Greenland was WARM in the Viking Age (at least during the summer): Study on ancient bugs preserved in lake sediments suggest Norse settlers enjoyed 50-degree weather
- New study reconstructed 3,000 years of southern Greenland’s climate history
- It found the climate was much like today, despite cold periods before and after
- When Vikings were there between 985 and 1450 C.E, temps went up to 50F
Researchers have long wondered how the Vikings thrived in a harsh and frigid Greenland thousands of years ago.
But, if a new study is correct, the era may not have been quite as cold as we’ve come to believe.
Using lake sediment cores collected in southern Greenland, researchers have reconstructed the region’s climate record for the past 3,000 years.
The study suggests the ancient settlers may have had balmy weather on their side when they arrived in the year 985 C.E, with summer temperatures sitting around 50-degrees.
Researchers have long wondered how the Vikings thrived in a harsh and frigid Greenland thousands of years ago. But, if a new study is correct, the era may not have been quite as cold as we’ve come to believe
DID THE VIKINGS FIND NORTH AMERICA BEFORE COLUMBUS?
Some experts believe the Vikings may have discovered North America nearly 500 years before Christopher Columbus made his famous journey to the New World.
L’Anse aux Meadows was the first Viking settlement believed to have been found in North America in the 1960s.
In 2016, scientists claimed to have uncovered another Viking settlement in Newfoundland that was built between 800AD and 1300AD.
Another expert claims to have found a mysterious location known as ‘Hop’.
Based on Viking descriptions, three key things identify this settlement – an abundance of grapes, salmon and canoes made from animal hide.
An archaeologist claims the only place that matches this description is the Miramichi-Chaleur bay area in northeastern New Brunswick, Canada.
This would be the third Viking settlement claimed to have been found in North America, although it could be hard to ever prove.
It is thought the Vikings first discovered America by accident in the autumn of 986AD, according to one historical source, the Saga of the Greenlanders.
When the Vikings lived in southern Greenland between 985 and 1450 C.E., average temperatures were relatively warm compared to the previous and subsequent centuries, according to the new study led by a team from Northwestern University.
This period likely had a similar climate to that of southern Greenland today.
Though this has been speculated in the past, the lack of local temperature reconstructions have so far prevented any confirmation, according to Yarrow Axford, the study’s senior author.
‘So this has been a bit of a climate mystery,’ Axford said.
In the study, the team collected sediment cores from settlements outside of Narsaq and analyzed the chemistry of the bugs trapped within.
The chironomids – a mix of different lake fly species – hold a record of oxygen isotopes in their preserved exoskeletons.
This revealed, for the first time, a direct window into the temperature changes experienced during the Norse Eastern Settlement, when the Vikings arrived.
‘The oxygen isotopes we measure from the chironomids record past lake water isotopes in which the bugs grew, and that lake water comes from precipitation falling over the lake,’ said lead author G. Everett Lasher.
‘The oxygen isotopes in precipitation are partly controlled by temperature, so we examined the change in oxygen isotopes through time to infer how temperature might have changed.’
According to the researchers, the climate during the Viking era was roughly 1.5-degrees Celsius warmer than the centuries surrounding it.
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The naturally fluctuating pressure system called the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) doesn’t appear to be to blame for the variations, either, the team says. NAO has been linked to an influx of cold air.
‘We found that the NAO could not explain Medieval climatic changes at our site,’ Lasher said.
‘That might call into question its use in explaining long-term climate change over the last 3,000 years elsewhere.’
In the study, the team collected sediment cores from settlements outside of Narsaq and analyzed the chemistry of the bugs trapped within (pictured). The chironomids – a mix of different lake fly species – hold a record of oxygen isotopes in their preserved exoskeletons
What exactly caused the unusually warm period is so far a mystery, though the team says it’s possible warmer ocean currents may have played a role.
‘Unlike warming over the past century, which is global, Medieval warmth was localized,’ Axford said.
A 21st century reproduction of Thjodhild’s Church on Erik the Red’s Estate is shown
‘We wanted to investigate what was happening in southern Greenland at that time because it’s a climatically complex part of the world where counterintuitive things can happen.’
Ultimately, however, the Norse settlements collapsed as the local climate changed and temperatures plummeted.
But, it’s unclear if the changing climate was the reason.
‘We went in with a hypothesis that we wouldn’t see warmth in this time period, in which case we might have had to explain how the Norse were hearty, robust folk who settled in Greenland during a cold snap,’ Lasher said.
‘Instead, we found evidence for warmth. Later, as their settlements died out, apparently there was climatic instability.
‘Maybe they weren’t as resilient to climate change as Greenland’s indigenous people, but climate is just one of many things that might have played a role.’
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