Weird Fact: Despite global warming fears, the Northern Hemisphere experienced a Little Ice Age between 1550-1850 (and it could happen again).
The media is pretty obsessed with global warming – but did you know that, not so long ago, the planet went through a period of cooling now known as the Little Ice Age?
Technically, this was no Ice Age in the official sense, which requires the presence of continental ice sheets. But it did create unusually cold weather year after year across the Northern Hemisphere, and frequently saw London’s River Thames freeze solid.
The Little Ice Age wreaked havoc with agriculture. Millions of people faced periodic plagues and famines, while deadly glaciers moved in from the mountains and destroyed entire villages. By the late 1500s, the average person’s height had decreased by an inch due to malnourishment, rising only after temperatures climbed again after 1650.
While the cause of this dramatic climate change has never been isolated, modern theories blame volcanic activity, ocean circulation and a drop in solar energy. Notably, in 1816, shortly after the eruption of Indonesia’s Tambora volcano, Northern Europe and America saw crops failing as early as June in the famous “year without a summer”.
The Next Little Ice Age
Some scientists are now warning of the next mini ice age to hit Britain, bringing with it bitterly cold winters that could last for decades.
But what will trigger it this time? The latest research shows that the global weather pattern known as La Nina will gradually strengthen as 2011 draws to a close. The result will be unusually cold temperatures for Britain exceeding the record-breaking -20 C (-4 F) achieved last year.
In Scotland, the first snowfall of winter 2011 was seen in early October, while weather forecasters are warning of “a severely cold and snowy winter”.
La Nina also coincides with research from the Met Office into a decrease in ultraviolet solar emissions. The prediction, due to be published in the journal Nature, suggests Britain is about to experience a mini ice age and a repeat of the conditions experienced some 300 years ago.
Copyright © Mark Beselt