The sun has now entered a “deep solar minimum” now and Earth could be in for a very long period of cold temperatures.
The sun follows cycles of roughly 11 years where it reaches a solar maximum and then a solar minimum.
During a solar maximum, the sun gives off more heat and is littered with sunspots. Less heat in a solar minimum is due to a decrease in magnetic waves.
Scientists are adamant we are now entering the solar minimum as part of the sun’s atmosphere is shrinking.
This happens every time the sun changes cycle – when it enters a solar minimum, the thermosphere contracts, and during a solar maximum it expands to give better protection agains solar rays.
Website Space Weather states: “The sun is entering a deep Solar Minimum, and Earth’s upper atmosphere is responding.
“Data from NASA’s TIMED satellite show that the thermosphere (the uppermost layer of air around our planet) is cooling and shrinking, literally decreasing the radius of the atmosphere.”
The sunspots was not expected to head into a solar minimum until around 2020, and if it is heading in early, it will mean a prolonged cold snap.
The last time there was a prolonged solar minimum, it led to a ‘mini ice-age’, scientifically known as the Maunder minimum – which lasted for 70 years.
The Maunder minimum, which saw seven decades of freezing weather, began in 1645 and lasted through to 1715, and happened when sunspots were exceedingly rare.
During this period, temperatures dropped globally by 1.3 degrees celsius leading to shorter seasons and ultimately food shortages.
Vencore Weather, a meteorological website, said: “Low solar activity is known to have consequences on Earth’s weather and climate and it also is well correlated with an increase in cosmic rays that reach the upper part of the atmosphere.
“The blank sun is a sign that the next solar minimum is approaching and there will be an increasing number of spotless days over the next few years.”