The Little Ice Age

AS level geography for the WJEC syllabus.

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  • Created on: 04-05-11 21:32
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The Little Ice Age
What is the Little Ice Age and when was it?
The Little Ice Age is a period between 1300-1870 during which, Europe and North
America were subjected to much colder winters than in the 20th century.
What was the climate like?
The climatic change can be divided into two sections. The first is around 1300 and
continuing until the late 1400s. There was then a slightly warmer period in the 1500s, but
then the climate deteriorated greatly. The phase between 1600 and 1800 is at the height
of the Little Ice Age. During this height, it was about 1 degree colder than today. The
Baltic Sea froze over, along with most of the rivers in Europe. Winters were bitterly cold
and prolonged, meaning the growing season was shortened by a couple of months.
These conditions led to wide crop failure, famine and because of this, in some areas,
population decline. The price of grain rose and wine became difficult to produce in many
areas, such as in England where the vineyards vanished. Fishing was also a problem
because the cod migrated south, to warmer waters. Storminess and flooding increased
dramatically. The tree line and snow line in mountainous areas dropped, as well as the
advancing glaciers in the Alps and Northern Europe, overrunning towns and farms in the
Iceland was hit particularly hard. Sea ice, which today is in the north, came down
around Iceland. In some years it was difficult to bring a ship anywhere to the coast. Grain
became impossible to grow and even hay crops were failing. Also, Iceland is a volcanic
area and the eruptions made it even harder. Iceland ended up loosing half it's population in
the Little Ice Age.
What were the causes of the Little Ice Age?
Cause Explanation
Solar Activity The Sun experienced an extended quiet period in which it's
intensity fell by as much as 1/4 of a percent. This means there is
less radiant heat being emitted from the sun to neighboring
bodies, so a cooling occurs.
Also, there was a decrease in the amount of sunspots in this
period. Cycles of sunspots generally happen in 11 year cycles,
where you have lots or little sunspots. The amount of sunspots
is in sync with the activeness of the Sun. This means if there are
less sun spots then there is less emission of radiant heat from
the Sun, which is cause areas in the Earth to cool down as they
aren't getting enough radiant heat.

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Volcanic Activity During the Little Ice Age, there are records showing that this was
a period of numerous volcanic eruptions. As the volcanoes
erupted they spit particles and gases into the air, which leads to
the aerosol effect. The aerosol effect is when the sulfur dioxide
from the volcanic eruption forms small sulfuric acid aerosols high
in the atmosphere which absorb and scatter solar energy back
into space. This increases the earth's albedo.…read more

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Draw up a table for evidence of the Little Ice Age.
Evidence Explanation
Modern scientific data. - Temperatures, ice cores, tree rings and ice delivered
debris on ocean floor.
- These can all tell us about the climate in a certain
period. The wide rings on tree rings show a warm summer
and the narrow rings show cold summers. This is
because it's telling us how much the tree has grown each
year. The tree will obviously grow more if the climate is
warmer.…read more


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