|The Little Ice Age in Europe|
|Western Europe experienced a general cooling of the climate between the years 1150 and 1460 and a very cold climate between the years 1560 and 1850 that brought dire consequences to the people. The cooler weather impacted agriculture, health, economics, social strife, and emigration.
Increased glaciation and storms also had devastating affect on those that lived near glaciers and the sea. Near the exact middle (or peak) of the very cold spell (1560 -1850) is the winter of 1708-1709.
Scientists say this was the coldest winter in 500 years. Most of Germany experienced a 4 degree Celsius drop in average temperature during the 1708-09 winter. It is estimated that 6% of the population was lost as a result.
Conditions of the Little Ice Age led to many conditions of social unrest. Conditions were so bad that a priest in central France wrote: "The cold began on January 6, 1709, and lasted in all its rigor until the twenty-fourth. The crops that had been sewn were all completely destroyed... Most of the hens had died of cold, as had the beasts of the stables. When any poultry did survive, their combs were seen to freeze and fall off. Many birds, ducks, partridges, woodcock, and blackbirds died and were found on the roads and on the thick ice and frequent snow. Oaks, ashes, and other valley trees split with the cold. Two thirds of the vines died.... No grape harvest was gathered at all.... I myself did not get enough wine from my vineyard to fill a nutshell." (Ladurie, 1971) In March the poor rioted in several cities to keep the merchants from selling what little wheat they had left.
The winter of 1739 - 40 was also a bad one. After that there was no spring and only a damp, cool summer which had spoiled the wheat harvest. Govenors, and other members of the nobility, at times told the rich to "fire into the middle of them. That's the only way to disperse this riffraff, who want nothing but bread and loot." (Ladurie, 1971)
Much of the above was taken from an article by Scott Mandia of the State University of New York at Suffolk.
If the average January temperature in Munich was -2 degrees Celsius (28 F), a 4 degree Celsius drop would be -6 Celsius (20 F). This is with today's averages. In 1709, they were in the middle of a very cold spell. The temperatures likely averaged about -12 Celsius (10 F) and perhaps lower. The daily highs would be well below freezing for many days.