People, Environment

Long Winter Is Coming

Long Winter Is ComingLong Winter Is Coming

A new model that predicts solar cycles more accurately than ever has suggested that solar activity will drop by 60% between 2030 and 2040.

Fifteen years later, Earth could sink into what researchers are calling a mini ice age, Science Alert reported.

Such low solar activity has not been seen since the last mini ice age, called the Maunder Minimum, which plunged the northern hemisphere in particular into a series of bitterly cold winters between 1645 and 1715.

The prediction is based on what is known as the Sun’s “11-year heartbeat”. The Sun’s activity fluctuates over a cycle that lasts between 10 and 12 years.

At the National Astronomy Meeting in Wales, mathematics professor Valentina Zharkova from Northumbria University has presented a model that can forecast what the solar cycles will look like based on the dynamo effects at play in two layers of the Sun.

Dynamo effects are part of a geophysical theory that explains how the motion of Earth’s outer core moves conducting material, such as liquid iron, across a weak magnetic field to create an electric current. This electric current interacts with the fluid motion below the surface of Earth to create two magnetic fields along the axis of its rotation.

When Zharkova’s model applied this theory to the Sun, it drew its predictions assuming that there are dynamo effects in two subterranean layers: one deep down in the convection zone and another near the surface, each fluctuating between the northern and southern hemispheres.

“We found magnetic wave components appearing in pairs, originating in two different layers in the Sun’s interior. They both have a frequency of approximately 11 years, although this frequency is slightly different and they are offset in time. Combining both waves together and comparing to real data for the current solar cycle, we found that our predictions showed an accuracy of 97%,” Zharkova said at the conference.

The model predicted that there would be few sunspots over the next two 11-year heartbeats called Cycle 25 that peaks in 2022 and Cycle 26 that runs from 2030 to 2040.

“In Cycle 26, the two waves exactly mirror each other—peaking at the same time but in opposite hemispheres of the Sun. The waves will nearly cancel each other. We predict that this will lead to the properties of a ‘Maunder Minimum’,” said Zharkova.