Hunters in the Snow by Pieter Breughel. Breughel captured the long winters of the Little Ice Age in this 1565 painting.
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The Little Ice Age
From about 1250 to 1850 temperatures were a bit colder than usual in most parts of the world. This time is called the Little Ice Age.
During the Little Ice Age, the average temperature of the planet was about a degree
Celsius cooler than it is today (that’s 2-3 degrees Fahrenheit). Scientists think that the planet
was cooler because there was less solar activity and more erupting volcanoes.
The Little Ice Age was not a true ice age because it did not get cold enough for
long enough to cause ice sheets to grow larger. The cooling likely affected areas
around the world but we have the most records of how it changed daily life from
Europe. Listed below were some of the things we know happened during the Little
- Fur trappers reported that southern Hudson Bay remained frozen for about
3 weeks longer each spring.
- Fishermen reported large amounts of sea ice floating in the North Atlantic.
- British people saw Eskimos paddling canoes off the coast of England.
- Alpine (mountain) glaciers grew larger.
- Winters were longer and growing seasons shorter according to tree ring data
and records of cherry tree flowering.
- Wet weather caused disease that affected people, animals and crops including
the plague. The plague is also called the Black Death. It was a disease that
killed more than a third of Europeans.
- Because farmers couldn’t grow food, people went hungry in areas of
northern and Eastern Europe. Unlike today, there was no way to transport food
from far away.
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The Summer 2010 issue of The Earth Scientist
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, includes articles on rivers and snow, classroom planetariums, satellites and oceanography, hands-on astronomy, and global warming.
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