Global Warming, Greenland, and Vikings



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Sunday Jun 17, 2018 Global Warming, Greenland, and Vikings Last week I was reading an article on one of those sites that claim global warming is a hoax.  The main thrust of the article seemed to be that Vikings were farming in Greenland during the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) and now the land they farmed is under "thousands of feet of ice".  Could this be true?


The MWP was a period that lasted from around 950 until around 1250.  It is characterized by warm temperatures in the North Atlantic and perhaps in China and a few other areas.  The warm temperatures were not global in scale with the tropical Pacific in particular showing cooler than average temperatures.  The MWP was followed by cooler weather in North Atlantic in a period known as the Little Ice Age


It is true that the Vikings did settle in Greenland during the MWP.  It was in 985 when Eric the Red arrived in Greenland with a fleet of 14 Longships.  The Vikings were still around long after the end of the MWP though.  The last known communication from the Viking colonies on Greenland was a letter that arrived in Iceland in 1424.  It should be noted that the Little Ice age is considered by some to have started around 1300 and certainly the MWP was well over before the Viking colonies on Greenland disappeared..   


I reviewed some of the latest archeological studies courtesy of the Smithsonian and began to get a picture of the Viking life in Greenland.  The Vikings established 2 colonies both on the west coast of Greenland.  These colonies are now known as Igaliku in the south and Nuuk further to the north.   These colonies are not under thousands of feet of ice but are actually covered in lush grass in the summer.  The local Inuit population still farms some of the land that was once farmed by the Vikings.


The largest of the two communities was Gardar which was located next to the current Inuit community of Igaliku.  It was there that the Vikings built a magnificent church with stained glass windows.  Little remains of this church today except a few foundation stones but the large stone barns they built to house and keep their cattle warm are still to be seen to this day.


At it's height it was though that about 5,000 people lived in the two communities that made up Viking Greenland.  The latest research seems to point to these communities being much smaller with perhaps 2,500 people living there.  The Vikings measured their status by the number of cattle they owned and it is thought that once the weather turned colder the cattle died off and the Vikings starved to death.  There is no mention of this in the three letters that were received from the colonists between 1420 and 1424, but there is also no record of the people returning to Iceland or Scandinavia on mass and such an event would almost certainly have been recorded by the Vikings.


Excavations at the site show no sign of violence and no sign of malnourished people.  What is recorded in the trash they threw  away is lots of seal bones which indicates that the Vikings, like the Inuit that live there now, used seal as their primary source of nourishment.  The doors on most of the houses excavated have long rotted away but for the few that remain they were found closed.  It appears that at some time the Viking settlers just closed up their houses and left.  It is not certain if they left in small numbers, returning to Iceland of Scandinavia in small enough batches that their arrival didn't get reported, or if, as some believe, they pushed south into America but it does look like they left voluntarily.


So lets get our facts straight.  Yes the Vikings did arrive in Greenland during the MWP but only in very small numbers.  No, the fields they farmed are not buried under thousands of feet of ice, they are still in use today.  Global temperatures are now quite a bit above what they were in the MWP so Viking colonization of Greenland is just  a red herring and does not indicate that global warming is not real..


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