Are we facing a mini ice age?

Are we facing a mini ice age?Getty


We may have had a mild winter so far, but new figures suggest that we could be heading for a mini ice age of the type that hasn't occurred since the 17th century.

New figures issued by the Met Office and the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit indicate that the planet has not warmed for the last 15 years.

This means that we could experience a dramatic drop in temperature of the type not seen since the late 1600s.

The Daily Mail reports that the sun is now heading towards a 'grand minimum' in its output, which means we are likely to experience cold summers, freezing winters and a shortening of the season available for growing food.

Experts say that we are now at the peak of 'Cycle 24' - which is why last week's solar storm resulted in sightings of the aurora borealis much further south than usual.

But sunspot numbers are running at less than half of those seen during cycle peaks in the 20th century and experts at NASA believe that Cycle 25, which is due to peak in 2022, will be considerably weaker.

According to a paper published by the Met Office, there is a 92 per cent chance Cycle 25 and those taking place in the following decades will be as weak, or weaker than, the 'Dalton minimum' of 1790 to 1830. During this period, temperatures in parts of Europe fell by 2C.

It is also possible that the solar energy slump could be as deep as the 'Maunder minimum' between 1645 and 1715, the coldest part of the 'Little Ice Age' when the Thames and the canals of Holland froze solid.

So far there is no evidence of this happening but, even if it does, the Met Office claims that the consequences would be minimal because the impact of the sun on climate is far less than man-made carbon dioxide.

However, solar experts believe that the effects could be more dramatic.

Henrik Svensmark, director of the Center for Sun-Climate Research at Denmark's National Space Institute, says: "World temperatures may end up a lot cooler than now for 50 years or more.

"It will take a long battle to convince some climate scientists that the sun is important. It may well be that the sun is going to demonstrate this on its own, without the need for their help."

Click on the image below to find out where to see the Northern Lights...

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Where to see the Northern Lights
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Are we facing a mini ice age?

If the conditions are right, you can view the Northern Lights throughout Iceland, although you have a greater chance if you're far from the city lights. You can choose Reykjavik as a base and travel two to three hours to the countryside or opt to stay in a rural hotel. Try this: Reykjavik Excursions runs tours each night from Reykjavik to the countryside, while Discover the World offers a three-night trip staying in the rural Hotel Ranga and the Northern Lights Inn in south Iceland. You'll visit the Golden Circle route, which covers the Thingvellir National Park and at night you'll search for the Northern Lights from the hotel window or the hot tub before staying at the Northern Lights Inn near the geothermal Blue Lagoon. 

In Yukon, Canada the Northern Lights can be viewed from August meaning you can enjoy your summer holiday and see the amazing display. Watch the green, yellow, magenta and blue lights dance from the comfort of your cabin or from a steaming hot tub. Try this: Frontier Canada offers a three-night stay at the Inn on the Lake with meals, transfers, snowmobiling, Aurora Borealis viewing, snowshoeing, tobogganing and winter clothing between December and April. Visit frontier-canada.co.uk

Longyearbyen is the most northern town in the world and offers a backdrop of amazing table mountains and remoteness. You can experience the dancing Northern Lights on a snowmobile safari, allowing you to travel away from the lights of Longyearbyen where they appear even brighter. Around Longyearbyen, you'll find restaurants and cafes serving local food, like reindeer, grouse and arctic char. Stay at the Radisson Blu Polar Hotel Spitsbergen and drink at its pub, which is the most northern in the world!

Did you know that some regions of Finland have over 200 nights a year when you can see the Northern Lights? Saariselka is a lively village in eastern Lapland where you can see the lights and enjoy winter sports. Try this: Stay at Kakslauttanen Igloo Village for the chance to view the beautiful and eerie lights from a cosy log cabin, glass igloo or snow igloo. Visit kakslauttanen.fi

Scotland is the most likely place in the UK to see the Northern Lights. The best regions are Aberdeenshire, Northern Highlands, Orkney and Shetland. Although it's much further from the Arctic than Norway, Sweden and Finland, it is possible to see them during winter. Stay at the Pentland Guest House in Thurso, where owner Liz Sutherland can contact you when the lights are visible. She'll also arrange for minibuses, prepare packed evening meals and serve breakfast until 12pm throughout winter if you're having a lie-in after a late-night viewing. Visit pentlandlodgehouse.co.uk

The clear sky and dry location of Abisko in Swedish Lapland provide an ideal backdrop for the Northern Lights and the village is one of the world's top places to see them. It lies 195km north of the Arctic Circle and apart from seeing nature's stunning light display, there's snowshoeing and skiing to enjoy in Abisko. Try this: Discover the World offers an ICEHOTEL & Abisko holiday two nights at the ICEHOTEL, one night at Abisko, a three-course meal and an excursion to the Sky Station. Visit discover-the-world.co.uk

To see how accessible the Northern Lights can be, head to Tromso in Norway where you can see some stunning displays above the city centre. Even though they can be viewed in Tromso, you may want to escape the city to see the Northern Lights at their best. Try this: The Aurora Zone offers a four-night stay in and around Tromso with one night in Tromso and three nights in the wilderness outside the city. Meals, a husky safari, flights and transfers are included. Visit theaurorazone.com

With winter lasting half of the year in Canada's Northwest Territories, there are over 240 nights when it’s possible to view the aurora. The best time to see the lights is between December and March and Yellowknife has the most potential. As the landscape is quite flat in the Northwest Territories, you can see the full display from most areas and the region also boasts clear skies. Try this: At the Aurora Village you can enjoy the whole Northern Lights experience with a viewing tour, a husky ride and watching the display from the comfort of the outdoor heated seats. Visit auroravillage.com

Because of its close proximity to the North Pole, Fairbanks in Alaska's Interior is one of the world's top places to see the Northern Lights. The city has the auroral oval passing over it, meaning there are many nights when the lights are out so you have a great chance of seeing them here. Try this: Stay in a remote cabin away from the city lights to get the best views. You can also get close to the aurora by going on a dog tour at night and experiencing mushing. Visit explorefairbanks.com

For easy access to the Northern Lights in Greenland, stable weather conditions and very little settlement creating pollution-free skies, head to Kangerlussuaq, where you can see the magnificent display in all its glory. Around Kangerlussuaq you can experience the Greenlandic ice sheet, which is a 100,000-year-old ice cap that you can fly, drive, sail and walk to. There's also hiking opportunities where you might see the musk oxen and reindeer.

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