Our cooling sun could deliver another ‘Little Ice Age’ like the time in the 17th Century when the Thames froze over


The UK’s Met Office has released a study which shows the Sun is facing a “Little Ice Age” of cooling.

That was the title given to two periods between the late 17th Century and early 19th Century, also known as the “Maunder Minimum” and the “Dalton Minimum“.

Temperatures in the UK then plummeted to a point where 24 winters were recorded in which the river Thames froze over and became the site of annual “frost fairs”.

During the nastiest – the Great Frost of 1683-84 – ice formed to 28cm thick on the river, which froze over for two months. There are accounts of stagecoaches being able to cross at the time.

The Met Office have been at pains to add this return of a solar minimum is not going to halt global warming, although it would slow it a little. The study, published in Nature Communications, found overall cooling of the Earth of 0.1C, but the Northern Hemisphere could expect much harsher winters.

Temperatures in Britain, northern Europe and North America could drop by up to 0.8C.

That’s still enough for a Met Office spokesman to warn the amount of light and warmth emitted by the Sun would drop to levels “not seen for centuries”.

At the very least, northern regions could expect more frosty days between 2050 and 2099. In the same period, climate change is expected to see temperatures running up to 6.6C higher if carbon emissions are not slowed.