Solar Minimum has just become very deep indeed. With weather records being smashed all over the world this year, our Star has jumped on the bandwagon too. Last weekend, our sun, set a space-age record for spotlessness (quietness).
So far in 2019, the sun has been without sunspots for more than 270 days, including the last 33 days in a row ( which is 77% of the time this year). Since the Space Age began, no other year has had this many blank suns. The previous record-holder was the year 2008 when the sun was blank for 268 days. That was during the epic Solar Minimum of 2008-2009, formerly the deepest of the Space Age. Now 2019 has moved into first place.
Solar Minimum is a normal part of the 11-year sunspot cycle. The past two (2008-2009 and 2018-2019) have been long and deep, making them "century-class" Minima. To find a year with more blank suns, you have to go back to 1913, which had 311 spotless days. Last week, the NOAA/NASA Solar Cycle Prediction Panel issued a new forecast. Based on a variety of predictive techniques, they believe that the current Solar Minimum will reach its deepest point in April 2020 (+/- 6 months) followed by a new Solar Maximum in July 2025. This means that low sunspot counts and weak solar activity could continue for some time to come.
Solar Minimum definitely alters the character of space weather. Solar flares and geomagnetic storms subside, making it harder to catch Northern Lights at mid-latitudes. Space weather grows "quiet." On the other hand, cosmic rays intensify. The sun's weakening magnetic field allows more particles from deep space into the solar system, boosting radiation levels in Earth's atmosphere. Indeed, this is happening now with atmospheric cosmic rays at a 5-year high and flirting with their own Space Age record. Spaceweather.com
With the sun being so quiet some scientists are linking this quiet period of sun inactivity with another period which occurred in the early 1800s when the Northern Hemisphere suffered a crippling mini-ice-age. Because our sun is now almost as quiet as the early to mid-1600s some scientists are predicting we could be about to enter a new mini-ice-age.
Graph Royal Observatory of Belgium
On the 27th of June 2018, NASA announced a new Solar Minimum was coming, every 11 years sunspots fade away, this event is called a Solar Minimum and this is happening now with 2019, 2020, to be the quietest period. Some experts believe sunspot activity is as low as the mid-1600s when low sunspot activity is thought to have caused a mini ice age, however, if I was to stick my head above the parapet, I would say temperatures around the world would suggest that this is not going to happen this time, however, no one really knows for sure, especially me.
From the mid-1600s to early 1700s, a period of very low sunspot activity (known as the Maunder Minimum) coincided with a number of long winters and severe cold temperatures in Western Europe, called the Little Ice Age. It is not known whether the two phenomena are linked or if it was just a coincidence. However, we can look at a few statistics available to us which should give us a clue as to what kind of weather we can expect.
Graph Climate Central
So, all of the most recent sunspotless years have been in the top ten warmest years ever recorded, after enduring the record-breaking heatwaves this summer in Europe, when I recorded temperatures of above 40 deg C, (104 deg F) in my own back garden, in the shade and the incredibly mild winters we have been having in this part of the world recently I personally think a mini-ice-age is not going to happen.