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Neil Oliver: I’m Dreaming Of A Lustrous Mini Ice Age To Give Us A Global Warming Time Out

Neil Oliver, The Times

A new ice age to look forward to? Can it be true? This is the best news I have heard all year (sic).

I was half awake during the night this week, listening to the radio when the news item came on. I thought at first I was dreaming, but no. It turns out scientists from the University of Northumbria have been monitoring solar activity and have concluded that we are in for what you might cautiously describe as a bit of a dip, temperature wise.

The science sounds suitably complicated but in essence it seems the sun has her highs and lows, like the rest of us. When she’s on the up — as she has been recently, with a great deal of magnetic activity — there are many sun spots on her surface and much radiated warmth as a result.

However, according to work led by Professor Valentina Zharkova, we might shortly face a corresponding period of relative solar inactivity, during which winter temperatures could drop, or even plummet. The downward slide might begin as early as 2021, ushering in decades of spectacularly severe winters.

It has all happened before, of course, and many times. For the past several millions of years our planet has been shaped by ice more than by anything else.

Furthermore, the periods of cold have been getting colder and lasting longer. Back in the 17th century there was an event called the Maunder Minimum, named after a husband and wife team of sun-watchers. Annie and Walter Maunder noted that between 1672 and 1699 no more than 50 sun spots were observed, in contrast to the tens of thousands counted during other periods.

This dearth had been smack in the middle of a time known as the “little ice age” that lasted, on and off, from the 14th to the 19th centuries. From time to time the North Sea would be frozen solid, miles out from the coast. Famously, the Thames would freeze every year to depths of a foot and more. Instead of a river, it became a frozen highway.

Fairs were held out on the ice every winter and there are records of both Henry VIII and Elizabeth I taking sled rides along great stretches of it.

The ice was so thick you could light fires on it. I don’t mind telling you that the very suggestion of something similar fills me with excitement, even glee. I refuse to believe it might not be true. Imagine — a mini ice age all of our own! My favourite bit in Groundhog Day is when Bill Murray’s newsman character makes his broadcast about the prospect of “a long and lustrous winter”.

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