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Is a Grand Solar Minimum Something We Should Worry About? Is Another "Little Ice Age" Appr

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You may have recently heard the term grand solar minimum and Maunder minimum bandied around by the media lately, but what the heck are they talking about? And should we be worried about another Little Ice Age approaching?

Well, there are two types of solar minimum. One of them ordinarily happens about every eleven years. In the simplest terms, a solar minimum phase is a period of time in which the sun's activity is reduced to its lowest level and there are very few sunspots.

Well, there are two types of solar minimum. One of them ordinarily happens about every eleven years. In the simplest terms, a solar minimum phase is a period of time in which the sun's activity is reduced to its lowest level and there are very few sunspots.

The sun is incredibly active. Most of the time, anyway.

Properly-filtered telescopes reveal a fiery disk often speckled with dark sunspots. Sunspots are strongly magnetized, and they crackle with solar flares—magnetic explosions that illuminate Earth with flashes of X-rays and extreme ultraviolet radiation. The sun is a seething mass of activity.

Until it's not. Every 11 years or so, sunspots fade away, bringing a period of relative calm.

"This is called solar minimum," says Dean Pesnell of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD. "And it's a regular part of the sunspot cycle." (source)

NASA predicts that the next solar minimum will be during 2019-2020. An ordinary solar minimum phase can have effects like geomagnetic storms, auroras, and disruptions to communications and navigation systems.

All in all, it's nothing catastrophic, although solar minimums have been linked to colder and more eventful winters.

The strength of the solar cycle is not expected to have noticeable effects on the weather, but research has shown that during the solar minimum, which we are in now, we tend to see more zones of high pressure at the high altitudes, which tend to slow down the progress of weather systems.

For example, research has shown strong high pressure over Greenland, sometimes called the Greenland Block, is more prevalent during solar minimums. Greenland Blocks are known to favor periods of cold, snowy weather in the eastern United States and during winter.

During the last solar minimum in 2010, a measure of the strength of the Greenland Block, known as the negative phase of the North Atlantic Oscillation, hit a record low. "It was pretty impressive during that window," said Capital Weather Gang's Matt Rogers, a long-range forecasting specialist.

The last solar minimum coincided with the snowiest winter on record in Washington, in 2009-2010. (source)

But a GRAND solar minimum is different.

A grand solar minimum isn't your average, every-11-year solar minimum. It's been likened to a mini-Ice Age. A grand solar minimum can make the sun appear a little dimmer and can make the planet a little cooler.

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