A recent model that forecasts the solar cycles more precisely than ever before has proposed that solar activity will drop by 60 percent between 2030 and 2040, which actually means in just 15 years’ time, Earth could sink into what scientists are naming a mini ice age. This kind low solar activity has not been observed since the last mini ice age, called the Maunder Minimum, which plunged the northern hemisphere in particular into a sequence of bitterly cold winters between 1645 and 1715. The forecast is grounded on what’s acknowledged as the Sun’s '11-year heartbeat'. The Sun’s activity is not the same year in year out, it varies over a cycle that lasts between 10 and 12 years. Ever since this was revealed 172 years ago, researchers have struggled to forecast what every cycle will look like. But just last week at the National Astronomy Meeting in Wales, mathematics professor Valentina Zharkova from Northumbria University in the UK has showed a new model that can predict what these solar cycles will look like centered on the dynamo effects at play in two layers of the Sun. Zharkova says she can forecast their effect with an precision of 97 percent.
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So, what precisely are these so-called dynamo effects? They’re part of a geophysical theory that clarifies how the motion of Earth’s outer core moves directing material, such as liquid iron, across a weak magnetic field to produce an electric current. This electric current also interrelates with the fluid motion below the surface of Earth to generate two magnetic fields along the axis of its rotation. When Zharkova’s model applied this theory to the Sun, it sketched its forecasts assuming that there are dynamo effects in two underground layers - one deep down in the convection zone, and another up close to the surface, each changing between the northern and southern hemispheres. Zharkova explained her outcomes at the conference:
"We found magnetic wave components appearing in pairs, originating in two different layers in the Sun's interior. They both have a frequency of approximately 11 years, although this frequency is slightly different, and they are offset in time. Combining both waves together and comparing to real data for the current solar cycle, we found that our predictions showed an accuracy of 97 percent."
Observing these magnetic wave arrangements, the model projected that there would be few sunspots over the next two 11-year heartbeats - called Cycle 25, which mounts in 2022, and Cycle 26, which runs from 2030 to 2040. Zharkova said "In cycle 26, the two waves exactly mirror each other - peaking at the same time but in opposite hemispheres of the Sun. Their interaction will be disruptive, or they will nearly cancel each other. We predict that this will lead to the properties of a 'Maunder minimum',"