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Black soot killed the Little Ice Age

September 04, 2013

Black soot killed the Little Ice Age

There is a long-standing scientific debate about why the Alps glaciers began to retreat in the 1860s.

Scientists are now blaming black soot for the mid-1800s Alps glacier retreat. The soot, or black carbon, was sent into the air by the rapidly industrializing Europe between 1860 and 1930. The new report, which was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, may resolve a long-standing scientific debate about why the Alps glaciers began to retreat in the 1860s, years before global temperatures started increasing again.

The period in question is known as the end of the Little Ice Age, and marks when the large Alpine glaciers began retreating at a significant level, an average of nearly 0.6 mile. During the same time period, the temperatures in Europe cooled by nearly 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit. Because common sense says that glaciers retreat, or melt, when temperatures rise, scientists have long struggled with why the Alps glaciers retreated as temperatures cooled.

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