The Next Grand Minimum

Russ Steele

Three different teams of scientist studying the sun have concluded that the sun is entering a quiet period that may replicate a Dalton Minimum, or even a Maunder Minimum. Details here.

These Grand Minimums resulted in cooler temperature on the earth. Each of these cool periods had social and economic impacts, shared by millions across the globe. We can learn from these past events.  It was Sir William Herschel who noted the relationship between the sun and the weather when he discovered a correlation between sunspots and wheat prices in the early 1800s.  When the sun was quiet, the price of wheat went up, when the sun was active the price of wheat went down.

We are on the cusp of another Grand Minimum and I think  it is important that we look at the potential social and economic on 21st Century society by reviewing the past. This blog will be dedicated to that effort in the coming months, tracking the indicators of global cooling, the economic impacts created by that cooling and the potential impact on our social and political infrastructure.  Past solar minimums have resulted in political, social and economic misery, when millions starved and nations went to war.

The Maunder Minimum was named in honor of Edward W. Maunder, an earlier astronomer who had examined the period between 1645-1715 when sunspots became extremely rare.  It was also a period when the world experienced successive crop failures.

During one 30-year period within the Maunder Minimum astronomers observed only about 50 sunspots, as opposed to the thousands in modern times. The science is robust, and based on a systematic program of observations conducted by the Observatoire de Paris.  The Maunder coincided with the coldest part of the so-called Little Ice Age, during which Europe and North America experienced bitterly cold winters.

One of the main impacts of the Little Ice Age was on agriculture, even though the northern hemisphere cooling was only modest, only a degree or two centigrade.  Successive harvest failures in France in the late 18th century were commonplace, and the resulting famines helped spark the French Revolution. North European males lost on average 2.5 inches in height by the early 1700s, the result of inadequate diets and associated diseases.

The Baltic Sea regularly froze in winters, such that people took sledge rides between Poland and Sweden, with seasonal inns established en route. In the winter of 1780, New York harbor froze, allowing people to walk from Manhattan to Staten Island.

One method for the tracking the impacts of the next grand minimum will be to observe the changes in agricultural prices over the next decade. I will post the monthly changes in the price of hard red winter wheat, which is the main grain use in bread and pasta. I will be tracking changes in fuel prices, as fuel is use in both heating and transportation. I will be tracking the price of energy, as citizens struggle to heat their homes and business.

I will also be revisiting the history of the Maunder and Dalton Minimums, to bring readers up to date on the social and economic impacts of past minimums. We can learn lessons from these past cooling events and prepare for a cooler world.

This blog will examine issues which I believe are related to preparing for and surviving the next Grand Minimum:

  •             Solar activity and its influence on climate change. (Solar)
  •             Weather and ocean dynamics and their impact on agriculture (Weather)
  •             Volcanisms and its connection to climate change. (Volcanism)
  •             Cosmic rays and climate impact. (Cosmic Rays)
  •             Legislation and that can inhibit survival preparation. (Politics)
  •             Surviving social unrest created by climate change. (Survival)
  •             Actions needed to enhance survival on a cooling planet. (Political Action)
  •             Economic indicators, including energy and grain prices. (Economics)
  •             Harbingers of a cooling world (Analysis)

10 thoughts on “The Next Grand Minimum

  1. Ryan Mount August 22, 2011 / 6:19 pm

    Wow. This is all very fascinating.

    Let’s assume for a moment, regardless of what climate change camp you’re in, that we’re heading into a cold spell. If we want the climate to stay around the same temps that has allowed humanity to relatively thrive since the industrial revolution, shouldn’t be be trying to increase temperatures then?

    Actually, this all raises another question in my naive brain: What are the goals of each (there are many) environmental/climate change camps? I’ve heard lots of nasty rhetoric thrown around, but it all seems kind of superficial . For example, all deniers/skeptics are only concerned with commerce and environment/all global warming environmentalists are just the opposite: they want everyone to eat fallen fruit, have no children and be out riding bikes everywhere.

    But isn’t the question, and again apologies for my naiveté (stupid Latinate words), what kind of world we want for humans? What makes for a successful planet for humans? I realize that even those questions are going to raise the ire of some. That this mother of all post-modern questions is too “humancentic” or for the learn-ed currently working in Starbucks: Anthropocentric.

    I guess for me, it’s not a question of whether we embrace human exceptionalism or not. It’s a very pragmatic issue. We (humans) are simply the adults on Planet Earth with the capabilities to destroy or maintain this rental property. And what do we want? And how do we get there now that we have 7 billion people who unequivocally (and unfortunately) want the American lifestyle: McDonalds drive-thrus (complete with the misspelling), two cars, ranch dressing (foreigners, in my experience, LOVE ranch dressing…can’t blame them really), racially and ethnically integrated peaceful communities and orderly after school soccer matches. In a nutshell, they all want the same lifestyle that exists, for better of worse, in Fremont, CA.

  2. Kenneth Howard Mueller August 23, 2011 / 11:09 pm

    Damn, I was just starting to understand the language of the ‘warmists’ and now you ‘colders’ belly-up to the bar.

    • Russ August 24, 2011 / 3:45 am

      Welcome Kenneth,

      Stick around and I will try to keep it understandable. I am a graphical learner and will be using lots of graphs to make the point.

  3. walnut August 30, 2011 / 6:17 am

    I recognize the difference between climate and weather, however I am inclined to just pay close attention to weather here at my own locale. During the long minimum, I noted longer, cooler and wetter springs, and shorter summers with fewer days over 100 degrees. More snow, a bit cooler winters. However, as SC 24 ramps up to its zenith, would we not expect at least a return to the mean? I know that it was pretty hot at my “data point” this summer (following record cold last winter).

  4. walnut August 30, 2011 / 8:13 am

    SC 24 is weaker than recent cycles. Do you think that SC 25 will be a dud? Are we entering a classic solar minimum? Sorry for the double post, but this is a very interesting matter to me.

  5. bob August 31, 2011 / 1:31 pm

    I think we have very good chance to have a low SC-25 like the second cycle of the Dalton Minimum. And as far I can see it we have also good chance to expérience an unexistant SC-25 with only few spot like what apend in the Maunder minimum.

    “However, as SC 24 ramps up to its zenith, would we not expect at least a return to the mean?”
    The important fact in heating is the area under the curve. This is like an electric current in water heather, more you push energy in it in a given time more the water warm up. The raise in T° depend on the cumulative effect of the energy pushed into the system. If the energy pushed is lower than the energy lost the system is coolling until he reach equilibrium.

    For earth it’s exactly the same, the solar activity during the SC-23 and 24 are lower and much lower than the previous cycles. The area under the curve is shrinking, so the T° will do at a speed depending on inertia. During XXe century solar activity was high in the second half of the century (with SC-18=151,8 ; SC-19=201,3 ; SC-20=110,6 ; SC-21=164,5 ; SC-22=158,5 ; SC-23=120,8) If you compare it to the value of the begining of the century (between 64 and 120) and with those of the XIX century even lower no wonder that we had a “global warming”. No need for CO2 histeria to explain it, just look the area under the curve and every thing is clear. So to answer your question, the area under the curve in the window of time is shrinking so there is no reason to see climate warming. But, we will see the coolling on long run, not in year on year.

    (The ‘official’ prediction for the SC-24 look too optimistic for me it will be lower than that as far I can see.)

  6. walnut September 7, 2011 / 9:07 pm

    It might be like watching paint dry for several years, agonizing to have an interest in this subject!

  7. Karen Shepherd February 23, 2012 / 10:00 am

    My husband and I have been dairy farming in NZ, and have finally got the equity to buy our own dairy farm (YAY. ) However; we have been in the south, but are from the North. The southern climate is better for cows, but the land is twice as expensive. I have a circulation issue with my right leg, and cooler conditions are not good for me. So, nuts and bolts, is the weather likely to cool in the southern hemisphere? Will we still get rain or will it be a cool drought? (We have irrigation in the south, but don’t have the aquifers in the North.) Thank you, this is big decision.

    • Russ February 23, 2012 / 1:25 pm

      Thanks for the comment and insight. Has it been a colder than normal season for you all in NZ?

      • Karen Shepherd February 23, 2012 / 3:47 pm

        Yes, everyone is complaining about summer not arriving. It’s been a cold summer. Soil temperatures lagged too.

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