Little Ice Age

The Little Ice Age (LIA) is the name given to a brief glaciation period that occurred between the 1300s and the mid 1800s. Temperatures dropped an average of 1°C which resulted in significant global glacier advancement.[1] The frigid temperatures sent all of Europe, most of North America, the Andes and New Zealand into an ice age.[2]

Figure 1: A painting of the frozen canals of the Netherlands during the LIA.[2]


Figure 2: Trends displaying the major decreases in solar activity from year 700 to the year 2000.[3]

There is evidence that multiple causes may have resulted in the LIA. The most probable theory is a decrease in solar activity, which is directly related to a decrease in the number of sunspots during this time. As a result, the Earth was receiving less energy from the sun thus lowering temperatures. There were three major decreases in solar activity between 1400 and 1900 known as the Spörer Minimum (1450-1550), the Maunder Minimum (1645-1715) and the Dalton Minimum (1790-1830).[3] Another theory that may have led to the LIA was an increase in volcanic activity. Volcanic activity such as eruptions release massive amounts of aerosols into the atmosphere which, once suspended in the atmosphere for a long period of time, reflect sunlight and ultimately cool Earth’s surface.[4] These factors are an example of natural climate change. However, earth is still in the natural warming process from this glacial advance and many climate change deniers erroneously claim that this is the cause for the current dramatic climate changes. Although natural climate factors have some effect on the current global warming, they are not as drowned out by the human induced factors.

Here is a video from the Denial 101x series explaining the Little Ice Age:

For Further Reading

For further information please see the related pages below:


  1. S. G. Philander, Ed., Encyclopedia of global warming and climate change, vol. 2, 3 vols. Los Angeles: SAGE, 2008. pp. 522.
  2. 2.0 2.1 S. Marshak, Earth: portrait of a planet, 3rd ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 2008. Part VI, pp. 797-798.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Skeptical Science, “A detailed look at the Little Ice Age”, Sept, 2010. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: Mar-16-2018].
  4. B. Allen, “Atmospheric Aerosols: What Are They, and Why Are They So Important?,” NASA, 06-Apr-2015. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 09-Feb-2018].