The Little Ice Age in the North Atlantic Region Part II: Magnitude, Extent, and Importance of the Little Ice Age


Peter Klevberg, Michael J. Oard

Controversy has surrounded the term “Little Ice Age” since its inception in 1939. While some degree of cooling is acknowledged in the Northern Hemisphere in recent centuries, the magnitude, extent, and timing of the Little Ice Age remain controversial. A tendency to downplay both the Little Ice Age and the preceding Medieval Warm Period has accompanied the recent emphasis on climate change in general and global warming in particular. Secular scientists and diluvialists hold different assumptions about natural history, and employ different methodologies in paleoclimatology, resulting in different opinions about future climate change. While inferred past ice ages are entirely speculative, the Little Ice Age is constrained by historical data, providing a unique opportunity to evaluate natural history speculation. Although instrumental records are too brief to allow anything more than calibration of transfer functions for climatic proxy data, these proxy data are particularly good for the North Atlantic region, which also can provide useful geographic conditions for testing predictions of the rapid, postdiluvial ice age model. The first paper in this series provided background for the methods used to study climates of the past. This paper summarizes evidence for past climate change and provides a description of the study area.