The Maunder minimum and the Little Ice Age: an update from recent reconstructions and climate simulations

Matthew Owens, Mike Lockwood, Ed Hawkins, Ilya G. Usoskin, Gareth S. Jones, Luke Barnard, Andrew Schurer, John Fasullo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The Maunder minimum (MM) was a period of extremely low solar activity from approximately AD 1650 to 1715. In the solar physics literature, the MM is sometimes associated with a period of cooler global temperatures, referred to as the Little Ice Age (LIA), and thus taken as compelling evidence of a large, direct solar influence on climate. In this study, we bring together existing simulation and observational studies, particularly the most recent solar activity and paleoclimate reconstructions, to examine this relation. Using northern hemisphere surface air temperature reconstructions, the LIA can be most readily defined as an approximately 480 year period spanning AD 1440–1920, although not all of this period was notably cold. While the MM occurred within the much longer LIA period, the timing of the features are not suggestive of causation and should not, in isolation, be used as evidence of significant solar forcing of climate. Climate model simulations suggest multiple factors, particularly volcanic activity, were crucial for causing the cooler temperatures in the northern hemisphere during the LIA. A reduction in total solar irradiance likely contributed to the LIA at a level comparable to changing land use.

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'The Maunder minimum and the Little Ice Age: an update from recent reconstructions and climate simulations'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this