Roughly 250 years ago, the Northern Hemisphere left what climatologists now call a mini Ice Age. From 1300 to about 1850, it was much colder than it is today. It was also a time when the sun was going through a weak decadal solar cycle. It was so cold England’s Thames river froze at least 23 separate times, with ice skating and “frost fairs” the norm. The last time the Thames froze was in 1814. Until temperatures rose and global warming thawed out the planet.

Some climate change scientists now think we are heading for another 'mini Ice Age' for a very good reason: The Sun is having its quietest period in over a hundred years.

A quiet Sun is one with few to no sunspots. Vencore Weather first claimed in June that based on NASA imagery, there were no visible sunspots on its surface. Astronomers are quick to point out that a sunspot-less Sun was not unusual, as the Sun goes through 11-year cycles. The current one, Cycle 24, began in 2008, and so far, the Sun has been its quietest in over a century.

Spotless cue ball

Experts say that if the Sun continues to remain quiet, the Earth could plunge into another mini Ice Age, not unlike the one that ended 250 years ago. When the Sun is spotless, it’s called a “cue ball.” Currently, activity on the Sun’s surface has been quiet for four days after June 4 after a brief period of inactivity in February.

Sunspots are areas of the Sun that appear dark but are actually hotter than the Sun’s surface. Sunspots can cause a hotter-than-normal Sun, especially if the Earth is facing the solar disturbances for an extended period.

Vencore Weather, which has worked with the U.S. Air Force’s weather agency, said in June the cue-ball Sun showed that “the next solar minimum is approaching.” The previous Solar Cycle 23 reached its height in 2000 to 2002 with many violent solar storms and coronal mass ejections.

These ejections can disrupt satellites and cause widespread power failures on Earth’s surface.

Solar minimum

Called a solar maximum, this period is notable for having enormous sunspots and intense solar ejections occurring daily.

During a solar minimum, the opposite occurs. Currently, we are going through an extended solar minimum as solar flares and sunspots have been nearly non-existent for weeks. The last solar minimum was in 1645 and lasted 70 years, marked by few to no sunspots recorded on the Sun’s surface.

This solar minimum happened to correspond with the Little Ice Age, a series of unusually frigid winters in the Northern Hemisphere. The year 1816 was known as the “year without a summer,” where temperatures plunged a further 1.3 degrees F causing widespread food shortages across the Northern Hemisphere. All this happened, science experts say, because of little to no activity on the Sun’s surface, increased volcanic activity, and changes in the vast ocean currents that have major effects on our climate.

A 2015 study that predicts upcoming solar cycles says that between 2020 and 2030, “solar cycles will cancel each other out.” And this, say climate experts, will cause another Maunder Minimum, plunging the Earth into a mini glaciation. Prior to the last mini Ice Age, the Earth went through what experts call the Medieval Warm Period. From 950 to 1250, the planet experienced temperatures 3 to 5 degrees warmer than today, and farmers even grew grapes in England.