Tracking the impact of the Next Grand Minimum

Russ Steele

One of the main impacts of the next Great Minimum will be on agriculture. ‘The Maunder Minimum was a period from about 1645-1715,  a time when sunspots became extremely rare. It was also a period when the world experienced successive crop failures. has this to say about the Maunder Minimum and 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 programme of observations conducted by the Observatoire de Paris. What is notable is that the Maunder Minimum coincided with the middle, and coldest part of, the so-called Little Ice Age, during which Europe and North America experienced bitterly cold winters.

During the Little Ice Age the northern hemisphere cooling was only “modest”, according to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, at less than 1° C. However, what may have been only ‘modest’ cooling on a hemispherical basis still had dramatic effects.

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 harbour froze, allowing people to walk from Manhattan to Staten Island. 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. And the knock-on effects of the cooler climate were manifold and self-reinforcing; Europe’s fishing fleets declined, as their main catch, cod, moved further south to warmer waters.

It wasn’t all bad news, though. During the Little Ice Age, Spanish conquistadors returned from South America with a new staple foodstuff, suitable for the cool and damp climate of the Andes and which flourished in the new cooler and wetter climate in Europe – the potato.

One method for the tracking the impacts of the Next Minimum in the US will be to track the changes in agricultural prices over the next decade at web sites like USDA Data Base. It makes an important point, yield depends on the acres planted as well as the health of the crops in the field and resulting harvest.

Here is one sample of the available charts. I will be doing some unique charts in future posts.

We can see how the historial yield tracks with the forecast yield.

One thought on “Tracking the impact of the Next Grand Minimum

  1. sean August 23, 2011 / 2:40 pm


    Did you happen to see this video that was linked on Tom Nelson. It’s about the extreme weather during the little ice age. I don’t know anything about the organization that posted it or the woman that is giving the presentation but I am curious as to her credentials.

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