The cold, hard truth is the Earth probably isn't headed for a mini ice age

Don't fret, Internet. Reports about a mini-ice age coming our way in the next 15 years aren't as dire as they sound.

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The schoolchildren of the world will be saddened to learn that a year-round Snow Day isn't heading their way anytime soon.Artist's rendering by Ittiz

The summer months can be a real scorcher in certain parts of the world. So living in an icy climate where the world is blanketed in a quilt of frozen water may actually sound like a welcome prospect.

That could be one explanation for a strange bit of news that spread across the Web over the weekend about the sun going on sabbatical and plunging the world into a "mini ice age" in 15 years or so.

The Royal Astronomical Society on July 2 announced a presentation to be led by Valentina Zharkova, a professor of mathematics at Northumbria University, at the National Astronomy Meeting in Wales. Zharkova would discuss a model of the Sun's solar cycle that led to the prediction that "solar activity will fall by 60 percent during the 2030s to conditions last seen during the 'mini ice age' that began in 1645."

Stories ran places like UPI, The Daily Mail and The Huffington Post saying Zharkova had predicted the coming of a "mini ice age" or a new "Little Ice Age," referring to a famous temperature drop that occurred across North America and Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries. "#IceAge" even became a trending topic on Twitter.

The Washington Post's Morning Mix blog, however, noted that the story seemed to have blown past what was in the original source. The reference to a mini ice age in the presentation description wasn't a quote from Zharkova herself -- and what's more, in an interview published July 14 on IFLScience.com, the scientist said she never mentioned "anything about the weather change" in the presentation itself, though she does think there could be an impact on the climate.

The Morning Mix story also noted that Zharkov's solar model predictions were not yet part of a published study in a peer-reviewed journal, and pointed out that the Little Ice Age wasn't global and wasn't necessarily caused by the state of the sun at all, citing Scientific American article blaming volcanoes. Particles in the air from volcanic eruptions may have been reflecting away solar radiation that would otherwise have been keeping the place warmer.

So if you were stockpiling Snuggies and cocoa for your ice-age bunker over the weekend because someone posted such one of these stories on your Facebook feed, now might be a good time to take them back to Costco. But you should probably hang on to that giant tub of banana-flavored Laffy Taffy because you never know.

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