Climate change is a vast and complex subject, which is impossible to explain in detail on our website. You may, however, read about the evidence of climate change here: http://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/

Climate change the last 400000 years
Changes in the CO2 content of the atmosphere, going back 400000 years, based on measurements of ice cores from Antarctica and Greenland. The antropogenic CO2 emissions have raised the level to heights never seen before in human history. Source: http://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/

One of the reasons for the great interest in archaeological finds from the ice is the link to climate change. One headline even read “Archaeologists Become Unlikely Beneficiaries of Global Warming”.

The Earth is warming, the ice is melting, and archaeological discoveries, preserved by the ice, are being made. In recent years the melting of mountain and alpine ice and glaciers has accelerated and the number of archaeological finds recovered from the melting ice is rising. The artefacts are getting older due to melting of older ice. However, the story of the interplay between glacial ice and archaeological finds is complicated.

Cliamte change the last 20000 years
Important climate fluctuations during the last 20000 years. Source: http://www.gly.uga.edu/railsback/Fundamentals/HoloceneEvents&NorthGRIP02.jpg

One important point to note is that the present glaciers and ice patches are not remnants of the ice sheet that covered Scandinavia during the last Ice Age. If we go back 6000-8000 years, most of the glaciers in the northern hemisphere were gone. During the so-called Holocene Thermal Optimum, gradual changes in the Earth’s orbit led to warmer summers than today. Slowly this orbital change should cause lower global mean summer temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere and send the Earth on its way into a new ice age, if it were not for human greenhouse gas emissions.

The glacial ice in the high mountains has accumulated since the end of the Holocene Thermal Optimum. This has not been a linear process, however, as many natural factors other than planetary orbit influence the climate. The ice has been expanding and contracting over time. Now, with anthropogenic global warming at play, the ice is retreating.

Klimaendring - avsmeltingen på Storfonne i Jotunheimen
The Storfonne ice patch in Jotunheimen, Oppland in September 2014. The light-grey areas show where ice has melted in the last c.15 years. Photo: Lars Pilø, Oppland County Council.

The prediction is that global and regional warming will lead to gradual melting of all the ice in the high mountains in Scandinavia. The process is already well on its way. Light grey areas surrounding the high mountain ice clearly show where recent melting has happened. The melting and disappearance of glaciers and ice patches may lead to all kinds of serious problems for humans and animals depending on these resources. For archaeologists it will lead to the appearance of steadily older finds as the ancient ice continues to melt.

Klimaendring - Tessa de Roo måler inn en varde ved Lendbreen
Tessa de Roo is measuring a collapsed cairn on the route up to the Lendbreen mountain pass in 2015. Photo: Espen Finstad, Oppland County Council.

The prediction is that global and regional warming will lead to gradual melting of all the ice in the high mountains in Scandinavia. The process is already well on its way. Light grey areas surrounding the high mountain ice clearly show where recent melting has happened. The melting and disappearance of glaciers and ice patches may lead to all kinds of serious problems for humans and animals depending on these resources. For archaeologists it will lead to the appearance of steadily older finds as the ancient ice continues to melt.

Oppland Fylkeskommune

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