EARTH faces a new “mini ice age” in the next 15 years, bringing year-round snowfields and turning normally ice-free waterways to sleet, scientists predict.

As the Antarctic Vortex grips Australia, solar researchers from the University of Northumbria in the UK say solar activity is set to plummet by 60 per cent in the 2030s.

Research lead Professor Valentina Zharkova said fluid movements within the Sun, believed to create 11-year cycles in the weather, will cancel each other out, triggering a dramatic temperature drop.

This will lead to a weather phenomenon known as a “mini ice age” which previously hit between 1645 and 1715.

The findings are based on a new model which scientists claim produces “unprecedentedly accurate predictions of irregularities” within the Sun’s “11-year heartbeat”.“[In the cycle between 2030 and around 2040] the two waves exactly mirror each other — peaking at the same time but in opposite hemispheres of the sun,” Professor Zharkova said.

“Their interaction will be disruptive, or they will nearly cancel each other. We predict that this will lead to the properties of a ‘Maunder Minimum’.”

Maunder Minimum was the name given to the period between 1645 and 1715 when Europe and North America experienced very cold winters.

During that time, the Thames River in England reportedly froze over.

The study findings were presented at the National Astronomy Meeting in Llandudno, Wales, and published in the Royal Astronomical Society papers.

The startling news comes as the Antarctic Vortex swirled into eastern Australia, bringing a freak phenomenon called “thundersnow”.

Tropical-style thunderstorms, accompanied by heavy snowfalls, roared through the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, and towns as far as Orange on Saturday night.OCEAN

Parts of the country are expecting damaging winds to reach blizzard intensity of 90km/h, as snow continues to fall and the big freeze starts to bite.

Snow is falling as the big freeze begins to impact the nation’s south east, where sub-zero temperatures are forecast in some places for much of the coming week.

A strong cold front with a low to the south will move through the state in the coming days, bringing cold, vigorous, westerly winds, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.

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See previous article on this site Coming Mini Ice Age 2015