IELTS Reading Exercise 15

Complete each sentence with the correct ending, A-G.

The Little Ice Age

The Little Ice Age (LIA) was a period of cooling that occurred after the Medieval Warm Period. While it was not a true ice age, the term was introduced into the scientific literature by Franšois E. Matthes in 1939. It has been conventionally defined as a period extending from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries, or alternatively, from about 1350 to about 1850, though climatologists and historians working with local records no longer expect to agree on either the start or end dates of this period, which varied according to local conditions. NASA defines the term as a cold period between AD 1550 and 1850 and notes three particularly cold intervals: one beginning about 1650, another about 1770, and the last in 1850, each separated by intervals of slight warming

The Little Ice Age brought colder winters to parts of Europe and North America. Farms and villages in the Swiss Alps were destroyed by encroaching glaciers during the mid-seventeenth century. Canals and rivers in Great Britain and the Netherlands were frequently frozen deeply enough to support ice skating and winter festivals. The first River Thames frost fair was in 1607 and the last in 1814; changes to the bridges and the addition of an embankment affected the river flow and depth, hence diminishing the possibility of freezes. Freezing of the Golden Horn and the southern section of the Bosphorus took place in 1622. In 1658, a Swedish army marched across the Great Belt to Denmark to attack Copenhagen. The winter of 1794-1795 was particularly harsh, when the French invasion army under Pichegru could march on the frozen rivers of the Netherlands, while the Dutch fleet was fixed in the ice in Den Helder harbour. In the winter of 1780, New York Harbor froze, allowing people to walk from Manhattan to Staten Island. Sea ice surrounding Iceland extended for miles in every direction, closing harbors to shipping.

The population of Iceland fell by half but this was perhaps caused by fluorosis after the eruption of the volcano Laki in 1783. Iceland also suffered failures of cereal crops and people moved away from a grain-based diet. The Norse colonies in Greenland starved and vanished by the early fifteenth century, as crops failed and livestock could not be maintained through increasingly harsh winters, though Jared Diamond noted they had exceeded the agricultural carrying capacity before then. In North America, American Natives formed leagues in response to food shortages. In Lisbon, Portugal, snowstorms were much more frequent than today. One winter in the 17th century experienced eight snowstorms.

Hubert Lamb said that in many years, "snowfall was much heavier than recorded before or since, and the snow lay on the ground for many months longer than it does today." Many springs and summers were cold and wet but with great variability between years and groups of years. Crop practices throughout Europe had to be altered to adapt to the shortened, less reliable growing season and there were many years of dearth and famine (such as the Great Famine of 1315-1317, although this may have been before the LIA proper). According to Elizabeth Ewan, "Famines in France 1693-94, Norway 1695-96 and Sweden 1696-97 claimed roughly 10 percent of the population of each country. In Estonia and Finland in 1696-97, losses have been estimated at a fifth and a third of the national populations, respectively." Viticulture disappeared from some northern regions and storms caused serious flooding and loss of life. Some of these resulted in permanent loss of large areas of land from the Danish, German and Dutch coasts.

The extent of mountain glaciers had been mapped by the late nineteenth century. In the north and the south temperate zones, snowlines (the boundaries separating zones of net accumulation from those of net ablation) were about 100 metres (330 ft) lower than they were in 1975. In Glacier National Park, the last episode of glacier advance came in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. In North America, the early European explorers and settlers reported exceptionally severe winters. For example, according to Lamb, Samuel Champlain reported bearing ice along the shores of Lake Superior in June 1608; both Europeans and indigenous peoples suffered excess mortality in Maine during the winter of 1607-1608 and extreme frost was reported in the Jamestown, Virginia settlement at the same time. The journal of Pierre de Troyes, who led an expedition to James Bay in 1686, recorded that the bay was still littered with so much floating ice that he could hide behind it in his canoe on 1 July.

Antonio Stradivari, the famous violin maker, produced his instruments during the Little Ice Age. The colder climate is proposed to have caused the wood used in his violins to be denser than in warmer periods, contributing to the tone of Stradivari's instruments. According to the science historian James Burke the period inspired such novelties in everyday life as the widespread use of buttons and button-holes, knitting of custom-made undergarments to better cover and insulate the body and installation of fireplace hoods to make more efficient use of fires for indoor heating, as well as the development of the enclosed stove, in early versions often covered with ceramic tiles.

The Little Ice Age by anthropology professor Brian Fagan of the University of California at Santa Barbara tells of the plight of European peasants during the 1300 to 1850 chill: famines, hypothermia, bread riots and the rise of despotic leaders brutalizing an increasingly dispirited peasantry. In the late seventeenth century, writes Fagan, agriculture had dropped off so dramatically, "Alpine villagers lived on bread made from ground nutshells mixed with barley and oat flour." Historian Wolfgang Behringer has linked intensive witch-hunting episodes in Europe to agricultural failures during the Little Ice Age.

Source: Wikipedia

A. military advantage
B. innovative inventions
C. difficult integration
D. precise duration
E. grape growing
F. freezing conditions
G. co-operative bonds


  1. There is some disagreement about the of the Little Ice Age.
  2. The ice was used as a by the Swedes in the mid-seventeenth century.
  3. The natives of North America formed to beat the harsh conditions.
  4. Some northern areas of Europe could no longer support in the chilly climate.
  5. The colder climate was probably responsible, though, for some , especially in fashion and heating.

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