Monday, March 06, 2006

The Plague Caused the Little Ice Age?

Via BBC News, from researchers in the Netherlands comes a new theory of the cause of the "Little Ice Age" responsible for putting Europe into a deep freeze (much colder than average winters) for 300 years (killing off all descendants of Viking colonists in Greenland). The new theory claims that the Bubonic Plague was responsible. How did that work?

Well, the Bubonic Plague swept through Europe in the 14th century killing by some estimates 1/3 of the population of Europe. As many as 200 million deaths were due to the plague. Because of this devastation, many farms in Europe fell idle, lacking the manpower to keep them in production. Trees sprung up where there was once plowed fields, and the resulting reverse greenhouse effect (too many plants taking carbon dioxide out of the air) caused a general cooling, resulting in the little ice age.


Blogger Kyle McCullough said...

I find that one hard to believe.

10:55 PM  
Blogger Daryl McCullough said...

Which part? That the Bubonic Plague led to a huge increase in the number of trees in Europe, or that the increase in trees led to cooler than usual temperatures?

9:03 AM  
Blogger Kyle McCullough said...

For one thing, it seems that would be self-correcting. Cooler temperatures would tend to cause the people of Europe to burn more wood to keep themselves warm.

Also, pre-fertilizers, fields tended to deminish in productivity, causing farmers to constantly need new fields. I would expect that even a 25% population drop would only slow the pace of deforrestation, not actually lead to substantial re-forrestation.

Finally, that drop in population in Europe would have been offset by population growth elsewhere. I am especially thinking of North America, where a common hunting practice was to set fire to the woods to flush out game. But there was also continued deforrestation in other parts of the world, even if the population was stable or declining.

11:29 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home