The Little Ice Age

The Little Ice Age

The Little Ice Age

The Little Ice Age

Synopsis

The evidence for the Little Ice Age, the most important fluctuation in global climate in historical times, is most dramatically represented by the advance of mountain glaciers in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and their retreat since about 1850. The effects on the landscape and the daily life of people have been particularly apparent in Norway and the Alps. This major book places an extensive body of material relating to Europe, in the form of documentary evidence of the history of the glaciers, their portrayal in paintings and maps, and measurements made by scientists and others, within a global perspective.

It shows that the glacial history of mountain regions all over the world displays a similar pattern of climatic events. Furthermore, fluctuations on a comparable scale have occurred at intervals of a millennium or two throughout the last ten thousand years since the ice caps of North America and northwest Europe melted away. This is the first scholarly work devoted to the Little Ice Age, by an author whose research experience of the subject has been extensive. This book includes large numbers of maps, diagrams and photographs, many not published elsewhere, and very full bibliographies. It is a definitive work on the subject, and an excellent focus for the work of economic and social historians as well as glaciologists, climatologists, geographers, and specialists in mountain environment.

Excerpt

Since I began to write this book interest in climatic change has greatly increased. the possible importance of climatic instability to mankind is now widely appreciated. Concern for the future has drawn attention not only to the possibility of forecasting but also to the need for a more adequate understanding of past fluctuations. the Little Ice Age of the present millennium is especially relevant here because there is more information to be gathered about it than about earlier periods of a similar length.

It is not possible in the compass of one book to cover all the available literature, and indeed it is increasingly difficult to keep up with it. Even since the text was handed to the publishers important new studies have appeared and others are imminent. It is particularly to be regretted that Friedrich Röthlisberger's major study of Holocene glacier fluctuations 10,000 Jahre Gletschergeschichte der Erde (1986) was not available in time for detailed reference to be made to it in Chapter 10.

The account that follows is likely to be modified and extended as investigations continue. the present coverage is inevitably both uneven and incomplete; in particular the lack of detailed information from Russian, Chinese and Spanish sources must be acknowledged with regret.

This attempt to portray the characteristics, causes and consequences of the Little Ice Age could never have been made without the practical support of my husband or the forbearance of my children.

Spelling and transliteration of foreign names

It has not always been possible to achieve consistency between text and maps. the Icelandic letters thorn (Þ) and eth (ð) are represented in the text by 'th' and 'd'. Both ø and ö are used in Norwegian maps. More than one system of transliteration is commonly used for Chinese and Russian.

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