Epic sea level rise drove Vikings out of Greenland

The church in Hvalsey was destroyed. The structure was built by the Vikings. Martin Zwick/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group is credited with the image.

Climate change made the Vikings no match for them. The Vikings were driven out of Greenland in the 15th century due to massive coastal flooding caused by ice sheet growth and sea level rise.

The Vikings established a foothold in southern Greenland around A.D. 980 with the arrival of "Erik the Red", a Norwegian-born explorer. The communities in Eystribygg and Vestribygg were formed by other Viking settlers. According to the University of California Riverside, at the time of the Vikings' arrival, the people of the Dorset Culture were already living in Greenland.

There were no signs of Norse habitation in the region in the 15th century. Climate change and economic shifts are thought to have led the Vikings to abandon the island. The data was presented at the annual conference of the American Geophysical Union in New Orleans and online.
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Europe and North America experienced a period of cooler temperatures known as the Little Ice Age. Under these conditions, the ice sheet would have become even bigger, according to a presentation at the AGU conference.
Borreggine said that coastal areas were more prone to flooding as the ice sheet advanced. The ice sheet and sea ice pushed more water over the coast. The Vikings settled along the coastline and these two processes could have caused flooding.
The scientists tested their hypothesis by modeling estimated ice growth in southwestern Greenland over the 400 year period of the Norse occupation and adding those calculations to a model showing sea level rise. They analyzed maps of known Viking sites to see how their findings lined up with archaeological evidence marking the end of a Viking presence.
Borreggine said that their models showed that rising seas around Greenland would have flooded Viking settlements by as much as 16 feet. According to the models, the Vikings used the submerged land for farming and as pastures for their cattle.

Sea level rise was one of the reasons the Vikings left. Borreggine said that a perfect storm of external pressures may have caused the Vikings to abandon their settlements.
Climate change, the shifting resource landscape, and interactions with Inuit in the North could all have contributed to the out-migration. A combination of these factors led to the migration of the people of the Norse.

Live Science published the original article.