The Earth could be plunged into a 'mini ice age' in just 15 years from now according to new research which looks at the Sun's activity cycle.
The research is based on a new highly accurate solar model and shows that the Sun's solar activity will plummet by around 60 per cent between 2030 and 2040 causing what will essentially be a 'mini ice age'.
Prof Valentina Zharkova and a team of solar scientists presented the new solar model at the National Astronomy Meeting in Llandudno.
Originally scientists had based their predictive model on a single deeply embedded dynamo of liquid that was moving within the Sun. Zharkova and her team built on this by adding a second dynamo that exists far closer to the Sun's surface and found that the accuracy of their predictions increased dramatically.
Scientists now know the Sun's solar activity follows an 11-year cycle.
Zharkova said, “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."
"Over the cycle, the waves fluctuate between the northern and southern hemispheres of the Sun. Combining both waves together and comparing to real data for the current solar cycle, we found that our predictions showed an accuracy of 97%,”
The last 'mini ice age' was between 1645 to 1715. Known as the 'Maunder Minimum', this period of cooling was studied at the time through the frequency of sunspots.
Scientists at the time observed that in a 30 year period the Sun produced around 50 sunspots. Normal solar activity would see anything between 40-50,000.