Sun could be 'unusually cool' by 2050

The sun spent a 2 week period without a spot... something that's pretty rare. Image courtesy of NASA

The sun spent a 2 week period without a spot... something that's pretty rare. Image courtesy of NASA

In what is called the "grand minimum", the sun will be at a particularly low point during its usually steady 11-year cycle.

The Sun might be unusually cool by 2050, according to a new study. They're calling the next cold period a 'grand minimum, ' during which conditions could echo those experienced in Europe in the mid-17th century.

During the grand-minimum in the mid-17th century, named Maunder Minimum, the temperature dropped low enough to freeze the Thames River. During the same period, another wonderful incident gained popularity about the freezing of the Baltic Sea due to cold, to such an extent that the Swedish army did manage to invade Denmark in 1658 by marching across the frozen surface of the sea. They compared radiation from stars that are analogous to the Sun and identified those that were experiencing minima.

The event starts with irregular intervals due to random fluctuations.

Essentially, the sun has a core that is like a heart that races at some times and rests at others, and at its high point the sun's core forces more magnetic loops to throw out more radiation and generate more sunspots.

The cooldown would be the result of what scientists call a grand minimum, a periodic event during which the Sun's magnetism diminishes, sunspots form infrequently, and less ultraviolet radiation makes it to the surface of the planet.

As a result, the sun's surface is clearer and it becomes dimmer. His team's study, "Ultraviolet Flux Decrease Under a Grand Minimum from IUE Short-wavelength Observation of Solar Analogs", appears in the publication Astrophysical Journal Letters and was funded by the state of California.

Lubin and colleagues David Tytler and Carl Melis of UC San Diego's Center for Astrophysics and Space Sciences arrived at their estimate of a grand minimum's intensity by reviewing almost 20 years of data gathered by the International Ultraviolet Explorer satellite mission.

The reduction in solar radiation will lead to thinning of the stratospheric ozone layer. "That thinning, in turn, changes the temperature structure of the stratosphere, which then changes the dynamics of the lower atmosphere, especially wind and weather patterns" the team of researchers at the university said in a statement.

However, the cooling is not uniform around the globe.

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