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Several causes have been proposed: cyclical lows in solar radiation, heightened volcanic activity, changes in the ocean circulation, variations in Earth's orbit and axial tilt (orbital forcing), inherent variability in global climate, and decreases in the human population.Evidence from mountain glaciers does suggest increased glaciation in a number of widely spread regions outside Europe prior to the twentieth century, including Alaska, New Zealand and Patagonia.Freezing of the Golden Horn and the southern section of the Bosphorus took place in 1622.In 1658, a Swedish army marched across the Great Belt to Denmark to attack Copenhagen.The population of Iceland fell by half, but that may have been caused by skeletal fluorosis after the eruption of Laki in 1783.The Norse colonies in Greenland starved and vanished by the early 15th century, as crops failed and livestock could not be maintained through increasingly harsh winters, but Jared Diamond has suggested they had exceeded the agricultural carrying capacity before then.Crop practices throughout Europe had to be altered to adapt to the shortened, less reliable growing season, and there were many years of dearth and famine (such as the Great Famine of 1315–1317, but that may have been before the Little Ice Age).
At most, there was modest cooling of the Northern Hemisphere during the period.
It states that "when viewed together, the currently available reconstructions indicate generally greater variability in centennial time scale trends over the last 1 kyr than was apparent in the TAR....
The result is a picture of relatively cool conditions in the seventeenth and early nineteenth centuries and warmth in the eleventh and early fifteenth centuries, but the warmest conditions are apparent in the twentieth century.
According to the science historian James Burke, the period inspired such novelties in everyday life as the widespread use of buttons and button-holes, knitting of custom-made undergarments to better cover and insulate the body.
Fireplace hoods were installed to make more efficient use of fires for indoor heating, and enclosed stoves were developed, with early versions often covered with ceramic tiles.
The Little Ice Age, by anthropology professor Brian Fagan of the University of California at Santa Barbara, tells of the plight of European peasants during the 1300 to 1850 chill: famines, hypothermia, bread riots and the rise of despotic leaders brutalizing an increasingly dispirited peasantry.