A Possible Man-made Mini-Ice Age?

By: Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary One of the more popular debates that is going on in the circles of archeology and climate change is whether volcanic action in the 15th through 17th centuries may have led to climate change. Some theorize that the climate grew colder because the volcanic ash that had been spread into the atmosphere from Indonesia helped to block out the Sun and therefore create what has been termed a “mini-ice age.” That all says maybe. However, this has not been confirmed in the Americas where during the same period the temperature during the 15th Century was still warm. Maybe Europe was affected but not the Americas. Of course, we have no real written records from the Americas so we cannot confirm nor deny what was going on at that point. Circumstantial evidence shows no mini-ice age in the Americas.

But one thing is intriguing. From the 16th to the 18th centuries the climate did get colder in North America. What is even stranger is that this occurred when the Europeans came to the continent. At that time there were no recorded volcanic explosions nor earthquakes to account for this. Yet the average temperature for this time period declined by three degrees to make winters colder than they were. What could account for this? Another odd circumstance is the fact that according to archeological excavations done along the coasts of North America, there were far more Native American villages and towns in the year 1000 than there were in the year 1600. When the first French and English explorers waded onto the shores of North America they found almost no Native Americans at all. For many archeologists, this sounds too coincidental. What the Europeans did find were many villages that had been abandoned and many skeletal remains of those inhabitants who were left behind. But none of these villages showed any signs of war—only that they had been abandoned quickly.

Theories have abounded why this is so. One new theory is that all of this was actually a man-made event. One of the things that the Europeans had introduced were diseases unknown to the Native Americans. Things like malaria, cholera and typhoid could be spread well beyond any direct contact with Europeans and go well into the hinterland of the North American continent. Some historians estimate that one quarter of all Native Americans were wiped out by such previously unknown diseases. The eastern North American coast would have been especially susceptible given the direct and indirect contact the Native Americans there had with the Europeans. But that does not account for the change in temperature. It is also theorized that as so many Native Americans died agriculture came to a virtual standstill. This started the prairies and the forests to grow out-of-control and cause a huge expanse of North America to grow colder—causing colder weather and more crop failures in other parts of North America. The result was that North America suffered a kind of mini-ice age whereby there were fewer Native Americans and far fewer Native Americans towns and villages.

We know that disease played an important role in how it changed the balance of not only the population composition of North America but changed the very lifestyles of the Native Americans still around at the point of direct contact with European settlers. But could all of this have also created an actual mini-ice age that changed the Americas as well? This is a theory that says maybe, but more study and evidence needs to be found before we can conclude that some man-made phenomenon could have brought such catastrophic changes as to change all of history.

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