UK Met Office: The return of 'grand solar minimum' could affect European and eastern US winters, but wouldn't halt global warming

UK Met Office: The return of 'grand solar minimum' could affect European and eastern US winters, but wouldn't halt global warming

A return to low solar activity not seen for centuries could increase the chances of cold winters in Europe and eastern parts of the United States but wouldn't halt global warming, according to new research led by UK's Met office and published recently in Nature Communications. The study is among the first to look at the regional climate impacts of a possible 'grand solar minimum'.

It's understood the Sun's output increases and decreases, measured by the number of sunspots on the star's surface, over a timescale of 100 - 200 years.

Some solar physicists believe there's an increased risk that we're heading towards the lower end of this cycle - last seen during the so-called 'Maunder Minimum' which ended 300 years ago. This coincided with colder winters in the UK and Europe, with 'frost fairs' held numerous times on a frozen River Thames.

Climate scientists have been carrying out research to assess how important this might be for global temperatures, particularly in the context of climate change.

The new study used a climate model to simulate conditions between 2050 and 2099 under the RCP 8.5 scenario (which assumes 'high-end' future carbon concentrations), but crucially includes a solar output decreasing to Maunder Minimum levels.

Like other studies, they found the global impact from reduced solar output was relatively small - with a cooling effect of around -0.1 °C. This is much smaller than the amount of warming expected due to greenhouse gases, which is several degrees for this experiment.

On a regional level, the study found a bigger cooling effect for northern Europe, the UK and eastern parts of North America - particularly during winter. For example, for northern Europe the cooling is in the range -0.4 to -0.8 °C.

Winters will be warmer overall, but this suggests a relative increase in the risk of colder winters for these areas during a possible grand solar minimum.

Sarah Ineson, a Met Office scientist and lead author of the research, said the impact of a grand solar minimum would only temporarily moderate the future warming we expect from climate change.

"This research shows that the regional impacts of a grand solar minimum are likely to be larger than the global effect, but it's still nowhere near big enough to override the expected global warming trend due to man-made change," she said.

"This means that even if we were to see a return to levels of solar activity not seen since the Maunder Minimum, our winters would likely still be getting milder overall."

One key finding of the research at a regional level was that a drop in UV output led to a cooling which was a sizable fraction of the difference between some of the socio-economic (RCP) scenarios used by climate scientists to assess future warming.

Researchers concluded that this meant solar output is important enough to include when assessing the regional impacts of future climate change.

The study was a collaboration between scientists at the Met Office and the University of Cambridge,  University of Oxford and  University of Reading in the UK, and the University of Colorado in the US.

Source: UK Met Office


  • "Regional climate impacts of a possible future grand solar minimum" - Sarah Ineson, Amanda C. Maycock, Lesley J. Gray, Adam A. Scaife, Nick J. Dunstone, Jerald W. Harder, Jeff R. Knight, Mike Lockwood, James C. Manners & Richard A. Wood - Nature Communications - doi:10.1038/ncomms8535 - OPEN ACCESS

Featured image: The Hunters in the Snow by Pieter Brueghel the Elder, 1565


Staci 2 years ago

This is a very important admission on the part of mainstream scientists. Note that they have now admitted:
1) Sunspots do affect the temperature of the earth.
2) We may be heading for a grand minimum.
3) This will bring about cooling for a large part of the earth, including much of North America and Europe.
4) It will offset global warming in these areas.

The only thing they are not admitting, yet, it that this will completely offset global warming. As the years go by they will admit that sunspots and volcanoes have more power than they want to admit, and will be able to say that global warming was overpowered by natural events, so we are all really lucky! That will cover the falsness of their weak science.

Nikola 2 years ago

It is true that changes in the sun may be the main indicators of processes occurring in the interaction of the planets and the sun. Such an important and essential conclusion, science does not recognize her nor given any attention. This is the main reason that modern science has no landmark by which should therefore be usnjeri and to find the true causes of climate change. This table today 95% of scientists accept that climate change implications of human factors (CO2), is nothing but a deception of the public, in order to obtain some benefit from policies that were put in the "scientific concentration camp".
Even bigger problem, there is no possibility of finding an honest publisher who will publish the proof of the true causative agents of these changes. Today, more contaminant tycoon moves, because nobody is interested in science, but what of which is earning money and it does not matter whether it is beneficial or harmful to humanity.

Alex 2 years ago

Mini-Ice-Age increase in wild and extreme events will continue for the next 20 years* by which time the CO2 theory and associated carbon tax theft and dodgy and intelectually-strained politicians will be in the dustbin of history"

andych 2 years ago

In other words, Uk Met have declared that human power is stronger than the sun finally.

"Researchers concluded that this meant solar output is important enough to include when assessing the regional impacts of future climate change." Really?? What did they use to assess regional impact before..table lamp?!

Bill H 2 years ago

Oh please... global warming... global warming... global warming... Sooner or later there will be a huge die off of people in temperate climates and the problem will self right.

Buy a bunker and wait for the end. (sarcasm off)

Gary Meyers 2 years ago

The Met office is staffed with loons. The last time I looked, the sun shone on the whole planet!

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