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Monday, 26 February 2018 00:00

Solar Cooling Could Begin in 2020

By 2050, the sun is expected to be seven percent cooler, a process that could begin as early as 2020. The process, called solar cooling, is caused by a periodic event known as a grand minimum and experts say there’s no reason for concern.

The most recent grand minimum occurred in the mid-1600s and was called the Maunder Minimum. It happened during a time when parts of the Earth reached temperatures that led to the period being called the Little Ice Age, which started in 1300 and lasted until 1850. The cooling was not uniform across the planet, with Europe cooling while areas like Alaska experienced warmer weather.

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For decades environmentalists and consumers have worried about the ever-pervasive hole in the ozone layer. Discovered in the late 1970s, the hole was eventually attributed to chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), caused by man-made chemicals like refrigerants and aerosol sprays. If the hole was left unchecked, experts predicted it would contribute to the gradual destruction of the planet in the form of global warming.

But today that hole is shrinking, attributable, in part, to regulations that were enacted in the late 1980s to reduce CFCs in the environment. During the 2016 winter in Antarctica, the depletion of the protective ozone layer was observed to be approximately 20 percent lower than it was a full decade ago.

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Throughout Earth’s existence, mass extinction events have wiped out entire species, potentially changing the ecosystem permanently. In fact, scientists name five mass extinction events, with the most recent being the wipeout of dinosaurs approximately 66 million years ago. The cause of such extinctions has been proposed as asteroids, the Ice Age, and oxygen depletion in the ocean, but in some cases, the cause is unknown.

A possibly upcoming extinction event has experts reviewing those five previous incidents to see what they have in common. With each extinction event, the normal cycling of carbon was disrupted, either in the atmosphere or in the oceans. This brings concerns from scientists who are already well aware of the danger rising carbon emissions pose to our planet. The question is, could this changing environment cause a carbon jolt that could cause the sixth mass extinction?

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