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Change in Earth's average global temperature over the past 1000 years showing that during the Medieval Warm Period (950-1100A.D.) temperatures were likely similar to the first part of the 20th century, climate cooled during the Little Ice Age (1350-1850), and has warmed dramatically in recent decades.
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Courtesy of NOAA

The Medieval Warm Period

The Medieval Warm Period was a time of warm climate in Europe, the height of which was from about 950 until 1100 A.D. The warm climate overlaps with a time of high solar activity called the Medieval Maximum. The Medieval Warm Period occurred before the Little Ice Age (1350-1850 A.D.), a time of particularly cool climate in Europe and other places around the world. The graph on the left, a reconstruction of average global temperatures over the past 1000 years, shows that during the Medieval Warm Period the temperatures were likely similar to the first part of the 20th century, climate cooled during the Little Ice Age, and has warmed dramatically in recent decades. Temperatures during the Medieval Warm Period were likely cooler than the temperature has been for the past few decades.

According to some archaeologists, the Vikings may have been better able to explore and colonize many areas in Northern Europe while the climate was relatively warm because there was less sea ice. They traveled by boats to Greenland among other places through seas that would later become blocked by sea ice during the Little Ice Age.

Last modified November 14, 2007 by Lisa Gardiner.

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The Winter 2009 issue of The Earth Scientist, focuses on Earth System science, including articles on student inquiry, differentiated instruction, geomorphic concepts, the rock cycle, and much more!

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