The Original Climate Crisis: How the Little Ice Age Devastated Early Modern Europe

Frost fair

The key phrases in this article could be: ‘Whatever its causes’ and ‘Average temperatures in the British Isles cooled by 2°C’. Climate science is unable to offer a specific explanation, although theories abound, but natural variation for whatever reasons is built-in and always will be. Quantifying it remains out of reach, but computer models are still supposed to be the answer to everything climate.
– – –
Just as the UK was recovering from storms Eunice and Franklin, scientists of UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a landmark report warning of a future with spiraling weather extremes, fiercer storms, flash flooding, and wildfires, says The Conversation (via Singularity Hub).

This isn’t the first time that Britain has experienced drastic climate change, however. By the 16th and 17th centuries, northern Europe had left its medieval warm period and was languishing in what is sometimes called the little ice age.

Starting in the early 14th century, average temperatures in the British Isles cooled by 2°C, with similar anomalies recorded across Europe.

Much colder winters ensued. Rivers and coastal seas froze, grinding trade and communications to a halt. Crops and livestock withered while downpours spoiled harvests, unleashing widespread hunger and hardship.

This early modern climate crisis was as politically explosive as ours is shaping up to be. There were rebellions, revolutions, wars, and plague, as well as the scapegoating of supposed witches suspected of causing the foul weather.

The recent IPCC report predicts dire societal impacts from future climate change, particularly for the 3.6 billion people living in the predominantly poorer countries which are highly vulnerable to climate change. We can learn a lot about our collective fate today by studying the effects that the last climate crisis had on people.

Fires on the Ice

Researchers have offered a range of explanations for the Little Ice Age, from volcanic eruptions to the European destruction of indigenous societies in the Americas, which caused forests to regrow on abandoned farmland. Others have suggested the Maunder minimum, a period between 1650 and 1715 when observed sunspots were suddenly scarce.

Whatever its causes, there is plenty of historical evidence documenting the little ice age. In London, the River Thames froze many times between 1400 and 1815, with freezes increasing in frequency and severity from the early 17th to the early 18th centuries.

People seized the opportunity to hold fairs on the river’s icy surface. The earliest was in 1608, with further notable frost fairs in 1621, 1677, and 1684.

Continued here.

– – –
Footnote: the last London frost fair was held in 1814.

via Tallbloke’s Talkshop

March 12, 2022, by oldbrew