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The “Little Ice Age”

The coldest period for the Northern Hemisphere in the last thousand years occurred roughly between the 1300s to the mid 1800s. Glaciers expanded and destroyed villages, cold caused crops to fail and animals to die which then caused massive famine throughout northern Europe.


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Not So Little!

Scientists also believe that the composition of Europe’s trees changed during the period with warmer-loving trees like birch being overtaken by cold resistant species like pine and oak. The extreme cold also led to widespread disease which devastated Viking populations in Greenland and Iceland.


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What Caused the Little Ice Age?

While the is no consensus as to what caused the Little Ice Age, some scientists believe they have found overwhelming evidence to suggest that volcanic activity had something to do with it. in 2012, scientists from the University of Colorado, Boulder released a report saying evidence strongly suggested volcanic activity played an important role. Volcanic eruptions release shiny particulate matter which reflects sunlight back into space. The report says that radio-carbon dating shows a massive die-off of plants at different elevations, suggesting that something in the atmosphere such as ash, was responsible.


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1816, The Year Without a Summer

For North America and Europe, it was so cold in the summer of 1816 that snow fell in New England and there was dark and gloomy skies across Europe. It was during the summer of 1816 that Mary Shelley, visiting Lake Geneva in Switzerland but stuck inside due to gloomy weather, wrote her Gothic novel Frankenstein. The poet Lord Byron, also vacationing with Shelley and her husband wrote a poem called Darkness, which has the line “I had a dream, which was not at all a dream. The bright sun was extinguish’d.” Like the Little Ice Age, the year without a summer was attributed to volcanic activity, specifically the 1815 supereruption of Mt. Tambora in Indonesia.


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