Conclusion of an article in Space Daily:
Possible explanations for the sun’s latest odd behavior were discussed last month at a meeting of the Astronomical Society’s Solar Physics Division. Scientists agree that Cycle 24 is already among the weakest reported.
“Not only is this the smallest cycle we’ve seen in the space age, it’s the smallest cycle in 100 years,” NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center research scientist David Hathaway said.
Some more radical explanations sound quite alarming. Matthew Penn of the National Solar Observatory says the strength of magnetic field in sunspots in waning, and the sunspot cycle may disappear altogether.
“If this trend continues, there will be almost no spots in Cycle 25, and we might be going into another Maunder Minimum,” he said.
Maunder Minimum is a period between about 1645 and 1715, in which sunspots became extremely rare. In fact some 18th century astronomers believed sunspots to be a myth. The period coincides with the so-called Little Ice Age, a time when the climate became cold enough for the River Thames in London to freeze in winter. On the gloomier side, the colder summers and harsh winters sealed the fate of the Viking colonies in Greenland, as its population starved and died out.
While there is no certainty that the Little Ice Age was caused primarily by the decreased solar activity, a link does exist. If the next solar cycles are even quieter that the current one, and a cooling takes place, it may counteract the global warming trend over the next few decades.