The climate change movement may be cooling off---literally. With reports of global warming in the news regularly, despite questions raised by some meteorologists, there is a new prediction by many scientists that a global cooling trend is on the way. It's due to a phenomenon known as a "deep solar minimum"--which is an extended period of reduced activity on the surface of the sun. "Deep solar minimums are associated with cooling," says Patricia Reiff, Astronomy and Physics Professor at Rice University. "We are headed toward a solar minimum right now, and it definitely leads to cooler winters, especially in the mid--north latitudes."
Reiff explains that the reduced solar activity during a solar minimum allows more of the sun's cosmic rays to reach Earth. "When those cosmic rays hit our upper atmosphere, they can cause condensation and create additional clouds," she says. "Extra clouds is what causes the cooling."
As for the intensity of the solar minimum, that depends on how long it lasts and where you are located on the Earth. "Occasionally we get these deep, long solar minimums that can last two, three or even four years," says Reiff. "Those are the ones that can affect the climate."
Some scientists have gone so far as to predict the coming global cooling trend will lead to a mini-ice age in some regions. Reiff cautions that the effects are most prominent in the middle-to north latitudes and away from the equator. Thus, places like New York and Europe would be more impacted than Houston.
Regardless of where or how long they take place, Reiff tells KTRH solar minimums and their effects are real. "From 1912 to 1914 there was a huge deep solar minimum, and because of that the mid-Atlantic was colder than usual, so the icebergs didn't melt away," she says. "And I think that was definitely related to the Titanic sinking."