Global warming and the little ice age

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Global warming and the little ice age 

By any standard global warming is a serious issue, particularly if you are a polar bear – the harbinger of things to come – whose habitat is rapidly disappearing. There is no doubt in our mind that man’s activities have influenced what is happening.

That said, it is often hard to figure out what happens in nature, and why. As an example, we might look at the little ice age that struck the Earth in the 13th century. While there is disagreement as to when it started, in about 1250 the Atlantic ice pack started to grow, as did glaciers in the formerly appropriately- named Geenland. In 1300 summers in Europe stopped being predictably warm. This global cooling lasted until the mid 19th century.

Why did the climate cool? If you have a high level of whimsy, a reasonable guess might be man’s intervention, in the form of the invention of the longbow in the 13th century. The less inventive suggest a decrease in solar activity and an increase in volcanic activity.

Others posit a 1500 year climatic cycle, but records going back in 1500 year increments are hard to come by. Indeed even shorter cycles seem to surprise people. Our article on the multi-decadal signals of hurricanes (in the September 2005 issue of ÆGIS) seemed to leave many astonished by the fact that hurricanes were at a predicted level of violence.

Does the fact that nature may have a significant hand in what is going on with the climate– perhaps in the form of increased solar activity and decreased volcanic activity – mean we don’t need to do anything? Clearly not. We are doing our share in this, and need to get our house in better ecological order.

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