During The 800s-1300s AD, Wine Grapes Were Grown At Latitudes Where Polar Bears Now Roam

1-2°C Warmer Medieval Times Supported Wine

  Vineyards In Russia, Norway, N England (55°N)  

Image Source: Wikipedia – public domain image

Canada’s stable-to-increasing polar bear population extends its range slightly further south of the 55th parallel (York et al., 2016).

Image Source: York et al., 2016

According to published geological evidence from the 1950s, remnants of wine grape vineyards have been unearthed in regions as far north as the polar-bear-inhabiting 55th parallel during the Medieval Warm Period (~800s to 1300s AD).


Lamb, 1959

There was a secondary optimum of climate between 400 and 1200 A.D., the peak probably being 800-1000 A.D. This was on the whole a dry, warm period and apparently remarkably stormfree in the Atlantic and in the North Sea. It was the time of lowland settlement in the Saxon lands and of considerable flowering of Celtic and Northumbrian cultures. Missions from the Celtic Church in Ireland were sent as far as Africa and Iceland. It was also the time of great Viking voyages and the settlement of Iceland and Greenland. The early Norse burials in Greenland were deep in ground which is now permanently frozen. There were several visits to America (probably many timbergetting voyages between Greenland and Labrador) and there is evidence which suggests that at least one Viking ship got through the North-West Passage and ultimately reached the Gulf of California (cf. Ives 1953).”
“In Domesday Book (1085) 38 vineyards were recorded in England besides those of the kingThe wine was considered almost equal with the French wine both in quantity and quality as far north as Gloucestershire and the Ledbury area of Herefordshire where the soil is said to resemble that of the Rhine and Moselle wine districts. The London basin, the Medway valley and the Isle of Ely were also favoured districts. 
The northernmost vineyards were near York [northern England] but the most favoured country was from Northants and the Fenland southwards. This implies summer temperatures perhaps 1 to 2°C higher than today, general freedom from May frosts (particularly suggested by the exposure to the north of several low-lying vineyard sites, e.g. at Tewkesbury, in the Fens and at Teynham, Kent) and mostly good Septembers.”

Wine Produced In East Prussia, Lithuania, South Norway

At one time (1128-1437) wine had been produced in East Prussia.”
Grapes grew even at Tilsit (55°N) in Lithuania [Russia]…”
“…and in south Norway…”

Wine Produced At 220 Meters Higher Elevation Than 1959…And Today

“…[Grapes grew] as high as 780 m above sea level in the Black Forest [Germany].”
The highest vineyards in Germany today [1959] are about 560 m near the Boden Sea in Baden.”

The highest vineyard in Germany today, located at Lake Constance, is still 560 m above sea level, the same maximum height as it was in the late 1950s.  The modern elevation is therefore 220 meters lower elevation for German wine-making than during the Medieval Warm Period.

Grape Harvesting 500 Kilometers North Of Present From 1100 – 1300 A.D.

Easterbrook, 2011

The Medieval Warm Period (MWP) was a time of warm climate from about 900 A.D. to 1300 A.D. when global temperatures were apparently somewhat warmer than at present. Its effects were evident in Europe where grain crops flourished, alpine tree lines rose, many new cities arose, and the population more than doubled. The Vikings took advantage of the climatic amelioration to colonize Greenland, and wine grapes were grown as far north as England where growing grapes is now not feasible and about 500 km north of present vineyards in France and Germany. Grapes are presently grown in Germany up to elevations of about 560 m, but from about 1100 A.D. to 1300 A.D., vineyards extended up to 780 m, implying temperatures warmer by about 1.0-1.4°C (Oliver, 1973). Wheat and oats were grown around Trondheim, Norway, suggesting climates about 1°C warmer than present (Fagan, 2000).”

Grape Harvest Date Histories Reveal Little To No Change Since The 1600s–1800s

Guillet et al., 2017

Moreno et al., 2016 

“This paper reports a climatic reconstruction approach for the Minho region (NW of Portugal) using grape harvest dates (GHD) as proxy of surface air temperature.”

25 responses to “During The 800s-1300s AD, Wine Grapes Were Grown At Latitudes Where Polar Bears Now Roam”

  1. mothcatcher

    Excellent as always, Kenneth.

    Just a comment re the title reference to Polar Bears (sorry if that wasn’t your doing!) –
    The latitude comparison can’t really be evaluated without reference to longitude. Hudson Bay extends below 55 North and you wouldn’t expect wine to be grown there, either today or during the MWP. {though I was surprised to learn that wine is indeed produced in southern Ontario, below 44th parallel). But still, no drunken Polar Bears.

  2. AndyG55

    Wow, look at that dip around the mid-late 1970’s on both graphs

    Its lower than during the LIA periods !!

    1. tom0mason

      Yes, it shows so well why cAGW advocates require their temperatures to start at about 1979, if it were later the apparent ‘warming’ would be trivial.

      Lets start using the temperature from 1935-40 as the new normal reference, eh?

      1. Henning Nielsen

        But what will happen in a couple of years, when the present 30-year climate reference period (1961-1990) will be replaced with the years 1991-2020?The first period included a cooling phase, and so it was easy to scare people with warming, but will the years after 2020 really show that much temperature increase, compared to the new reference period?

  3. Don B

    Alaskan trees which flourished during the Roman and Medieval warm periods have been covered by a glacier. Yes, it was warmer during those earlier times. 

    “The most recent stumps she’s dated emerging from the Mendenhall are between 1,400 and 1,200 years old. The oldest she’s tested are around 2,350 years old. She’s also dated some at around 1,870 to 2,000 years old.”


  4. John F. Hultquist

    A nice collection of material. Thanks.

    I discount accounts of “quality” of wine when growers and producers start to compare their products.

    The wine was considered almost equal with the French wine both in quantity and quality as far north as . . .

    There is a lot of history (‘baggage’) regarding the wine trade of France and England at all times – also other places as well.

    Link to a great book:
    History of Wine by Allen

  5. tom0mason

    Cheers Kenneth! At last some figures you can raise a glass too! 🙂 😁

  6. donald penman

    I grew grapevines in Lincoln UK in around 2003-2004 and this is just south of York UK, the frost did not seem to make much difference to them. There was one year I had it growing entwined around my Washing line and there were heavy bunches of grapes hanging down from the washing line. Winters were still mild in The UK before about 2008 when Snow falls started to get heavier, at this time snow was a thing of the past we were told.

    1. Nigel S

      You’re probably familiar with German ‘Eiswein’, highly prized desert wine, also produced in Canada.

      1. SebastianH

        You are writing this as if it would be a surprise that Canada would cultivate wine. Quebec is at a lower latitude (e.g. is south of) than Munich. And it’s there and even further south (Canada extends down to where Rome is located in Europe) where wine is grown.

        1. P Gosselin

          You may wish to check your geography.

          1. SebastianH
          2. P Gosselin

            Quebec is 99+% above 45°N…and the climate there is continental and totally different than that of maritime Europe.

          3. P Gosselin

            Or have the Canadians moved Quebec further south because they’ve grown tired of waiting for global warming?

          4. SebastianH

            Quebec (the city) is at 46° 49′ N, 71° 13′ W
            Munich is at 48° 8′ N, 11° 35′ O

            I don’t know about you, but 46 is south of 48 …

            Here is a Canadian vineyard:

            Notice the latitude … that’s just 100 km north of Rome if it were located in Europe.

  7. Peter Ole Kvint

    Here are some misunderstandings.
    The climate of European viticulture is limited by the cold of winter and the availability of cheap labor.
    And climate zones Europe is to some degree north south. How the leafy forest in Norway is on a parallel latitude like everlasting snow in Canada.

  8. Denis Ables

    Alarmists invariably DENY that the Medieval Warming Period (MWP) 1,000 years ago) was global and likely warmer than now. They acknowledge only that Europe experienced the MWP. Their bizarre claim must be because their computer modelers cannot explain a global MWP. Their models require on increasing co2 level, and also depend even more on the built-in ASSUMPTION that water vapor feedback is the actual culprit, causing 2 to 3 times the temperature increase as brought on by co2 increase.

    However, co2 did not begin increasing until the 1800s, so not until long after the MWP. Without co2 increase there is also no temperature increase brought on by water vapor feedback. Since the MWP temperature increase must have been caused to natural climate variation, it becomes plausible to wonder whether our current warming (such as it is) may also be mostly due to NATURAL climate variation. But that, of course, conflicts with the UN’s IPCC unjustified claim that our current warming is mostly caused by human activity.

    A brief meta-analysis follows which shows that the MWP was indeed global and at least as warm as it is now.

    First, the MWP trend is conclusively shown as global by temperature data derived from 6,000 boreholes scattered around the globe. A good discussion of the borehole data can be found at Joanne Nova’s website.

    Next, the receding Mendenhall glacier (Alaska) recently exposed a 1,000 year-old shattered forest, still in its original position. No trees (let alone a forest) have grown at that latitude anywhere near that site since then. It is obvious that it was warmer in that part of Alaska than it is now. Alaska is quite distant from Europe.

    There are hundreds of peer-reviewed MWP studies, and the earlier results were reflected in earlier IPCC reports. These studies were carried out around the globe by investigators and organizations representing numerous countries. It’s curious that Mann and his cohort did not attempt to reconcile all those studies with their conflicting “hockey stick” claim. One of their own players, Phil Jones, admitted publicly that if the MWP was global and as warm as now then it was a different “ballgame”. Confirming studies continue to show up.

    A subset of these MWP studies directly addresses temperature estimates. One such study is the Greenland Temperature (gisp2) study which shows, among other things, that Greenland was warmer during the MWP than it is now. Greenland is distant from both Europe and Alaska.

    The MWP studies have been conveniently cataloged at co2science.org website. Dr. Idso, the proprietor of that website, is a known skeptic, but the studies he has cataloged were independently performed by numerous researchers, many from different countries and using various temperature proxy techniques.

    Readers should satisfy themselves by going to co2science.org and choosing (say) a half dozen regions (all should be remote from Alaska, Greenland, and Europe). Choose at least one temperature study from each selected region. You will find that the selected site(s) were warmer during the MWP than now. The study results are consistent with the temperature data provided from boreholes.

    Other confirming observations include antique vineyards found at latitudes where grapes cannot be grown today, old burial sites found below the perma-frost, and Viking maps of most of Greenland’s coastline.

    This meta-analysis is based on straight-forward non-controversial studies. The MWP studies as well as various observations are all consistent with the borehole data results and vice-versa. It’s worth repeating that this meta-study does NOT involve controversial “models”, dubious statistics, nor other controversial machinations with the raw data.

    One of the “talking points” posed by alarmists, to “rebut” a global MWP is that warming in all regions during the MWP must be synchronous. Obviously the MWP studies sited herein were generally all performed independently, so start and end dates of each study during the MWP will vary. However, anyone foolish enough to accept that “synchronous” argument must also be prepared to accept that other alarmist claims are invalid.

    For example, many alarmists go back into the 1800s when making their claims about the current global warming. But there was a three decade GLOBAL cooling period from about 1945 to 1975. That’s much more significant than just one region being “out of synch”. Therefore, any current global warming consideration is constrained to establishing its starting point no earlier than 1975. We know temperature begin increasing in 1975 and that increase basically terminated during the 1997/98 el Nino. Even the IPCC (a bureaucracy which cannot justify its mission if our current warming is NATURAL) has recognized another GLOBAL “hiatus” in temperature increase following 1998. Thus our recent global warming period began in 1975 and this temperature increase ended in 1998, so all this controversy involves no more than two decades. That warming has been followed by about two decades of no further increase in temperature. But wait … ! Even the period from 1975 to 1998 apparently does not qualify as a global warming because there were numerous “out of synch” regions and/or countries which have experienced no additional warming over durations which include that span.


    Another alarmist rebuttal attempt is that the MWP studies cataloged by co2science.org are all cherry-picked. Really? I encourage readers to look for some NOT cataloged by co2science, but keep in mind that one or two strays have little impact on this meta-study for the earlier discussion, showing that there were numerous areas showing no increasing warming during the 1975-199 global warming.

    There are also other reasons to exclude consideration of temperature increases during the 1800s. There was a significant NATURAL warming beginning around 1630 (the first low temperature experienced during the LIA) and that increase ran until 1830 when co2 began increasing. However, it would have taken many decades, possibly more than a century, for co2 increase, at an average 2 ppmv per year, to accrue sufficiently before having any impact on thermometer measurements. Neither is there any reason to expect that the 200 years of natural and significant warming beginning in 1630 ended abruptly, after 2 centuries, merely because co2 level began increasing in 1830. How much of the overlap in the continuing temperature increase, beginning in 1830, was also due to more natural climate warming?


    1. SebastianH

      Since the MWP temperature increase must have been caused to natural climate variation, it becomes plausible to wonder whether our current warming (such as it is) may also be mostly due to NATURAL climate variation.

      Sorry, but that’s a weird claim. It’s similar to claiming a gun shot victim died of natural causes because people died before guns were invented and even more often by perfectly natural causes.

      1. AndyG55

        There is NO scientific reason to assume that the highly beneficial warming out of the COLDEST period in 10,000 years is ANYTHING BUT NATURAL.

  9. Denis Ables

    delete “caused to” in 2nd paragraph. sorry.

  10. David

    What’s important about Lamb’s study is that this was before the politicization of the climate debate or even before anyone saw an issue with global warming. It wasn’t made up for some political debate like the hockey stick. And, it wasn’t even really challenged until Mann began trying to repress those who challenged his hockey stick theory.

  11. Mr.Pettersen

    Trondheim was the capital of Norway in this time period.
    Trondheim is located at the same parallell as the southern tip of Greenland.

    So the viking setlements on Greenland was no further to the north than the Middle of Norway. For the Vikings Greenland was a jouney to the vest, not to the north.

    So living north of the 55 parallell is something a lot of Norwegians still do.
    There are no grapes, but corn, potatoes and other stuff grows very well even north of Trondheim these days.

  12. During The 800s-1300s AD, Wine Grapes Were Grown At Latitudes Where Polar Bears Now Roam | Un hobby...

    […] K. Richard, April 2, […]

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