The Little Ice Age & Environmental Causes of Conflict

Goal: Assess role of geographic factors in subsistence, population, conflict, trade and settlement

The Little Ice Agefrozen earth

The little ice age is a period between 1300 and 1870, during which Europe and North America were much colder than today. We can basically divide the Little Ice Age in two parts. Part one is in the 1300’s to the 1500’s; it was one of the slightly warmer periods during the Little Ice Age. Part two which was the 1600’s to the 1800’s were the coldest part of the Little Ice age. The Little Ice Age affected expansion, trade, empires, technology, and last of all the agriculture regions and farming were greatly affected. The Little Ice Age was a global phenomenon, which almost killed every human being.

During the Little Ice Age, even the center of town froze and people had to skate to where they were going!

During the Little Ice Age, even the center of town froze and people had to skate to where they were going!

The Cause of the Little Ice Age

The cause of the Little Ice Age is unknown, many people have pointed to the low sunspot activity. So called maunder minimum is the coldest part from 1645-1715. A minimum in sunspots shows less activity and people say possibly a colder sun and less energy made the earth warmer.

Possible small cause: North Atlantic is one of the most unstable regions in the world when it comes to climate. Because an interesting interaction between the atmosphere and ocean. Normal pattern high pressure over Azores and low pressure over Iceland. “A seesaw of pressure between high and low pressure cell over Iceland is a normal pattern called NAO index.”

When it was reversed called negative NAO low pressure over Azores and high over Iceland. “It could weaken or even reverse the cold streaming over Europe, causing a cold winter. Since there are much less storms over the North Atlantic, storms and low pressure systems bring humid air from the ocean into the Mediterranean region making it more unsettled than normal.” “The small pressure difference allows northerly air to blow into northern Europe making the winters dry and sunny but very cold.” During the little ice age there was usually a negative NAO.

“Volcanic eruptions are possible cause for the Little Ice Age – for example the year after the tombola eruption in Indonesia 1815 was known as the “year without summer”. But the effect of such eruptions might be limited to only a few years so this cannot be the cause for prolonged climatic variations associated with the Little Ice Age. After 1870 the little ice age made place for the slight conditions of the 20th century (1900s).”

Who and what was involved?

Believe it or not everyone was affected including environments. It caused colder winters (and colder year-round) increasing starvation. ’’Many people died of the cold as they couldn’t adapt and many people struggled to find food and crops failed as they weren’t suitable or adapted to the new environment of the Little Ice Age’’. Plants and animals also died and had a hard time adapting. Slowly people, animals, plants learnt how to adapt to the new environment. Farmers changed crops and started finding food again. The cold was used for entertainment such as fair on frozen rivers. Animals and plants slowly also adapted.

tents on ice

What were the consequences of The Little Ice Age

Europe took most of the illnesses (according to record) , experiencing harsh weather for several centuries and especially from 1560 to 1660. Some of the biggest trends and events climatologists and historians have related to The Little Ice Age, are the following:

-Great Famine:

Beginning in the spring of 1315, cold weather ruined crops and livestock across Europe. ”Class warfare and political strife destabilized people”. As millions of people starved. It setting the stage for the crises of the Late Middle Ages. Some people even resorted to cannibalism.

-Black Death:

”Some experts have tied the outbreak to the food shortages of the Little Ice Age, which weakened human immune systems while allowing rats to flourish.”

-Witch Hunts:

Pope Innocent VIII thought he recognized existence of witches and they blamed them for the cold temperatures.

-Thirty Years’ War:

The war between Protestants and Catholics has been linked to the Little Ice Age. A cold condition, inflated grain prices, fueling civil discontent and it was weakening economies in Europe.

-Rise of the Potato:

”Some countries began promoting the hardy tuber as an alternative to crops indigenous to the region, which often failed to withstand the Little Ice Age’s colder seasons. It soon caught on with farmers throughout Europe, particularly in Ireland.”

-French Revolution:

Two decades of poor cereal harvests, drought, cattle disease and had did not rest well among peasants and the poor. ”Many expressed their desperation and resentment toward a regime that imposed heavy taxes yet failed to provide relief by rioting, looting and striking. Tensions erupted into the French Revolution of 1789, which some historians have connected to the Little Ice Age.”

war on ice

There are way more examples like: Manchu Conquest of China, Writing of “Frankenstein”, Invention of the Bicycle, Midwestern Population Explosion.

Where and when did The Little Ice Age take place?

The Little Ice Age took place between 1300-1870. The coldest parts of this event took place between 1645-1715.The Little Ice Age was happening worldwide but we don’t have much information on North America because Aboriginal peoples didn’t write but passed information through language.

How did The Little Ice Age end?

 After 1850, temperatures began to rise. A drop in volcanic activity after 1915 contributed slightly. ”However, the greater contributor to warming from 1880 came from the sun which steadily warmed up to the 1940s. When the two factors are combined, they account well for the warming from 1880 to 1940. However, the contribution from sun and volcanoes to global temperature since the 1940s has been a slight cooling effect.” Humans also had an effect with man-made greenhouse gases, burning fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas for energy or cut down and burn forests to create pastures and plantations, carbon accumulates and overloads our atmosphere. Certain waste management and agricultural practices aggravate the problem by releasing other potent global warming gases, such as methane and nitrous oxide. See the pie chart for a breakdown of heat-trapping global warming emissions by economic sector.

The Little Ice Age-Works Cited
1. “The Causes of Global Warming.” The Causes of Global Warming. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Nov. 2014. .
2. “Climate Science Glossary.” Skeptical Science. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Nov. 2014. .
3. “Environmental History Resources.” Little Ice Age. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Nov. 2014. .
4. “How Did the Little Ice Age Impact People and the Environment? – Geography Revision Website.” How Did the Little Ice Age Impact People and the Environment? – Geography Revision Website. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Nov. 2014.
5. “Little Ice Age, Big Consequences.” A&E Television Networks, 31 Jan. 2012. Web. 31 Oct. 2014. .

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