Mike Lockwood: Solar Activity And The So-Called “Little Ice Age”
I’m a professor of space environment physics and a director of research at the University of Reading in the UK. My particular topic of research is the sun, how it changes over time and how those changes affect the space environment, the weather and the climate on Earth.
In the last few years, my work has focused on how temperatures in the northern hemisphere have responded to periods in history when the sun has been very quiet. The “activity” of the sun’s magnetic field is related to the number of sunspots that appear on its surface.
The sun’s activity rises and falls on an approximately 11-year cycle, but also varies on century-long timescales. It’s this research I talked to BBC weatherman Paul Hudson about in an interview for the BBC’s Inside Out programme.
Unfortunately, I now find myself in the position of being cited as predicting that the current rapid decline in solar activity will plunge the world into a “Little Ice Age”.
This is very disappointing as it is not at all supported by the science.
Weather and climate are inherently complicated – and uncovering and attributing past changes is very difficult. So it’s worth being clear about the state of the science, as well as some of the myths, misconceptions and misnomers that abound in this area.