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.

WorldCrops.com 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.

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Variability has been a dominate mode throughout climate history

Russ Steele

I have been researching the social and political impacts of the last Grand Minimums, including the Dalton and the Maunder. I am currently reading Brian Fagan’s, The Little Ice Age: How Climate Made History 1300-1850.

It is clear that even during the Little Ice Age (LIA) the global temperatures varied widely with warm years and very cold years.  Year will lots of moisture, and years that were dry.  Problems rose for populated regions when there were multiple cold or very wet years in a row, or long periods of drought. The result was  crops failures. With limited year to year food and fodder storage it was hard to sustain enough food stuff to feed the existing population in many regions. Others were challenged, but managed to weather the storm of lower agriculture production.

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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.

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