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Tatiana Schlossberg

A Climate Change Lesson from Scotland's Little Ice Age

Countries will be more resilient if they stick together.

Stick together if you want to survive.

Stick together if you want to survive.

Photographer: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

We’ve heard a lot over the last few years about what Brexit might mean for the future of Britain and the United Kingdom. Rather than prognosticate (enough people have already made enough bad predictions) let’s instead look at what history teaches us about such a divorce might mean in a time of climate crisis.

The place: Scotland. The time: 1695. Already, much of the Northern Hemisphere was shivering its way through the so-called Little Ice Age, which lasted from about 1450 to 1850. The decade from 1695-1705 was the coldest of all, though, according to a recent study in the Journal of Vulcanology and Geothermal Research. In fact, it’s still Scotland’s coldest decade in the last nearly 800 years. The century 1612-1711 is the coldest hundred-year period on record (1911-2010 is the warmest). Looking at rings from centuries-old trees in the Cairngorms in northern Scotland, the researchers and determined that this particular cold spell was caused by a few significant volcanic eruptions in the tropics and Iceland from 1693-1695, and possibly a shift in the North Atlantic/Arctic Oscillation, the atmospheric pressure pattern that affects the climate of the northern hemisphere.