According to noted archaeological writer ,Brian Fagan, PhD, his book entitled “ The Little Ice Age: How Climate Made History ” describes a period of climatic change and it’s subsequent historical events that began in the 14 th Century, and ended in the 19 th Century.
Although temperatures were on average only a mere four degrees cooler than they had been during the 13 th Century, this temperature drop caused a severe chain reaction that impacted millions of people, their livestock, and their crops.
Millions of people in Northern Europe perished or died of starvation-related diseases resulting from this change in climate. (1)
Why Did The Little Ice Age Occur? One theory is that the “Maunder Minimum” occurring between 1645 and 1750, caused low solar activity to be emitted from the Sun, which contributed to the Earth’s cooler temperatures. (2) Another theory is that fresh water, melting from the polar ice caps, caused the oceanic conveyor belt to reverse, causing temperature sensitive food sources to flee their normal habitats. (2) Ice core samples taken from Greenland and Antarctica record the occurrence of five major volcanic eruptions per century from the 14 th through the 19 th Centuries - sending up massive deposits of sulphur dioxide gasses into the Earth’s atmosphere, reflecting sunlight away from the Earth’s atmosphere, thus contributing to the cooling of the Earth’s climate. (2) In The History Channel’s documentary film entitled, “Little Ice Age: Big Chill,” scientists explore the various factors that may have contributed to The Little Ice Age, as follows:
The Little Ice Age and The Vikings of Greenland
The Viking colonists of Greenland were adversely affected by the drop in temperatures as trade ships could no longer reach it’s shores through the ice-choked waters. Their livestock dwindled as a result of the shortened growing season, and the Cod fish they depended on swam to warmer temperatures.
When the climate eventually warmed enough to melt the frozen waters surrounding Greenland, ships arriving there found no inhabitants. (2)
The Little Ice Age and Northern Europeans In an article published by Baltics Worldwide , entitled “The Napoleon Graves,” author Michael Tarm reports on the discovery in the Lithuanian town of Vilnius, of a mass grave of 2,000 men who were soldiers in Napoleon Bonaparte’s Grand Army. Autopsy reports noted that the soldiers perished as a result of extreme winter weather conditions on their retreat from Russia in 1812 - not from injuries suffered from combat. It is estimated that at least 500,000 men died as a result of Napoleon’s march on Russia. (3) The severe weather in Northern Europe caused many famines. In fact, over 111 famines were recorded in France alone between 1371 and 1791. (1) And although Spain’s conquest of Peru introduced the potato to Europe, the French peasants would not eat them as an alternative to their usual faire of cereal crops, as the Catholic Church Denounced potatoes as “food of the devil.” (1) Ironically, by 1845, the Irish had so successfully incorporated one variety, the Lumper potato, into The main staple of their diet, that when a blight attacked their potato crops, they had nothing to eat. It is estimated that six-million people died as a result of starvation and famine-related diseases. (1)
1 Fagan, Brian M. The Little Ice Age: How Climate Made History, 1300-1850 . New York, NY: Basic, 2000. Print.
2 Little Ice Age: Big Chill . The History Channel. Documentary.
Film / Online Video
3 Tarm, Michael. "The Napoleon Graves." Baltics Worldwide.com . Web.