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.
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.
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