Event


Usoskin et al., 2014     “[T]he modern Grand maximum (which occurred during solar cycles 19–23, i.e., 1950–2009) was a rare or even unique event, in both magnitude and duration, in the past three millennia. Except for these extreme cases, our reconstruction otherwise reveals that solar activity is well confined within a relatively narrow range.”


Lockwood et al., 2009     [T]he Sun has been unusually active over recent decades (Solanki et al. 2004; Vonmoos et al. 2006; Muscheler et al. 2007; Steinhilber et al. 2008). Solanki et al. (2004) used the 14C isotope abundance found in tree trunks and concluded that the Sun has been more active recently than at any time in the previous 8000 years and that it was as active as in recent decades for only 10% of the past 11000 years.”

Chen et al., 2015     “We explored the sources and characteristics of each pigment, reconstructed an 800-year record of ultraviolet radiation (UVR) and total incoming light intensity, and identified the possible factors that may have influenced historical UVR changes in this region. The results indicated at least four UVR [ultraviolet radiation] peaks during the past 800 years, corresponding to c. AD 1950–2000, 1720–1790, 1560–1630 and 1350–1480, with the intensity from the most recent [1950-2000] sediments being the highest.”


The Modern Grand Maximum Of Solar Activity Has Recently Drawn To A Close


Wang et al., 2010      “It is seen that a very active period that began in 1920, the so-called ‘current grand solar maximum’, will probably end during 2011-2027, since a variety of indices related to solar activity have significantly shifted since 1987. … [T]he current grand solar maximum has already lasted for eight 11-year solar cycles and might end in the coming one/two 11-year cycles; a grand solar minimum might prevail in the next 100–200 years.”

Zharkova et al., 2015     “The longest direct ervation of solar activity is the 400-year sunspot-number series, which depicts a dramatic contrast between the almost spotless Maunder and Dalton minima, and the period of very high activity in the most recent 5 cycles [1950s – 2000s], prior to cycle 24. … The records show that solar activity in the current cycle 24 is much lower than in the previous three cycles 21–23 revealing more than a two-year minimum period between cycles 23 and 24. This reduced activity in cycle 24 was very surprising because the previous five cycles were extremely active and sunspot productive forming the Modern Maximum.”
“We predict correctly many features from the past, such as: 1) an increase in solar activity during the Medieval Warm period; 2) a clear decrease in the activity during the Little Ice Age, the Maunder Minimum and the Dalton Minimum; 3) an increase in solar activity during a modern maximum in 20th century. .. We note, in particular, a decreasing activity for solar cycles 25 and 26 coinciding with the end of the previous 350–400-year grand cycle and then increase of the solar activity again from cycle 27 onwards as the start of a new grand cycle with an unusually weak cycle 30. Hence, cycles 25–27 marks a clear end of the modern grand period that can have significant implications for many aspects of solar activity in human lives including the current debate on climate change.”

press release     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. … Results will be presented today by Prof Valentina Zharkova at the National Astronomy Meeting in Llandudno. … Zharkova and her colleagues derived their model using a technique called ‘principal component analysis’ of the magnetic field observations from the Wilcox Solar Observatory in California. They examined three solar cycles-worth of magnetic field activity, covering the period from 1976-2008. In addition, they compared their predictions to average sunspot numbers, another strong marker of solar activity. All the predictions and observations were closely matched. “Combining both waves together and comparing to real data for the current solar cycle, we found that our predictions showed an accuracy of 97%,” said Zharkova. “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.”

‘All Proponents Of Planetary Forcing Have Forecasted A Solar Grand Minimum For The Upcoming Decades’


Sánchez-Sesma, 2015     “Solar activity (SA) has non-linear characteristics that influence multiple scales in solar processes (Vlahos and Georgoulis, 2004). For instance, millennia-scale solar oscillations have been recently detected, like those of about 6000 and 2400 years, by Xapsos and Burke (2009) and Charvátová (2000), respectively, with important and interesting influences in the near past and future climate. These millennial-scale patterns of reconstructed solar activity variability could justify epochs of low activity, such as the Maunder Minimum, as well as epochs of enhanced activity, such as the current Modern Maximum, and the Medieval Maximum in the 12th century. Although the reason for these solar activity oscillations is unclear, it has been proposed that they are due to chaotic behavior of non-linear dynamo equations (Ruzmaikin, 1983), or stochastic instabilities forcing the solar dynamo, leading to on-off intermittency (Schmittet al., 1996), or planetary gravitational forcing with recurrent multi-decadal, multi-centennial and longer patterns (Fairbridge and Sanders, 1987; Fairbridge and Shirley,1987; Charvátová, 2000; Duhau and Jager, 2010; Perry and Hsu, 2000). It should be noted that all proponents of planetary forcing have forecasted a solar Grand Minimum for the upcoming decades, but one of them has also forecasted a Super Minimum for the next centuries (Perry and Hsu, 2000). In addition, during recent decades, statistical forecasts (with physically-based spectral information of reconstructed records) of solar magnetic activity predict a clear decrease in solar activity, reaching a minimum around AD 2100 (Steinhilber et al., 2013; S13, hereafter, Velasco et al., 2015)”

Liu et al., 2011     “Climate events worldwide, such as the MWP and LIA, were seen in a 2485-year temperature series. The largest amplitude and rate of temperature both occurred during the EJE [Eastern Jin Event (343–425 AD)], but not in the late 20th century. The millennium-scale cycle of solar activity determined the long-term temperature variation trends, while century-scale cycles controlled the amplitudes of temperature. Sunspot minimum events were associated with cold periods. The prediction results obtained using caterpillar-SSA showed that the temperature would increase until 2006 AD on the central-eastern Plateau, and then decrease until 2068 AD, and then increase again.”


Steinhilber and Beer, 2013     “Our methods are able to predict periods of high and low solar activities for a few centuries in the past. However, they are less successful in predicting the correct amplitude. Then, the methods were used to predict the period 2000–2500. Both methods predict a period of low activity around 2100 A.D. Between 2100 and 2350 A.D., the results are inconsistent regarding the duration of the low-activity state in 2100 A.D. and the level of activity until 2250 A.D.”


Lüdecke et al., 2015     “The Earth’s climate shows a rather regular oscillation of ∼ 200 year period during the last millennia. However, frequency, phase, and strength of the oscillation are found to vary in different time series of temperatures and for different times (see Figs. 4–6, and 5 8). Nonetheless, the relative historic stability of the cycle suggests that the periodic nature of the climate will persist also for the foreseeable future. Disregarding other conceivable forcings e.g. anthropogenic influences, an approximate prediction of the climate for the next 100 years suggests itself. Figure 9 shows the Tsine representation from AD 1800 to AD 2100 derived from the ∆Tsine representation by a π/2 phase shift.  It gives correctly the 1850–1900 temperature minimum and shows a temperature drop from present to AD 2080, the latter comparable with the minimum of 1870, as already predicted in the studies (Steinhilber and Beer, 2013; Liu et al., 2011) on the grounds of solar activity data alone.”

Herrera et al., 2015     “Of particular interest now is the fact that the behavior of the solar cycle 23 minimum has shown an activity decline not previously seen in past cycles for which spatial observations exist: this could be signaling the start of a new grand solar minimum.”


Evans, 2016     “Four manifestations of unconventional climate influences are identified, each with at least as much effect on surface temperature as the direct heating effect of changes in total solar irradiance (TSI): external-driven albedo; countervailing cooling during TSI peaks, implied by the absence of corresponding peaks in the surface temperature record (the “notch”); the long-term sensitivity of surface warming to TSI increases; and the delay of ∼11 years between changes in underlying or smoothed TSI and the corresponding changes in surface temperature. We hypothesize these are all manifestations of a single force whose exact mechanism is unknown but whose crucial properties can be deduced: “Force X” modulates the Earth’s albedo, and lags TSI by one sunspot cycle or half the ∼22-year cycle of the Sun’s hydromagnetic dynamo. A second, alternative hypothesis is of “force N” for the notch and “force D” for the delayed force causing the other three manifestations. The notch-delay solar model can explain the global warming of the last few decades and centuries in terms of force X/D. Several solar indicators including TSI peaked 1986, but surface warming continued until 1998, which is explained by the delay. The notch-delay hypothesis predicts sustained and significant global cooling starting sometime in the period 2017 to 2022, of 0.3°C but perhaps milder (TSI estimates vary), as force X/D falls off in response to the marked decline in underlying TSI from around 2004—one of the three biggest and fastest falls in TSI since sunspot records began in 1610.”

Abdussamatov, 2015     “A long-term negative deviation of the Earth’s average annual energy balance from the equilibrium state is dictating corresponding variations in it’s the energy state. As a result, the Earth will have a negative average annual energy balance also in the future. This will lead to the beginning of the decreasing in the Earth’s temperature and of the epoch of the Little Ice Age after the maximum phase of the 24-th solar cycle approximately since the end of 2014. The influence of the consecutive chain of the secondary feedback effects (the increase in the Bond albedo and the decrease in the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere due to cooling) will lead to an additional reduction of the absorbed solar energy and reduce the greenhouse effect. The start of the TSI’s Grand Minimum is anticipated in the solar cycle 27±1 in 2043±11 and the beginning of the phase of deep cooling of the 19th Little Ice Age for the past 7,500 years around 2060±11.  … Thus, the long term variations of the solar constant (allowing for their direct and secondary impacts, with the latter being due to feedback effects) are the major and essential cause of climate changes because the Earth’s climate variation is a function of longterm imbalance between the solar radiation energy incoming into the upper layers of the Earth’s atmosphere and Earth’s total energy outgoing back to space.”


Yndestad and Solheim, 2016     “In 1890´s G. Spörer and E. W. Maunder (1890) reported that the solar activity stopped in a period of 70 years from 1645 to 1715. Later a reconstruction of the solar activity confirms the grand minima Maunder (1640-1720), Spörer (1390-1550), Wolf (1270-1340), and the minima Oort (1010-1070) and Dalton (1785-1810) since the year 1000 A.D. (Usoskin et al. 2007). These minimum periods have been associated with less irradiation from the Sun and cold climate periods on Earth. An identification of a three grand Maunder type periods and two Dalton type periods in a period thousand years, indicates that sooner or later there will be a colder climate on Earth from a new Maunder- or Dalton- type period. …. The result shows that the TSI variability and the sunspots variability have deterministic oscillations, controlled by the large planets Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune, as the first cause. A deterministic model of TSI [total solar irradiance] variability and sunspot variability confirms the known minimum and grand minimum periods since 1000. From this deterministic model we may expect a new Maunder type sunspot minimum period from about 2018 to 2055. The deterministic model of a TSI ACRIM data series from 1700 computes a new Maunder type grand minimum period from 2015 to 2071. A model of the longer TSI ACRIM data series from 1000 computes a new Dalton to Maunder type minimum irradiation period from 2047 to 2068.”

Torres and Guzmán, 2016     “Conclusions Based on our results, we propose the use of the Wolf’s Number Oscillation Index (WNOI) – as a more uniform alternative to the ONI – in the range over 30 and below -30. The analysis of the material presented and the arguments discussed allows us to define a possible relationship between phenomena related to Solar Cycle, the ENSO, climatic conditions, as well as some criteria for the establishment of public policies for preservation and remediation of the environment in the long run. We can conclude that solar activity oscillations impact the earth climatic conditions to such a extent that they become measurable only in the long run. The magnitude of the Solar Cycle – from 7 to 17 and a mean of 11.2 years – seems to support this statement. Based on the similarities of the Solar Cycles 5 and 24 we can expect a longer period of cold weather for the years 2022 y/o 2034, corresponding to the Solar Cycles 24 and 25.”

Sanchez-Sesma, 2016     “This empirical modeling of solar recurrent patterns has also provided a consequent multi-millennial-scale experimental forecast, suggesting a solar decreasing trend toward grand (super) minimum conditions for the upcoming period, AD 2050–2250 (AD 3750–4450). … Solar activity (SA) has non-linear characteristics that influence multiple scales in solar processes (Vlahos and Georgoulis, 2004). For instance, millennia-scale solar oscillations have been recently detected, like those of about 6000 and 2400 years, by Xapsos and Burke (2009) and Charvátová (2000), respectively, with important and interesting influences in the near, past and future climate. These millennialscale patterns of reconstructed SA variability could justify epochs of low activity, such as the Maunder minimum, as well as epochs of enhanced activity, such as the current Modern Maximum, and the Medieval maximum in the 12th century.  … We can conclude that the evidence provided is sufficient to justify a complete updating and reviewing of present climate models to better consider these detected natural recurrences and lags in solar processes.”

Riley et al., 2015     “[W]e suggest that the Sun evolved from a 2008/2009-like configuration at the start of the Maunder Minimum toward an ephemeral-only configuration by the end of it, supporting a prediction that we may be on the cusp of a new grand solar minimum.”

Abdusamatov, 2012     “The Earth as a planet will have a negative balance in the energy budget in the future as well, because the Sun is entering the decline phase of the bicentennial luminosity changes. … A deep bicentennial minimum in solar constant is to be anticipated in 2042 ± 11 and the 19th Little Ice Age (for the last 7500 years) may occur in 2055 ± 11.”


Solheim et al., 2012     “No significant trend is found between the length of a cycle and the average temperature in the same cycle, but a significant negative trend is found between the length of a cycle and the temperature in the next cycle. This provides a tool to predict an average temperature decrease of at least 1°C from solar cycle 23 to solar cycle 24 for the stations and areas analyzed. We find for the Norwegian local stations investigated that 25–56% of the temperature increase the last 150 years may be attributed to the Sun. For 3 North Atlantic stations we get 63–72% solar contribution. This points to the Atlantic currents as reinforcing a solar signal.”

Roth and Joos, 2013     “In contrast to earlier studies, periods of high solar activity were quite common not only in recent millennia, but throughout the Holocene. Notable deviations compared to earlier reconstructions are also found on decadal to centennial timescales. We show that earlier Holocene reconstructions, not accounting for the interhemispheric gradients in radiocarbon, are biased low. Solar activity is during 28% of the time higher than the modern average (650 MeV), but the absolute values remain weakly constrained due to uncertainties in the normalisation of the solar modulation to instrumental data. A recently published solar activity–TSI relationship yields small changes in Holocene TSI of the order of 1 W m−2 with a Maunder Minimum irradiance reduction of 0.85 ± 0.16 W m−2. Related solar-induced variations in global mean surface air temperature are simulated to be within 0.1 K. Autoregressive modelling suggests a declining trend of solar activity in the 21st century towards average Holocene conditions.”

Ahluwalia, 2014     “The Sun has emerged from a grand maximum for SSN cycles; it includes cycle 19, the most active cycle ever observed in 400 y. The grand minima are associated with cooler Earth temperatures (Eddy, 1976, 1981). The trend line indicates that we have entered a period of low solar activity; Ahluwalia and Jackiewicz (2012) suggest that we are at the advent of a Dalton-like minimum. The Earth was cooler then, made worse by Mt Tambora volcanic eruption on 5 April 1815.”

Salvador, 2013     “Using many features of Ian Wilson’s Tidal Torque theory, a mathematical model of the sunspot cycle has been created that reproduces changing sunspot cycle lengths and has an 85% correlation with the sunspot numbers from 1749 to 2013. The model makes a reasonable representation of the sunspot cycle for the past 1000 yr, placing all the solar minimums in their right time periods. The forecast is for a solar minimum and quiet Sun for the next 30 to 100 yr.”

Mörner, 2015     By about 2030-2040, the Sun will experience a new grand solar minimum. This is evident from multiple studies of quite different characteristics: the phasing of sunspot cycles, the cyclic observations of North Atlantic behaviour over the past millennium, the cyclic pattern of cosmogenic radionuclides in natural terrestrial archives, the motions of the Sun with respect to the centre of mass, the planetary spin-orbit coupling, the planetary conjunction history and the general planetary-solar-terrestrial interaction. During the previous grand solar minima—i.e. the Spörer Minimum (ca 1440-1460), the Maunder Minimum (ca 1687-1703) and the Dalton Minimum (ca 1809- 1821)—the climatic conditions deteriorated into Little Ice Age periods.”

Duhau and de Jager, 2010     “[S]olar variability is presently entering into a long Grand Minimum, this being an episode of very low solar activity, not shorter than a century. A consequence is an improvement of our earlier forecast of the strength at maximum of the present Schwabe cycle (#24). The maximum will be late (2013.5), with a sunspot number as low as 55. … Solar activity is believed to be associated with climate change (De Jager and Duhau, 2009; De Jager et al., 2010; Miyahara et al., 2010). Sunspot activity can be concentrated in the two solar hemispheres and they appear to fluctuate for 11 year cycles. However, prolonged episodes of reduced sunspot activity, such as the Maunder Minimum, were clearly linked with an episode of extreme cooling and bitingly cold winters in Europe and North America, known as the ‘little ice age‘.”

Russell et al., 2010      “If we were to guess what the next solar cycle was going to be like from the behavior of the declining phase of solar cycle 23 to date, we would select solar cycle 4 beginning in 1785 as the analog of solar cycle 23 and solar cycles 5 and 6 as the analogs of the upcoming cycles 24 and 25. At this writing, the similarity of the inability of the new cycle to take hold with significant new cycle activity at high latitudes is striking. The epoch of cycles 5 and 6 has also been called the Dalton minimum, during which the sunspot number maximized at close to 50. It was also a period of global cooling.”


Miyahara et al., 2010     “Specifically, the “Little Ice Age” covers a cyclic period of cooling and glaciation which began in the 13th century and which continued into the 16th to 19th centuries, when glaciers began advancing southwards in Greenland and the North Atlantic, and perhaps worldwide. These episodes of global cooling appear to be linked to reduced solar activity. By contrast, the Medieval Warm Period occurred during a period of heightened solar activity. If these associations are valid, then future cyclic alterations would be expected to impact global temperatures including perhaps triggering another period of global cooling if sunspot activity is again reduced to a minimum. … The Sun is currently showing slightly different behavior compared with recent decades (Livingston & Penn, 2009). Consequently, concern has emerged regarding whether the Sun is approaching the next Maunder Minimum of reduced activity. Given this scenario, it has been suggested that global temperatures may decrease by about 0.3 °C as a result of a reduction in total solar irradiance (Feulner & Rahmstorf, 2010).”

Scafetta, 2012     “The model forecasts a new prolonged solar grand minimum during 2020-2045, which would be produced by the minima of both the 61 and 115-year reconstructed cycles. Finally, the model predicts that during low solar activity periods, the solar cycle length tends to be longer, as some researchers have claimed. These results clearly indicate that solar and climate oscillations are linked to planetary motion and, furthermore, their timing can be reasonably hindcast and forecast for decades, centuries and millennia.”

Archibald, 2007     “Our forecast for global average temperature to 2030 has been updated for the progression of Solar Cycle 23 and the contribution that will be made by increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The increased length of Solar Cycle 23 supports the view that Solar Cycle 24 will be weak, with the consequence of increased certainty that that there will be a global average temperature decline in the range of 1° to 2° C for the forecast period [by 2030]. The projected increase of 40 ppm in atmospheric carbon dioxide to 2030 is calculated to contribute a global atmospheric temperature increase of 0.04°C. The anthropogenic contribution to climate change over the forecast period will be insignificant relative to natural cyclic variation.”

Landschiedt, 2003     “Analysis of the sun’s varying activity in the last two millennia indicates that contrary to the IPCC’s speculation about man-made global warming as high as 5.8° C within the next hundred years, a long period of cool climate with its coldest phase around 2030 is to be expected. It is shown that minima in the 80 to 90-year Gleissberg cycle of solar activity, coinciding with periods of cool climate on Earth, are consistently linked to an 83-year cycle in the change of the rotary force driving the sun’s oscillatory motion about the centre of mass of the solar system. As the future course of this cycle and its amplitudes can be computed, it can be seen that the Gleissberg minimum around 2030 and another one around 2200 will be of the Maunder minimum type accompanied by severe cooling on Earth. This forecast should prove skillful as other long-range forecasts of climate phenomena, based on cycles in the sun’s orbital motion, have turned out correct as for instance the prediction of the last three El Niños years before the respective event.”

The North Atlantic Region – Linked To Global Climate – Has Already Been Cooling Rapidly


Chafik et al., 2016       “The multidecadal variability of the North Atlantic Ocean has a strong signal in the sea surface temperature with many global climate linkages [Enfield et al., 2001; Knight et al., 2006]. An even stronger multidecadal signal can be found in the subpolar temperatures and salinities, where the Atlantic Water inflow variations constitute an essential part in the variability [Hátún et al., 2005; Häkkinen et al., 2011a; Reverdin, 2010]. The atmospheric forcing in the subpolar North Atlantic Ocean is dominated by the variability of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), i.e., the leading mode of atmospheric variability in the North Atlantic sector, which modulates the atmosphere-ocean momentum and heat exchanges on a range of temporal scales. The subpolar ocean variability thus appears to be tightly connected to atmospheric forcing and associated basin-scale circulation changes, which together force the subpolar ocean properties toward extremes [Lozier et al., 2008, 2010], either to warm-saline or cold-fresh conditions on multidecadal scales. These regime changes [in the North Atlantic] have recently been argued to be important for global mean surface temperature warming acceleration and hiatus [Chen and Tung, 2014; Drijfhout et al., 2014].”


Duchez et al., 2016       “[C]old ocean temperatures were the most extreme in the modern record [since 1948] over much of the mid-high latitude North-East Atlantic. … we consider the exceptionally cold ocean surface anomaly that was already in place prior to the onset of the 2015 heat wave. The SST anomaly field for June 2015 shows temperatures up to 2 °C colder than normal over much of the sub-polar gyre with values that are the coldest observed for this month of the year in the period 1948–2015 indicated by stippling. The cause of this cold anomaly has been the subject of widespread interest in the media, we now show for the first time that it can be attributed to a combination of air–sea heat loss from late 2014 through to spring 2015 and a re-emergent sub-surface ocean heat content [cold] anomaly that developed in preceding years.”

Robson et al., 2016       “In the mid-1990s the North Atlantic subpolar gyre warmed rapidly, which had important climate impacts such as increased hurricane numbers and changes to rainfall over Africa, Europe and North America. Evidence suggests that the warming was largely due to a strengthening of the ocean circulation, particularly the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation. Since the mid-1990s direct and indirect measurements have suggested a decline in the strength of the ocean circulation, which is expected to lead to a reduction in northward heat transport. Here we show that since 2005 a large volume of the upper North Atlantic Ocean has cooled significantly by approximately 0.45 °C or 1.5 × 1022 J, reversing the previous warming trend.”

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