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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Regency Wednesday: Is our Sun falling silent? (Frost Fair part 2)

BBC had this great article on Is our Sun falling silent? where they discussed the inactivity of the sun. Pretty interesting, in and of itself, but what I found fascinating was the bit on how a previously recorded period of inactivity, the Maunder Minimum, created the original frost fairs.

During the latter half of the 17th Century, the Sun went through an extremely quiet phase - a period called the Maunder Minimum.

And I'm thinking, that if we go through this again, sure it'll be cold but think of the fun we could have!

The era of solar inactivity in the 17th Century coincided with a period of bitterly cold winters in Europe.
Londoners enjoyed frost fairs on the Thames after it froze over, snow cover across the continent increased, the Baltic Sea iced over - the conditions were so harsh, some describe it as a mini-Ice Age.

And Prof Lockwood believes that this regional effect could have been in part driven by the dearth of activity on the Sun, and may happen again if our star continues to wane. 

"It's a very active research topic at the present time, but we do think there is a mechanism in Europe where we should expect more cold winters when solar activity is low," he says.

He believes this local effect happens because the amount of ultraviolet light radiating from the Sun dips when solar activity is low.

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