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The Little Ice Age is a series of cooling climate changes that occurred primarily in the Northern Hemisphere from 1300-1850 (with the caveat that experts still cannot agree on the precise timing). The term didn't come into popular usage until 1939 when geologist Francois Matthes stated we were in the midst of a "little ice age", though he was referring to a span of 4,000 years.

Little Ice Age is perhaps a misnomer implying that affected areas experienced deep freezing conditions. The reality was a seesaw of temperature shifts from freezing winters to hot summers; from droughts to torrential downpour across many regions of the globe.

Some highlights:
The Great Famine of 1315-1317 - A series of torrential rains in northern europe coupled with cool temperatures meant grain could not be ripened for harvest (for people or animals). Food prices skyrocketed. People, including the king, starved. Between 10-25% of the population died over the two-year period.
1816, the year without a summer - Freezing temperatures in May of 1816 affected many areas of the globe from the United States to China. Many people froze or starved to death. The cause is currently attributed to the eruption of Mt. Tambora the year before which spewed large amounts of ash into the atmosphere.

The Little Ice Age by Brian Fagan is an okay read for a more in-depth analysis.

Here's Rasputina's video. If you do not want to endure the 15 second ad and don't care about the neat little video, you can just here the song here.
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