uring a time where Global Warming is becoming one of our main concerns, it is important to look at history to see if there are any other potential causes apart from all the CO2 (carbon dioxide) released into the atmosphere. Between 950 and 1250 AD, there was a period named by experts as Medieval Climate Optimum. Historians refer to it as a medieval climatic anomaly as the temperature around the world rose significantly, compared to the previous age, known as the Dark Ages.
At first, this change was believed to have only affected the European region of the world, however, a study done by Tunli Lu, a geochemist from Syracuse University in New York has shown that this climatic anomaly also affected the rest of the world. Actually, some parts of the world were affected even more than Europe.
Have you ever wondered how Greenland got its name?
A good example would be Greenland, which today is a world of ice, but back in the medieval climate optimum, it was actually a green land just as the name implies. This climatic anomaly allowed contemporary Vikings to discover and inhabit new lands as all the ice was melting. One of their discoveries was Greenland in the period of 990 to 995 AD. At the time, the land was described as being green, hence the reason for its evocative name.
It is strange, however, as this climatic anomaly went on, it seemed to not only heat up the whole world but also majorly increase the temperatures in cold regions compared to the central regions. This is also shown in the Northern part of Canada which at the time (around the year 1000) was actually inhabited after the discovery of the land by Eric the Red, the son of Leif Eriksson, the Viking who many historians argue to have been the first to discover America.
In 1960, some Viking ruins were found on Newfoundland island. From their investigation, it seems that they have only inhabited the island for a few decades. When the ruins were discovered (similar to today) the place seemed uninhabitable due to not only the extreme weather but also the lack of consumable resources. This made historians think that Vikings only settled on this island for the medieval climate optimum period which allowed for a habitable place that supported an evolving ecosystem.
Agriculture in Antarctica
All of this is being reinforced by Profesor Tunli Lu that has discovered a rare mineral near the area most affected by this anomaly called ikaite. This mineral is a form of ice calcite that only forms in the icy regions of the world. Professor Lu and his team researched these minerals (also known as mineral ice crystals) as they can tell experts of different changes in the climate that have been going on in the last 2000 years.
To some expectations, most of the crystals were not 2000 years old or more, they were actually barely 500 years old as they were only able to form after the medieval climate optimum had finished in 1250 AD. Of course, their crystals would take decades even centuries to form back, that is why they are only around 500 years old.
This shows that it was actually warm enough that a good portion of ice within the cold regions in the Northern hemisphere had dispersed, unlocking land that had the potential of being used for agriculture. Meaning that it was possible to inhabit and develop into what is for now still an inhabitable zone.
The better question to ask here is what caused this anomaly? Scientists and experts are still trying to understand what was the cause of this. Such events have made many experts a bit skeptical about today’s global warming. A huge number of researches have proven that the high production of carbon dioxide is the main cause, but what if this is another anomaly that may last for two centuries or even more?
We know for sure that the level of carbon dioxide within the atmosphere was very low during the 10th century in order to create a sort of climate change that would affect the world for the next two centuries. For the sake of argument, we can assume this, but then how would the process reverse, making the next period following 1250 AD become known as the “little ice age” due to the dramatic drop in temperatures that followed between 1300 and 1800 AD?
Many such “anomalies” are scattered throughout our history and I believe that some of them are the answers to how our world is changing today. With time, technology will get more advanced allowing us to depict history with more precision, and offering us more information on why certain events and anomalies such as this one have taken place.