Debunking the “Vikings weren’t victims of climate” myth

Guest essay by F.J. Shepherd

greenland-church

Greenland’s Hvalsey Church – the place of the last recorded written record of the Norsemen

Norse Medieval Greenland and Historical Realities

Some people have claimed that Greenland was no warmer 1,000 years ago than it is today. In fact, some have even suggested that it was colder 1,000 years ago. Are such suggestions made to bolster the alleged “unprecedented” warming claim for the past 135 years? Contrary to such claims, history paints a very different picture.

In this essay, I will examine some of the historical facts concerning Greenland starting 1,000 years ago and will then attempt to demonstrate how much warmer Greenland had to be in order to accommodate the history that transpired in this region.

Greenland’s Climate Today

Today, Greenland experiences a polar climate. There should be no dispute about this. The average annual temperature of Greenland sits around -17 degrees C. The only region colder in the world is Antarctica.

Polar climate is divided into two categories: (1) ice cap; and (2) tundra. The majority of Greenland, 80%, is ice capped. The average thickness of this ice cap is about 1.2 miles. Every month of the year has an average temperature below freezing as that is what defines the temperature parameter for the polar ice cap climate.

As for the rest of Greenland, the other 20%, this is the narrow strip of coastland around some of the island. This is the polar tundra category (2) wherein the average monthly temperature of any month does not exceed10 degrees C. I have found a couple of locations on the coast that just barely reach a subpolar classification. The average temperature of July, at these two locations, does exceed 10 degrees C by a fraction of a degree.

Even in the “warm” southern part of Greenland, prime agricultural land and a climate conducive to farming do not exist. Did they exist 1,000 years ago? In part, they had to exist for otherwise, Greenland’s history would be much different.

Greenland Norse History in Brief

We have to start with Iceland that was discovered by the Norwegians and settled by them starting in the 870’s. Starting here is necessary since the Norse Greenlanders came from Iceland.

Please note that Iceland is about 800 miles over the seas from Norway, and that is quite the distance for Norse longships or the knerrir (cargo ships) to travel over a stormy, northern Atlantic ocean. About 25% of the Iceland was covered in forest, for the climate was warm enough to grow trees. It probably had the same subpolar oceanic climate that is has today, or perhaps it was even warmer. The reason why it has few trees now is that they were cleared by the Norsemen to make way for farmland. The Norwegians did what they did best and farmed Iceland. The climate was quite conducive to farming. Within a century, all the good land was taken.

The early settlers came in droves wanting to remove themselves from the control of a growing Norwegian aristocracy under the auspices of an unpopular but powerful monarchy. Thus, the Icelanders were a fiercely independent people and preferred the clan based chieftain political system with its Althing assembly wherein all freemen had the right to give counsel.

Although Greenland is not viewable from Iceland, it did not take long for the Icelanders to learn that there was more land further west. Erik the Red from Iceland explored Greenland and gave it its name. He drew settlers from Iceland to pioneer the southern part of Greenland. Claiming the best land in the south for himself, he became a chieftain. This happened circa AD 985.

Greenland is as far from Iceland as Iceland is from Norway. The Eastern settlement in the south of Greenland is about 800 miles from Iceland. Of the first 25 boats that first set out to settle Greenland, only 14 made the destination. That might give an idea as to how precarious it was to traverse the north Atlantic in the Norse ships. This should also prevent people from suggesting that Iceland supplied the Greenlanders with all their ongoing necessities via ships.

The first Greenlanders brought with them grain seed (probably barley, oats and rye), horses, cattle, pigs, sheep and goats. The wealthier amongst them brought their Irish and Scottish thralls (slaves). They set up a mirror image of the Icelandic system of chieftains and the Althing assembly. More settlers came later from Iceland, and two other settlements were formed: the Middle and the Western.

Greenland on the southern coastal areas throughout the fiords and inlets was well forested at the time – if it was warm enough to have trees, it would have been warm enough to farm. I am quite certain that the Middle and Western settlements were identified as being suitable for farming because they were forested as well.

Greenland Norse settlements lasted about 500 years. For comparison purposes, English-speaking Europeans founded their first permanent North American settlement in Jamestown, Virginia in 1607, and that was just 410 years ago from today.

Greenland Norsemen Society and Culture

When the Greenlanders started to establish their new farmsteads, the Norwegians were going through a transition period from the old Nordic religion to Christianity. Christianity prevailed in time. As Greenland grew in population, the Church took notice and the Diocese of Gardar was established in AD 1124 with its headquarters established in the Eastern settlement. This Diocese maintained a bishop until AD 1378 – a period of 255 years. Priests were sent from Norway to manage the 18 to 19 parish churches established at the various settlements, and a relatively large cathedral was built at Gardar. So too, a Convent and a Monastery were built in the Eastern settlement to draw from the local population.

I have noticed that there has lately been a trend to downplay the population size of the Greenland settlements. The current trend is to estimate that there were no more than 2,500 Norse people in the Greenland settlements at their height. Estimates previously ranged from 5,000 to 10,000. If one simply looks at the statistics for the Christian Church alone and its involvement within the Greenland communities, with a bishop, probably 18 priests and churches, a Convent, a Monastery, a Cathedral, not to mention all of the other religious overhead personnel involved, why would the Church go through all this effort for just a few thousand people?

So far, there have been excavated about 620 Norse farms in the Greenland settlements. The structure of the farm culture in Greenland more than likely followed the traditional Norse setup – a longhouse being the central residence of the farm dwellers with two to three families occupying the house. Some of the adult members of the families may have been related by blood. It is estimated that each farm longhouse would house from 10 to 20 people who worked the farm. By taking just the lower estimate of 10 persons per farm, we have at the height of the Greenland settlements at least 6,000 people. Norse farm families had on average, seven children – three and a half of which survived to adulthood. I do believe that at the height of the Norse Greenland settlements, choosing the higher end of population size is probably closer to the reality that was. I would be inclined to put the estimate closer to a population size from 8,000 to 9,000.

The Phases of Greenland Norse History

I divide the 500-year span of the Greenland Norse settlements into two basic phases. The first phase was from AD 1000 to AD 1300 – the warm time wherein the settlements thrived under a relatively pleasant climate conducive to farming, trade and exploration. The second phase commenced after AD 1300 and ended in the early 1500’s. It comprised a steadily deteriorating and cooling climate wherein the independent spirit of the Greenlanders was just not enough to beat the cold.

I find it amusing to read the many articles written about the “mystery” as to why the Norse Greenland settlements disappeared. A medieval society cannot farm land in a polar climate that Greenland attained over a period of a century or more. To have expected them to adapt to the Inuit way of life, that some have suggested, is rather silly, when they did have an alternative – leave.

What the Western Settlement Reveals about the Changing Climate

The Western settlement was smaller than the Eastern settlement and resided on the west coast of Greenland, 300 miles north of the Eastern settlement. Three churches, one large estate and 95 farms have been excavated in this location. Most of these sites that have been discovered lay under permafrost. A bishop of Greenland travelled there in the mid-14th century and recorded that the settlement was completely abandoned. Therefore, by AD 1350, the Western settlement was gone. That is exactly what one would expect considering that in a cooling climate, the northern community would have been the first one to become no longer viable for farming, and thus, abandoned.

Given the current climate found in where the Western settlement laid, this gives us a clue as to how much warmer this area of Greenland must have been 1,000 years ago. The centre of this Western settlement lies about 40 miles inland, east of the Greenland capital city of Nuuk. We do have a climate scheme for Nuuk:

Table 1. Average Monthly Temperatures in Celsius, 1961-1990, for Nuuk

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
-7.4 -7.8 -8.0 -3.8 0.6 3.9 6.5 6.1 3.3 -0.7 -3.7 -6.2 -1.4

This is a classic polar tundra climate, with maritime moderation. Over this 30-year period for which we have this record, it does snow all months of the year even though it may be in just trace amounts in the summer months. One cannot farm in such a climate, although a greenhouse might come in handy. As an aside, the climate in Nuuk for the past 15 years has been getting cooler than what the table above reflects.

What would it take to make Nuuk (the Western Norse settlement on Greenland) have a suitable climate in which to farm? I found that a minimum rise of 5 degrees C would do the trick:

 

Table 2. Average Monthly Temperatures in Celsius, increased by 5 degrees C for Nuuk

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
-2.4 -2.8 -3.0 1.2 5.6 8.9 11.5 11.1 8.3 4.3 1.3 -1.2 3.6

This is true “climate change.” A 5 degree Celsius rise in temperature would bring Nuuk from a polar tundra climate into a subpolar oceanic category, capable of growing trees, and the planting of crops and raising livestock in an agricultural setting. The subpolar oceanic climate is defined as having the coldest month average temperature not falling below the -3 degrees C mark, and having from one to three months with an average temperature of 10 degrees C or more.

Table 2 gives the temperature scheme as to what I contend the Greenland Western settlement must have had in temperatures, as a minimum, in order to support the large farming community just east of Nuuk for the three centuries it existed. It more than likely was even warmer. Just a rise of 7 degrees C would place Nuuk into an even warmer oceanic climate classification. As for the Greenland Eastern settlement that was 300 miles further south, I believe that it must have been warmer still than the Western settlement.

How could such warmth be possible? More than likely the North Atlantic Drift was strong enough that a part of it drove through the Labrador Sea, the Davis Strait and Baffin Bay, hugging the western coastline of Greenland. The era was part of the Medieval Warm Period, was it not? This map illustrates the scenario.

viking_voyage

It worries me that there are people living today, and allegedly well-educated and intelligent people, who claim that Greenland was as cold if not colder 1,000 years ago, than it is today. I should like to show them the 95 excavated farms at the Western settlement site, many being dug out from under permafrost, and ask for an explanation as to how this could be? Now, how does one cultivate crops in a land of permafrost? Were the Norsemen farmers in the Western settlement growing ice to feed their livestock?

Greenland Hype

There are claims made today by some people giving the impression that one can do anything in Greenland today that the Vikings of old did.

For instance, some have claimed that the “barley is back.” If you look into this matter, you will find that someone claimed they are experimenting with growing barley in Greenland, and that is about it. The growing season is just not long enough still for that kind of crop to grow. It is relatively well established now that the Greenland Norse farmers did grow barley.

Some will point out that hay is now grown in Greenland. Yes, that is true, for it is. In the far south of Greenland, they do grow hay. Hay has a very short growing season and currently in Greenland, the cut hay must be wrapped in plastic right in the fields to keep it from spoiling. That was hardly a technique available for use by Medieval Norsemen. Regardless, most of the feed for Greenland livestock of today has to be shipped in from afar.

So yes, Greenland does have sheep, and so do the polar climates on the Falklands and Grand Terre of the Kerguelen Islands. The Norse settlements of Greenland had horses, cattle, pigs, sheep and goats and they had to be self-sufficient in growing the crops to feed them. There is a big difference here as to the extent and magnitude of Norse Greenlander farming that was done 1,000 years ago as compared to what is being done now, or can be done now for farming.

But does not Greenland have a forest of native trees? Oh yes it does. It is called the Qinngua Valley with native willow, birch, alder and mountain ash trees. The trees can grow to… now hold your breath… to heights of 25 feet. They are probably some of the most scraggly looking trees I have ever seen that could easily be mistaken for simply overgrown bushes. It is still too cold to grow a real tree in Greenland, one that could soar to a “robust” height of 60 feet or more with a trunk around which could not be contained by the hug of one’s arms. It was essential that the Norse Greenlanders had access to an immediate supply of wood to have commenced and maintained their farming settlements for the centuries they lived on the island.

The Demise of the Greenland Norsemen

There is no mystery in the abandonment of Greenland by the Norwegians. No, it was not the Thule attacking them or various pirate raids. However, such events could have taken place, but there is no archaeological evidence to support them. The Black Plague could not have been the culprit either. The Plague hit Iceland in AD 402 and killed at least one-third of its population. By that time, the Greenlanders had been almost completely cut off from any communication with the European world, including Iceland. The Church abandoned Greenland in 1378 out of practicality for no ships could get through the sea ice between Iceland and Greenland safely. The Little Ice Age had no mercy. In essence, Greenland was forgotten, and the remnant simply left whenever they could, or, remained to die from an increasingly hostile climate.

As for the die-hard Greenlanders refusing to leave, their fate was sealed, and unfortunately, the last one did not turn out the lights, but rather, there was no one left to bury him:

“One such stoic was found lying face down on the beach of a fjord in the 1540s by a party of Icelandic seafarers, who like so many sailors before them had been blown off course on their passage to Iceland and wound up in Greenland. The only Norseman they would come across during their stay, he died where he had fallen, dressed in a hood, homespun woolens and seal skins. Nearby lay his knife, ‘bent and much worn and eaten away.’ Moved by their find, the men took it as a memento and carried it with them to show when at last they reached home.”

From Archaeology Online, last paragraph.

168 thoughts on “Debunking the “Vikings weren’t victims of climate” myth

  1. There is a saying in present day Iceland: “If you get lost in the forest in Iceland, stand up and look around.” Trees struggle to grow there.

    • Thanks F.j. Your story sounds like a real life saga.
      While reading it, I thought; here again is what people are willing to subject themselves to in the pursuit of freedom.

      The Iceland to Greenland journey was clearly no piece of cake. Well the naysayers would have to claim it was simply not doable to support their view of the then Greenland climate.

      I’ve never thought of Denmark as being a bastion of oppression, yet clearly some ventured into the unthinkable in search of a freer way of life.

      Thanks.

      G

      • george e.smith wrote:

        >I’ve never thought of Denmark as being a bastion of oppression, yet clearly some ventured into the >unthinkable in search of a freer way of life.

        No Actually the Land-Takers in Iceland an later Greenland were refugees from this guy:

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harald_Fairhair

        King Harald united most of Norway into one country and a lot of local chieftains had no chiefdom’s left.
        So they took land in Iceland as a replacement

        //Lars

      • Well, actually Norway was in a union with Denmark from about 1400 to 1800 trough royal wedding. We call it the four hundred year night due to the systematic oppression. After the Napoleon war we were entered into a “union” with Sweden as war tribute, it was an improvement. It took us another hundred years to maneuver out of that.

        The Norvejun

      • I lived in the Seattle area many years ago, and recall a guy in a t-shirt that read “Half Swede, Half Norwegian…doesn’t get better than that”.

      • Gummy ! Did I get my Danes And Norvejuns scrambled there. Well all you blue eyed chaps look the same to me anyhow. Sorry about the snafu.

        But I do think Svend works for the Danish Department of everything icy. He’s studying glaciers and other ice, in Greenland or even in Antarctica. (from Greenland).

        Satellites can go anywhere these days. Svend gets pictures from all over.

        I’ll take 5 demerits for today.

        g

  2. Olafur Einarsson (1573 – 1659), who lived in Greenland settlements not long before they were completely abandoned, wrote:

    Formerly the earth produced all sorts
    of fruit, plants and roots.
    But now almost nothing grows….

    Then the floods, the lakes and the blue waves
    Brought abundant fish.
    But now hardly one can be seen.
    The misery increases more.
    The same applies to other goods….

    Frost and cold torment people
    The good years are rare.
    If everything should be put in a verse
    Only a few take care of the miserables….

    A first hand writing is considered to be the most reliable historical account. Alas, the alarmists will call him a liar, no doubt.

    • What a well written article.
      Thanks for the time and effort.
      And thanks for the first person account.
      Such a hearty fellow … 86 years.
      A good gene pool.

      • Yes, Knutsesea, a really excellent article. I’m going to refer my sister to it. She can send it to her warmist ‘expert’ tutor at the Open University who tells all his students that Greenland was never very warm

      • The truth spreads slowly as the lie spreads like fire.
        Eventually the fire has no more easy minds to consume and
        the truth catches up to replace the emptiness of the lie.

      • I remember an old Norwegian man whom I had met back in the 1970s up in Siskiyou County California. He was 96 years old at the time. He had given up smoking around his mid 80s. He lived alone in a cabin in the forest around 10 miles outside of town. Friends and family would check up on him, bring him supplies, and make sure that he had no whiskey bottles hidden anywhere. He could drink a quart easily. Some friends would occasionally bring him a bottle. He was a big man, and still mostly fit to where he could split firewood or hike several miles. He was quite a character.

    • Cows! It’s said that the dairy industry consisted of a whopping 22 COWS in 2013! They should have had much more since it’s much hotter today than during the Medieval time. Or maybe it’s too hot now for the cattle! But articles say cattle will soon boom due to a warming climate! I’m getting a headache.

      Progressive Dairy
      The original Viking settler, Eric the Red, landed on the southern coast of the country in 1,000 AD, …….

      Excavations suggest that he had multiple barns with at least 100 cattle in each of them.

      ……Today, only 50,000 people inhabit the island. The dairy industry in its entirety consists of 22 cows. A few of the south-facing slopes grow just enough grass and rye to sustain them, in the absence of cold spells. However, that is changing……

      This did not happen. Avert your eyes.

      Paper – 2012 (PDF)
      Insect fossils and irrigation in medieval Greenland
      …This problem was perhaps most acute at Igaliku, medi-eval Garðar, the farm of the bishop at the head of Einarsfjörður, now Igalikup Kangerlua, where excavations by Poul Nörlund in the 1920s exposed byres with the capacity to hold up to 100 head of cattle (Nörlund 1929)…..

      How come barley is not widely grown in Greenland, but was back in the Medieval time? Why would you attempt to grow barley if you knew it was too cold and your life depended on you getting it right?

      The Economist – 2006
      THE Middle Ages were unusually warm in northern Europe, and it was during that period that the Vikings settled in Greenland. They cultivated land, growing mostly barley. The climate then cooled down, which made the place too chilly for arable farming………The barley is back. Kenneth Hoeth has been growing it, but only as an experiment.
      http://www.economist.com/node/7852916
      ==========
      …..by the ninth century AD, seal hunting had become a very limited portion of a subsistence economy centered on fishing, barley growing, and…
      http://www.geos.ed.ac.uk/~nabo/meetings/glthec/materials/ogilvie/OgilveetalSealsPaper.pdf

    • I’m stumped! It was colder in Greenland back in the Medieval Cold Period. Now back to reality.

      Paper – March 1994
      Jean M. Grove, Roy Switsur
      Glacial geological evidence for the medieval warm period
      ……Dating of organic material closely associated with moraines in many montane regions has reached the point where it is possible to survey available information concerning the timing of the medieval warm period. The results suggest that it was a global event occurring between about 900 and 1250 A.D., possibly interrupted by a minor readvance of ice between about 1050 and 1150 A.D…….

      One of the earlier discoveries was that of wood fragments, which had been buried by the Aletsch Glacier (Oeschger and Rtthlisberger, 1961). It was concluded that the trees had been covered by an ice advance about 1200 A.D., nearer the end of the MWP. Retreat of the tongue during the twentieth century uncovered not only the stumps of trees growing in situ and roots, but also the remains of an irrigation channel, the Oberriederin Bisse, which is recorded as abandoned in 1385 (Kinzl,….
      ————–
      Climate Change, March 1994, Volume 26, Issue 2, pp 143-169
      http://faculty.fgcu.edu/twimberley/EnviroPol/EnviroPhilo/Glacial.pdf
      http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF01092411

      • Let me re-post that again WITH bolding, coz it’s important to note. Mods, you can remove my earlier version if you like.

        Paper – March 1994
        Jean M. Grove, Roy Switsur
        Glacial geological evidence for the medieval warm period
        ……Dating of organic material closely associated with moraines in many montane regions has reached the point where it is possible to survey available information concerning the timing of the medieval warm period. The results suggest that it was a global event occurring between about 900 and 1250 A.D., possibly interrupted by a minor readvance of ice between about 1050 and 1150 A.D…….

        One of the earlier discoveries was that of wood fragments, which had been buried by the Aletsch Glacier (Oeschger and Rtthlisberger, 1961). It was concluded that the trees had been covered by an ice advance about 1200 A.D., nearer the end of the MWP. Retreat of the tongue during the twentieth century uncovered not only the stumps of trees growing in situ and roots, but also the remains of an irrigation channel, the Oberriederin Bisse, which is recorded as abandoned in 1385 (Kinzl,….
        ————–
        Climate Change, March 1994, Volume 26, Issue 2, pp 143-169
        http://faculty.fgcu.edu/twimberley/EnviroPol/EnviroPhilo/Glacial.pdf
        http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF01092411

      • Thanks, Jimbo, very interesting.

        Do you have all these references neatly filed away, or did you search for them just now? If you have a well-organized collection at the ready, have you considered putting it online?

    • This is an extract found after a short internet research re Icelandic agricultural history. I am a sheep and cattle farmer and can assure you sheep are tougher in cold conditions than cattle

      http://axelkrist.com/CAHD/adjproject.html

      “The first volume traces the development of Icelandic farming from its origin in the Norwegian agricultural system and Norwegian viking age society, through to the 18th century. The continuity between the Norwegian system, which itself was a result of 5000 years of development, and the Icelandic agricultural system all the way until 1400 BC is remarkable. Grain production, cattle, iron making and fishing all played a role in Icelandic agriculture just like in Norway. There was a break in the period 1400-1600 as grain growing disappeared along with indigenous iron making, and the proportion of sheep rose precipitiously compared to cattle”

      Just a coincidence?

    • A first hand writing is considered to be the most reliable historical account.

      The other big deal is the discovery of L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland. It corroborates The Saga of the Greenlanders.

      Lots of folks with PhDs are basically illiterate when it comes to anything beyond their narrow fields. Anyone who knows about the Greenland settlement would surely think twice before trying to erase the MWP and LIA. The fact that we apparently have a crop of illiterate PhDs is a strong argument that we should bring back liberal education.

      • Thanks for the link, CB. I wrote and published an op ed article on the Viking settlements in Greenland. My conclusions aligned closely with F.J.’s There are too many lines of evidence based on first hand historical account, trade logs (the Norse kept good records) and archeology to lend any support to this paper. We saw with the Marcott et. al. study that paleo-proxies (what this paper is based upon) can be over 2,000 years off when the authors decide they need to be to support their conclusion.

      • … bring back liberal education.

        What is now done is still called liberal education while including much indoctrination of socialism and progressivism.
        Perhaps a new name is called for.

      • Many years ago when one of my sisters lived in Canada she gave me Farley Mowat’s book “West Viking” telling the story of the Norse push west all the way the America.
        Not having looked at the book in years I thought I’d see if it was still available and had a look on Amazon only to find this in part of the description……..

        Interestingly, their conquests are pertinent to present discussions on supposed human induced global warming. When Erik the Red went to southern Greenland, it was a green land. The Scandinavians could raise sheep and cattle on the grassy pastures. These pastures are now covered by ice. It is colder now than one thousand years ago. Al Gore–the man who discovered the internet–just might have it wrong.

        James Bull

      • John F. Hultquist says:
        January 19, 2016 at 7:53 pm

        What is now done is still called liberal education while including much indoctrination of socialism and progressivism.
        Perhaps a new name is called for.

        I totally agree. We have got to a sad place.

        … the typical product of elite education is “an out-of-touch, entitled little s**t … link

        As the above link points out we have known about the problem for a long time. It’s still getting worse.

    • Magnus Magnusson, the Icelandic scholar and broadcaster, co-authored a translation many years ago ( the ’80 I think ) of the Icelandic “Vinland Saga”. The saga is an account of how Viking explorers found North America. The introduction to this book gave a lengthy, and well cited history of the waxing and waning of the Norse Greenland colony. It was well cited as it often referred to original contemporary documents.

      It is well worth a read.

    • But, without any ability, or is it ‘willingness’ (to debate that is), we will never have a chance to cross examine that ‘trvth’ …

    • Tom Halla
      January 19, 2016 at 1:17 pm

      But Michael Mann has a direct line to revealed TRUTH. Isnt’t that so?

      The ‘truth’ was revealed to Michael Mann, according to Michael Mann.

      Medieval Climatic Optimum – 2002
      Michael E Mann – University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, USA

      It is evident that Europe experienced, on the whole, relatively mild climate conditions during the earliest centuries of the second millennium (i.e., the early Medieval period). Agriculture was possible at higher latitudes (and higher elevations in the mountains) than is currently possible in many regions, and there are numerous anecdotal reports of especially bountiful harvests (e.g., documented yields of grain) throughout Europe during this interval of time. Grapes were grown in England several hundred kilometers north of their current limits of growth, and subtropical flora such as fig trees and olive trees grew in regions of Europe (northern Italy and parts of Germany) well north of their current range. Geological evidence indicates that mountain glaciers throughout Europe retreated substantially at this time, relative to the glacial advances of later centuries (Grove and Switsur, 1994). A host of historical documentary proxy information such as records of frost dates, freezing of water bodies, duration of snowcover, and phenological evidence (e.g., the dates of flowering of plants) indicates that severe winters were less frequent and less extreme at times during the period from about 900 – 1300 AD in central Europe……………………

      Some of the most dramatic evidence for Medieval warmth has been argued to come from Iceland and Greenland (see Ogilvie, 1991). In Greenland, the Norse settlers, arriving around AD 1000, maintained a settlement, raising dairy cattle and sheep. Greenland existed, in effect, as a thriving European colony for several centuries. While a deteriorating climate and the onset of the Little Ice Age are broadly blamed for the demise of these settlements around AD 1400,
      http://www.meteo.psu.edu/holocene/public_html/shared/articles/medclimopt.pdf

      Europe was freezing during the Medieval summers. The following is a load of old garbage. Avert your eyes ladies and gentlemen.

      =========
      EUROPE
      =========

      Paper – C. Pfister et al – 1998
      Winter air temperature variations in western Europe during the Early and High Middle Ages (AD 750–1300)
      ….The rare occurrence of hard winters in the MWP seems to have promoted the cultivation of subtropical trees in the Po valley and even in the Rhine va11ey in Germany, where they are not grown today. This is concluded from several pieces of evidence. The most distinguished witness is St Albertus Magnus who is known as a theologian, philosopher and a natura1 scientist. In his treatise De vegetabilibus (‘On plants’) he describes the trees that are known in the Rhine va11ey. The list includes pomegranates and fig trees ‘which are abundant in Cologne and in parts of the Rhine valley around the town’. The fig trees bore fruits three times a year, except in cold autumns.Z6 Albertus a1so describes the culti-vation of olive trees (Jessen, 1867). A chronicler from the same town reports a freezing of ‘vines, fig and olive trees in Italy, France and Germany’ from the bitter frost in January 1234.z7
      http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.466.4180&rep=rep1&type=pdf

      =========
      GREENLAND
      =========

      Abstract – P. C. Bucklanda – March 1996
      Bioarchaeological and climatological evidence for the fate of Norse farmers in medieval Greenland
      Greenland, far north land of the Atlantic, has often been beyond the limit of European farming settlement. One of its Norse settlements, colonized just before AD 1000, is — astonishingly — not even at the southern tip, but a way up the west coast, the ‘Western Settlement’. Environmental studies show why its occupation came to an end within five centuries, leaving Greenland once more a place of Arctic-adapted hunters.
      http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0003598X00082910
      ——-

      Paper – 2012
      Insect fossils and irrigation in medieval Greenland
      This problem was perhaps most acute at Igaliku, medi-eval Garðar, the farm of the bishop at the head of Einarsfjörður, now Igalikup Kangerlua, where excavations by Poul Nörlund in the 1920s exposed byres with the capacity to hold up to 100 head of cattle (Nörlund 1929).
      http://www.researchgate.net/profile/Eva_Panagiotakopulu/publication/234039939_Irrigation_and_manuring_in_medieval_Greenland/links/0c96052f662c7a1001000000.pdf

      • The cold years around 1234 AD are easy to see on the JG/U sub arctic tree ring study. It looks like the cold wave, likely a gm, started around 1195 AD then lasted for around 60 years before ending. There is a sharp drop at the beginning of that time after which temps recover to average around 15 years later. Then there is renewed cold around 1230 AD which becomes the coldest portion of that cold trend. with around 10 years in a row of below average cold. Then around 1255 AD temps have once again returned to average or above with a strong warm spike showing up around 1275 AD …http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120709092606.htm

      • goldminor

        The cold years around 1234 AD are easy to see on the JG/U sub arctic tree ring study. It looks like the cold wave, likely a gm, started around 1195 AD then lasted for around 60 years before ending.

        Which comes back to showing that the Medieval Warming Period was a long, broad peak of a 1000 year “long cycle” of about 1.15 degrees that CONTINUED to show signs of the 60-70 year short cycle of about .75 degrees amplitude. Across that broad peak of several hundred years, you WILL see local periods of short temperature drops where temps are below their long-term average..

  3. When I read the sagas in my youth, there was not much doubt from historians or researchers about a MWP favourable to Greenland settlement and expeditions westward.

    Quite suddenly, just a few years back, there emerged all kinds of doubt.

    What changed? (Rhetorical, definitely!)

  4. Someone should have explained the satellite drift to the Greenlanders, that would have reassured them there wasn’t a pause in the warming.

  5. Those who left Greenland could have gone west to Vinland.
    In the 1100 it was well known that there was land to the west of Greenland.

  6. Superb post. Archeology trumps dendroclimatology and warmunist mythology every time.
    There is more evidence than noted. Wood remains from trees, cattle bones, church churchyard burials in ground that is now permafrost…

    We need a Greenland barley archeology soundbite to counter the warmunist myths. They will counter it was only local. To which a riposte is, what happened to your polar amplification?

    • An afterthought. The post’s pictured church had a roof. That roof had to have supporting log beams that spanned its length. You can still see where they would have been emplaced. No such trees grow in Greenland today. A potent visual sound bite.

      • @dearime -a reference would be good. Vinland was settled for only a brief period and it is recorded that Leif Eriksson did bring back grapes and timber from Vinland, about 14 years after the first settlement. Timber from Greenland itself would have been the only source for quite a while. Really good timber from Markland or Vinland would have been extremely expensive and supplied intermittently.

  7. They managed to grow grain case closed. They should stop stop arguing. They won’t obviously. But that really should be the end of the matter….

  8. This all amounts to fly over country for the DiCaprios and the Gore.Such misery and truth has no place in the modern world of award winning perception artists.

  9. There is a real good solution to the argument of Greenland temp. Take all of those who feel it was as warm or colder, outfit them with everything a Norse colony ship would carry ,, and drop them off near one of the old settlements. No modern devices. Put military units around them to prevent interference. ( And keep them in.)
    Come back in one year later with crates of champagne to ether celebrate their success or mourn their demise.
    Oh and no T.A.s or students . Just PHDs Such great minds should have no problem adapting

    michael

    • Yes Mike, that could be a new Survivor episode – trying to survive in a polar climate with only medieval technology available. They would freeze to death before they would starve.

      • Actually, Mark Burnett, produce of Survivor, has said that they couldn’t risk people’s lives in cold, which is why every show is in the tropics…perhaps the warmunists should think about that for a minute.

        (Although he also produced a much better show called “Eco Challenge”, which was fairly decent considering the “Eco” part…)

  10. the fact they dig it out of permafrost says it all

    greenland was definitely warmer during the viking settlements. anyone who does try to say otherwise will fail….

    those who say it was not that way needs to learn some basic history from first grade school….

  11. According to the Team, the Vikings were master farmers able to grow barley on glaciers and permafrost and that is why the MWP never existed, as His Manniness will doubtless confirm.

    Sadly, this splendid technology has been lost in the mists of time and is no longer available.

    Just another fairy tale from today’s purveyors of climate science.

  12. The only thing that bothers me is, why didn’t the Norse Greenlanders head south?
    They already knew of Vineland, present day Newfoundland, surely they could have figured out over 500 years that conditions were much better the more south you go.
    Perhaps it was the Indians.

    • That question is a most interesting one, for the Greenlanders knew that Vinland existed and that it was quite warm there. There are stories about the Western settlement of Greenland, which seemed to vacate very abruptly, did in fact head to Vinland. It is probably more a fantasy than anything else, and yet, there are stories about the Beothuk first nations of Newfoundland who are now extinct – they were described as a tall people, some who had fair skin and hair. This should be more the area of the novelist to deal with, but surely it is so rich in speculation and romance.

    • I dare say they very likely did head south. We are talking a period of 400 years, after all.

      The only verifiable settlement is one that only lasted a decade in Newfoundland, before being abandoned due to attacks from natives. Likely there were others, (for butternuts from far further south were found at the Newfoundland site), and likely there were also wandering traders who never settled. The Vikings were not all farmers, after all. One interesting bit of trivia about Greenland is that there were two male graves for every one female grave, suggesting a lot of fellows were “just passing through”, but from where to where?

      400 years is a long time, especially when the history of that time was so badly documented, especially concerning the tribes of northeast Canada and New England. A horrible pandemic wiped out something like 95% of the Massachusetts Tribe, and we hardly know anything about their long history beyond bits gleaned from Dutch and French sources, and some lore mentioned by Puritans. However one bit of Puritan lore is very interesting.

      There was a clan of the Micmac tribe that my Puritan ancestors feared right along with Pirates, and called the “Red Vikings”, because they raided by sea. The first mention of them is from before the Pilgrims even settled, when they raided the Massachusetts Tribe. Apparently they valued sailing ships to such a degree that, when the French wanted to trade for furs, they wanted French ships in trade.

      I have always found it suspicious that a tribe of Native Americans would have such a hunger for sailing vessels, without some reference to an earlier history, perhaps involving Vikings.

      There is an early mention in English records that on May 14, 1602 Bartholomew Gosnold’s crew landed in Maine after two months at sea, and were met by “a Biscay shallop with saile and oars” manned by Micmacs desiring to trade. (It is also stated that the Micmac leader, Messamouet, had been to France, where he was a houseguest of the mayor of Bayonne).

      There are also old reports of large dugouts made from trunks of huge white pines, used by the Indians of Cape Cod who whaled off the coast of New England, and towed the whales ashore, using all parts of the whale, including using the bones for rafters on seaside wigwams. What is really odd is that seemingly similar structures are mentioned as being across the Atlantic, by the Arab geographer Nuzhet al-Mushtaq, way back around the year 1150, (as being discovered by adventurers who explored “beyond the fogs”, west of Lisbon, Portugal.)

      But now we see what happens when you adventure into the world of lore. You can get lost in strange lands and wonderful adventures. When it comes down to the facts, facts, facts that true archaeologists stick to, (bits of actual cloth and bone they can handle), there is no proof anyone ever actually did anything much but stay at home, and that includes the Vikings of Greenland, for 400 years. Hmm.

      • Note: The Micmac leader Messamouet was not aboard the boat that met the English ship, though bad writing on my part makes it sound that way. I was referring to a separate incident.

      • Not in facetious way, do you have some links? It seems more plausible than they went home because the Natives were restless.

  13. Very nice post. It is a common sense post for which there can be no honest refutation. I’ve argued for more historic information, histories, chronicles, papers, literature and paintings in climate science. Why on earth would there be a painting by a British artists depicting children jumping from ice ledges a yard thick from the bank of the Thames onto ice floes in spring breakup? Why have advertisements for the ”Frost Faires” been preserved in museums? Why would Scotland have a thriving wine production? Why is it necessary to ask these questions?

  14. I have noticed that there has lately been a trend to downplay
    the population size of the Greenland settlements.

    This off topic, but earlier today, I ran into what I suspect is a similar downplaying of actual fact.

    Do you remember the Deep Water Horizon oil spill? Of course you do. Do you remember the IXTOC 1 oil spill of 1979? My guess is you don’t. They are very similar and if you Google them you will find that IXTOC 1 spewed oil into the Gulf of Mexico from early June 1979 to late March 1980, nearly ten months, at a rate of, according to Wikipedia, 10 to 30 thousand barrels a day which would average out to 6.0 mm bbls by the time it was finally capped. Deep Water Horizon from April 20th to July 15th 2010 spewed oil at a rate of 62,000 barrels per day and totals to about 5.3 mm bbls. Yet we are told that Deep water Horizon was the largest accidental oil spill ever.

    I don’t believe anything a left-wing environmentalist says until I check it out.

  15. Thank you for an interesting essay article. I am ever proud of my Icelander neighbors here on Washington Island in Lake Michigan. Icelanders are our largest ethnic community, but Scandinavians abound. They came from the sea and the lakes, while the Irish came up the Door County peninsula, the Niagara Escarpment.

    Midwestflyer.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/stavkirke-Washington-island.jpg

  16. I lived for two years in Iceland. It is a strangely exhilarating experience to “live” history not just study it in a book. I stopped by, and photographed at a distance, the farm Drangur (east from Stykkisholmur made famous in the movie “Walter Mitty”) where in the year 950 Eirik Rauthi (Eric the Red) killed someone and fleeing retribution or justice discovered Greenland, then came for settlers. Iceland had intense civil wars; small scale but very intense, for hundreds of years until they exhausted themselves and created a peace that has lasted nearly a thousand years. The last of the Berserks killed each other at a place west from Stykkisholmur, a place called Berserkahraun, in memory of that event. Berserks were the ultimate weapon in clan warfare.

    Snorri Sturluson wrote the sagas in and around the year 1132. I have visited his sod home and hot spring, Snorralaug, north of Reykjavik. While there I checked the temperature of the water, 140 degrees F. Some children asked me, “Hvath heiti?” which is “how hot?” and I said, “hundreth fjortiu” and their eyes got real big, they were thinking 140 C. That pool has been there nearly 900 years and is getting slightly hotter. A few miles away existed a steam vent, a pipe pushed into the ground. The steam was completely invisible (maybe not “steam”) and only became visible some distance above the pipe. I put the bulb of a thermometer over the pipe and the temperature went up so fast it blew the top right off the thermometer (I had two thermometers lucky for me since it was after this I went to Snorralaug).

    The Little Ice Age was devastating to Iceland. Entire fjords froze over making it impossible to go fishing.

    Trees were cut not just for construction but for heating. When it ran out the farm houses were made two stories high with the animals on the first story and their body heat helping to heat the second story.

    For those interested in some of the gritty details from that era, here’s a small book from an Icelandic blogger (the Iceland Weather Report) and journalist: http://www.amazon.com/The-Little-Book-Icelanders-miniature-ebook/dp/B00PEXI6YU

    I have this book as well which seems to be a definitive presentation with some emphasis on geography:
    http://www.midwaybook.com/pages/books/38435/hjalmar-r-bardarson/iceland-a-portrait-of-its-land-and-people
    http://www.amazon.com/Island-Iceland-BARDARSON/dp/B000V5YG9U

  17. Thanks, F.J. Shepherd. This is a magnificent article, so vivid!
    When learning geography in secondary school everyone was confronted by the name “Greenland” and the reality of an enormous, practically uninhabited, frozen white island (“80% is ice capped”).
    I think that the Greenlanders left when it became too cold, or died there.

  18. I have a Danish friend who was born in Greenland, spent his early years there and has since worked there. He also has a degree in archaeology. I asked him about the farms that are in areas now in permafrost, and to him it is uncontroversial. It is just a fact.

  19. Climate scientists do not care one iota about the real history of anything.

    They only care about their CO2 global warming theory.

    We should quit trying to debunk these climate scientist history re-writes. Just call what they are and keep repeating that everywhere

    Global warming theologist re-writes of history.

    They should, in fact, get new names. Theologists.

  20. “Although Greenland is not viewable from Iceland”: are you sure? I’m pretty confident that I’ve read that under favourable conditions part of Greenland is visible from the highest ground in NW Iceland. It’s one of those strange phenomena to do with atmospheric conditions being suitable for “bending” light. Purportedly. Does anyone here know?

    P.S The smallest Iceland/Greenland distance is far less than 800 miles.

    • Yes, directly west of Iceland, Greenland is only 200 miles away. And, it is true under certain conditions, Greenland can be seen from Iceland through mirage; but I read that this is rather rare.

  21. A focused study of Icelandic history would help. latitudes are similar although I suspect there are warmer currents influencing Iceland. Iceland has some of the earliest written history around. The record should be clearly show such temperature shift. Some interesting research for someone :-)

    PS: you can dry meadow hay in Iceland and I suspect Greenland. It has been the main preserved crop for centuries, long before plastic was invented. I have seen it with my own eyes

    • This is an extract found after a short internet research re Icelandic agricultural history. I am a sheep and cattle farmer and can assure you sheep are tougher in cold conditions than cattle

      http://axelkrist.com/CAHD/adjproject.html

      “The first volume traces the development of Icelandic farming from its origin in the Norwegian agricultural system and Norwegian viking age society, through to the 18th century. The continuity between the Norwegian system, which itself was a result of 5000 years of development, and the Icelandic agricultural system all the way until 1400 BC is remarkable. Grain production, cattle, iron making and fishing all played a role in Icelandic agriculture just like in Norway. There was a break in the period 1400-1600 as grain growing disappeared along with indigenous iron making, and the proportion of sheep rose precipitiously compared to cattle”

      Just a coincidence?

  22. “The Church abandoned Greenland in 1378 out of practicality for no ships could get through the sea ice between Iceland and Greenland safely. The Little Ice Age had no mercy.”

    This is nonsense. the LIA didn’t start for another 200 years. 1200 to around 1370 was generally colder in Europe while the Arctic was warmer, and the rapid strong Baffin Island cooling that Moore (2001) notes in 1375 is precisely the same year that NW Europe sees an unusually hot summer, and the warmest decade for nearly 200 years in Europe.

    • Given that the western settlement of Greenland was abandoned by AD 1350, the LIA was well underway for the Greenlanders by that time. No new bishops were appointed for Greenland after AD 1378, although the Diocese still remained in theoretical existence for several decades following. The last official church record we have from Greenland is dated AD 408. It is not nonsense, but historical fact. Even your graph verifies the major cooling going on in the 14th and 15th centuries.

      • The 14th century in the 1300’s, that is still in the warm 1200-1375 Baffin Island period that Moore notes. The graph in fact shows a strong warming later in the 14th and early 15th century just as the Arctic turns cold. Though there is a solar minimum around the 1430’s, that would have been warmer again for the Arctic.

    • The most stark example of the temperature differential between Greenland and Europe is in the 8th century, the warmest part of the MWP for Europe, and the second coldest period for Greenland in the Holocene.

      • I am not that keen on using plagues and the comings and goings of Bishops as annual or decadal temperature proxies.

      • As Dr. Don Easterbrook has pointed out below, according to the Greenland ice core data, the start date of 1300 for major cooling is quite supportable:
        “Oxygen isotope data from the GISP2 Greenland ice core contains definitive temperature data covering the last past 2,000 years with accurate dating from annual dust layers in the ice. The data clearly show the Medieval Warm Period beginning at 900 AD and extending to 1300 AD when temps dropped into the Little Ice Age. The MWP is prominently shown in the ice core data, leaving no doubt that temperatures during the MWP were slightly warmer than at present. So the historical accounts are confirmed by the ice core data.”

      • “Oxygen isotope data from the GISP2 Greenland ice core contains definitive temperature data covering the last past 2,000 years with accurate dating from annual dust layers in the ice.”

        So look at it in the 8th century, and compare it the chart that I posted above, as well as this one below, and look at Europe in the 8th century:

      • I looked at the relevant areas according to the charts you have given. Both confirm the warming and cooling periods that were discussed in the essay concerning Greenland. Nothing that you have provided refutes the essay. Unless, of course, you mistakenly think that Greenland is considered Europe. It is not. It is part of North America.

      • The data clearly show the Medieval Warm Period warmest for Europe in the 8th century, when Greenland was at its second coldest period for the Holocene. The idea that Greenland and European temperatures change largely in unison through the MWP and the LIA is illusory. There were in fact strong cooling episodes in the mid latitude regions in the late 10th and early 11th centuries where that big spike in GISP2 is at around 1000 AD. The cold Dark Ages for Europe ~350-550 AD were during a warmer period in GISP, and the warmer first few centuries AD of the RWP show cooler on GISP. The most profound period of temperature differential between the northern frigid and temperate zones is at around 1200 BC, peak high GISP warmth, and one of the coldest periods for thousands of years in the mid latitudes that collapsed many cultures including the Minoans who it is mistakenly named after.
        Follow this to it’s logical conclusion and you may then understand why claims of Arctic Amplification of global warming in the last two decades are a fallacy, and that increased forcing of the climate can only cool the Arctic region in an inter-glacial climate.

    • ulriclyons,

      Let’s be clear, land temperature and their proxies have little to do with sea ice. Sea ice can be present in areas due to wind, ocean currents, water temperature and air temperature. If there was sea ice blocking the way as the Church stated in their records, then the sea ice was blocking the way. Your charts are irrelevant.
      Please show me how your charts refute the presence of sea ice around those settlements in the years/decades around 1378.

      • If those charts were irrelevant, then so would every other proxy. There is regular Arctic wide temperature variability effecting Greenland temperature simultaneously with sea ice extent at seasonal scales, such as summer 2012, and from annual to inter-decadal scales, the latter being from the influence of the AMO.

      • Ulriclyons, 1:09PM,

        Research charts are not irrelevant. The proxies and reconstructions of climate are very valuable. What is missing is the connection between a fact: “The Church in 1378 gave up trying to replace the bishop of Greenland”, and any scientific reconstruction that we might have today.
        The Church relied on sailors, in wooden sailing ships. When the Church gave up, it was because it was not safe or possible to get to Greenland anymore. It was stating a fact.
        What science needs to do is match a theory or research as is the case with your chart, with a fact. Not the other way around. There were a total of nine bishops on Greenland between 1126 until 1738.
        (See http://www.gcatholic.org/dioceses/former/t0831.htm)
        That is a fact, that your chart can do nothing about. If your research says it was warm, and historical documents says that people were abandoning the place because of sea ice and cold conditions, then your research needs to be refined, not the historical fact tossed aside as inconvenient.

      • You can see the late 14th century warming for Europe on both charts. Greenland cooled simultaneously.

      • ulriclyons 5:01am, 5:04am.

        Perhaps I am wrong, in 1126, maybe these people were still sturdy and filled with Viking strength and aggressiveness. By 1378, they were simple weak sniffling wimps, that ran for cover at the first sight of a snow flake.

        We will never really know. Thanks for the information and the discussion.

  23. > Are such suggestions made to bolster the alleged
    > “unprecedented” warming claim for the past 135 years?
    It seems that warmists need unprecedented warming to ‘prove’ AGW, thus exposing the weakness of their hand-waving claim. Which goes something like this:

    “We know CO2 can absorb IR radiation, so increased levels of CO2 will cause increased warming. It has never been this warm before. So that proves that man-made CO2 is causing this global warming”

    Can anyone cite any other claim in “settled science” which ‘needs’ this kind of assertion: “Theory X-causes-Y must be true because Y never happened before so therefore X must have caused Y”?

  24. Please note that the western settlement was not in Nuuk – it was inland from there. The July mean temperature at Kangerlussuaq nowadays is 10.7°C, not 6.5°C as in Nuuk (source: DMI). A large difference, but the winters are colder. There are some other pieces of misinformation in the main text, but generally it is factual. However, there is quite a lof of nonsense in the comments above both about Iceland and Greenland – the readers are warned.

    • As per the article: “The centre of this Western settlement lies about 40 miles inland, east of the Greenland capital city of Nuuk.” Nuuk was the closest community with a temperature record near enough to where the Western settlement was located. And you are right, where the Western settlement was located, it is currently now much colder than it is in Nuuk. The Western settlement was quite spread out. I estimate that it covered an area comprising almost 400 square miles.

      • There is a very sharp coast to inland temperture gradient in the area during the summer, just as in the Eastern Settlement as well. The July present avg. temperature in Quartoq (in the E-settlement coastal area) the average is only 7.2°C, but 10.3°C at Nassarsuaq near the heart of the E-settlement area. The distance is only about 50 miles. To use the present day Nuuk temperature and compare it to something inland in the past is a bit misleading – and your generelly factual article dosn’t need this distortion (it is well meant – excuse my broken English).

      • The Nuuk temperature record, Trausti Johsson, was all I had to work with. I pointed out in the essay that the centre of the Western Greenland settlement was 40 miles inland from Nuuk. I did not want to go into a lot of unnecessary detail. For instance, the land surrounding Nuuk does not suffer from permafrost. However, where the Greenland Western settlement lay, the land is now set in permafrost. Therefore, chances are pretty good that where the Western settlement resides, 1,000 years ago, could have been 10 to 12 degrees Celisus warmer than it is today. But that would have been just a stab in the dark. I tried to be as factual as possible and used the data what was a available to me.

  25. North Atlantic drift bifurcates and punches into the Labrador strait. More open water that is warmer which evaporates more. Their glacier grows.

  26. Maybe they grew barley, one or two years. But chances are they mainly lived off their animals, which were eating hay and grass, like in northern Norway.

    • The importance of growing grain crops does not necessarily relate only to feeding the livestock. Without grain crops, there was no way of making bread for human consumption, which was a rather crucial part of the human diet. As for barley, it had other important uses for the Norsemen. There is no way on earth they would have stayed on Greenland for 500 years without a regular supply of barley.

      • FJ Shepherd January 19, 2016 at 8:20 pm

        “The importance of growing grain crops does not necessarily relate only to feeding the livestock….”

        Caleb January 20, 2016 at 1:54 pm

        “One needs barley for beer. If you are a Viking, I think that is important.”

        You got that right! Without beer or mead (very unlikely, few if any bees) they’d have been gone by the weekend, accusing Erik of suckering them into a beerless wasteland. End of Greenland story. It’s as likely they finally left when they could not longer make beer as for any other reason.

  27. F.J. Shepherd,
    Thank you. I enjoyed this.

    Iceland had trees, thus green. Greenland had ice & snow, thus white.
    Someone mixed the names up.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    [O/T: From an old book, there is a story about new members of sailing ship crews. Either the newest ones had to help with a ship on the way to Greenland, and thus they were given the name “Green”, or the new or “green” sailors went to that land and so it was called “Greenland.” Neither makes much sense.]
    I’ve looked on Michael Quinion’s World Wide Words site and only find first use of green-marine in print was about 1822; likely used much earlier and coming from greenhorn (a young ox).

    • John F. Hultquist Replying to F.J. Shepherd,

      Iceland had trees, thus green. Greenland had ice & snow, thus white.
      Someone mixed the names up.

      You will likely find that Greenland WAS named as “advertising” to lure settlers west from Denmark and Norway and from the unattractive-sounding “Iceland” into a new territory that needed to sound better than what they would be leaving. Equally, “Vinland” – a land capable of growing vines – if not actually growing grapes – sounds better than “Iceland” as well.

      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
      [O/T: From an old book, there is a story about new members of sailing ship crews. Either the newest ones had to help with a ship on the way to Greenland, and thus they were given the name “Green”, or the new or “green” sailors went to that land and so it was called “Greenland.” Neither makes much sense.]

      • From the SAGA of Eirik the Red. Last part of the second chapter:
        written down in the beginning of the 14:th century by Haukur Erlendsson

        “På våren möttes Erik och Torgest i strid och Erik förlorade. Därefter ingick de förlikning. Den sommaren for Erik för att bebygga landet som han hade funnit och han kallade det Grönland, för han menade att folk hellre skulle vilja åka dit om det hade ett lockande namn.”

        ” That spring Eirik and Torgest met in Battle and Eirik lost., Afterwards they made reconsiliation. That summer Eirik left to settle on the land he had found and he called it Greenland, because he thought that people would be more likely to travel there if it had an enticing name. ”

        //Lars

      • “[O/T: From an old book, there is a story about new members of sailing ship crews. Either the newest ones had to help with a ship on the way to Greenland, and thus they were given the name “Green”, or the new or “green” sailors went to that land and so it was called “Greenland.” Neither makes much sense.]”

        Or maybe Greenland wasn’t so much a description of color, as age… like “the new world” for the Americas. Green wood hasn’t yet aged, etc. Green-land could be interpreted as “the undeveloped land”

    • I never heard this before (about the names being switched), but there is another example: San Juan, Puerto Rico. The island was supposed to be named San Juan and the port Puerto Rico, but somebody in the royal bureaucracy in Spain got them mixed up.

  28. “Norse farm families had on average, seven children – three and a half of which survived to adulthood. ”

    Seems like a silly statement. Which half, I wonder.

    • Perhaps it is a silly statement for a nit-picker who can not figure out that only half of the children born survived to adulthood. Out of 14 children born, 7 would survive to adulthood. Is that better?

    • Do you not understand what “on average” means? It doesn’t mean that each family had seven children.

      Your comment betrays your ignorance if pretty basic words and concepts.

    • What I have learned, Jeff Alberts, is that trolls are more likely to come out in the wee hours of the morning.

  29. http://www.spiegel.de/international/zeitgeist/archaeologists-uncover-clues-to-why-vikings-abandoned-greenland-a-876626.html
    Interesting that there is evidence that the Greenlanders switched diets and exports to marine based as the weather became too cold to keep anything but sheep, goats and pigs fed on fish and seals.

    “For instance, there was hardly any demand anymore for walrus tusks and seal skins, the colony’s most important export items. What’s more, by the mid-14th century, regular ship traffic with Norway and Iceland had ceased.”

    So most didn’t starve but left as they didn’t want to live like the Inuit.

  30. Oxygen isotope data from the GISP2 Greenland ice core contains definitive temperature data covering the last past 2,000 years with accurate dating from annual dust layers in the ice. The data clearly show the Medieval Warm Period beginning at 900 AD and extending to 1300 AD when temps dropped into the Little Ice Age. The MWP is prominently shown in the ice core data, leaving no doubt that temperatures during the MWP were slightly warmer than at present. So the historical accounts are confirmed by the ice core data.

    • This story suggests that Greenland was not just slightly warmer but substantially so, and considering what is now permafrost was then arable, this conclusion seems inescapable.

      As I understand it, the temperature variations are greater towards the poles. Would the isotope ratios in the ice not rather reflect the temperatures in the warmer areas of the globe that evaporated the water, rather than the colder ones that deposited it?

      • This is a good and valid point. It wasn’t merely a single degree warmer, but “substantially” warmer. How did this happen? I think the honest answer is that we don’t fully know. However the sagas contain a tale of a good host swimming out to an island to procure a goat for dinner, in water that now is so cold a man could not last five minutes in it.

        My own take is that the summer Arctic Ocean was ice free along the coasts and the coastal waters of that sea were so much warmer that it took longer for the water to freeze in the fall. They now freeze up in October, and as soon as the water is ice-covered there is a remarkable drop in coastal temperatures. In a sense the local climate goes from maritime, (think Dublin, Ireland), to arctic (think Churchill, on the coast of Hudson Bay, which is further south than Dublin.)

        Imagine the difference it would make if the waters didn’t freeze until December, or even early January. It might make all the difference between soil being arable or permafrost, if the deep freeze didn’t start until December. But that is only a guess.

  31. The Medieval warm period also affected Polynesia and caused the Maori migration to New Zealand in the 11th and 12th Century. I have read about records suggesting much lower rainfall in Polynesia during this period. This forced the Polynesian people to look for somewhere else to live and grow their crops. Many tribes eventually settled in New Zealand populating it from North to South and became known as Maori. One tribe actually settled in Stuart Island, which is off the South of the South Island of New Zealand. Maori legends indicate that the northern part of the North Island was then sub-tropical and even Stuart Island was temperate.
    As New Zealand got steadily colder from about the end of 14th Century, the tribes inhabiting the southern parts of New Zealand had to move north to survive. To do this they had to invade lands owned by other tribes and hence the Maori wars commenced. These eventually ended with only one tribe (Naghi Tahu) remaining on the South Island of New Zealand, which is still the case today. Stuart Island is still so cold in the winter that only a handful (4 or 5) of people are prepared to live there.

    • Brent Walker
      “Maori legends indicate that the northern part of the North Island was then sub-tropical and even Stuart Island was temperate.”
      I think this is nonsense. Please prove me wrong by supply references.
      “Stuart Island is still so cold in the winter that only a handful (4 or 5) of people are prepared to live there.”
      You must be kidding. It is spelt Stewart Island and it has a population of around 500. Shish where do you get this stuff?

      • Sorry for the wrong spelling. I was last in Stewart Island 3 years ago. That is what I was told at that time. Yes it might have a population of 500 but according to the info bureau there they don’t live there in the winter. I don’t remember the references about the climate in NZ 1000 years ago but it was certainly what I was taught at school in Christchurch in the 1950’s.

  32. Brilliant article, thank you so much!!! Important subject too.

    Is there a little number issue: “The Plague hit Iceland in AD 402”
    402 ? 1402?

    Help!
    I once quoted an article about the plant , bush remnants found in Scoresbysund :
    http://hidethedecline.eu/pages/posts/greenland-medieval-warm-period-61.php

    But sadly i cant find the original article on the net anymore and i forgot the title , does anyone know about this article ? Would be nice to be able to link to original article (!)

  33. “The current trend is to estimate that there were no more than 2,500 Norse people in the Greenland settlements at their height. Estimates previously ranged from 5,000 to 10,000.”

    I guess this is the legitimate climate “science” practice of Norsmalizing the population.

  34. “Fortunately for us, Ms. Smiley, author of the recent, much applauded short-story collection ”The Age of Grief” (which could serve as an appropriate subtitle to ”The Greenlanders”), has been long intoxicated by just this part of Greenlandic history. Meditating about her subject, she has said: ”Why did the Greenlanders disappear after centuries of relative prosperity? There are some theories: that the northern climate grew colder, that there were attacks by English and Basque pirates. Some people think that the skraelings – Eskimos – laid waste to the settlements. The most general answer is that the Greenlanders were so blinded by their own cultural prejudices that they were unable to adapt when conditions changed. They never stopped looking to Europe for succor, long after Europe had abandoned and forgotten them. Though they could get along fine with a thin lifeline, they could not get along with no lifeline at all.”

    https://www.nytimes.com/books/98/04/05/specials/smiley-greenlanders.html

    For those with testicular fortitude, book your oar!

    “In May 2016 Draken Harald Hårfagre will leave her home port in Haugesund, Norway and sail off for a great challenge across the North Atlantic Ocean. The aim is to explore and relive one of the most mythological sea voyages – the first transatlantic crossing, and the Viking discovery of the New World more than a thousand years ago. ”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dragon_Harald_Fairhair

  35. F.J. Shepherd:

    Every now and then a gem appears on WUWT. Your above essay is such a gem. I have bookmarked it for reference.

    Thankyou for posting it.

    Richard

    • Ray

      I believe I speak for Nick Stokes when I say: So precisely when was the Medieval Warming Period?

      It was a long broad peak of generally above-average temperatures around the world on every continent based on historic data and proxies, punctuated by shorter oscillations of both higher and lower local temperatures, beginning approximately 980-1050 AD. The Medieval Warming Period is generally considered ending about 1350-1400 as the earth declined into the equally long cold period known as the Little Ice Age, which reached its minimum global average temperature about 1650.
      No, the Medieval Warming Period is NOT a single year, with a single massive “Here It Is!” thermometer thumbtacked to the world’s calendar.

      • Funny, isn’t it, that the warmunists insist that, no, even “global” warming won’t cause everywhere to get warm at the same time. It might take…well, decades, and some areas might get cooler (this is when they change the conversation to “climate change” of course).

        They will then tell you, with a straight face (much like the religious fanatics who try to save my soul) that the MWP and the LIA didn’t happen, er, because there is no evidence they’ve seen to show that they happened everywhere at the same time.

        Logic: I don’t think it means what they think it means.

      • Caligula. Hits the nail on the head.

        ….Warmunists insist that “global” warming won’t cause everywhere to get warm at the same time. It might take decades, and some areas might get cooler (this is when they change the conversation to “climate change” of course).

        They will then tell you that the MWP and the LIA didn’t happen, because there is no evidence they’ve seen to show that they happened everywhere at the same time…..

  36. “Some will point out that hay is now grown in Greenland. Yes, that is true, for it is. In the far south of Greenland, they do grow hay. Hay has a very short growing season and currently in Greenland, the cut hay must be wrapped in plastic right in the fields to keep it from spoiling. That was hardly a technique available for use by Medieval Norsemen. Regardless, most of the feed for Greenland livestock of today has to be shipped in from afar.”
    ——————–
    What??!!

    In UK bales are wrapped in order to produce silage for winter feed.

    http://www.ukagriculture.com/crops/big_bales_silage_making.cfm

    “Bales are wrapped very tightly and very little air is trapped inside. This ensures that the fermentation of the grass (the process by which it becomes silage) is carried out in the correct conditions. If air gets into the wrapped silage it can spoil and become unpalatable to livestock.”

    • Creating silage as you say is an optional method of creating forage along with drying hay in most areas. I read this post to mean that in Greenland today, silage is the only way. The drying of forage to produce hay is not a viable option. I don’t think it was meant that silage is only produced in Greenland.

  37. If, you would. There are only two types of education. Liberal and secular. One means training to a belief.

  38. After years and years of unending gloom, the CAGW enthusiasts have at last brought us good news. Greenland climate was the same during Viking colonization as it is now! Hooray! Just think what this means for ending world hunger. There are numerous examples of Viking era orchard roots now embedded in the frozen soil. A constant climate means that that the trees must have grown in the same frozen soil. Once our botanists succeed in replicating the Viking permafrost adapted trees, northern Canada and Siberia will be open for arborculture. No doubt the vast citrus orchards soon to be found in Baffin Island will lead the world in supplying pre-frozen fruit juices to the starving masses.

    Huzzah to climate science!

  39. Once they were cut off from Iceland, the scraggly forest likely would not have allowed them materials to build boats to escape. doomed.

    • This is one theory, but the problem is that the Greenland Vikings already knew of forests to the south, and the sagas provide tales of trips south for lumber.

      I think they would have abandoned Greenland earlier, but they continued it as a stopping post for traders heading to Europe. They would have been very secretive about their routes and sources, (if only to avoid the European taxes, tariffs and duties leveled by the King of Norway, Pope and eventually the Hanseatic League.) In the end the Hanseatic League may have been the downfall of such traders, which contains a sort of irony, as the origins of the league were partially to protect against Viking raiders from the north, though the league came to be an oppressive monopoly, if you happened to be an independent trader from outside. The fact there is little historical record of such traders is understandable, considering they were outside European law and in some ways were likely seen as smugglers. (In the future there may well be little record of the routes of modern smugglers, but that is not proof they didn’t and don’t exist.)

      Other reasons for the end of trade with Europe include things like elephant ivory replacing walrus ivory, and increasing sea-ice making the route increasingly dangerous and not-worth-the-risk.

      The Viking cargo ships were called knarr, and they were much like the Hanseatic Leagues cogs, sturdy and capable. Only one example remains, but in the written record is mention of various sorts, including a type called a Greenland knarr, and another called a Vineland knarr. This is highly suspicious, if there was no trade with Vineland.

      Once there was no longer any trade with Europe, Greenland’s reason for existing would fade, especially with the soil turning to permafrost. The traders likely faded south, and merged into the Native American system of traders. There definitely was extensive trade in North America, with Caribbean seashells found far to the north and west, and Minnesota copper found far to the south, yet we know next to nothing about who these traders were or how they operated.

  40. If Greenland wasn’t warmer then and thus able to support a colony, why would anyone try to start one in the first place? And it lasted awhile. How?
    (Maybe they had the conspiratorial and secret support of “Big Oil”?)

  41. Thank you, F.J. Shepherd and many thanks to the commenters who provided additional insight and some very interesting links.

    This is one of my favorite global warming topics. I’ve been rooting for the Greenland of the past to emerge from the permafrost.

  42. Thank you for a great post and thanks to all the others who have added to it. My skepticism about CAGW is rooted in learning about the voyages of Erik the Red back in grade 6, almost 60 years ago. I found it intriguing that Vikings lived in Greenland so many years ago when it is now so inhospitable. When people started using “unprecedented” warming, I harkened back to what I learned almost 60 years ago and my skepticism sharpened.

  43. As far as I can google there haven’t been any big trees in Greenland for a million years. Chapter 4 of the Greenland Saga implies a scarcity of timber: they imported it from elsewhere. And the saga explicitly states that the naming of Greenland was a marketing ploy: “He called the land which he had found Greenland, because, quoth he, ‘people will be attracted thither, if the land has a good name'” (ch 1): https://notendur.hi.is/haukurth/utgafa/greenlanders.html

    And why don’t the histories speak of blueberry wine? Or do they? Is there any chance the language did not distinguish between grapes and berries? (probably not)

    As for the LIA, receding glaciers reveal MWP forests all the time:

    Mendenhall Glacier:
    http://juneauempire.com/outdoors/2013-09-13/ancient-trees-emerge-frozen-forest-tomb#.Ujsn03_iSeZ
    Exit Glacier:
    http://www.nps.gov/kefj/learn/nature/upload/The%20Retreat%20of%20Exit%20Glacier.pdf
    Jorge Montt Glacier:
    http://www.clim-past.net/8/403/2012/cp-8-403-2012.pdf
    Bering Glacier (p.ix):
    https://books.google.com/books?id=TlZG658NZYcC&pg=PR9&lpg=PR9&dq=dating+glaciers+by+forest+remnants&source=bl&ots=lBo_ZDTd1C&sig=jfPiGmWGUMLizGBrvwJA6TPBUgM&hl=en&sa=X&ei=7PZZVZikINiwogShs4CYDg&ved=0CEoQ6AEwBg#v=onepage&q=dating%20glaciers%20by%20forest%20remnants&f=false
    Eight glaciers from Prince William Sound (all with forest remnants):
    http://web.cortland.edu/barclayd/publications/1999b_Holocene.pdf
    A collection of Canadian glaciers:
    http://www.uwpcc.washington.edu/documents/PCC/menounos_2009.pdf
    Five Patagonian glaciers:
    http://www.researchgate.net/publication/222560014_Little_Ice_Age_fluctuations_of_small_glaciers_in_the_Monte_Fitz_Roy_and_Lago_del_Desierto_areas_south_Patagonian_Andes_Argentina
    And Holocene remnants generally (from western Canada), including MWP (Table 2):
    http://www.uwpcc.washington.edu/documents/PCC/menounos_2009.pdf

    The MWP may not have been globally synchronous, but the LIA seems to have been. –AGF

  44. All the things we once knew because our history told us so must now be denied in the interests of those subscribing to the myths of the IPCC and the EastAnglia climate centre.

  45. Very enjoyable and informative article. The CAGW theory advocates seems to hate the MWP and the LIA almost as much as they hate Sceptics. Their repeated attempts to falsely re-write these eras of climate history are truly Orwellian.

  46. If you can lower the temperature in the first part of 1900, of cause you are able to change the temperature 800 years ago. It is just a little extension of the method.

  47. Makes me more curious why the Norse simply didn’t keep going west then south.

    Perhaps it’s for the best, better for Americas to be settled by religious nutters than a band of rapist thugs.

  48. No need to go on mixing up Vikings and Norse people anymore, pleas try to separate those. The colonists on Greenland were Norse, not Vikings.

    • The word Viking was just the oldenglish translation of the latin pirate, and as any pirate, could come from anywhere, and was never a tribe, an ethnical group or likevise. Fits documented Viking was Phlippus II of Macedonia, father of Alexander the great.

  49. People, I suggest usage of names for the people who colonized Greenland for a few centuries is rather variable and changed with time. Doesn’t “Norse” just mean “people from the north”, a name given by people in France and such that they invaded?

  50. This has been covered recently in WUWT.

    Archaeology digs support the climate theory, but it is likely that contributing factors were:
    – reduced trade due to alternative supplies of ivory (Greenlanders harvested narwhals),
    – fewer ships needing supplies and repairs because fishing was not as good (it varies out there in the nearby Atlantics),
    – changes in religion
    – possible incursion of Inuit from the north as climate change affected them or at least conflict in harvesting areas north of the settlements,
    – opening up of society in Scandinavia (which had been very clannish thus opportunities were limited).

    One sad possibility is that the last Vikings in Greenland no longer had ships to get to Scandinavia with, perhaps not even to Newfoundland where some ancestors had settled for a while, some may have assimilated into the Inuit.

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