Global... cooling?

Why we might be headed for another ice age

For all the geophysicists out there, last weekend was huge. A paper published in the American Geophysical Union’s journal Eos made the claim that the world may be plunged into another mini ice age. The climate-change culprit this time around? Not man, not machine—but the sun itself. According to the report, the sun appears to be returning to a state of low activity—as evidenced by a noticeable decline in sunspots [those dark spots you sometimes see on the sun’s surface] over the past few years. What’s a sunspot, anyway? Basically, it’s an area of strong magnetic activity that, in fact, causes the sun to emit more light than usual. Some models predict that we could continue to see a sunspot decline. The last time this happened was in the 17th century, when a “Little Ice Age” (or, Maunder Minimum) swept over Europe, lowering the global mean temperature by 0.4 degrees Celsius. That doesn’t seem like a lot, but scientists said it made a difference (and Europeans recorded some cool winters). But could cooler temperatures means a reversal of the global warming trends? Unlikely. Figures show that global warming would cancel out—and exceed—the effect of cooling. But still, some say a few degrees of cool could be just what we need. Says an article in Ars Technica: “even a relatively small effect may buy humanity valuable time in coming to grips with the CO2 we’re putting into the atmosphere.”

Ars Technica