Did climate change cause Greenland's ancient Viking community to collapse?

Our changing climate usually appears to be a very modern problem, yet new research from Greenland published in Boreas, suggests that the AD 1350 collapse of a centuries old colony established by Viking settlers may have been caused by declining temperatures and a rise in sea-ice. The authors suggest the collapse of the Greenland Norse presents a historical example of a society which failed to adapt to climate change.

The research, led by Dr Sofia Ribeiro from the University of Copenhagen, currently at the Geological Survey of Denmark and , focused on Disko Bay in Western Greenland and used a marine to reconstruct climate change over the last 1500 years.

Events which occurred during this time frame included the arrival of Norse settlers, led by Eric the Red in AD 985. After establishing a colony known as the Western Settlement the Norse traveled north to Disko Bay, a prime hunting ground for and seals.

"Our study indicates that at the time the Norse arrived in West Greenland, climate conditions were relatively mild and were favorable to the settlers" said Ribeiro. "However, in AD 1350 the settlement collapsed, the cause of which has long been debated."

The marine perspective of the research is especially relevant as the Norse inhabited inner fjord areas. The team's research compared robust air temperature reconstructions based on ice-core data with their own marine record. The results underline the regional complexity of climate patterns in the study area, which may vary from ice core reconstructions, and are strongly controlled by the fluctuating influence of "warm" Atlantic waters entrained by the West Greenland Current.

"Our study shows a major shift towards cooler conditions and extensive sea-ice which coincides with the estimated time for the collapse of the Western Settlement in AD 1350," said Dr Ribeiro. "The Norse were proud of being Europeans, farmers and Christians, and never adopted the hunting and survival techniques of the Inuit, so these temperature shifts would have caused significant problems for the colonists and their livestock."

Agricultural difficulties are believed to have forced the Norse to rely on marine resources, yet the increase in sea-ice, the team suggests, would have had a major impact on species such as migratory seals, while blocking trade routes.

"We cannot attribute the end of the Norse civilisation to a single factor, but there is enough evidence to suggest that played a major role in determining its collapse," concluded Ribeiro. "Harsh made farming and cattle production increasingly difficult and the extensive sea-ice prevented navigation and trading with Europe."

"There is perhaps an important lesson to learn from the Norse collapse and that is a lesson of adaptation, of being able to adjust our values and life-style when times change. That is an important challenge we face today as a society."

Explore further

Climate played big role in Vikings' disappearance from Greenland

More information: Ribeiro. S, Moros. M, Ellegaard. M, Kuijpers, A, “Climate variability in West Greenland during the past 1500 years: evidence from a high-resolution marine palynological record from Disko Bay”, Boreas, Wiley-Blackwell, 2001, DOI: 10.1111/j.1502-3885.2011.00216.x
Provided by Wiley
Citation: Did climate change cause Greenland's ancient Viking community to collapse? (2011, June 20) retrieved 15 June 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2011-06-climate-greenland-ancient-viking-collapse.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Feedback to editors

User comments

Jun 20, 2011
Conclusions: global cooling; BAD / Global warming; GOOD!

Jun 21, 2011
It's refreshing to see a study that confirms the historical records instead of the constant dire warmist consequences of man-made CO2 doom and gloom.

The Medieval Warming Period causes the settlement of Greenland. The Little Ice age caused the de-settlement. when you can't grow food on ice and snow or the growing season is reduced to a small window this is what happens. Note CO2 wasn't and can't be blamed for these events.

Lets see if we can get any comments without the word Tard.. thrown in.

Jun 22, 2011
Hey where are the warmist surly you can dissect article this as a piece of skeptical crap?

Jun 22, 2011
This is just confirmation of the theories of why Greenland collapsed. It has been hypothesized that they settled during the MWP and left when it got colder. The records of warming and cooling are clear in every report I have seen.
Here is one:

You can pick your own. They all have the MWP and the LIA. You just make it sound like they are left off. You scream about the "hockey stick" not recognizing that it includes both the MWP and LIA as anomalies. Please show me a technical view of the past 1000 or 2000 years that does not show temperature changes that made it tough in Greenland. Show the references or admit you are just making it up as you go along.

Jun 22, 2011
thermodynamics says:
They all have the MWP and the LIA. You just make it sound like they are left off. You scream about the "hockey stick" not recognizing that it includes both the MWP and LIA as anomalies.

Talk about cherry picking using NOAA LOL. And this trying to paint the MWP and LIA as anomalies what utter warmist propaganda BS! This is is part of the problem for warmist. You want to rewrite and remove inconvenient recorded historical facts. The IPPC no longer uses the "hockey stick" Why? Reason it stinks, its a total embarrassment and has done more to cause the rise of skepticism as Climatgate.

The Medieval Warming period was recorded worldwide in both the Northern and Southern hemisphere in many Peer reviewed study's. and the IPPC has desperately tried to discredit these facts and hid it!
Just Google it!

Jun 22, 2011
ted208: I agree that the MWP has shown up in all of the studies. What I asked you for was a reference that does not show it. Please show me a reference that does not show it (IPCC or not). You have railed about "warmists" hiding the MWP and the LIA. Please show me the places they were hidden. The bottom line is that you can't because there are no reliable references that don't have them. You claim they are hidden but don't show me where. Do you even know the title of the paper that the "hockey stick" appeared in when published? "Northern Hemisphere temperatures during the past
millennium: inferences, uncertainties, and limitations." Everyone that is ignorantly critical of the concept seems to leave off the terms "uncertainties" and "limitations." As for the googling of hiding the facts, I can also google the Kennedy assassination conspiracy and the 911 conspiracies as well as cold fusion. You have to be a little discriminant about what you pick up on the WWW.

Jun 22, 2011
Simple look at Manns Hockystick used by Al Gore and the IPPC as a showcase to show a relatively stable slightly bumpy flat-line temperature in your own words: it includes both the MWP and LIA anomalies. Yeh warmist have shown the MWP existed but they have refused to acknowledge it was warmer or at least warmer then, this is deliberate misrepresentation of the facts.
The Hockystick was designed to show the MWP was a small temperature bump then the warming in the 20th century would look soooo dramatic as AL Gore on his scissor lift tried to demonstrate.

In-fact the MWP was warmer than today and the other great 1998 anomaly a quick spike in the temperature record but warmist the world over rejoiced at that. What about 10 years of cooling, or does that not count? Or the fact the Sun is going into a another Bigggggg snooze that will be a double solar minimum. For warmist this is the worst nightmare, We are cooling man, get it!
By the way do your own research.

Jun 22, 2011
ted208: So, let me get this straight. You are thinking we are cooling, not warming. Most skeptics (and I use this term because it is not derogatory as terms like "denier" or "warmist" are) agree we are warming but they are skeptical of the source of the warming. You, on the other hand, are of the minority opinion that we have been cooling since the 1998 spike. Let me just say that this shows you have no idea of how to use statistics.

Then I have asked for a single reference that shows there was no MWP or LIA and you tell me: "By the way do your own research."

I have done my own research and every source I look at has the MWP and LIA. The size of those excursions is presently being better defined. However, you just skip over the facts and misrepresent the scientific community by claiming (falsely) that they do not recognize prior warming and cooling. Again, show me a reference.

Jun 22, 2011
Bla Bla Bla
Stick your head in the warmist sand.

Jun 24, 2011
Ted208 wtf pwnd....that was totally worth reading the comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more