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Author Topic: Are we heading for a Little Ice Age?  (Read 1405 times)

Offline Darkwinter

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Are we heading for a Little Ice Age?
« on: January 17, 2011, 12:05:16 PM »
It’s going to be a long winter for the east coast, according to the 2011 Farmers Almanac.  Perhaps we have been spoiled by the previous mild winters Perhaps the current predictions of returning to cold and precipitous winters are the norm. Or, perhaps, there is something bigger on the horizon.

 

Climate change has been the buzz for twenty plus years now.  Scientists are constantly debating over global warming and global cooling.  While there is no consensus on how or when, one thing is certain.  Climate shifts are a constant.

 

The last major climate shift was called the Little Ice Age.  It was a mildly cooler period and lasted from the 16th to the 19th century.  During that time the resulting weather conditions can be attributed to the death of millions of people.   The climate shift and weather patterns caused massive crop failures across Europe and these crop failures caused the Great Famine of 1315-1317.

 

Famine and malnutrition can also be attributed to the lethality of the Black Death.  Weather was also a contributing factor, as people and rats congregated together to stay warm.  The Bubonic plague ravaged Europe between 1348-1350.  This plague decimated between thirty to sixty percent of Europe’s population.

 

Could the increasing bad winter weather be a sign of the next “little ice age”?  We can debate green house gasses all we want, but looking at the recorded past it is clear to me that the general climate of the Earth will change. 

 

The population of mankind has well exceeded the natural carrying capacity of the earth.  Prior to agriculture, the population of man, being sustained by foraging and hunting was approximately one million people (that is approximately the population of Dallas Texas).  There are many factors that have increased our current population but the main and most important factor is food. A little ice age seems to be as prevalent as pandemic, and possibly has a larger impact.

 

Should climate and weather significantly decrease yields of crops, what will happen to mankind?  How many would perish from famine and malnutrition.  How many diseases would reemerge and become fatal?

 

But, the biggest question is what can we do.  Not, “What can we do to stop climate change”.  The Earth has been covered in ice hundreds of times, and long before the evil automobile was invented.  The question is what can we do to prepare ourselves for climate change.

 

What seeds do we store now, and will they be useful if our agricultural zone shifts?  Can the food forests we are building survive a climatic shift?  Will our current food storage be enough if our growing season is shortened. Can our aquaponics set ups survive in the cold?  Will our livestock thrive in a different climate?  Will a shift in climate effect our business or income stream?  There are many questions to ask, these are just a few.

 

Or should we worry about this at all?

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Offline Roknrandy

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Re: Are we heading for a Little Ice Age?
« Reply #1 on: January 17, 2011, 01:26:08 PM »
Great show on the history channel this weekend about this very subject, The science community is still out. Data points to Global cooling on one side and warming on the other.  :-\

Earth axis tilt and sun spots are what will play havoc on this and 2012 is supposed to be a big sun spot time (Myans not included with this offer)

Ya know, the more I think about it the madder I get.  Our motto, what we believed down in our heart, went something like this "ye though I walk through the Valley of Death we will fear no evil...for we are the baddest mother strawberry pickers in the Valley".

FAILURE TO PLAN ON YOUR PART DOES NOT CONSTITUTE AN EMERGENCY ON MY PART

Offline Darkwinter

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Re: Are we heading for a Little Ice Age?
« Reply #2 on: January 17, 2011, 05:46:43 PM »
I saw that show on Discovery over the weekend, "Little Ice Age, Big Chill".  It really got me thinking.

I am starting my "Food Forest".  An apple tree here.  A grape vine there.  But if the climate shifts, and moves my agricultural zone +or - one, I could have an issue with some of my choices.
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Offline nkawtg

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Re: Are we heading for a Little Ice Age?
« Reply #3 on: January 17, 2011, 06:02:20 PM »
ICE AGE? Oh For Cryin Out Loud I just got used to the myth of Global Warming....

Well maybe Vegas can use a little cooling... :)
Psalm 109:8

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Re: Are we heading for a Little Ice Age?
« Reply #4 on: January 17, 2011, 08:48:57 PM »
I've lived through global cooling in the 70's and now global warming. What next-global just right?

Offline Sister Wolf

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Re: Are we heading for a Little Ice Age?
« Reply #5 on: January 17, 2011, 10:05:09 PM »
The last major climate shift was called the Little Ice Age.  It was a mildly cooler period and lasted from the 16th to the 19th century.  During that time the resulting weather conditions can be attributed to the death of millions of people.   The climate shift and weather patterns caused massive crop failures across Europe and these crop failures caused the Great Famine of 1315-1317.

The Great Famine of 1315-1317 was in the 14th century... 200 years before the supposed Little Ice Age you're talking about.

I'm not trying to push buttons.  Just trying to understand what the crop failures of the 14th century have to do with a mildly cooler period that didn't start for another 200 years.

DW, what ag zone are you in now, just out of curiosity?  I've never worried about a +/- shift in Ag zone before, but is +1 or -1 really a big deal?  Are there things you could do to prepare for it, like build or buy a greenhouse for winter months?  Maybe only buy dwarf fruit trees so that you can put them in a container (columnar apples, grow the grapes in a green house in containers, etc)?



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Offline ChEng

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Re: Are we heading for a Little Ice Age?
« Reply #6 on: January 18, 2011, 07:36:50 PM »
I saw that show on Discovery over the weekend, "Little Ice Age, Big Chill".  It really got me thinking.

I am starting my "Food Forest".  An apple tree here.  A grape vine there.  But if the climate shifts, and moves my agricultural zone +or - one, I could have an issue with some of my choices.

Zones?  Is this what you are talking about - http://www.examiner.com/gardening-in-pittsburgh/understanding-hardiness-zone-maps ?

Do you have any more info about these zones?

Thanks
ChEng
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Offline Darkwinter

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Re: Are we heading for a Little Ice Age?
« Reply #7 on: January 18, 2011, 09:26:02 PM »
The Great Famine of 1315-1317 was in the 14th century... 200 years before the supposed Little Ice Age you're talking about.

I'm not trying to push buttons.  Just trying to understand what the crop failures of the 14th century have to do with a mildly cooler period that didn't start for another 200 years.

DW, what ag zone are you in now, just out of curiosity?  I've never worried about a +/- shift in Ag zone before, but is +1 or -1 really a big deal?  Are there things you could do to prepare for it, like build or buy a greenhouse for winter months?  Maybe only buy dwarf fruit trees so that you can put them in a container (columnar apples, grow the grapes in a green house in containers, etc)?



Sis, and the rest of TSP, I appologize.  I was partially incorrect with the posted information. 

The Great famine did preceed the recognized dates of the Little Ice Age.

The little ice age began after the midevil warm period.The midevil warm period lasted from about 950 - about 1250.  After this date, there was a general cooling in Europe and the great famine occured in this period before the start of the little ice age.  But the great famine was caused by the bad weather and general cooling that was occuring in Europe from the end of the mid evil war period to the begining of the little ice age.  It was a climatic shift that caused the famine.


If there was such a shift in climate again, I think it would effect us severly.  There are very few that are 100% self sufficent.  If we saw large crop failures due to late frosts and heavy rains, what would that do to the food supply?  We as a species are well past the natual carrying capacity.  We cannot survive in our current numbers without agriculture.

As far as a + or -1 ag zone.  I don't know if that would make a difference, but I am planting my food forest to last for the next 50-100 years or so. If I have late blooming plants, they may survive but not produce for me if the frost comes early.  And if I have early blooming, I could have the same issues on the other side.  It might not be an issue at all, but since the food forest will outlast me, I thought it would be something to consider.  My kids have to eat too, and I would like to pass down the backyard bounty.  I will have some dwarf trees in containers, just to have variety, but the trees in the ground will hopefully be a staple.

I am in zone 5 and I get about 15 weeks of frost free weather. From May 11th ish to Oct 21st ish. 

I am not worried that we are going to live the movie The Day After Tomorrow.  That is nuking futs. :)   But as a thought experiment, I really took a look at this climate shift issue.  It would seem logical that if there were periods of generally warmer times and generally cooler times in the past, that they would happen again.  And if a relatively short period of bad weather could be responsible for so many deaths back when almost everyone homesteaded . . . what could it do now that more people live in cities and outside of them.
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Offline Sister Wolf

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Re: Are we heading for a Little Ice Age?
« Reply #8 on: January 18, 2011, 09:52:03 PM »
Okay, I think I get it.  It's kind of like saying thAt we aren't technically in a depression eight now economically even though unemployment and violent crimes and homelessness are dangerously high right now.  The scientists are being anal retentive about when "exactly" the ice age was.

I was thinking that eiher your dates were wrong on one side or the other, or that I had missed something.  :)


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Offline Spaghetti and Sauce

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Re: Are we heading for a Little Ice Age?
« Reply #9 on: January 19, 2011, 07:03:12 AM »
"The last major climate shift was called the Little Ice Age.  It was a mildly cooler period and lasted from the 16th to the 19th century.  During that time the resulting weather conditions can be attributed to the death of millions of people.   The climate shift and weather patterns caused massive crop failures across Europe and these crop failures caused the Great Famine of 1315-1317.

Famine and malnutrition can also be attributed to the lethality of the Black Death.  Weather was also a contributing factor, as people and rats congregated together to stay warm.  The Bubonic plague ravaged Europe between 1348-1350.  This plague decimated between thirty to sixty percent of Europe’s population."


Hello. My university degree was in history and one the of the modules we did was on this subject, so I'd like to contribute  a few things if I may.

The Black Death was indeed a massive disaster which greatly reduced Europe's population, but the subsequent fifty or so years were actually ones of prosperity as the BD "cleaned out" Europe's excess population and freed up a lot of the land which previously had been overburdened. Before the BD the population of Europe had been living on an increasing amount of cereals and had a reduced  protein intake and a decreasingly varied diet. And you're quite right to attribute the great famine to a series of damp, cold summers: but this is partly due to the fact that much of europe was already overpopulated for the agriculture of the time. After the black death more land is available, more forests are re-grown and the wages and diet of the population improves as food becomes more abundant and the survivors are in a stronger position to bargain with landlords for better wages and working conditions. (Resulting in a period of political instability in England such as the famous peasants revolt.)

As an aside, many scholars of the period are increasingly doubtful about the classic rats and bubonic plague explanation for the BD, based on evidence such as the lack of reference to rats in the literature of the period and the structure of granaries which seem not to have had incorporated any precautions against rat deprivations. Like most things though, historians argue about this.

You're quite right to say that a better nourished population might have been better able to withstand the rigours of the black death.

The period of the little ice age is in fact a period of steadily rising population in Europe, hence the pressure for people to emigrate to the America's and Australasia. So while the climate is colder, (frost fairs on the Thames which were common in the 19th century, and haven't happened for many years now, for example) it is demographically speaking, a period of thriving. And we do have to remember that even this period was very warm compared to the last big Ice age which ended around 10,000 years ago.

Personally I take no view on global warming since I'm not really qualified. But I don't think it's any less likely than a new period of cooling. Bill Bryson's (one of your country's finest exports) book "A Short History Of Nearly Everything" has a great section on Ice Ages and climate, as well as being a great book in itself, if anyone would be interested.

Just thought I'd add my two-pennoth. Thanks for reading.  :)
« Last Edit: January 19, 2011, 07:12:48 AM by Spaghetti and Sauce »