Planet Earth Weekly

Climate Change and Renewable Energy: Saving Our Planet for Future Generations

Climate Change in The last Millennium: The little Ice Age

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Beginning around 1750 the natural temperature record has been altered by the industrial revolution.

By Dr. John J. Hidore

October 12, 2018—-The Little Ice Age was the coldest period in historic times. It occurred from the 14th to the 19th centuries and was a global event. The coldest temperatures generally occurred during what is known as the Maunder Minimum around 1680. Beginning around 1750 the natural temperature record has been altered by the industrial revolution. However, the evidence is clear that the cold lasted until the late 1800s.

Little ice age

Little Ice Age

The effects of the cooler weather were substantially different from place to place. In the drier regions of the planet the cooling mainly resulted in drought of differing intensity. Large areas of Asia and Africa dried substantially. Changes in the Asian monsoons affected large populations. Some areas suffered drought and other areas unusually heavy rains. Extensive snow in the Himalayas resulted in massive flooding of some of the major rivers

Areas bordering the North Atlantic Ocean experienced drastic cooling. Mountain glaciers expanded, and in some cases, reached their maximum extent since the end of the Pleistocene glaciation. Three major periods of expansion of glaciers took place in the years 1600-1650, 1810-1820, and 1850-1860.

It was cold in Europe also. Alpine glaciers grew in size and advanced to lower elevations. The Thames River in England froze over many times. The inhabitants of the European region suffered tremendously. The Fourteenth Century was the worst. In Britain many villages ceased to exist. On the continent during the three-year period of 1315 to 1317, what is often referred to as The Great European Famine, took place. In some areas in eastern Europe up to half of the population perished from famine. The famine is believed to be due to the cooler weather and frequent and heavy precipitation. These two weather conditions greatly reduced the yield of food crops.

Greenland Settlements and the Little Ice Age

The little ice age marked the end of the Norse settlements in Greenland that had begun in the tenth century. In fact, in 1492 the Pope complained that none of his bishops had visited the Greenland outpost for 80 years. He was not aware that the settlements were already gone. Ice in the northern seas prevented traffic from reaching Greenland. In 1540 a voyager reported seeing signs of the settlements but no signs of life. The settlers had perished. After flourishing for more 400 years the colonies disappeared about 1410 A.D. Excavations show that at first the soil permitted burying bodies at considerable depth. Later graves became progressively shallower. The last survivor is believed to have perished in the middle of the fifteenth century. A Danish archaeological expedition to the sites in 1921 found evidence that deteriorating climate must have played a role in the population’s demise. Some graves were in permafrost that had formed since the burial. Tree roots entangled in the coffins showed the graves were not originally in frozen ground. It also showed the permafrost had moved progressively higher. Examination of skeletons indicate there was not enough food. Most remains were deformed or dwarfed. There was clear evidence of rickets. All the evidence points to a climate that grew progressively cooler, leading eventually to the settler’s isolation and extinction. By 1516 the settlements had practically been forgotten.

North American Colonies in the Little Ice Age

The colonies in eastern United States suffered from the cold of the Little Ice Age. The soldiers of the American Revolution suffered in the cold weather. Sometimes the unusual ice served as a useful tool. British troops, for example, slid their canon across the frozen river from Manhattan to Staten Island.

The year 1816 is known as “the year without a summer.” The year began with excessively low temperatures across much of the eastern seaboard. When spring came, the weather was cool, but not excessively so. In May, however, the temperatures plunged. In New England, frost occurred in every month of the year. In Indiana there was snow or sleet for 17 days in May. This killed off seedlings before they had a chance to grow. The cold weather continued in June, when snow again fell, devastating any remaining budding crops. No crops grew north of a line between the Ohio and Potomac rivers, and returns were scanty south of this line. In the pioneer areas of Indiana and Illinois settlers had to rely on fishing and hunting for food. Reports suggest that raccoons, groundhogs, and the easily trapped passenger pigeons were a major source of food. The settlers also collected many edible wild plants that proved hardier than cultivated crops.

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Author: Planet Earth Weekly

My goal, as a responsible adult, is to leave a planet that people, plants, and animals can continue to occupy comfortably. I am an educator by profession. While educating myself on Climate Change and Renewable Resources, I hope to share my knowledge and images with those that share my concern. Dr. John J. Hidore is a retired professor from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and I am proud to call him my Uncle. His work has taken him to regions across the globe—including the Middle East, where he conducted research for a year in the Sudan. He has written many books, such as Climatology: An Atmospheric Science and Global Environmental Change.----Linn Smith

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