Paintings, sunspots and frost fairs: Rethinking the Little Ice Age

April 4, 2017
Analysis of extreme temperatures in the Central England Temperature (CET) thermometer record. Part (b) shows the lowest monthly average in each winter whereas part (c) shows the hottest monthly average in each summer. In both cases blue shows lower temperatures, and red shows higher temperatures than the long-term average. The cold winter months match up very well with the years in which frost fairs were held (vertical mauve lines) or years when the Thames was reported as frozen solid (vertical orange lines). However these years are not usually also associated with colder summers, unless there was a large volcanic eruption (measured from the sulphates that it deposited in polar ice sheets) such as Tambora in 1815. The top panel (a) shows the level of solar activity as seen in sunspot numbers (from telescopic observations and deduced from Carbon-14 stored in tree rings). It can be seen that, contrary to common claims, the Thames did not freeze more often during the Maunder minimum (c.1660-1710). Thames freezing events ceased after the demolition of the old London bridge in 1825 and the installation of the embankments, completed in 1870 (both dates marked with black lines): the faster flow meant that the river no longer froze, even when temperatures fell to values that had previously caused freezing. Credit: M. Lockwood

The whole concept of the 'Little Ice Age' is 'misleading', as the changes were small-scale, seasonal and insignificant compared with present-day global warming, a group of solar and climate scientists argue.

Explanations for the cooling to Earth's climate, thought to have occurred between the 16th and 19th centuries, include low solar activity, volcanic eruptions, human changes to land use and natural climatological change.

But in a new paper in Astronomy & Geophysics, the house journal of the Royal Astronomical Society, Professor Mike Lockwood, of the University of Reading, and his collaborators, note that the temperature shift was smaller than that seen in recent decades resulting from the emission of greenhouse gases, and that although low solar activity may have been one driving factor, it certainly was not the only one.

Professor Lockwood said: "Commentators frequently refer to the Little Ice Age in discussions on climate change. We wanted to carry out a comprehensive study to see just how reliable the evidence is for a cooler climate, how big an impact it really had and how strong the evidence for a solar cause really was.

"On the whole the Little Ice Age was a manageable downturn in climate concentrated in particular regions, even though places like the UK had a larger fraction of cold winters. Our research suggests that there is no single explanation for this, that warm summers continued much as they do today and that not all winters were cold."

"The Hunters in the Snow", Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1565. Credit: Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria

Researchers scrutinised historical records, such as the accounts of 'frost fairs' when the River Thames froze solid, and looked at the paintings from the era, such as the landscapes of Pieter Bruegel the Elder, with 'Hunters in the Snow' depicting a cold winter scene. Both of these are cited in support of the Little Ice Age concept.

From around 1650-1710, and to a lesser extent from 1790-1825, periods respectively known as the Maunder and Dalton Minima, sunspot numbers were unusually low, an indication that the surface of the Sun was slightly cooler. This external influence is often suggested as an explanation for the colder conditions.

The Reading-led team looked at the various pieces of evidence in more detail. They compared direct temperature records and proxy data such as ice records, with the years when the Thames was frozen over (whether or not a frost fair took place), and with the indications of solar activity.

Historical climate change is assessed through a variety of means. The Central England Temperature (CET) dataset tracks temperature from 1659, making it the oldest and longest running meteorological instrumental data sequence in the world. This direct record is supplemented by studies of biological proxies such as tree rings, corals, insect numbers and molluscs, all sensitive to climate change.

The authors draw comparisons with the ice ages proper. Cores taken from Antarctic ice allow to be inferred, by measuring the proportions of deuterium (2H), a heavier atom of hydrogen, and of the heavier oxygen atom 18O, compared with their lighter 'normal' counterparts. It takes more energy to evaporate water with a higher proportion of these atoms, and they are more easily lost from rainfall, before they are deposited in ice found nearer the poles. The changing proportion of these atoms then allows researchers to assess how the temperature has changed over millions of years.

"Haymaking", Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1565. Credit: Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria

From these comparisons, the scientists argue that the description of the period as an Ice Age is misleading, as temperatures in that period fell far less than in a glaciation. During the Little Ice Age (LIA), the average in the northern hemisphere fell by around 0.5 degrees. In contrast, in the most recent major glaciation that came to an end around 12,000 years ago, global temperatures were typically 8 degrees Celsius colder than today.

Frost fairs also seem to be a poor indication of overall climate, as they often did not take place despite the Thames freezing, partly for many reasons including puritanical authorities or safety as lives were lost when the ice melted. The ending of the frost fairs had nothing to do with climate change or solar activity, instead being due to the increased river flow when the original London Bridge was demolished in 1825, and the first Victoria embankment opened in 1870. Both of these prevented the river from freezing completely, despite many subsequent cold winters.

Selective use of art historical evidence appears to reinforce the illusion of a prolonged cold spell. Yet 'Hunters in the Snow', depicting a January scene, is part of a series by Bruegel known as 'The Twelve Months'. Seven of these paintings may have been lost, but 'The Gloomy Day' (February), 'Haymaking' (July), and 'The Return of the Herd' (November) all give no indication of unusually cold conditions. Consistent with this, Lockwood and his team note that even at the height of the LIA period, colder European winters were still accompanied by many warm summers.

For example, 1701 is close to the lowest point of the Little Ice Age, yet in both Paris and London the summer was reported as being unbearably hot and the CET for July that year is the 10th hottest on record, with average temperatures for the month reaching 18.3°C. The year 1676 is the second hottest June on record at 18.0°C, yet it too was in the middle of a run of cold winters. Such high summer temperatures do not fit at all with the name "Little Ice Age".

Much more dramatic variations can result from large volcanic eruptions. Samalas, a volcano which erupted in 1257 in what is now Indonesia, ejected large amounts of dust into the atmosphere, causing a temporary cooling effect. The years between 1570 and 1730, corresponding to the coldest part of the LIA, also saw continuous lower level volcanic activity that may have suppressed temperatures. Volcanic eruptions undoubtedly cause both cold winters and cold summers. One of the clearest examples was the Tambora eruption of July 1815, which caused the next year to be called "the year without a summer".

Professor Lockwood said: "This study provides little solace for the future, as we face the challenge of global warming. Solar activity appears to be declining at present, but any cooling effect that results will be more than offset by the effect of rising carbon dioxide emissions, and provides us with no excuse for inaction."

Explore further: Sun's impact on climate change quantified for first time

More information: Mike Lockwood et al, Frost fairs, sunspots and the Little Ice Age, Astronomy & Geophysics (2017). DOI: 10.1093/astrogeo/atx057

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rderkis
2.6 / 5 (5) Apr 04, 2017
Prof Lockwood and most of the rest of you laughed Al Gore out of (proverbial) existance.
This was taken from a article published in 2000

"But Earth has been warming for more than a century. Has the sun's field been strengthening that long? Yes, according to Michael Lockwood and colleagues at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in England, who published exactly that result in the journal Nature last year. Analyzing instrument measurements taken since 1868, they conclude that the sun's exterior magnetic field has increased by 230 percent since 1901 and by 40 percent since 1964."

So there we have it. Forget the greenhouse gases. If there was warming in the 20th century, it is more likely to have been caused by an observed change in the sun than by any theorised change in radiative forcing from a few trace gases."

Don't get me wrong I believe in global climate change caused by humans. What I laugh at is how most of you just go which ever way the wind of public opinion blows.
rrrander
2.3 / 5 (6) Apr 04, 2017
Lower crop yields, greatly increased death rates. The seething hatred the radical envirokooks have for anything that makes warmer temps seem preferable is evident. They work hard to diminish any data that doesn't agree with their psychosis.
Da Schneib
5 / 5 (3) Apr 04, 2017
G'bye, Little Ice Age. We hardly knew ye.
antigoracle
1 / 5 (6) Apr 04, 2017
The Cult of AGW is again borrowing from that other infamous cult; the Church. If history defies your dogma, then just rewrite it.
jonesdave
5 / 5 (5) Apr 04, 2017
@rderkis;
This was taken from a article published in 2000....


Which article? Link please so we can all read it.
jonesdave
5 / 5 (8) Apr 04, 2017
The Cult of AGW is again borrowing from that other infamous cult; the Church. If history defies your dogma, then just rewrite it.


Nope. It was 'history', now they are looking at it scientifically. There is a difference. For some reason, it appears to me that some decades ago, there were many more snowy days in the north of England where I lived, than there are currently. Is that science? Or just my impression? What I really need is somebody to study the data scientifically to see if I am right or not. Until then, my impression counts for Jack.
Playonwords
3.5 / 5 (11) Apr 04, 2017
Fascinating how the idiot deniers ignore evidence. They also cannot read the graphs.

These clearly show a reduction in the frequency of cold winters and an increase in the frequency of warm summers since 1800 with a marked lack of correlation between that warming and the deniers usual suspects sunspots and volcanic aerosols.

Scientists in universities as well as those working for Shell and Exxon knew AGW was happening back in the 1960s. Deniers OTOH just hate facts.
Shootist
1.9 / 5 (9) Apr 04, 2017
Iceland surrounded by pack ice that doesn't melt for 50 years (ca 1300). trade goods and supplies had to be brought by pack animal over the ice for many miles.
end of 400 years of Viking settlements on Greenland
end of wine production (grapes froze out) beginning of beer production (use grain instead) Scandinavia, British Isles, parts of Northern Europe

winter festival on the Thames
ice skating on the Zuider Zee
dragging cannon across the fully frozen Hudson River at Haarlem Heights on Christmas Eve 1776.

yea just small changes.

gad the leftist obfuscation is yuge
bschott
2 / 5 (4) Apr 04, 2017
Fascinating how the idiot deniers ignore evidence. They also cannot read the graphs.

What a graph shows is directly dependent on your start and end dates, but these are numbers so playing on words will not help you understand this. For instance, if you want to show an acceleration in sea level rise, show a period during which the source data switches from tidal gauges to satellite altimetry (because sticking to the gauges shows the rise is linear). However if you want to show a deceleration in the rate of sea level rise, start at the oceans lowest level during the last ice age, take the total rise divided over the time since the low point, and you get an average rate of rise that is double what we MEASURE today.
We observe that the climate is changing, to deny this would be foolish, but to proclaim it is all CO2 when the suns activity has risen steadily along with the temperatures is also foolish.
There is no black or white in this huge grey area.
Captain Stumpy
3.4 / 5 (10) Apr 04, 2017
but to proclaim it is all CO2 when the suns activity
@bs
we've been through this before:
1- no one is proclaiming it is "all CO2"

2- no one has ever said the sun doesn't have influence either

2a- there is plenty of data showing the suns influence and why scientists are concentrating on a limited number of particulars like CO2

i've linked these here on PO many, many times in the past

if you wish to see more about it, go to google scholar and read the science - do not go to any denier site because that will only validate your bias and support your already distorted misconceptions on this topic
bschott
1 / 5 (3) Apr 04, 2017
no one is proclaiming it is "all CO2"

Responding to the inferred meaning behind:
Fascinating how the idiot deniers ignore evidence.

Other than that thank you once again for echoing my post. Here's you:
2- no one has ever said the sun doesn't have influence either

2a- there is plenty of data showing the suns influence and why scientists are concentrating on a limited number of particulars like CO2

Here's me:
to proclaim it is all CO2 when the suns activity has risen steadily along with the temperatures is also foolish.

The rest of your post is redundant given the above, but I will address one part of it:
do not go to any denier site because that will only validate your bias

I go to the data, not opinion based blogs. Hence why the rest of my response to Playonwords was in regards to data manipulation and one of the techniques used when doing so. Apparently you share my "bias" since your post simply paraphrased mine....
Captain Stumpy
3.7 / 5 (6) Apr 04, 2017
I go to the data, not opinion based blogs
@bs
sorry, but i can prove this false with your historical posts on AGW or climate threads alone where you've produced opinion over science
Apparently you share my "bias" since your post simply paraphrased mine....
i disagree
i don't make up my mind to agree or disagree with anything until there is validation one way or the other - be it medical, climate, astrophysics or otherwise

i can offer opinion, but that is irrelevant (as offered in certain speculations on astrophysics like landing on Mars in conversation with AA_P/TopCat etc)
bschott
2.3 / 5 (6) Apr 04, 2017
sorry, but i can prove this false with your historical posts

Prove it here regarding this thread and the example of data manipulation I used in my first post
i don't make up my mind to agree or disagree with anything until there is validation one way or the other - be it medical, climate, astrophysics or otherwise

You walked into this and every thread with your mind made up, I cite your entire posting history as evidence that you respond more to who posts than what they post. Above you paraphrased my opinion on climate then followed it up by referring to my opinion as biased.
where you've produced opinion over science

You do understand that support of an unvalidated theory is you expressing your opinion I hope...the difference between saying there are black holes, vs. finding one so you can demonstrate the validity of the theory that they exist.

Captain Stumpy
3.7 / 5 (9) Apr 04, 2017
Prove it here...You walked into this and every thread with your mind made up...
@bs
yes, it is made up because of your history of intentional misinformation in an attempt to undermine or denigrate science in general
like
...ask why it is you believe the data and not the actual measurements
https://phys.org/...sea.html

or similar BS in this thread: https://phys.org/...ade.html

i've cautioned you about your source material more than a few times: https://phys.org/...ded.html

http://phys.org/n...ant.html

so long as it says what you want it to say you are OK with the source (like the last link)

so like above, you insert your perspective about graphs in an attempt to make the same argument as the first thread i linked

same argument - different thread - same tactic
2Bcont'd
Captain Stumpy
3.7 / 5 (9) Apr 04, 2017
@bs cont'd
Prove it here regarding this thread
so i have shown that your direct misapplication of knowledge is responsible for your misunderstand what is being said

and i've demonstrated that you're tactic is to push a known fallacious argument in favour of your biased interpretation

i've also shown where you make similar arguments about the measurements or tactics of science

so here are the questions i will posit for you -

your post attacks the graph and posits you can make graphs (or statistics) pretty much say what you want....

My questions: where is the flaw in the graph above and what proof do you have that it's wrong or in any way flawed?

you're intimating that there is a problem with the data and graph with your opinionated divergence and attack in your first post

ok - now prove something is wrong
Captain Stumpy
3.5 / 5 (8) Apr 04, 2017
@bs last
You do understand that support of an unvalidated theory is you expressing your opinion I hope
expression of hope through speculations about plausible scenarios based upon known laws of physics and known science or technology is not the same as supporting an "unvalidated theory"

this is just one more demonstration of your failure to comprehend basics
the difference between saying there are black holes, vs. finding one so you can demonstrate the validity of the theory that they exist
and again, this nails it down as evidence of your inability to comprehend the basics

there is far, far more evidence supporting a black hole than there is of supporting your magnetic cancer fighter machine or the electric universe delusional electric sun BS

the difference is: source material

you use google - i never, ever use google
i use only google scholar
Zzzzzzzz
4.2 / 5 (10) Apr 04, 2017
Delusion is a fragile thing, and must be defended vigorously. This at times turns into trolling science sites for articles that must be attacked, as delusion is a demanding master.
rderkis
4.3 / 5 (3) Apr 04, 2017
envirokooks They work hard to diminish any data that doesn't agree with their psychosis.


Making up words does not seem vary scientific to me. While making up words might be OK in some circles, I see no real scientists or true men of character doing it. Nor does saying people that don't agree with you suffer from psychosis seem scientific or professional.

Back when you thought that global warming was just a recurring natural phenomena you probably said Al Gore suffered from a psychosis.
rderkis
2.3 / 5 (3) Apr 04, 2017
@rderkis;
This was taken from a article published in 2000....


Which article? Link please so we can all read it.


http://www.sepp.o...ec30.htm
Just do a google do google search with a custom range ending in 2001.
Use search key words like "Al Gore" "Michael Lockwood" "Global Warming" etc.

rderkis
not rated yet Apr 04, 2017
infamous cult; the Church.


Wow, what planet are you from? The Church seems pretty famous to one or two people. :-)
SteveS
4.3 / 5 (6) Apr 04, 2017
Iceland surrounded by pack ice that doesn't melt for 50 years (ca 1300). trade goods and supplies had to be brought by pack animal over the ice for many miles.


Wrong again.

fig 2 pg 31

https://www.resea..._Iceland
bschott
1.8 / 5 (5) Apr 04, 2017
@Stump
It is incredible how little thought you put into what you post because of how often you contradict yourself, any intelligent reader can see them clearly. Or how you made three posts about your own topics of conversation and the only one consistent with this thread that you attempted to address you completely botched because at no point did I address THIS graph. And what I said about graphs is entirely accurate here, nobody who knows how to use them would dispute it.
You walked in here, saw a post from me, made a pretty stupid one in response (paid for it as usual) and are now pissed because once again your level of intelligence and ability to stay on topic have been clearly demonstrated as nonexistent. When I pointed out you paraphrased my post in yours you should have just admitted it and walked away instead of throwing your little tantrum. RE: Black holes, if there existence didn't require validation, we wouldn't need to build an instrument for this purpose. (EHT)
Captain Stumpy
4.3 / 5 (6) Apr 04, 2017
@bs
1- you asked for proof - i provided exactly that and showed a historical precedent

2- you're waffling and attempting to distract from your fail
how often you contradict yourself,
LMFAO
at no point did I address THIS graph
except that you make the exact same claims about every graph that says something you don't like, be it climate change data or medicine
(as demonstrated)
RE: Black holes, if there existence didn't require validation, we wouldn't need to build an instrument for this purpose. (EHT)
completely nonsensical
1- all scientific facts require validation

2- i never said they didn't require validation - i said
there is far, far more evidence supporting a black hole than there is of supporting your magnetic cancer fighter machine or...


i provided plenty of evidence for my point

you provided... absolutely nothing

feel free to continue
bschott
1 / 5 (4) Apr 04, 2017
Delusion is a fragile thing, and must be defended vigorously. This at times turns into trolling science sites for articles that must be attacked, as delusion is a demanding master.

...delusion is both a fragile thing AND a demanding master....how is trying to sound intelligent and philosophical working out for ya?
feel free to continue

Na, you're good. I'll let the posts speak for themselves.
Shootist
1 / 5 (4) Apr 05, 2017
Fascinating how the idiot deniers ignore evidence. They also cannot read the graphs.


Climate graphs haven't stopped "lying" since Mann's Hockey Stick.

And the archaeological evidence is overwhelming, the climate has been both warmer and colder and that within historical times. There were Vikings on Greenland for 400 years. They raised Wheat, Barley and Cattle. Some of their settlements are only now coming out of the ice. Wine was a major commodity in Scotland, Scandinavia and Vinland. The abandonment of northern settlements due to climate getting colder is well document. Iceland surrounded by pack ice for 50 years is a known fact. The change from Wine to Beer as the climate chilled is well documented.

You ignore the actuality. The climate changes. Nothing we've seen hasn't happened before. A warmer climate is a better climate for mankind and other critters.

Fortunately America is NOW out of the climate treaty bidness. The CAFE standards are kaput. Huzzah!
rderkis
1 / 5 (1) Apr 06, 2017
It is incredible how little thought you put into what you post because of how often you contradict yourself


Come on smartin up! He is saying UP when you say DOWN. If you say DOWN, he will say UP!
It's not a matter of contradicting himself, it's a matter of contradicting everyone else. He is a TROLL. Get smart and mute/ignore him like I do. And don't be tempted to peek at his posts.
SteveS
5 / 5 (5) Apr 06, 2017
They raised Wheat, Barley and Cattle.

Wrong
"And yet there are men among those who are counted the wealthiest and most prominent who have tried to sow grain as an experiment; but the great majority in that country do not know what bread is,having never seen it."
http://www.archiv...djvu.txt
Wine was a major commodity in Scotland,Scandinavia and Vinland.

Wrong
There is no evidence to back up this claim, besides which grapes do no equate to warmth.
"Some V. riparia vines have been known to withstand temperatures as low as -57 °C"
https://en.wikipe..._riparia
Iceland surrounded by pack ice for 50 years is a known fact.

Wrong
See fig2 page 31
https://www.resea..._Iceland
The change from Wine to Beer as the climate chilled is well documented.

Where?

Da Schneib
5 / 5 (3) Apr 06, 2017
So the so-called "Little Ice Age" turns out to be another piece of trumped up (pun intended) BS invented and promoted by the climate deniers.

Again.

When we actually go look at the real evidence, we find out that it wasn't colder during the summers during this so-called "Little Ice Age," it wasn't consistently colder during the winters either, there wasn't any indication that sunspots had any real effect on the climate, and the strongest influence making it consistently colder when it was present was volcanic eruptions, so they can't have added much CO₂ and made it warmer.

Great stuff.

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