History and the Environment 10: Climate Change in the Middle Ages?

I recently read about a warming trend in Europe during the Middle Ages.  The climate change issue seems to be reoccurring again today, and when I came across this information, I had to use it for my last blog for History and Environment for school this semester.  I have said many times in my blog that history comes in cycles, well……..this made me think about weather patterns and climate change, and are these also more cyclical than man caused?  Does this make me think that Earth warming comes in cycles, and is not assisted by CO2 emissions?  No, but this sure is interesting.

From the about 950 to 1300Ad, Europe lived in a time when the average temperature for the area was 1.6 degrees warmer during the summer, and 6 degrees warmer in the winter.  In 1965, Herbert Lame, a paleoclimateologist did an in depth study on the botany, meteorology and primary historical documents of the time.  These warmer temperatures happened to be higher than the average temperatures of Europe in the 20th century!  I found this amazing.  Carbon levels in the atmosphere were approximately 1/2 of what resides in our air today.

What caused this to happen?  Apparently a shift in air circulation in the Atlantic Ocean, allowed the warm water currents to carry the weather to Europe during this time.  One of the reasons this warm stretch was important is that it allowed for:

1.  Massive Population Growth

2. Increased Agriculture Yields

3. Created Wealth

4. Cathedrals were built!

5. Art and Architecture were improved

6. Broken up ice, allowed the Vikings to settle Iceland, Greenland, and North America (Lance Aux Meadows).

These side effects from the warmer temperatures ultimately ended around the time the right before the Renaissance began.  What is even more amazing is that when the warmer temperatures ended, a new era of weather hit Europe called the “Little Ice Age.” where the lowest temperatures to hit the Earth since the Ice Ages 10,000 years ago.  The proof was found in the tree rings.  They showed that there was indeed a climactic change in climate around 1300.  The “Little Ice Age” led to famine, plague, and a general decline in health.

I find this amazing.  I can see how some people deny climate change because it is cyclical in some ways.  But, today we have technologies that visually illustrate holes in the ozone layers, and measure the parts per million carbon in our atmosphere.  I still find it interesting that at another time and place in history that our species was dealing with an increase in temperature and it helped them thrive.  This is a huge contrast to the belief we hold now.  From many readings have I had here in college, a 6 degree temperature rise would destroy the planet and disrupt many biospheres.  I am grateful to nature for its preservation of things that allow us to study the past, and am equally grateful to the people that have preserved the historical documents of past times.




About deadfryday

I dig History and its preservation
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