By Jay Lehr and Joel Glass –
There is an 11-year cycle, during which the Sun emits less radiant energy and then brightens again. The lowest energy point, which usually lasts one or more years, is called a solar minimum.
The term ‘solar minimum’ comes from there being a minimum of sunspots, massive storms, many larger than the Earth, on the surface of the Sun. This is an indication that the output of the Sun has lessened.
When the durations of solar minimums are longer, the cooling of the Sun is more significant and an ‘ice age’ can occur on Earth. The most recent ice age occurred between 1300 and 1800. It was called the Little Ice Age (LIA) as it was less pronounced than major ice ages which last much longer. During the LIA, there was a prolonged period of few sunspots known as the Maunder Minimum (1645 to 1715) which further lessened the energy reaching Earth from the Sun. This produced catastrophic results in terms of crop loss, sickness, starvation, and unemployment which led to a general collapse of European society.
The best solar science specialists and their mathematical model simulations are projecting a major solar minimum within the next 20 years. While most of the talk today concerns fears that the Earth may warm a couple degrees within a hundred years, we may be wiser to consider preparing for a cooler period within the next few decades.
Unlike the misguided desire to eliminate fossil fuels so as to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, which some believe control the Earth’s thermostat, preparation for colder weather is far less costly and dramatic.
The areas in which effective preparation can occur, provided there is sufficient time and resources available, include, but are not limited to:
- Food Production
- Water Systems
- Power (Electrical) Systems
A new book on this subject, ICE AGE … 2025: HOW TO PREPARE AMERICA AND YOUR FAMILY FOR THE COMING ICE AGE, written by the junior author of this article, covers these subjects in detail.
As for food production, just as we have taken advantage of genetic engineering to make crops more stable in hot and dry conditions, we will advance our knowledge to grow crops in colder conditions. We will also see advances in food growth indoors using hydroponic systems where plant roots get their nutrition directly from mineralized water rather than soil. While it cannot replace crops damaged by cold temperatures, it can significantly increase the food supply possible under colder winter climatic conditions.
Regarding, transportation, the present US urban methods of keeping roads open in winter are inadequate for the coming cold weather, but can readily be improved and advanced. Similarly, most of the urban US water systems are ill equipped to deal with freezing temperatures over a long period of time but can be upgraded at reasonable expense with existing technology already in use in northern climates.
Power and energy will not be a problem as long as the calls to end use of our abundant coal, oil, and natural gas are ignored.
We are now in a solar minimum. It may be the first step toward a cooler Earth for a significant period of time. Different models project different dates for it, but most solar specialists believe it is not far away.
Because of histories, both written at the time and then later by professional European historians, as well as paintings, we are able to get a good picture of the effect of severe solar minimums on human society and on plants–in this case, particularly food crop plants.
Society during the past LIA was agrarian and the industrial revolution had not yet occurred. For the urbanized high technology societies today, the effects of solar minimums which could lead to “little” ice ages may be more difficult to deal with. Transportation, electricity, and food systems are more complex today but are managed with greatly advanced technology. Although nearly 10% of the European population died due to events related to the solar minimum’s cooler temperatures, such disaster is certainly not likely today if we prepare properly.
During the LIA, and particularly during the years of the Maunder Solar Minimum, it was not only cooler temperatures which brought chaos to society and agricultural life, some extreme weather occurred as well.
Some of the food crops that did manage to survive the cooler temperatures and shorter growing seasons were destroyed by storms of snow and ice or frost. Weather prediction today offers far earlier warnings of advancing weather, making adaptation protocols far more effective.
One interesting effect of potential cooling is the prevalence of noctilucent clouds over large parts of the Northern US.
As a result of the present solar minimum, much of the northern part of the US can see astonishing blue clouds at sunset. Usually reserved for arctic areas, they are now in our sky if we are in the northern part of the US. (see cover photo)
Not only are these noctilucent clouds a different color, they have a different structure. Looking at these clouds, it’s not a very large jump to assume that we can find other changes here on Earth, and plant growth cycles are among them.
The most advanced solar model developed does project a major Solar Minimum. Valentina Zharkova, a mathematics professor from Northumbria University (UK), presented a model that can predict what solar cycles will look like far more accurately than was previously possible.
Her model has been accurate with short term projections and she believes Earth is heading for a Super Grand Solar Minimum (that could be really cold) in approximately fifteen years.
Oceanographic studies add evidence to the early onset scenario for cold weather by showing the weakest ocean current signals in 1,500 or 1,600 years. These periods of extremely low ocean current-flow correlate with the colder solar minimums. In particular, a study of the North Atlantic circulation found the weakest flow for 1,500 years – and at levels that previously triggered a mini Ice Age – see here.
That we are heading for cooler temperatures on Earth, something quite opposite to the Global Warming movement’s mantra, seems much clearer than the evidence for a warming trend.
The results of deep solar minimums are far more complex than simply cooler temperatures, and combined, these effects present a formidable challenge to prepare for. Taking a dispassionate, focused look at the potential problems provides an opportunity to harden infrastructure against future challenges.
Governments need to change focus and start preparing for cooling, which is more likely and far more dangerous than politically correct, but scientifically improbable, fears about problematic warming.
- About the Author: Dr. Jay Lehr and Tom Harris - Dr. Jay Lehr is Senior Policy Analyst with the International Climate Science Coalition and former Science Director of The Heartland Institute. He is an internationally renowned scientist, author and speaker who has testified before Congress on dozens of occasions on environmental issues and consulted with nearly every agency of the national government, as well as many foreign countries. After graduating from Princeton University at the age of 20 with a degree in Geological Engineering, he went on to receive the nation’s first Ph.D. in Groundwater Hydrology from the University of Arizona. He later became executive director of the National Association of Groundwater Scientists and Engineers. Tom Harris is Executive Director of the Ottawa, Canada-based International Climate Science Coalition. He has 40 years experience as a mechanical engineer/project manager, science and technology communications professional, technical trainer and S&T advisor to a former Opposition Senior Environment Critic in Canada’s Parliament. He is currently a policy advisor to The Heartland Institute.