As the world wrings its collective hands over fears of a human-induced warming climate, few bother to consider evidence for a potential mass cooling.

Sunspot activity, the Little Ice Age and something called the Maunder Minimum are not terms bantered about in news reports. Instead, we hear of impending calamity because of gradually warming temperatures. In addition to this, any perceived benefits of a slightly warmer planet (greater crop productivity, cheaper heating bills, a generally healthier population) are casually swept under the rug by politicians, climate scientists and the news media.

Sadly, liberal talking heads would like to see so-called “climate deniers” slapped with fines and jail time. If they succeed, it would signal the end of free speech rights and probably the beginning of widespread anarchy. However, one reason for skepticism on the part of those who don’t buy in to man-made warming is that the correlation between decreasing sunspot activity and a cooling climate is provable and the data stands as a matter of record.

The sun goes through 11-year solar cycles and these cycles often bring changes in sunspot activity, solar radiation and related solar activity; these, in turn, affect our climate. And then we have the jet stream. Numerous factors, none human-induced, effect the jet stream, that ever-changing, high-altitude band of air where jet planes fly. Currently, the jet stream has looped down, allowing cold air from Canada to hold the Northeast in its icy grip. If and when the jet stream changes its configuration and blocks the colder, Canadian air, thus allowing warmer air from the South to trend north, then and only then will we enjoy normal springtime conditions.

Cooling trend

On March 19 of this year, British scientists announced that sunspot counts had reached a seven-year low. In fact, as of that date, sunspots had been absent for 13 consecutive days. This coincides with the beginning of a new solar minimum (period of little or no sunspot activity) that should arrive sometime between 2019 and 2020. And that, we must note, can also be the beginning of a significantly colder period, global cooling, if you will.

Of course lots of other factors bear upon whether our atmosphere will become warmer or cooler. Doctor Roy Spencer recently wrote: “The most obvious way for warming to be caused naturally is for small, natural fluctuations in the circulation patterns of the atmosphere and ocean to result in a 1 percent or 2 percent decrease in global cloud cover. Clouds are the Earth’s sunshade, and if cloud cover changes for any reason, you have global warming — or global cooling.”

So here we find that the sun and earth’s clouds greatly influence worldwide temperatures. Volcanic activity also has a huge bearing upon our climate. Airborne particulate matter blocks solar radiation, causing a sudden chill. Who would have thought? But in the face of man-made global warming rhetoric, we overlook the real possibility of global cooling.

Little Ice Age

The year 1816 was known to New Englanders as “Eighteen Hundred And Froze to Death.” The year also coincided with a time of reduced sunspot activity. Coupled with this was the eruption of the mighty volcano, Mount Tambora, in what today is Indonesia. This series of eruptions began April 5, 1815, and persisted through July 15, 1815. It took a year for the airborne particulate matter to begin filtering sunlight throughout the rest of the world.

By 1816 the world had only just gotten used to a somewhat moderate climate because a cold period called the Maunder Minimum, or “prolonged sunspot minimum” had ended just a century before. This particular period, part of something called the Little Ice Age, according to an article in Wikipedia, began around 1645 and ended around 1715. This was a time when Maine farmers could not raise crops because of year-round frost and snow. People left the state en masse, having caught what at the time was called, “Ohio fever.”

Future cold

It seems fair to ask if anything like this could happen again. The answer is quite disturbing. Yes, another “year without a summer” could certainly occur again. Going into what looks like another solar minimum, it is reasonable to conclude that, just perhaps, we may be on the cusp of another cold stretch. And that could have a profound negative effect upon our economy and our social structure.

So it seems fair to say that anthropogenic, or man-made warming, is not necessarily a done deal and it is entirely possible that instead of global warming, we may soon experience a time of global cooling. Given that distinct possibility, we had better stock up on firewood and take steps to build a greenhouse, since that may well be the only way to grow anything.

Tom Seymour is a freelance magazine and newspaper writer, book author, naturalist and forager. He lives in Waldo.