Ending of the Little Ice Age
    According to most experts, the Little Ice Age came to an end following the glacial maxima that occurred across the world during the late 1800’s.  Glaciers in Europe began a general phase of retreat in the 1860’s.  Glaciers in Canada reached their maximum in the late 1880’s (Aber, 2008).  The exact end to the Little Ice Age is hard to mark to the year, but most agree that the end is marked by the warm period that occurred in the early 1900’s.
    One group of scientists who attribute Little Ice Age conditions to atmospheric circulation patterns suggest that we might still be in the Little Ice Age, or at least we are, to this day, feeling its effects.  Ice core records and deposits of sea salt species were used by Kreutz, 1997 to identify atmospheric circulation patterns.  Based on his research, a drastic atmospheric change occurred around 1400. While most agree the Little Ice Age did not start until about 100 years later, these atmospheric patterns persist even today.  Many of the ice cores sampled have sea salt levels that are still within range of sea salt levels found in the ice cores during the height of the Little Ice Age.
The figure above illustrates estimated temperatures for the last 1000 years.  The rapid cooling that occurred in the late 1400’s can be seen, along with below normal temperatures up to the early 1900’s.  Illustration from Mann, 1999.
    Debate rages about the cause of warming near the end of the Little Ice Age.  There were intense warm periods in the early 1800’s.  Those warm periods were disrupted by severe, brief cold spells like that 1837-1838.  This cold spell was marked by ice link that formed between Norway and the Northern tip of Denmark (Fagan, 2000).  The overall trend since the late 1800’s has been an increase in temperature, as can be seen in the figure above.  Many attribute this trend to humans influence on the environment.  The suggested cause of this warming trend is an increase in atmospheric CO2.  There are many suggested causes for this increase.  Burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, release of greenhouse gases from different agricultural processes are all possibilities for the increase in CO2.
Welcome            Introduction            Causes           Ending           Summary            References
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