Did the Little Ice Age start with a big bang?
March 6, 2012 9:57 AM   Subscribe

Did the Little Ice Age start with a big bang? According to the new study, the Little Ice Age, a period of cooling temperatures that began after the Middle Ages and lasted into the late 19th century was triggered by repeated, explosive volcanism and sustained by a self- perpetuating sea ice-ocean feedback system in the North Atlantic Ocean
posted by 2manyusernames (12 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's good to see some hard data coming out of the research into the cause of the medieval ice age. The theory has been kicking about for some time. I first heard of it from James Burke, who was looking at the social and technological changes that resulted from those events.
posted by chambers at 10:13 AM on March 6, 2012


This is really interesting. I had also heard of volcanic action as the most likely cause before, but I didn't realize that the little ice age had lasted for 500 years.
posted by KGMoney at 10:15 AM on March 6, 2012


Any way to use this to fight global warming? Figure out just what volcanic ejecta lead to cooling and then spray a lot of it into our atmosphere?
posted by Fat Charlie the Archangel at 10:22 AM on March 6, 2012


Well, we're already seeing colder and more severe winters in the Northern Hemisphere because of climate change. Europe has just experienced an especially harsh winter, as has Japan, due to changes in various weather patterns as a result of lower levels of sea ice and declining salinity of ocean water.

In a nutshell, although it seems counterintuitive, global warming is, in the short term, causing colder winters in some places.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:28 AM on March 6, 2012


although it seems counterintuitive, global warming is, in the short term, causing colder winters in some places.

Europe especially, if global warming leads to the weakening or shut down of the Gulf Stream.

I've seen people really suprised when the compared the latitudes of North American places and European places. Britain is about as far north as Hudson Bay. Philadelphia and Baltimore, which had snow yesterday, are further south than Rome. Europe is a lot warmer than one would predict based on latitude alone.
posted by spaltavian at 10:57 AM on March 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


But where are the volcanoes?
posted by otto42 at 11:20 AM on March 6, 2012


leads to the weakening or shut down of the Gulf Stream.

This used to be a popular theory but is now seen as extremely unlikely, or if it did happen, not much would happen. For all the scary scenarios this one at least is far down the list. But the myth holds a place in popular imagination that the Gulf Stream is why Europe is warm.
posted by stbalbach at 11:24 AM on March 6, 2012


I thought it was Columbus's fault?
posted by fings at 11:46 AM on March 6, 2012


leads to the weakening or shut down of the Gulf Stream.

It's more about the Jet Stream, which is, to use the scientific term, 'Random as Fuck (at the best of times)'.

Climate change is like a ninja, you know it's going to get you. How is the question.

Personally I am stocking up on Chimonanthus and Vitis, and Swords.
posted by titus-g at 1:52 PM on March 6, 2012


"Any way to use this to fight global warming? Figure out just what volcanic ejecta lead to cooling and then spray a lot of it into our atmosphere?"

When I was in LA last summer I listened to an hour long talk on the radio by a man (whose name escapes me) on a whole range of environmental issues from Monsanto, to nuclear energy, to global warming and combating its effects. In that talk he specifically mentioned the global cooling effects volcano ejecta has, and how humans could mimic that using cheapish, conventional technology. He even put a yearly price-tag on doing so, but I can't remember it off hand.

It was a fascinating talk, and I really wish I could remember his name.
posted by I Havent Killed Anybody Since 1984 at 2:34 PM on March 6, 2012


Was his name Art Bell or George Noory?
posted by entropicamericana at 3:50 PM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


It was a fascinating talk, and I really wish I could remember his name.

Quite likely Ken Caldeira (Whose name I see as Caldera, which seems appropriate since he talks about cooling the earth the way volcanoes seem to)

The geoengineering approach to combating global warming has come up in a couple of posts, such as here and (less so) here.
posted by TedW at 7:22 AM on March 7, 2012


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