As the Sun enters a period of low solar activity over the next 50 years, new research has calculated the probability of unusually cold winter temperatures occurring in the UK.
Last year, the same group of researchers, from the University of Reading, linked colder winters in Europe to low solar activity and predicted that the Sun is moving into a particularly low period of activity, meaning the UK will experience more cold winters in the future potentially similar to those experienced in the Maunder minimum at the end of the 17th century.
The new research, published today, Tuesday 5 July 2011, in IOP Publishing's journal Environmental Research Letters, supports recent suggestions that sunspot activity is waning, and goes further, using the behaviour of the Sun over the last 9300 years to predict the probabilities of future solar changes.
Over the next 50 years, the researchers show that the probability of the Sun returning to Maunder minimum conditions is about 10 per cent, raising the chances that the average winter temperature will fall below 2.5 oC to around 1 in 7, assuming all other factors, including man-made effects and El Nio, remain constant.
Put in context, the average UK winter temperature for the last 20 years has been 5.04 oC, however the last three winters have averaged 3.50 C, 2.53 C and 3.13 C, with 2009/10 being the 14th coldest in the last 160 years.
The increased probability of colder winters could hold great value for national infrastructure planning by government organisations who have struggled to adapt to the extreme weather conditions experienced in the UK over the past two years.
It is stressed, however, that these results do not have any implications for global climate change, which is concerned with average temperatures for all parts of the world and all times of year. The reported changes only apply in winter and are regional for example, when the winter i
|Contact: Michael Bishop|
Institute of Physics