BBC: The Little Ice Age and Scotland

Astronomers have reported that the Sun is at its dimmest for almost a century.

Some scientists believe a similar "quiet spell" is connected to a cooling of temperatures in a period of time called the Maunder Minimum.

Also known as the Little Ice Age, it lasted 70 years from 1645 to 1715 and featured The Great Frost which froze the River Thames in London for days.

Interestingly, this period coincided with some of the most dramatic events in Scotland's history.

A king was forced into exile, there was rebellion, famine, an ill-fated Scottish bid to establish a colony in Central America and a sandstorm buried a coastal estate.

The span of 70 years also saw the signing of the Act of Union in 1707 and the unsuccessful Jacobite rising of 1715.

Temperatures in Scotland during the Little Ice Age were 1.5C to 2C cooler than they are today. In the summer, this shortened the growing season and devastated staple crops.

Dr Tony Pollard, director of the Centre for Battlefield Archaeology at the University of Glasgow, said climate change had to be considered among a range of factors that drove spells of unrest and hardship in the 17th and 18th centuries.

He said bouts of depopulation of the Highlands and Islands, which he described as being "on the fringes of climatic optimum at best", could also be connected to extreme weather.

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