Little Ice Age

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The Little Ice Age (LIA) was a period of cooling that occurred after the Medieval Warm Period. While not a true ice age, the term was introduced into scientific literature by François E. Matthes in 1939.[1] It is conventionally defined as a period extending from the 16th to the 19th centuries,[2][3][4] though climatologists and historians working with local records no longer expect to agree on either the start or end dates of this period, which varied according to local conditions. It is generally agreed that there were three minima, beginning about 1650, about 1770, and 1850, each separated by intervals of slight warming.[5] The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) describes areas affected by the LIA:

Evidence from mountain glaciers does suggest increased glaciation in a number of widely spread regions outside Europe prior to the 20th century, including Alaska, New Zealand and Patagonia. However, the timing of maximum glacial advances in these regions differs considerably, suggesting that they may represent largely independent regional climate changes, not a globally-synchronous increased glaciation. Thus current evidence does not support globally synchronous periods of anomalous cold or warmth over this time frame, and the conventional terms of "Little Ice Age" and "Medieval Warm Period" appear to have limited utility in describing trends in hemispheric or global mean temperature changes in past centuries... [Viewed] hemispherically, the "Little Ice Age" can only be considered as a modest cooling of the Northern Hemisphere during this period of less than 1°C relative to late 20th century levels.[6]

Several causes have been proposed: cyclical lows in solar radiation, heightened volcanic activity, changes in the ocean circulation, or an inherent variability in global climate.


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