The UK and continental Europe could be gripped by more frequent cold winters in the future as a result of low solar activity, say researchers.

They identified a link between fewer sunspots and atmospheric conditions that "block" warm, westerly winds reaching Europe during winter months.

But they added that the phenomenon only affected a limited region and would not alter the overall global warming trend.
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The researchers used the 351-year CET record because it provided data that went back to the beginning of the Maunder Minimum, a prolonged period of very low activity on the Sun that lasted about half a century.

The Maunder Minimum occurred in the latter half of the 17th Century - a period when Europe experienced a series of harsh winters, which has been dubbed by some as the Little Ice Age. Following this, there was a gradual increase in solar activity that lasted 300 years.
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Professor Lockwood explained that studies of activity on the Sun, which provides data stretching back over 9,000 years, showed that it tended to "ramp up quite slowly over about a 300-year period, then drop quite quickly over about a 100-year period".

He said the present decline started in 1985 and was currently about "half way back to a Maunder Minimum condition".

This allowed the team to compare recent years with what happened in the late 1600s.

"Frost fayres" were held on the Thames during the Maunder Minimum
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be prepared for more Grim Frostbitten winters