Medieval Warm Period and Ice Age Essay


Records of past clime alteration are necessary to understand the current changing clime and anticipations for the hereafter. These records can potentially supply penetration into contemporary natural clime variableness. Over recent decennaries, there has been increasing involvement in the events known as the Medieval Warm Period ( MWP ), besides known as the Little Climatic Optimum, and the Little Ice Age ( LIA ). There are differing positions sing when both the Little Ice Age and Medieval Warm Period occurred, if they really did happen, the causes of these phenomena and if the two events occurred on a planetary graduated table. Until late, the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age were assumed to hold occurred at a planetary graduated table, yet their effects vary rather dramatically around different parts of the Earth and at different times.

These phenomena have been suggested as periods of important heating and chilling severally, widening 100s of old ages and happening in legion countries across the Earth. The alleged Medieval Warm Period is suggested to hold occurred about between 900 and 1400 AD, while the Little Ice Age is proposed to hold taken topographic point approximately from 1550 to 1850 AD ( Hughes & A ; Diaz, 1994 ; Nesje & A ; Dahl, 2003 ). Having purportedly happened in the more recent yesteryear, albeit while the clime was slightly more variable ( Whyte, 1995 ), these events could give a furtive prevue of what is likely to happen or how the clime system is likely to react to increasing anthropogenetic effects.

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This paper will analyze the probes and findings of literature on the Little Ice Age and Medieval Warm Period, uncovering the contrasting sentiments and conflicting grounds, jobs with the assorted methods of climatic Reconstruction every bit good as foregrounding countries with spreads in the research and what way future research should take. The inquiries of: if, when and where the LIA and MWP occurred, and the theorised causes will be reviewed. Subsequently, the assorted signifiers of methodological analysis normally utilized in the climatic Reconstruction of these two events will be assessed and their benefits and drawbacks considered. Last, future possibilities will be brought frontward and the chief theories noted in this history summarised.

Medieval Warm Period And Little Ice Age: Happening, Causes And Effectss

The LIA and MWP were climatic anomalousnesss that were widespread, about synchronal phenomena with world-wide imprints ( Soon & A ; Baliunas, 2003 ), or were they? There is much difference over whether these phenomenon really occurred ; if so, when and where and to what extent. These two major climatic episodes are agreed by many research workers to hold occurred ( Esper et al. 2005 ), nevertheless, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ( IPCC ) in their 2001 study produced a Reconstruction of past clime in which neither the MWP or LIA were identified. The ulterior IPCC study ( 2007 ) concluded that the MWP was of a heterogenous nature, a statement which was refuted by Esper & A ; Frank ( 2009 ). Nesje & A ; Dahl ( 2003 ) offered another sentiment, proposing that rapid glacial progresss in the eighteenth century were attributed to the North Atlantic Oscillation ( NAO ) and that the asynchronous events during the LIA could be attributed to multi-decadal tendencies in the north-south dipole NAO form. There is no solid understanding in the literature on when the LIA or MWP began or ended. Mann & A ; Jones ( 2003 ) concluded that the MWP extended from 800 to 1400 AD ; O’Hare et Al. ( 2005 ) suggests the MWP lasted from 900 to 1200 AD ; while Hughes and Diaz ( 1994 ) estimated from the 9th to 15th centuries. Rodrigo et Al. ( 1994 ) claims the LIA began in the 1600s and ended in the nineteenth century ; Pfister et Al. ( 1998 ) suggested the LIA occurred from 1300 to 1900 AD ; Bradley et Al. ( 2001 ) puts forward 1550 to 1850 AD.

Scientists and research workers are still developing and make overing theories on the causing of both the Little Ice Age and Medieval Warm Period. Hughes & A ; Diaz ( 1994 ) proposed the impression that solar variableness, volcanic activity and ocean-atmospheric interactions all represented plausible forcing mechanisms for the LIA. O’Hare et Al. ( 2005 ) and Henson ( 2006 ) likewise indicate that from 1650 to 1730, macula Numberss declined about to zero and that the MWP was associated with a letup of volcanic activity and the LIA coincided with higher degrees of volcanic activity. Crowley ( 2000 ) states that from the 14th to mid eighteenth century the volcanic part to decade-scale discrepancy increased to 41-49 %, proposing that volcanic activity was a major contributory factor of the LIA. Additionally, it has been suggested that orbital graduated table forcing, variableness linked to the millennian orbital-seesaw, and anthropogenetic factors may hold besides been causal factors ( Ruddiman, 2008 ).

Medieval Warm Time period

Some surveies have demonstrated that the MWP did non happen at the same time across the Earth ( Hughes & A ; Diaz, 1994 ). While the MWP was associated by and large with increased temperatures in Europe, in other parts it is more strongly associated with drouth ( O’Hare et al., 2005 ; Henson, 2006 ). Esper et Al. ( 2002 ) suggests that the MWP appears to be more temporally variable than the warming tendency of the last century. However, Esper & A ; Frank ( 2009 ) have argued that presently, there is non sufficient widespread, high declaration placeholder informations to resolutely reason on the spacial extent of heat during the MWP. Additionally, Jones et Al. ( 1998 ) concluded that small grounds could be found to back up or reject Medieval warming. Conversely, Hughes & A ; Diaz ( 1994 ) reasoned that grounds presented does n’t back up a planetary MWP ; nevertheless they agree that such a phenomenon could be drawn from high-elevation records. Temperatures in Scandinavia, China, Sierra Nevada, the Canadian Rockies and Tasmania appear to hold been higher during some portion of the MWP than those that occurred until the most recent decennaries of the 20th century ( Hughes & A ; Diaz, 1994 ). It is suggested that temperatures in the higher latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere were about 1?C heater during the MWP than compared to the mid twentieth Century ( O’Hare et al., 2005 ).

Small Ice Age

By and large, the bulk of the literature agrees that a LIA did happen, some proposing it was planetary graduated table phenomenon ( Henson, 2006 ). Ruddiman counters this, reasoning that while the tendency of a MWP to LIA is a suited history for Greenland, Iceland and Northern Europe, it may non depict alterations around the remainder of the Earth. The LIA had ice chest stages that are recorded at assorted sites, specifically in the Northern Hemisphere, nevertheless most do non look to be synchronal or if they were, so merely abruptly in length such as 30 old ages or less. ( Ruddiman, 2008 ; Whyte, 1995 ). The LIA was perchance the coolest three century period, in the Northern Hemisphere, in the full post-glacial ( O’Hare et al., 2005 ). Marked regional variables and available grounds indicates that the LIA was chiefly a Northern Hemisphere phenomenon ( O’Hare et al., 2005 ). Conversely, it is proposed that the LIA was the coldest period globally in 1000s of old ages ( Henson, 2006 ). Fagan ( 2000 ) noted that the LIA was n’t changeless and was marked by “ an irregular teeter of rapid clime displacements, driven by complex and still small understood interactions between the ambiance and the ocean ”. During the LIA, hot, dry summers and mild winters did happen, nevertheless these milder intervals happened at a significantly lower frequence than in more recent times ( O’Hare et al., 2005 ). It is suggested that mean planetary temperatures dropped by 0.5?C during the LIA with a lessening of around 1.3?C in European winters, compared to the early twentieth Century ( O’Hare et al., 2005 ). Ruddiman ( 2008 ) concurs, claiming that Reconstructions of Northern Hemisphere temperatures during the LIA were well cooler than during the last century.


Assorted beginnings of grounds are utilized to back up or invalidate the happening of the MWP and LIA. Methods used to measure these events can include: historical records, ice nucleuss, glacial-geological grounds, and dullard holes. Documentary grounds has shown harvests being planted and maintained father north and at higher lifts in the MWP than in some parts of the twentieth century every bit good as the enlargement of colonies ( Hughes & A ; Diaz, 1994 ; O’Hare et al., 2005 ). The building of a wooden aqueduct across the vale below the Grosser Aletsch Glacier in about 1200 AD indicates warmer conditions across the Swiss Alps ( Kininmonth, 2004 ). Ice nucleus grounds has indicated above norm isotope O 18 degrees at the terminal of the first millenary A.D. and the early centuries of the 2nd millenary A.D., at sites near to 3000m lift or higher, bespeaking a warm period ( Hughes & A ; Diaz, 1994 ). Glacial-geological grounds has demonstrated montane glacier progresss in Europe before AD 900 and after 1250 AD, a deficiency of progresss in between, every bit good as grounds of considerable glacier retreats between 900 and 1250 AD in the Canadian Rockies and European Alps ( Hughes & A ; Diaz, 1994 ). Advancing mountain glaciers around the Earth ( excepting Antarctica ) reached their maximal extent around 1860 AD and farther grounds suggests a globally synchronal chilling during the LIA ( Kininmonth, 2004 ). Borehole temperature grounds has revealed a fluctuation in the Greenland profile which matches the timing of the alteration from the MWP to the LIA ( Kininmonth, 2004 ). Additionally, Continental boreholes from around the Earth indicate that 500-1000 old ages ago, temperatures were significantly warmer and that about 200 old ages ago, temperatures were significantly cooler ( Kininmonth, 2004 ).

Other methods used to measure the MWP and LIA can include tree rings and deposits every bit good as other proxy informations. Tree pealing grounds has demonstrated that there was an increased inclination toward cold conditions in the early and mid seventeenth century and a warm period sometime between the mid 12th to early 14th centuries ( Hughes & A ; Diaz, 1994 ; ) Furthermore, norms of tree pealing chronologies support the big scale happening of the MWP over the Northern hemisphere extratropics ( Esper et al., 2002 ). Tree pealing information has besides revealed that the MWP in the Northern Hemisphere extratropics may hold begun in the early 900s, with the warmest period between 950-1045 ( Esper et al., 2002 ; Briffa, 2003 ). Evidence from sediment stratigraphy, the species composings of fossil diatom and midge gatherings has shown that in Lake Naivash ( Kenya ) lake degrees and salt fluctuations in 1000 to 1270 AD were significantly direr than today, while between 1270 to 1850 AD they were significantly wetter, matching to the MWP and LIA severally ( Pittock, 2005 ; Verschuren et al., 2000 ).

Sediment nucleuss from the underside of a swallow hole located in Belize show that there was a long ?18O depression during the Medieval Warm Period from 1000-1400 AD, and a ?18O high around 1500 AD, stand foring the Little Ice Age ( Gischler et al., 2008 ). Henson ( 2006 ) comments that the Mayans abandoned metropoliss between 750 and 950 AD ; deposits examined in the nearby Caribbean indicate strong multi-year drouths during this clip, back uping the claim that the MWP was associated with drouths in the Americas. Lichen aura in the Canadian Arctic show an interval of expanded snow Fieldss during the LIA, connoting ice chest temperatures ( Ruddiman, 2008 ). In parts of the North Western US, Yellowstone Park and cardinal Idaho, pollen and wood coal analyses from deposits reveal greater fire frequence during the MWP and less during the LIA ( Pittock, 2005 ).

Osborn & A ; Briffa ( 2006 ) provide grounds for intervals of important heat in the Northern Hemisphere within the MWP ( 890 to 1170 AD ) and for significantly colder intervals during the LIA ( 1580 to 1850 AD ), utilizing multiple informations beginnings. Beltrami ( 2002 ) concluded that his multiproxy Reconstructions, from tree rings and O isotopes in ice nucleuss, did non uncover a strong signal for the LIA, nevertheless from his geothermic informations, he suggested that there was a cool period between 1500 and 1800 AD. It is apparent from the assorted placeholder informations Reconstructions that a broad scope of consequences can be produced ; possibly this can be attributed to issues with the methods used to measure these proxy informations.

Methods Of Designation

The assorted placeholder variables that are used to measure climes prior to instrumental recording have restrictions, such as spacial, seasonal and timescale limitations ( Jones et al. ( 1998 ). Many of the proxy Reconstructions are limited seasonally, as they are most representative of summer or turning season conditions ( Jones et al., 1998 ). All proxy variables have possible timescale restrictions ( Jones et al., 1998 ). Tree-ring based Reconstructions normally have temporal reproduction alterations, which are frequently ignored ( Esper & A ; Frank, 2009 ). These reproduction alterations can impact the quality of the clime signal and present more random fluctuations ( Esper & A ; Frank, 2009 ; Wigley et al., 1984 ).

Reconstruction periods produced from ice nucleuss, stalagmites or lake deposits can be associated with lowered declaration the farther back in clip the information is used every bit good as reduced dating control ( Blass et al., 2007 ; Esper & A ; Frank, 2009 ; Fisher et al., 1996 ; Tan et al., 2006 ). Jones et Al. ( 2009 ) states that the traditional method of spacial standardization of the isotopic thermometer may be unsuitable in analyses of clip series of ice-core isotope informations and may change theoretical accounts. Changes in ice sheet lift and in climatic conditions upstream of an ice-core drill site can present non-climatic prejudices in isotopic series ( Jones et al., 2009 ). Documentary information is besides under examination as the grounds procured from them can be biased or over exaggerated by the individual who recorded it, that is, the information can be subjective ( Jones et al., 1998 ; Hughes & A ; Diaz, 1994 ). The usage of historical paperss is limited to parts with long-written histories ( Jones et al., 2009 ). As the above statements suggest, there are a figure of debatable issues related to proxy informations and climatic Reconstruction.

Restrictions And Areas For Further Research

Most research seems to be biased towards the northern hemisphere or current planetary heating. Ruddiman ( 2008 ) states that really big uncertainnesss related to sparse records make it hard to back up the happening of a MWP followed by the LIA. Reports produced by the IPCC seem to be biased towards the thought of Global Warming and the Greenhouse consequence, their informations, while being contradicted by legion surveies ( Briffa & A ; Osborn, 2002 ; Esper & A ; Frank, 2009 ; Kininmonth, 2004 ; McIntyre & A ; McKitrick, 2003 ), is supportive of a steep rise in temperature in the 20th century. Datas used in some surveies has been instead outdated, for illustration, Nesje & A ; Dahl ( 2003 ) used informations from 1977 and 1974. Kininmonth ( 2004 ) and Pittock ( 2005 ) remark that the MWP and LIA have widespread certification for the European North Atlantic part, but to a lesser extent elsewhere. The bulk of the information seems to be geographically limited to these countries.

Data spareness and low reproduction is a job before about 1200 AD ( Esper & A ; Frank, 2009 ). Mann et Al. ( 2003 ) stated that it is still a challenge to cut down uncertainnesss and decently synthesise planetary agencies in relation to past climes. As noted by Briffa & A ; Osborn ( 2002 ), more Reconstructions need to be produced from improved placeholder records to make a elaborate assembly of temperatures and climes for the past 1000 old ages. It has been suggested that incorporate analyses might supply penetration into past clime alterations and that there is a demand to compare consequences from many climatic Reconstructions to obtain an accurate appraisal of clime ( Beltrami, 2002 ). However, Soon and Baliunas ( 2003 ) suggested that due to the different nature of the placeholder data the consequences of each can non be combined into a planetary quantitative synthesis. Further research should try to develop the figure of high-quality records for every bit much of the last 2000 old ages as possible ( Hughes & A ; Diaz, 1994 ).


In decision the happening, timing, extent, causes and effects of the MWP and the LIA are still being debated amongst research workers. Although plausible theories have been proposed, the conclusive grounds to back up these theories is missing, and more informations aggregation on a planetary graduated table is required. Current placeholder informations methods need to be improved upon and their limitations taken into history when construing consequences and doing decisions. Future research should concentrate on developing accurate buildings of past clime instead than concentrating entirely on the MWP and LIA.


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