University of Oulu

Owens MJ, Lockwood M, Hawkins E, Usoskin I, Jones GS, Barnard L, Schurer A, Fasullo J. 2017. The Maunder minimum and the Little Ice Age: an update from recent reconstructions and climate simulations. J. Space Weather Space Clim. 7: A33

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

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Author: Owens, Mathew J.1; Lockwood, Mike1; Hawkins, Ed1,2;
Organizations: 1Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, Reading, Berkshire, UK
2National Centre for Atmospheric Science, Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, Reading, Berkshire, UK
3ReSoLVE Centre of Excellence and Sodankylä Geophysical Observatory, University of Oulu, Finland
4Met Office Hadley Centre, Exeter, UK
5School of Geosciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
6National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado, USA
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.4 MB)
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Language: English
Published: EDP Sciences, 2017
Publish Date: 2017-12-12


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.

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Series: Journal of space weather and space climate
ISSN: 2115-7251
ISSN-E: 2115-7251
ISSN-L: 2115-7251
Volume: 7
Article number: A33
DOI: 10.1051/swsc/2017034
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1171 Geosciences
Funding: MJO, ML and LB are part-funded by Science and technology facilities council (STFC) grant number ST/M000885/1. MJO acknowledges support from the Leverhulme Trust through a Philip Leverhulme Prize. EH is supported by the National Centre for Atmospheric Science. GSJ was supported by the Joint UK BEIS/Defra Met Office Hadley Centre Climate Programme (GA01101). JF’s participation in this work was supported through NSFAward ID AGS 1243107. IU acknowledges support by the Academy of Finland to the ReSoLVE Center of Excellence (project No. 272157). AS is funded by ERC, by advanced grant TITAN (EC-320691), and NERC, through the Belmont forum, grant PacMedy (NE/P006752/1).
Academy of Finland Grant Number: 272157
Detailed Information: 272157 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
Copyright information: © M.J. Owens et al., Published by EDP Sciences 2017. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.