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Ice age

20,000 years ago, large parts of Europe were covered with ice and this was called the Ice Age. The Ice spread out from mountainous areas and covered large parts of the land and sea. The ice was up to 4 km thick in places and stopped all wildlife from growing.

There have been five different ice ages over the last three billion years. So much water was sucked up by the expanding ice that the sea level was 75 metres lower.

This meant that it was possible to walk from Indonesia to Australia, from Russia to Japan and from the United Kingdom to Europe. The North Sea was a large forest.

Little Ice Age   1350-1850

From 1350 - 1850, the temperatures were notably cooler all over the world.


Frozen rivers  -  In winter, the river Thames in London froze enough for there to be a fair held on the frozen ice. Horses and carriages could ride up and down the frozen river. Here you can see the frost fair on the River Thames in London. The last frost fair took place in 1814. There has not been enough ice since to hold  a frost fair.

Source: Wikipedia

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warm period

The earth warmed up after the Vikings had gone.


Little ice age

The population of Iceland halved during the little ice age. Can you find out why?

Frozen seas.

environmental geography

Frozen seas  -  Rivers were not the only things to freeze; whole seas froze over too during winter. In 1658, the Swedish army managed to surprise and beat the Danish army by marching over the frozen sea between the two countries. The ice was so thick that they were able to take 9,000 horses with them.

Here the swedish army can be seen crossing the frozen sea between Denmark and Sweden. The action caused such surprise that the Danish army were soundly defeated.


Famines  -  The cold weather led the crops to fail sometimes leading to devastating famines in France in 1693, Norway in 1695 and Sweden in 1696. It is estimated that 10% of the population died as a result of the crop failures. 

Change in crops

Change in crops   -  The cold weather meant that the crops grown also had to be changed. In China, oranges no longer grew as it was too cold. And in Britain, wine was no longer produced.  Wine had been grown in the UK since Roman times but changes in the weather made this no longer viable. In recent decades, vine growing in the UK has made a resurgence as the climate has warmed up again.

Source: Telegraph

Closed harbours

Closed harbours  -  For some countries, the cold winters caused great difficulties. For example, in Iceland, the sea froze all around the country. This meant that no boats could get in or out. This was before the planes were invented and so the country was truly cut off from the rest of the world. The population halved during the little ice age.

Source: Wikipedia

Remember - The climate change that we are experiencing at the moment is not a new phenomenon. We have had climate change in the past, however, these recent changes are caused my man and take the
world to a warm temperature that it has never been before.


The phenomenon of climate change is sometimes mistaken for being a new problem or one that has only occured in modern times but there are well documented changes in our climate that can be observed in history. The most well known examples of these are the ice ages that have occured in historic times. Less well known is the little ice age which took place between 1350 and 1850. Here we look at the little ice age in more detail to help understand how our climate has changed before.
Geography topics for you to learn and enjoy
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