GEOG 205 Lecture Notes - Medieval Warm Period, Little Ice Age, Neoglaciation

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21 Mar 2013
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February 25th, 2013: Vulnerability of Past Societies to Climate Change and Legacies of
the “Medieval Warm Period & “Little Ice Age”
still debate towards timing, cause & existence of Medieval Warm Period & Little Ice
Age
archaeological evidence & historical records provide indications of past climate
aren’t stopped by lack of meteorological instruments, can use records of crop
harvests & length of growing season
tax records also provide data
12th & 13th centuries = Medieval Warm Period / Little Optimum
o vineyards in Britain extended 2-5 degrees N & 100-300 m further up hills
o scientists assumed temperature 1-2C higher than today
o same say it dates back to 9th century
o warmer temperatures = sea ice didn’t extend as far south & harbours of
North Atlantic were ice free more often or for longer periods
o conditions facilitated Norse/Viking exploration & settlements in northern
lands (Iceland, Greenland)
o study ice cores & tree rings to find annual records of past climates critical
to study of Medieval Warm Period
o so it was no warmer than last half of 20th century but still warmer than Little
Ice Age
o year could have colder winters & hotter summer but yearly average
temperature could remain the same average annual temperature records
might not reflect climate change
o maybe Medieval warm period limited to certain regions because process
causing climate change spatially restricted OR sensitivity of regions varied
o if no Medieval Warm Period, why did Viking exploration & settlement
expand west? resisting pressure to relinquish powers in Norway & losing
too many battles in Europe to continue exploitation to the south
the Little Ice Age
o colder winters & summer + increased storminess following Medieval Warm
Period
o crops important crop failure due to weather cause increases in prices,
malnutrition, infant mortality & epidemics
o in some areas, caused trigger for witch hunts (people wanted someone to
blame)
o cooling thought to be cause of advances of mountain glaciers so often
referred to as neoglaciation
o requests for tax relief due to disaster damages increased; vineyards in
Britain abandoned
o began between 14th-16th centuries & lasted until 18th-19th centuries
o Viking settlements in Greenland abandoned local Inuit’s adapted &
survived
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Document Summary

February 25th, 2013: vulnerability of past societies to climate change and legacies of the medieval warm period & little ice age still debate towards timing, cause & existence of medieval warm period & little ice. Archaeological evidence & historical records provide indications of past climate. Aren"t stopped by lack of meteorological instruments, can use records of crop harvests & length of growing season tax records also provide data. Resisting pressure to relinquish powers in norway & losing too many battles in europe to continue exploitation to the south the little ice age: colder winters & summer + increased storminess following medieval warm. Volcanoes release ash (dust) into air & block sunlight, cooling air temperatures. When snow falls it collects insoluble dust particles, soluble compounds & water in snow itself. Annual layers of snow accumulate & atmospheric gases fill open pores between snow crystals.

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