By sailing to the new world, Christopher Columbus may have set off a chain of events that cooled Europe's climate for centuries, claims a new study.
According to Richard Nevle, a geochemist at Stanford University, the European conquest of the Americas decimated the people living there, leaving large areas of cleared land untended.
As a result, threes that filled in this territory pulled billions of tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, diminishing the heat-trapping capacity of the atmosphere and cooling climate.We have a massive reforestation event that's sequestering carbon ... coincident with the European arrival," Science News quoted Nevle as saying.
Nevle, who tried together many different lines of evidence, estimated how much carbon all those new trees would have consumed and found that it was enough to account for most or all of the sudden drop in atmospheric carbon dioxide recorded in Antarctic ice during the 16th and 17th centuries.
The depletion of a key greenhouse gas, in turn, may have kicked off Europe's so-called Little Ice Age, centuries of cooler temperatures that followed the Middle Ages.
Nevle described the consequences of this change on 11th October at the Geological Society of America annual meeting.