Thisbook offers a comprehensive assessment of the Little Ice Age and otherclimactic swings, but, before I dwell upon that, here is a historical context. Climate,unlike weather, is viewed as something static; nevertheless, mankind has been exposedto climate change ever since its existence, with at least eight accounted for glacialoccurrences in 730,000 years.
Our precursors adapted to the worldwide but unevenglobal warming since the last great Ice Age came to an end around 10,000 yearsago, with astounding opportunism; they designed tactics to endure ruthless seriesof famines, years of ceaseless rainfall and unacquainted chills; they took on cultivationand animal husbandry, which transformed daily lives and started the world’sfirst civilisations, prior to the dawn of the industrial age, from Egypt andMesopotamia to China in the east and the Americas in the west. However, the costof unexpected climate change was repeatedly enormous, in starvation, illnessand agony. The Little Ice Age started around 1300 and lasted up to mid nineteenth century.Hardly two hundred years ago, Europe saw a cycle of bone-chilling winters;mountain glaciers inhabiting the Swiss Alps were the least in known history, withbundled ice encircling Iceland for most of a year. The climactic episodes ofthe Little Ice Age played more than an instrumental role in moulding the contemporaryworld: these episodes can be credited for setting the critically significantcontext for the currently unrivalled global warming.
The Little Ice Age was notexactly a deep freeze; it was more of a series of uneven fluctuations in briskepisodes of climate changes, few of which stayed on for more than twenty fiveyears, driven by intricate and still obscured interactions between the seas andthe atmosphere. Periods of extremely frosty winters and easterly wind, followedabruptly by years of heavy spring and early summer rains, placid winters, and recurrentAtlantic rainstorms, or to phases of famines, gentler north-easterly winds, andsummer heat waves emerged as a result of these fluctuations. Sincemethodical weather examination commenced only a few centuries ago, in Europeand North America, retracing historical climate changes is exceedingly complex,with records from India and tropical Africa arriving only recently.
For now,before systematic weather-tracking started, only ‘proxy records’ availed from thousandsof tree-ring records from the northern hemisphere and fewer from the southernhemisphere and a growing pool of ice core temperature data obtained from Greenland,Antarctica, the Peruvian Andes among others, supplemented by incoherent data,is all we can rely upon. We are close to understanding disparities in yearlysummer and winter temperature throughout a chunk of the northern hemisphere in600 years.