The awkward thing about pointing to a receding glacier and shouting “warmest year ever!” is that if the melting ice reveals the remains of medieval times, that means it used to be warmer there. And wouldn’t you know it, some Norwegian scientists have reported they’re finding cool old stuff on Lomseggen Ridge near the Lendbreen Glacier. (No, we don’t expect you to know where it is, though we venture to suggest that it might make a surprisingly good song title.) Seems there was a well-travelled pass here during “the past”, in this case the period between about 300 and 1000 AD, that gradually got abandoned because it got colder and has stayed colder until now.
If you’re looking for a good headline for this story, the Global Warming Policy Forum offers this possibility: “Melting Glacier Reveals More Evidence Of Very Warm Medieval Warm Period”. Which you doubtless guessed is not the headline most journalists came up with right away. But yes, it’s exactly what it shows. And a warm Roman Period too.
As Michael Breu wrote in ETHLife International way back in 2005 about glaciers, “Many studies now strongly suggest that there is something wrong with this hockey stick model that Michael E. Mann of the University of Virginia published in 1999 in Geophysical Research Letters.” And Norway isn't the only place there's trouble under the ice.
More than a decade ago, as the GWPF noted, the BBC in an unguarded moment wrote about treasures revealed by melting Alpine glaciers. And not just from the era of Otzi the Unfortunate Iceman around 3000 BC. (Which the BBC also said, instead of BCE.) Some were older by over a millennium. Others were more recent, as historians use that word: “from later periods, a Bronze Age pin has been discovered, as well as Roman coins and a fibula, and items dating from the early Middle Ages.”
Now here’s some major thoughtcrime about the Norwegian findings from the original Mothercorp’s 2008 story. “What fascinates scientists about the age of the finds is that they correspond to times when climate specialists have already calculated the Earth was going through an especially warm period, caused by fluctuations in the orbital pattern of the Earth in relation to the Sun. At these times, historians now speculate, the high mountain regions became accessible to humans.”
So there you have it. Natural fluctuations, solar influence, periods in the past at least as warm as today. Go tell it to the Vikings. Who did not in fact wear horned helmets until they invaded 19th-century opera. But that’s a saga for another day.