Is a mini ice age on the way?

  • 15/07/2015
An image of the sun taken by NASA's SOHO Extreme ultraviolet Imaging Telescope (Reuters)
An image of the sun taken by NASA's SOHO Extreme ultraviolet Imaging Telescope (Reuters)

Scientists in the UK have predicted a mini ice age within the next 15 years, which would mean winters could to be a lot colder than they are now.

The reason behind the prediction is the output of the sun, says Dr James Renwick, a professor of geography, environment and earth sciences at Victoria University.

"What we're talking about here is the sun spot cycle which happens every 11 years or so - the output of the sun goes up or down a little bit, a fraction of 1 percent of its total output,” Dr Renwick told TV3’s Paul Henry Programme this morning.

Based on the fluctuations in the sun spot cycle, researchers predict less heat will reach the Earth.

While it's based on solid science, Dr Renwick says he believes the phenomenon has been overly hyped.

"The sun won't brighten up so much over the next 30 odd years […but] we're talking a little [less] sunlight – I've seen in the media like 60 percent less sunlight, it’s more like 0.1 less sunlight," he said.

"All the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere means that that will pretty much be cancelled out, it may be a little bit cooler for a few years, but mini ice age? I don't think so."

The cooler temperatures won't help the Earth fend off global warming, though, with scientists predicting the change in sunlight will only last 20 years or so.

"Even if we did get cooling like they describe, it would only be for a decade or two and then we'd be back to global warming again."

Watch the full interview with Dr James Renwick.