Don't Expect a Grand Solar Minimum to Save Us From Global Warming

sun clouds and bridge photo

photo: chantrybee via flickr.

Even if the sun entered a Grand Solar Minimum--like the one experienced in the late 17th century known as the Maunder Minimum, which brought about the Little Ice Age--it would still only offset less than a tenth of the warming caused by human release of greenhouse gases. That's the word from a new study by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, published in Geophysical Research Letters.After running three simulations with and without a Grand Minimum occurring, report co-author Stefan Ramsdorf concluded,

Most likely, a new Grand Minimum of solar activity would diminish global mean temperatures in the year 2100 by about 0.1 or 0.2 degrees Celsius. A new Maunder-type solar activity minimum cannot offset the global warming caused by human greenhouse gas emissions.

Additionally, any offset in temperatures would ultimately be temporary, lasting the typical length of solar minima, several decades to a century at the most.

grand solar minimum chart

image: Potsdam Institute

The authors also point out that the effect of low solar activity on the climate is quite low. Over the past 30 years temperatures have risen at a steady rate of 0.16°C per decade, with 2009 being the second-warmest on record and January 2010 being the second-warmest, right behind January 2007.

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