The Local
April 17, 2010

Continental Europe and Britain are likely to see more unusually cold winters like last season due to low solar activity, according to a new study by British and German researchers published on Thursday.

The study in “Environmental Research Letters” compared recent low sun spot activity to a solar period called the “Maunder minimum” in the second half of the 17th century, when even the Thames River froze over in London. The period of harsh winters is frequently called “The Little Ice Age.”

In the last 11 years, sun spot activity has been at a 90-year low, providing the researchers from the University of Reading, the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire, and the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Katlenburg-Lindau with a special opportunity to compare historic temperature records with sun activity and investigate how this connects to cold winters in the region.

Their work showed that periods of quieter sun activity influenced atmospheric conditions, creating a “blocking” effect against warm Atlantic air that would normally reach the region, resulting in colder winters.

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