Sunspots: Saving you from the eternal stiffy Source: Bad Astronomy Link: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2011/06/17/are-we-headed-for-a-new-ice-age/ Title: "Are we headed for a new ice age?" by Phil Plait Date: June 17, 2011 There seems to be enough of this sort of talk going 'round— —that even Phil Plait at Bad Astronomy has been moved to consider the issue: So that may be the connection between the Sun's Maunder Minimum and the Little Ice Age. Fewer sunspots meant fewer faculae, so less heat from the Sun. Not enough to kickstart an ice age, but it had some minimal effect. Volcanic eruptions added their cooling. Finally, a weak jet stream dropped supercold air farther south into Europe—thus the winters in Europe were extraordinarily bitter, but summers weren't all that affected, and other regions of the world were spared the worst outcomes from all this. Mind you—and this is fairly important—there's evidence that the Little Ice Age began long before the Maunder Minimum. It may have actually been more like series of cold pulses that started centuries earlier. So any connection between the solar cycle and ice ages is pretty weak. • • • So, to wrap things up in a nice little bow: 1) Claims of an imminent global ice age are at best exaggerated. 2) The link of global cooling to an extended solar magnetic minimum is tenuous, and almost certainly needs something else to force it to occur (like lots of volcanoes), and 3) We're not even all that sure we're headed for an extended minimum. I know a lot of folks tend to panic, and a lot of so-called "news" outlets know that disasters sell ad space. So there you go. No need to panic yet over global cooling. And we've still got warming deniers to deal with. You know, of all the things children of my generation were taught about sunspots, it was mostly how the things weren't really all that dark, just a bit cooler, and that they could screw with wireless broadcast and reception. I don't recall anybody ever saying, "But it's worth the little inconveniences, because without sunspots, we'd all be frozen stiff!"