Is the ‘mini ice age’ really coming?

By Kate Hassett

Is the ‘mini ice age’ really coming?
The world was awash with 'Ice Age' theories this week, but do we really have anything to worry about?

Media around the globe went into a ‘mini panic’ about a ‘mini ice age’ this week, after a story – originating from a study published last year, went viral.

The research in question, was based on a study of the sun’s magnetic fields and suggested there was a presence of two separate internal cycles interacting. From these models, researchers surmised that – due to the conflicting nature of the cycles, the next peak in solar activity would be lower than was otherwise expected.

This lessened activity was then linked to the ‘Maunder Minimum’ which was a period of similar solar activity and lower global temperatures in the 1600’s, that also heralded the name ‘mini-ice age’.

A team of New Zealand scientists have been quick to dispel rumours of a full frontal ice age phenomenon, stating that the research used to induce such fervour was only referring to the sun’s activity and didn’t have concrete evidence showing the ramifications for earth.

“If the prediction for solar activity holds up, then, yes, the conditions on the sun will probably be similar to those during the Maunder minimum,” Associate Professor Sean Oughton from the University of Waikato told the Science Media Centre.

“Of course that does not require that the conditions on the earth will be similar to those during the Maunder minimum.”

Professor James Renwick from Victoria University Wellington mirrors these conclusions and added that numerous factors should be considered when asking why temperatures in 1600’s dropped. Because of this, the professor warns that is a cool change occurs, it shouldn’t deter from important conversations about climate change.

“It would be a temporary respite at best and would not take away from the urgency of action on climate change and greenhouse gases, as that is what will shape our environment for centuries to come.” Professor Renwick told SMC.




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