European Mini Ice Age Took Hold in Months, Not Decades

ice on rocks photo

photo: John Brennan via flickr.

While this next piece of research doesn't directly point to future events, it does go to show that serious climate change can happen much more quickly than we tend to think. The European Science Foundation reports that the mini ice age that struck Europe nearly 13,000 years ago took hold in a matter of months, not the ten years or more previously believed:Researchers from the University of Saskatchewan, led by William Paterson, have discovered that the millennia-long mini ice age known to scientists as the Younger Dryas set in very quickly, leading to rapidly falling European temperatures and spreading ice sheets.

Bursting Glacial Lake Set It Off
The new research doesn't change the cause of the event -- the rapid influx of freshwater into the North Atlantic and Arctic oceans, caused by the bursting of a glacial lake in North America bigger than the Great Lakes combined, leading to a halt in the North Atlantic circulation.

Quicker to Start, Slower to End
Rather, Patterson and colleagues examined mud cores take from Lough Monreagh in Ireland and found that "lake productivity stopped over the course of just a few years."

What's more, at the end of the period, the mud cores show that the lake took centuries to recover, not the decade or so indicated by examining ice cores.

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