A group of researchers from Northumbria University have found evidence that Earth could be hit by a “mini Ice Age” within the next decade, according to research published in Astronomy and Geophysics.
This new prediction is based on a mathematical model of the Sun’s magnetic energy that suggests the Earth’s temperature will begin to drop in 2021. That plummeting temperature will slowly progress and eventually lead to something known as the “Maunder minimum”, which is referred to a previous mini ice age that occurred between 1646 and 1715.
This study comes amid global warming concerns, and is built on a previous research that predicts the movements of two magnetic waves produced by the sun. It also suggests magnetic waves will decrease for three solar cycles that are set to begin in 2021 and last for up to 33 years.
According to the model, two magnetic waves will become increasingly offset during Cycle 25, which peaks in 2022. During Cycle 26 — which will occur between 2030 and 2040 — the waves will go out of sync and drop solar activity by as much as 60 percent.
“In cycle 26, the two waves exactly mirror each other — peaking at the same time but in opposite hemispheres of the Sun,” said lead researcher Valentina Zharkova, a professor at Northumbria University, during an interview in 2015, according to Daily Mail. “Their interaction will be disruptive, or they will nearly cancel each other. We predict that this will lead to the properties of a ‘Maunder minimum’.”
While the model used to study these cycles claimed 97 percent accuracy, it cannot be fully used as proof for a future mini ice age. That is because global warming is constantly shifting the planet, making weather patterns largely unpredictable. Even so, if such an ice age were to occur it could be cold enough to freeze major rivers around the world.
The team hopes the new research will help officials prepare should such an event occur.
“We have to be sorted by that time and prepare everything on Earth for the next big solar activity,” added Zharkova, according to International Business Times.