Ireland can brace itself for even more bitterly cold winters – according to American scientists baffled by the sun’s movement into a quiet mode!

Just as Ireland’s beleaguered population is awaiting a predicted heatwave in July comes news of more hardship to anticip for this winter.

Snowfalls hit record levels and the country ground to a halt for weeks during a bitterly cold winter just gone but that is only the start of things to come according to solar scientists.

They are staggered that the sun seems to have gone on strike according to the Irish Times which predicts Arctic wintertime conditions across northern Europe for the next 50 years.

The annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society in New Mexico has heard that the sun has broken out of its normal pattern, prompting fears of a major cold spell.

At the time when the sun should be getting more lively, kicking off solar storms and producing sunspots as it moves into a cyclical peak of activity, it has gone decidedly quiet according to researchers at the AAS meeting.

Data from a number of research groups presented to the conference shows that solar activity has flatlined.

According to the US National Solar Observatory this is the first time this has happened in years.



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The Irish Times also reports that the last major example of this occurred during the Maunder Minimum, a 70-year period when no sunspots appeared during 1645-1715.

Record cold spells were recorded back then when the River Thames in London froze over to allow ice skating and long winters shortened the summertime growing season.

The sun has been relatively quiet over the last two years, despite the fact that it is supposed to be approaching a peak of activity in its 11-year sunspot cycle; this shows that the peak will be greatly reduced or may not happen at all.

“This is highly unusual and unexpected,” said Dr Frank Hill of the US National Solar Observatory.

“Three research groups using different methods all came up with the same result. The fact that they match up is a powerful indicator that the sunspot cycle may be going into hibernation”, added Dr Hill.

English professor Mike Lockwood from Southampton University is to publish his own findings regarding the implications of a quiet sun in the coming weeks.

Lockwood has already claimed that low solar activity causes high altitude jet stream winds to twist back on themselves during winter months. This channels bitterly cold Arctic air and frigid winds from the Russian Steppes across northern Europe and on to Ireland.

“Our evidence shows that low solar activity makes it easier for something called ‘jet stream blocking’ to occur,” said Lockwood.

“I predicted a year ago there was a 10 per cent chance we would be in Maunder Minimum conditions by 2040.”