Grand Solar Minimum is a term you might have heard, but aren’t completely sure about. Reactions to the idea range from complete dismissal of it to expecting it to bring a world-wide apocalypse.
There are basic facts about the Grand Solar Minimum that aren’t in dispute. Let’s take a quick look at what a Grand Solar Minimum is and what it might mean for us in the years ahead.
What is the Grand Solar Minimum?
A Grand Solar Minimum is an extended time of reduced sunspot activity. It is believed this reduced activity can impact the Earth in a number of significant ways. The Old Farmer’s Almanac explains more in What Are Solar Cycles and How Do They Affect Weather?
What causes a Grand Solar Minimum?
The sun goes through predictable cycles of sunspot activity that last approximately 11 years. When there are many sunspots, it is a maximum. When there are fewer sun spots, it is a minimum. NASA explains some of the key points about solar minimums in Solar Minimum is Coming.
A Grand Solar Minimum is when many of these very low solar activity cycles occur consecutively.
What happened in the past during a Grand Solar Minimum?
The most recent Grand Solar Minimum was the Maunder Minimum during the years 1645 to 1715. It was named for the solar astronomer husband and wife team, Edward Walter Maunder and Annie Russell Maunder.
It is important to note the Maunder Minimum overlapped the Little Ice Age. Some place the dates of the Little Ice Age at 1300-1870 while others use the dates 1440-1920. Scientists debate how they are connected. This paper delves into many scientific details: The Maunder minimum and the Little Ice Age: an update from recent reconstructions and climate simulations.
During the Maunder Minimum there were many significant events including agricultural failure, drastic weather changes, famine, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, political unrest, etc. Again, scientists and historians debate how much was due to the Maunder Minimum and how much should be attributed to the Little Ice Age.
How long does a Grand Solar Minimum last?
Generally speaking, a Grand Solar Minimum will last approximately 40-50 years. Some scientists believe we have already entered the current GSM in the past few years. It is being called by some the Eddy Minimum or the Modern Minimum (see graphic below).
Is the Grand Solar Minimum a conspiracy theory?
No, a Grand Solar Minimum is a measurable scientific event.
However, it is possible the current Grand Solar Minimum will be used by some people to push political and economic agendas.
What will happen during this Grand Solar Minimum?
No one can be certain what will happen during this time period. There are many factors at play.
To our advantage, we are aware of it in a way people in the past were not. This gives us the ability to plan and adapt. We have technology that was not even thought of during the previous Grand Solar Minimum. This could prove to be both beneficial and a problem.
In the end, no one can accurately predict what will happen. Perhaps the greatest question mark is if there are large volcanic eruptions during this time. Major eruptions have caused tremendous human suffering in the past due to agricultural failure. This is a topic we will return to in future posts.
Won’t global warming cancel out any impacts of the Grand Solar Minimum?
Some scientists claim this as fact. Others disagree. Unfortunately, it is difficult to separate fact from fiction and agenda-driven science today. Generally speaking, those who believe most strongly in man-made climate change are the most likely to dismiss any potential impact of a Grand Solar Minimum. Those who believe the Earth changes but do not believe human activity is a primary cause tend to believe that a Grand Solar Minimum could have significant impacts on life in the coming years. Again, these are generalizations but they are helpful to keep in mind as you study this topic for yourself.
This article from 2015 will give you a look at the different perspectives: Is a Mini Ice Age Coming? ‘Maunder Minimum’ Spurs Controversy
How will a Grand Solar Minimum impact my life in the coming years?
That is the million dollar question. To that end, I’ll continue to write about the Grand Solar Minimum to provide both timely information as well as practical skills you can incorporate into your life.