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The economic impact of the little ice age


  • Morgan Kelly
  • Cormac Ó Gráda


We investigate by how much the Little Ice Age reduced the harvests on which pre-industrial Europeans relied for survival. We find that weather strongly affected crop yields, but can find little evidence that western Europe experienced long swings or structural breaks in climate. Instead, annual summer temperature reconstructions between the fourteenth and twentieth centuries behave as almost independent draws from a distribution with a constant mean but time varying volatility; while winter temperatures behave similarly until the late nineteenth century when they rise markedly, consistent with anthropogenic global warming. Our results suggest that the existing consensus about a Little Ice Age in western Europe stems from a Slutsky effect, where the standard climatological practice of smoothing data prior to analysis induces spurious cyclicality in uncorrelated data.

Suggested Citation

  • Morgan Kelly & Cormac Ó Gráda, 2010. "The economic impact of the little ice age," Working Papers 201014, School of Economics, University College Dublin.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucn:wpaper:201014

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Diebold, Francis X & Mariano, Roberto S, 2002. "Comparing Predictive Accuracy," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 20(1), pages 134-144, January.
    2. Antonello D'Agostino & Domenico Giannone & Paolo Surico, 2005. "(Un)Predictability and Macroeconomic Stability," Macroeconomics 0510024, EconWPA.
    3. Keane, Michael P & Runkle, David E, 1990. "Testing the Rationality of Price Forecasts: New Evidence from Panel Data," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(4), pages 714-735, September.
    4. Carl S Bonham & Richard H Cohen, 2000. "Testing the Rational Expectations Hypothesis using Survey Data," Working Papers 200007, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Department of Economics.
    5. Patton, Andrew J. & Timmermann, Allan, 2007. "Testing Forecast Optimality Under Unknown Loss," Journal of the American Statistical Association, American Statistical Association, vol. 102, pages 1172-1184, December.
    6. David H. Romer & Christina D. Romer, 2000. "Federal Reserve Information and the Behavior of Interest Rates," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(3), pages 429-457, June.
    7. James H. Stock & Mark W. Watson, 2007. "Why Has U.S. Inflation Become Harder to Forecast?," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 39(s1), pages 3-33, February.
    8. Batchelor, R A, 1990. "All Forecasters Are Equal," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 8(1), pages 143-144, January.
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    Blog mentions

    As found by, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Was There No Little Ice Age?
      by David Stern in Stochastic Trend on 2010-06-10 05:55:00


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    Cited by:

    1. De Vijlder, Nicolas, 2012. "A macroeconomic analysis of the land market in the count of Flanders and the duchy of Brabant. (fifteenth and sixteenth century)," MPRA Paper 39283, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    More about this item


    Europe--Climate--History; Crops and climate--Europe--History; Crops and climate--Economic aspects--Europe;

    JEL classification:

    • N50 - Economic History - - Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment and Extractive Industries - - - General, International, or Comparative

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