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The Little Ice Age In The North American Cordillera As Reconstructed From Documentary Sources

2972 words - 12 pages

Earth is a constantly-changing planet. As humans have come to dominate the globe, we have changed the physical landscape to suit our own needs. This idea of change, through time, represents a key concept for the purposes of this thesis. Our present-day climate is not uniform over time, and several oscillations have occurred over the millennia. The “Little Ice Age,” taking place from approximately A.D. 1500 to 1850, was one such oscillation of climate. Furthermore, humanity tends to keep written records of its activities. People record observations of weather, business transactions, extreme situations, and where they have traveled.
It is possible to better understand past changes of ...view middle of the document...

This period of renewed glacial-advance characterized the “cold Little Ice Age climate of about A.D. 1550 to 1850.”
Evidence for the Little Ice Age, and renewed glacial-conditions, has come from all over the world, but not necessarily from all regions at synchronously temporal-resolutions. Matthes drew direct parallels between the climatic conditions prevalent during the LIA in the European Alps, to that of the Sierra Nevada. Several fluctuations occurred during this cold period of glacial advance, and the climatic conditions in Europe during the LIA were not synchronous with the Sierra Nevada glacial moraines Matthes observed. Further LIA evidence was demonstrated when Manley created a temperature curve for central England indicating that regional LIA-temperatures were colder than the present-day.
The LIA can be summarized with three varying scientific perspectives. Lamb stated that from around A.D. 1550 to 1800, most of the world’s “extent of snow and ice on land and sea…attained a maximum as great as, or in most cases, greater than, at any time since the last major ice age.” Grove utilized the term “Little Ice Age” not as a reference to climate, however, but as the most recent period of sustained global glacial-advances. Landsberg referred to the LIA as a “misnomer because continental glaciation did not increase nor, was there any sustained low global temperature.” Landsberg hit the problem of using the “Little Ice Age” term on the head when he stated that the time “interval so designated was not uniformly cold in space or time.”
Synchronous uniformity of abnormally cold-conditions across the globe does not accurately reflect the redefined “Little Ice Age” interval of A.D. 1550 to 1850. The questions to be asked regarding the Little Ice Age then are two-fold. First, was the Little Ice Age a result of “slow orbital-scale cooling?” Or, was the Little Ice Age the “most recent millennial-oscillation of climate?”
Both of these questions have significant implications associated with their yet to be defined answers. If the LIA resulted from slow orbital-cooling, then the Medieval Climatic Anomaly (MCA) may have been “an insignificant blip during an ongoing cooling trend.” On the other hand, if the LIA was the most recent in a “series of distinct millennial oscillations,” then the MCA represents the warm extreme of a millennial-oscillation that then shifted to a cold extreme, ultimately resulting in the LIA.
A way of addressing the two questions posed above would be by conducting a regional study of the climatic conditions prevalent during the LIA. The region of concern for this thesis was the North American Cordillera, including the Intermontane West. One may argue then that the purpose of this thesis was to provide a historical-climatology perspective of the North American Cordillera during the Little Ice Age by conducting a critical narrative-analysis of fur trade and exploration documentary-sources. The...


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