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A Cold Welcome

The Little Ice Age and Europe's Encounter With North America

Sam White

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Early modern Europeans had no reason to doubt Ptolemy's belief that latitude equalled climate. They didn't even have a word for 'climate', using words like 'airs' or 'seasons'. Taking this assumption across the Atlantic was completely misleading.

If look at map see that Britain is in Canadian latitudes; Paris is north of Quebec. So early explorers assumed they cd grow the crops of Italy or Israel on America's eastern seaboard, and that Canada wd have same mild winters as France.

Many people think that the Gulf Stream is responsible for the milder conditions of Western Europe. In fact, it is due to the winds. Air rises in the tropics and spreads north and south. Because of th rotation of the Earth, winds blow mainly west to east. So American westerly winds blow off the interior, giving even the seaboard a continental climate. In Eirope, the westerly winds bring a milder maritime climate.

The mid-1500s to the early 1600s were the height of the Little Ice Age (the hyper-LIA). Not that the climate was unrelentingly cold bit that it was variable and unpredictable. And the new colonies were at their most vulnerable when weather extreme.

(And nobody actaully recognized that they were living in an ice age, or even that it was especially anomalous. Nobody lived long enough, or keep careful enough records,to see the longer term patterns.

May to September the mediterranean has warm dry summers (which brings all the tourists). But then october to April get cool wet winters. But this pattern is found nowhere else in the world. The American SW gets most of its rain in summer, and it is scattered and unpredictable. So Spanish corn rotted in the fields.

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