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Little Ice Age -- Arctic -- Summary
What does modern research reveal about the climate of the Arctic over the course of the Little Ice Age and the subsequent transition to current conditions?  The following studies provide a good picture of what has likely transpired there over this period.

Dahl-Jensen et al. (1998) developed a temperature history of the Greenland Ice Sheet over the past 50,000 years from temperatures reconstructed from two sets of borehole data.  Relative to the present, temperatures during the Little Ice Age were found by this technique to be 0.5-0.7C cooler.  Following this last major climate anomaly, Dahl-Jensen et al. additionally note that "temperatures reached a maximum around 1930" but "have decreased during the last decades."

Wagner and Melles (2001) analyzed a 3.5-m-long sediment core they retrieved from a lake on an island situated just off Liverpool Land on Greenland's east coast for a number of properties related to the past presence of seabirds, obtaining a 10,000-year record that tells us much about the region's climatic history.  Their data reveal particularly high values of the parameters they measured between about 1100 and 700 years ago, implying an abundance of birds at that time.  Thereafter, however, their data suggest an absence of birds during "a subsequent Little Ice Age," which they note was "the coldest period since the early Holocene in East Greenland."  There were also signs of a "resettlement of seabirds during the last 100 years, indicated by an increase of organic matter in the lake sediment and confirmed by bird observations."  However, values of the most recent biogeochemical measurements are not as great as those that preceded the Little Ice Age, suggesting that the climate of this region has not yet fully recovered from its Little Ice Age frigidity.

Kaplan et al. (2002) studied lake sediment physical-chemical properties, including magnetic susceptibility, density, water content, and biogenic silica and organic matter concentration, to derive a several-thousand-year climatic history of a small lake in southern Greenland.  This record indicates that "the interval from 6000 to 3000 cal yr B.P. was marked by warmth and stability."  Thereafter, however, the climate cooled "until its culmination during the Little Ice Age," which brought about the demise of the Norse colonies in Greenland as a result of what Kaplan et al. describe as "the most environmentally unstable period since deglaciation."

Jiang et al. (2002) analyzed diatom assemblages obtained from a high-resolution sediment core extracted from the seabed of the north Icelandic shelf (6630.09'N, 1904.34'W) to reconstruct a 4600-year history of mean summer sea surface temperature at that location.  The warmest temperature of the record (~8.1C) occurred near its beginning at about 4400 years BP (before present).  Thereafter, the climate cooled, fitfully over the next 1700 years, but more consistently over the final 2700 years.  In fact, most of the data of this final period are well described by a steadily declining linear relationship.  The most dramatic departure from this trend line was centered on about 850 years BP, when the temperature rose by more than 1C above the line describing the long-term downward trend.  This warm interlude, however, soon gave way to the rapid cooling that produced the Little Ice Age, which brought mean summer sea surface temperatures down by about 2.2C from what they were at 850 BP.  Last of all, the most recent data point indicates a modern temperature of only about 6.3C.

Moore et al. (2001) analyzed sediment cores from Donard Lake on Baffin Island in Canada to produce a 1240-year record (from AD 750 to 1990) of average summer temperature for that region.  They observed an abrupt cooling around AD 1375 that represented the onset of the Little Ice Age, which lasted some 400 years in this region.  Warming was then experienced from 1800 to 1900, whereupon temperatures returned to Little Ice Age values until about 1950.  It then warmed for about 20 years, after which temperatures tended to become cooler right up to the end of the record in 1990.

Kasper and Allard (2001) studied ice wedges (a form of ground ice in permafrost regions that deforms and cracks the soil) near Salluit, northern Quebec, developing a qualitative description of climate there over the past 4,000 years.  The Little Ice Age was the coldest period of the entire record, lasting from 1500 to 1900.  Thereafter, it warmed until about 1946, whereupon cold conditions returned for the last half of the 20th century.

Grumet et al. (2001) correlated sea-salt concentrations in an ice core retrieved from the Penny Ice Cap of Baffin Island with monthly data for Baffin Bay spring sea-ice extent over the period 1901-1990, deriving a relationship that was "further supported by decadal and century scale comparison with other paleoclimate records of eastern Arctic climate change over the last 700 years," from which they subsequently constructed a 700-year record of Baffin Bay spring sea-ice extent based on sea-salt concentrations deeper in the ice core.  The results of their study suggested warmer temperatures and much less sea ice at the start of the 20th century.  From about 1930 onward, however, spring sea-ice extent rose significantly.  In fact, the authors say that the last few decades of sea-ice extent values actually "lie within Little Ice Age variability and correspond to instrumental records of lower temperatures in the Eastern Canadian Arctic over the past three decades."

In addition to clearly indicating the presence of the Little Ice Age in the Arctic, these several studies suggest that much of this northernmost part of the globe has actually cooled over the last several decades.  This finding is just the opposite of what is universally predicted by state-of-the-art climate models.  However, it is consistent with real-world temperature measurements from across the entire region, which also depict a cooling over this period (Przybylak, 2000).  Hence, the story from the "top of the world," where CO2-induced global warming is supposed to be most strongly expressed, according to essentially all climate models, is abundantly clear: the predicted warming is just not there.

Dahl-Jensen, D., Mosegaard, K., Gundestrup, N., Clow, G.D., Johnsen, S.J., Hansen, A.W. and Balling, N.  1998.  Past temperatures directly from the Greenland Ice Sheet.  Science 282: 268-271.

Grumet, N.S., Wake, C.P., Mayewski, P.A., Zielinski, G.A., Whitlow, S.I., Koerner, R.M., Fisher, D.A. and Woollett, J.M.  2001.  Variability of sea-ice extent in Baffin Bay over the last millennium.  Climatic Change 49: 129-145.

Jiang, H., Seidenkrantz, M-S., Knudsen, K.L. and Eiriksson, J.  2002.  Late-Holocene summer sea-surface temperatures based on a diatom record from the north Icelandic shelf.  The Holocene 12: 137-147.

Kaplan, M.R., Wolfe, A.P. and Miller, G.H.  2002.  Holocene environmental variability in southern Greenland inferred from lake sediments.  Quaternary Research 58: 149-159.

Kasper, J.N. and Allard, M.  2001.  Late-Holocene climatic changes as detected by the growth and decay of ice wedges on the southern shore of Hudson Strait, northern Quebec, Canada.  The Holocene 11: 563-577.

Moore, J.J., Hughen, K.A., Miller, G.H. and Overpeck, J.T.  2001.  Little Ice Age recorded in summer temperature reconstruction from varved sediments of Donard Lake, Baffin Island, Canada.  Journal of Paleolimnology 25: 503-517.

Przybylak, R.  2000.  Temporal and spatial variation of surface air temperature over the period of instrumental observations in the Arctic.  International Journal of Climatology 20: 587-614.

Wagner, B. and Melles, M.  2001.  A Holocene seabird record from Raffles So sediments, East Greenland, in response to climatic and oceanic changes.  Boreas 30: 228-239.