A return to low solar activity not seen for centuries could make winters colder in Europe and eastern parts of the United Stations but it would not halt global warming, warn scientists.
Led by scientists at the UK Met Office, the study found that solar output was falling and there is a risk that it could match levels seen in the ‘Maunder Minimum’, which ended 300 years ago. This coincided with colder winters in the UK and Europe, with ‘frost fairs’ held numerous times on a frozen River Thames.
Using a climate model to stimulate conditions between 2050 and 2099 that includes a solar output decreasing to Maunder Minimum levels, the scientists found that the reduced solar impact could cause a 0.1 Celsius drop in global average temperatures.
They found that this biggest cooling effect from reduced solar output would be in north Europe, the UK and eastern parts of North America, particularly during the winter – in northern Europe, the cooling is in the range of -0.4 to -0.8 C.
But the cooling effect would be dwarfed by the expected warming trend due to greenhouse gases and human-induced climate change, warn the scientists.
“This study shows that the sun isn’t going to save us from global warming, but it could have impacts at a regional level that should be factored in to decisions about adapting to climate change for the decades to come,” said Sarah Ineson, a Met Office scientists and lead author of the study.
“This means that even if we were to see a return to levels of solar activity not seen since the Maunder Minimum, our winters would likely still be getting milder overall,” she added.
Photo credit: NASA/GSFC/SDO