Last year, the same group of researchers, from the University of Reading, linked colder winters in Europe to low solar activity and predicted that the Sun is moving into a particularly low period of activity, meaning the UK will experience more cold winters in the future – potentially similar to those experienced in the Maunder minimum at the end of the 17th century.
The new research, published today, Tuesday 5 July 2011, in IOP Publishing's journal Environmental Research Letters, supports recent suggestions that sunspot activity is waning, and goes further, using the behaviour of the Sun over the last 9300 years to predict the probabilities of future solar changes.
Over the next 50 years, the researchers show that the probability of the Sun returning to Maunder minimum conditions is about 10 per cent, raising the chances that the average winter temperature will fall below 2.5 oC to around 1 in 7, assuming all other factors, including man-made effects and El Niño, remain constant.
Put in context, the average UK winter temperature for the last 20 years has been 5.04 oC, however the last three winters have averaged 3.50 °C, 2.53 °C and 3.13 °C, with 2009/10 being the 14th coldest in the last 160 years.
The increased probability of colder winters could hold great value for national infrastructure planning by government organisations who have struggled to adapt to the extreme weather conditions experienced in the UK over the past two years.
It is stressed, however, that these results do not have any implications for global climate change, which is concerned with average temperatures for all parts of the world and all times of year. The reported changes only apply in winter and are regional – for example, when the winter is colder in Europe it tends to be warmer in Greenland so that there is almost no effect on the global mean.
These studies obtained the average temperatures between December and February for the past 352 years from the Central England Temperature (CET) data series – the world's longest instrumental temperature record, maintained by the UK Met Office, extending back to 1659.
This data set was combined with records of the Sun's activity obtained through the analysis of 'cosmogenic isotopes', which are specific types of carbon and beryllium that are known to be influenced by the Sun.
The magnetic field of the Sun protects the Earth from galactic cosmic rays, which, as they hit the Earth's atmosphere, generate the cosmogenic isotopes which are then deposited in tree trunks and ice sheets. These cosmogenic isotopes can be collected and dated providing a unique insight into the Sun's variability on timescales ranging from years to millennia.
Data from the cosmogenic isotopes suggests that we are currently coming to the end of a grand solar maximum – a period of intense activity in the Sun – and will therefore experience lower solar activity conditions in future,.
Many researchers have argued that temperature changes attributed to the Sun are, in reality, just caused by the internal variability of the climate system; however, the authors have used this 352-year temperature record to show that there is some, albeit small, predictive skill to be gained from solar activity despite it being just one of a number of factors that influence UK weather.
One mechanism that suggests a link between the Sun and recent cold winters is 'blocking'. Low solar activity causes extensive anticyclones that persist for several weeks in the Atlantic Ocean, causing the warm westerly winds to be replaced by cold, continental north-easterly winds. Depending on the position of the anticyclone, this can also lead to clear skies at night causing the land to cool even further.
Lead author Professor Mike Lockwood said, "Our results show that over the next fifty years there is a 10 per cent chance that temperatures will return to Maunder minimum levels. Describing the Maunder minimum as a 'little ice age' is somewhat misleading however.
"Cold winters were indeed more common during the Maunder minimum but there were also some very warm ones between them, summers were not colder, and the drop in average temperatures was not nearly as great, nor as global, as during a real ice age."
From Tuesday 5 July this journal paper can be found at http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/6/3/034004
Notes to Editors
Contact1. For further information, a full draft of the journal paper or contact with one of the researchers, contact IOP Publishing Press Assistant, Michael Bishop:
Environmental Research Letters
3. Environmental Research Letters covers all of environmental science, providing a coherent and integrated approach including research articles, perspectives and editorials.
4. IOP Publishing provides publications through which leading-edge scientific research is distributed worldwide. IOP Publishing is central to the Institute of Physics (IOP), a not-for-profit society. Any financial surplus earned by IOP Publishing goes to support science through the activities of IOP.Beyond our traditional journals programme, we make high-value scientific information easily accessible through an ever-evolving portfolio of community websites, magazines, conference proceedings and a multitude of electronic services. Focused on making the most of new technologies, we're continually improving our electronic interfaces to make it easier for researchers to find exactly what they need, when they need it, in the format that suits them best. Go to http://publishing.iop.org/.
The Institute of Physics
5. The Institute of Physics is a leading scientific society promoting physics and bringing physicists together for the benefit of all.
It has a worldwide membership of around 40 000 comprising physicists from all sectors, as well as those with an interest in physics. It works to advance physics research, application and education; and engages with policy makers and the public to develop awareness and understanding of physics. Its publishing company, IOP Publishing, is a world leader in professional scientific communications. Go to www.iop.org.
Michael Bishop | EurekAlert!
From rocks in Colorado, evidence of a 'chaotic solar system'
23.02.2017 | University of Wisconsin-Madison
Prediction: More gas-giants will be found orbiting Sun-like stars
22.02.2017 | Carnegie Institution for Science
In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport
Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...
The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.
The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...
Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...
Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".
Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...
13.02.2017 | Event News
10.02.2017 | Event News
09.02.2017 | Event News
24.02.2017 | Life Sciences
24.02.2017 | Life Sciences
24.02.2017 | Trade Fair News