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Climate Change and the Health of NationsFamines, Fevers, and the Fate of Populations$
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Anthony McMichael

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190262952

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190262952.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 03 August 2021

Little Ice Age Europe, China, and Beyond

Little Ice Age Europe, China, and Beyond

Chapter:
8 (p.174) Little Ice Age Europe, China, and Beyond
Source:
Climate Change and the Health of Nations
Author(s):

Anthony McMichael

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780190262952.003.0013

Pictures of Winter Ice-Fairs on Frozen rivers in seventeenth-century central and northern Europe are familiar. Less well known are the many other consequences— social, environmental, military, political— of the unusually cold period throughout Eurasia that lasted from around 1300 to 1850 C.E. For many it was a time of social instability, food shortages, epidemic outbreaks, impoverishment, and miserable or violent deaths. Climate-related crises helped foment persecutions, armed conflicts, and the overthrow of dynastic rulers. This was the “Little Ice Age,” the name coined by American glaciologist François Matthes in 1939. The cooler conditions that emerged in western Europe from late in the thirteenth century followed a dip of around 1oC in global temperature after a massive volcanic eruption in Indonesia in 1257 that disrupted harvests and caused an increase in epidemic outbreaks throughout Europe. Both the earlier Medieval Warm Period (around 950 to 1250 C.E.) and the Little Ice Age were influenced by multicentury changes in solar activity, reflecting the 2,300-year solar Hallstatt Cycle. During the first 200 years of the Little Ice Age, temperatures fluctuated, with a warm respite of six decades around 1400 C.E., after which cooling prevailed until 1500. The cooler conditions then receded until 1560, after which the climate plunged into a longer, colder second phase. Figure 8.1 Variations in European temperature (relative to twentieth-century average) and in solar activity during 900– 2000 C.E. Several major historical events are shown, as are the two phases of the cooling. Temperature graph adapted from Büntgen et al., “2500 years of European Climate Variability and Human Susceptibility,” Solar activity graph: “Solar cycle,” Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_variation. Permission received from AAAS. There is no consensus on when the Little Ice Age began or ended, but most scholars place it between the thirteenth and nineteenth centuries. The cooling was not confined to Europe; it occurred throughout much of middle- and higher-latitude Eurasia and North America, while in eastern China the temperature fell by around 2°C during 1250– 1350. The climatic changes associated with the Little Ice Age in the northern hemisphere may have been global in scope.

Keywords:   St. Anthony's Fire, Tang Dynasty, Thirty Years War (1618-1648), Voltaire, Yersinia pestis, Yuan Dynasty, cannibalism, ergot poisoning, trophic cascade

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