According to a paper by Valentina Zharkova, an acurate method of tracking solar activity suggests we are entering a period of lowered activity as the sun enters the “Grand Solar Minimum”, which is expected to span from 2020 to 2053.
The effects of this current Grand Solar Minimum will lead to a reduced solar magnetic field, and in turn a noticeably reduced terrestrial temperature.
Total solar irradiance is what we call the energy received on earth from the sun that heats the upper planetary atmosphere and in turn heats the earths surface. If this is effected by even 1 degree Centigrade, it will have dramatic effects on certain areas of the planet.
To come to this conclusion, Zharkov and others have used historical data paired with current methods of solar activity tracking to chart the current pattern. By looking at the solar background magnetic field (SBMF) and sunspot numbers – among other things – celestial activity appears to be shifting towards a Grand Solar Minimum.
For example, one basic method of gauging solar activity is tracking the prevalence of sunspots. During periods of lowered solar activity, the sun will be devoid of sunspots. This can currently be observed. 2019 saw 281 spotless days, or 78%, the highest ever recorded.
Zharkov paired these findings with another newer method of determining solar patterns. The suns double dynamo action is used to measure and predict future solar patterns. These patterns are caused by the interference of two magnetic waves with almost equal frequencies produced by the double solar dynamo action at different depths of the solar interior. When measured, they point to the relative level of solar activity.
This isn’t the first time such a thing has occurred. There have been many throughout history, often split by a few hundred years. The previous Grand Solar Minimum was the Maunder Minimum (1645-1710) and before that the Wolf Minimum (1270-1350). According to these reasonably accurate methods of measurement, which are capable of also confirming previous solar minima, the next 500 years will see two Grand Minima. We are currently entering the first (2020 to 2053), with the most extensive temperature shifts happening during the middle of this phase. A second will likely occur between 2370 and 2415.
As we enter these two periods, its likely that the total solar irradiance (TSI) will change, mimicking what has happened in previous events. For example, during the Maunder Minimum in the 1600s, the brightness of the sun was slightly dimmed. The terrestrial temperature across the northern hemisphere plunged as a result of the decreased TSI by 0.22%, which in turn saw average temperatures decrease by 1.5C.
Small drops in terrestrial temperature such as this can result in dramatic changes in the environment. This small drop saw longer cold winters and cold summers. Europe and North America went into a deep freeze which saw rivers such as the Thames, Dunab and the canals in the Netherlands regularly froze. This was largely attributed to a drop in Ozone created by solar ultra-violet light. The sun emitted less radiation, including strong ultraviolet emissions, which effected the planetary atmosphere waves. This activity had larger effects, as the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) (a balance between low pressure systems in Greenland, and high pressure systems to its south), into a negative phase, which in turn resulted in an extended period of cold in Europe.
The earths magnetic field controls the levels of cosmic rays reaching us, and so by tracking the solar background magnetic field, correlations can be made between solar activity and terrestrial temperatures. A lowered solar background magnetic field – as would happen during a grand solar minimum – leads to an increased intensity of galactic and extra-galactic rays that enter the earths atmosphere. This leads to an increased formation of high clouds in the terrestrial atmosphere which leads to cooling.
We are witnessing a rapid decrease in the suns interplanetary magnetic field from 6-8 nanoTesla to 4 nT. Recent space missions have confirmed that this has indeed led to an increase of cosmic rays entering the earths atmosphere.
As the predictive methods have proven accurate, during this contemporary Grand Solar Minimum, we are likely to see a rapid decrease in solar activity, as was the case during the Maunder Minimum. During this time, irradiance will decrease by 0.22%, which in turn will lead to a drop in temperature by about 1.0C – increasing slightly between 2031 and 2043.
The effects of this shift has the potential to become catastrophic as negative deviations from the average temperate have far deeper impacts on agriculture than positive deviation in temperature. It could be expected that the cold temperature will result in poorer harvests and food shortages.
Clean energy will also be negatively impacted by cold freezes as we have seen recently in Texas. Solar power will be less efficient, wind turbines can be damaged or fail, and freezing water prevents large scale hydroelectric energy production cease.
You can read more about the Modern Grand Solar Minimum here https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/23328940.2020.1796243