The Maunder minimum (1645 .. 1715) was indeed a grand minimum

Posted: September 11, 2015 by tchannon in Solar physics

This grand paper examines many lines of evidence, many well known authors, enjoy the feast


The Maunder minimum (1645–1715) was indeed a grand minimum:
A reassessment of multiple datasets
Ilya G. Usoskin, Rainer Arlt , Eleanna Asvestari, Ed Hawkins, Maarit Käpylä, Gennady A. Kovaltsov, Natalie Krivova, Michael Lockwood, Kalevi Mursula, Jezebel O’Reilly, Matthew Owens, Chris J. Scott, Dmitry D. Sokoloff, Sami K. Solanki, Willie Soon and José M. Vaquero

Astronomy & Astrophysics, accepted July 2015, 19 pages, access on registration

Aims. Although the time of the Maunder minimum (1645–1715) is widely known as a period of extremely low solar activity, it is still being debated whether solar activity during that period might have been moderate or even higher than the current solar cycle #24. We have revisited all existing evidence and datasets, both direct and indirect, to assess the level of solar activity during the Maunder minimum.

Conclusions. We conclude that solar activity was indeed at an exceptionally low level during the Maunder minimum. Although the exact level is still unclear, it was definitely lower than during the Dalton minimum of around 1800 and significantly below that of the current solar cycle #24. Claims of a moderate-to-high level of solar activity during the Maunder minimum are rejected with a high confidence level.

3.1.2. Surveys of historic aurorae
Earlier in the same solar cycle as Graham’s first geomagnetic activity observations, on the night of Tuesday Mar. 17, 1716 (Gregorian calendar: note the original paper gives the Julian date in use of the time which was Mar. 6), auroral displays were seen across much of northern Europe, famously reported by Edmund Halley (1716) in Great Britain.
What is significant about this event is that very few people in the country had ever seen an aurora before (Fara 1996). Indeed, Halley’s paper was commissioned by the Royal Society for this very reason. This event was so rare it provoked a similar review under the auspices of l’Académie des Sciences of Paris (by Giacomo Filippo Maraldi, also known as Jacques Philippe Maraldi) and generated interest at the Royal Prussian Academy of Sciences in Berlin (by Gottfried Wilhelm Leibnitz). All these reviews found evidence of prior aurorae, but none in the previous half century.

As winter approaches paper leaves are falling in Paris

Post by Tim

  1. tallbloke says:

    Good to see Mike Lockwood and Sami Solanki collaborating on the same paper – with Willie Soon too.

    Willie was a co-author on our PRP special edition too. Our model (yellow curve) is a good match to the 10Be TIS solar proxy (blue curve) which also shows the Maunder minimum at around 1650. 10Be doesn’t show the ‘flatline’ in auroras from 1650-1700 but I’m not so sure to what extent auroras are a good indication of solar activity levels. There has been strong auroral activity over the last couple of years, despite the lower solar cycle 24. Earth’s geomagnetic response to changing solar conditions is involved too, so this is a complex relationship. Paul Vaughan’s comments on the suggestions page indicate Earth’s dynamics also affect 10Be deposition too, so none of this stuff is ‘cut and dried’ solar data in my opinion.

  2. Jaime says:

    According to historical records, the ‘sunspot drought’ was broken by the sudden reappearance of spots in 1703, which rose to a maximum in late 1703, declined to 1706, then rose steeply to a second larger maximum in 1707, after which activity tailed off until 1715/16. I wonder why no aurorae were observed prior to 1716? Perhaps the uptick in solar activity was not quite strong enough to trigger them? I still suspect that the ferocious Great Storm of 26 November 1703 is directly connected to the re-emergence of sunspots in that year after a very prolonged complete absence.

  3. Jaime says:

    PS You will have to copy and paste the entire link above, not try clicking on it.
    [mod: fixed dotted link –Tim]

  4. Jaime says:

    Have skipped through the actual paper now. Fig. 1 confirms the double-peak uptick in sunspot numbers from 1703 to 1707 and the fact that aurorae probably did occur during the MM, but at very high latitude, so entirely feasible that most people had never seen an aurora in a generation.

    Puts a spanner in the works of the people who wish to claim that solar activity has had (will have) no significant effect upon NH ( or global) temperatures. There is plenty of evidence that, at precisely the interval corresponding to the extremely low level of solar activity associated with the MM, temperatures in the Southern Hemisphere reached a minimum of 0.5-1.0C below the preceding warm period.

  5. tallbloke says:

    Jaime, wordpress doesn’t like the dots in the url.

  6. Jaime says:

    Ah, so that’s the reason. Too many dots! Never mind.

  7. tallbloke says:

    I just go to when I need to link adsabs

  8. Jaime says:

    I’ll try that Rog, thanks.

    It’s interesting to speculate when exactly the Sun might have switched from Grand Minimum mode to General Mode, as Usokin’s paper suggests the change in solar dynamo activity can be quite abrupt.

    Interesting also to ask when the Sun may have switched suddenly to Grand Maximum mode. Mid 20th century has to be a strong contender.

  9. Jaime says:

    Usokin himself suggests that the Grand Maximum started after the 1940s.

    So then we are left to speculate when exactly the Sun switched out of Grand Maximum mode – as it surely has done – and whether it switched straight into a solar Grand Minimum or the general mode. My guess is it was the former and I would tentatively suggest that the modern Grand Solar Maximum ended abruptly in the latter half of the 1990’s.

  10. tallbloke says:

    Not only are we left to speculate when, but how. The mainstream solar scientists don’t have any convincing explanations as to how the Sun ‘suddenly switches’ between ‘modes’.

  11. Jaime says:

    I think the clue to the ‘how’ must surely lie in the solar magnetic field. In particular, Zharkova’s paper, which resolved the Solar Background Magnetic Field (SBMF) into two principle components (PCs) of opposite polarity and varyiyng phase relationship. The modes are probably determined by the amplitude and relative phase relationship of these two PCs. In this respect, it’s interesting to note that in Cycles 21 & 22, the two PCs were of high amplitude and almost in phase. This situation started to break down in Cycle 23 (1996 onwards) as the amplitudes declined and the waves started to move out of phase (Fig. 1). But you still can’t look at those plots and pinpoint an ‘exact’ moment when the switchover from one mode to another occurred; you can only infer that it probably happened at some point late in SC22/early in SC23.

  12. tallbloke says:

    Jaime: Interesting looking recent paper, thanks for linking. No time to evaluate though as I’m about to depart for the week. Tim or Stuart might blog it for discussion I hope.

  13. Jaime says:

    It was the paper which generated all the recent fuss in the media about an imminent Little Ice Age, with all the usual suspects surfacing to deny that the effect would be global or as pronounced as the previous LIA and/or that it would be quickly overridden by man-made global warming.

    Enjoy your week away.if it’s leisure time.

  14. craigm350 says:

    Jaime – the period of solar activity you mention does seem to be a strong contender to explain the storminess of late 1703 and somewhat akin to our stormy winter 2013/14 when solar activity peaked (not smoothed, April 14 was peak there iirc). The southerly approach of the 1703 storms seems to imply a slack meridional jetstream kicked into life (hence southerly rather than say over the N/NW where the storm tracks usually run).

    The solar uptick may also be behind the rapid rise in CET from ~1710-30 ( iirc Monckton has highlighted this period).

    Incidentally the Great Storm of October 1987 (unusual due to its southerly track) occurred during a solar uptick during the rising phase of SC22 (shortened link as lots of dots)

  15. Jaime says:

    Link says ‘Abstract not available’ Craig. But thanks, yes, I do suspect strongly that solar activity has a pronounced and particular effect upon individual storms/general seasonal storminess, dependent upon the particular mode of activity of the solar dymano (which determines the ‘slackness’ of the Jet Stream) and initiated by relatively minor upticks in activity. I do wonder what particular set up occurred in 1987 (and maybe 1990 – another big storm then I think) when the Sun was definitely at Grand Solar Maximum.

  16. craigm350 says:

    Jaime – darn those long links. Try searching “Provisional Sunspot—Numbers for OCTOBER 1987. Dependent on observations at Locarno Specola Solare.” Should show the pdf on the site

    Similar search should pull up 1990 also.

  17. tchannon says:

    Use this form
    <a href=”your url”>visible link text</a>

    Works like this, what you see is done by your web browser from whatever the server feeds, literally what you see above. The WordPress text entry code you use to comment has to recognise (guess) what you mean and decide on whether the alter what you type in. In this case leave alone.

    To illustrate, let me type that in literally
    visible link text

    Oh bother. So to create this comment here I have to force a bypass of the recognition, use HTML escape sequences, very tricky to do.
    &lt;a href=”your url”&gt;visible link text&lt;/a&gt;

    Is that clear? 🙂

  18. Jaime says:


    Thanks, that works. Clearly visible peak in sunspot numbers on the 15/16th. Storm intensified quite suddenly on the evening of the 15th. Mere coincidence? Jet Stream mid Oct 1987 was also much further south than normal AND fast moving.

  19. Jaime says:



  20. The Maunder Minimum was for sure a period of time of extreme minimum solar variability. I venture to say solar wind speeds were under 300 km/sec, ap index less then 5 and solar flux readings less then 70 for year after year, cosmic ray counts well over 6500 per minute and solar irradiance off by .25% or greater.


  21. Paul Vaughan says:

    I’ve just taken a quick look at this (way too long) paper and the (also way too long) Zolotova & Ponyavin (2015) article that seems to have greatly upset them. (Note how many times they disagree with “ZP15”. What a mess!)

    These people are all going to great lengths to say almost nothing. It reads like a dull administrative dispute over a history narrative.

    Even worse, it conveys no new concise fundamental insight …so one has to wonder if these folks could do with a break to gain some inspiration.

    Most importantly:

    “TSI” ≠ TSI

    The folks who push propaganda suggesting the opposite have my suspicions well-more-than roused and I decisively do not trust them (…including their motives, I’m not sorry to say…)

    If any of these people have any classic gem grade point to make, I request that they please make it concisely, preferably with a single graph, a few accompanying sentences, & perhaps a simply-formatted plain-text data-webpage.

    A boring sea of dull text gets ski-ed (ski-mmed & ski-pped).

  22. E.M.Smith says:

    To fix URLs, you can use the unicode for dot instead of the dots.

    The URL Period Problem
    Folks will regularly post a URL with “…” in it somewhere. For unknown reasons, some places like to put ‘dots’ in their URLs. WordPress, to help folks who post a URL at the end of a sentence and end it with a period, takes that first ‘dot’ to be ‘end of sentence’ and then the rest of the URL becomes plain text. As that doesn’t work as a URL that’s “not helping”…
    To “fix it”, just remember to replace any “dots” in a URL with the Unicode for “full stop” that we saw above:

    Just in case Ididn’t get it right, that last line ought to be & # 046 ; without the spaces. It codes for a dot in unicode.


  23. Wayne Job says:

    The warmanistas have told us for decades that the sun is unvarying in its output of heat input to the earth,that it is all our fault all this warming, that is not happening. The next decade is likely to put a lot of egg on a lot of prominent faces, even the compliant press is starting to ask real questions and not all following like lambs. EM’s recent thoughts on the sun actually only moderating the earth temperature, easily explains why small changes in the suns behaviour can make a big difference to our little blue ball. Miles Mathis and his ideas of what constitutes the 95% of missing matter in the universe and what it does completes the puzzle of how and why. Regards

  24. ivan says:

    Regarding E.M.Smith and dots in URLs.

    I don’t think there are any genuine URLs with multiple dots in them. What we are seeing is the result of trying to copy the long URL. This copy action truncates the URL and shows dots to indicate where it has been shortened – trying to use the shortened URLs is doomed to failure because the missing parts don’t miraculously reappear.

    For those people using the Firefox browser there are a couple of addons that allow you to copy the URL as an HTML link which works in the version of WordPress we use without any problems.