Tag Archives: warm


The Little Ice Age and the MWP

Categories: Research, Tags: , , , , , ,

We all realize that temperature is not a constant.  It’s hard enough to imagine what life was like in the Middle Ages, without adding in differences in temperature.  As it turns out, many of my books falls directly into the ‘medieval warm period’ of 950 to 1250.

medieval temperature

“The Medieval Warm Period (MWP) is generally thought to have occurred from about AD 950–1250, during the European Middle Ages.[9] In 1965 Hubert Lamb, one of the first paleoclimatologists, published research based on data from botany, historical document research and meteorology combined with records indicating prevailing temperature and rainfall in England around 1200 and around 1600. He proposed that “Evidence has been accumulating in many fields of investigation pointing to a notably warm climate in many parts of the world, that lasted a few centuries around A.D. 1000–1200, and was followed by a decline of temperature levels till between 1500 and 1700 the coldest phase since the last ice age occurred.”[14]  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medieval_Warm_Period

Not only should this chart put to rest any notion that global warming doesn’t exist, but it calls attention to two different climate periods in Europe:  “The Medieval Warming Period”, which began around 950 AD and ended around 1300 AD, which was followed by a “Little Ice Age” which lasted until the middle of the 19th century.

On the NOAA web page:  “Norse seafaring and colonization around the North Atlantic at the end of the 9th century indicated that regional North Atlantic climate was warmer during medieval times than during the cooler “Little Ice Age” of the 15th – 19th centuries. As paleoclimatic records have become more numerous, it has become apparent that “Medieval Warm Period” or “Medieval Optimum” temperatures were warmer over the Northern Hemisphere than during the subsequent “Little Ice Age”, and also comparable to temperatures during the early 20th century” before the temperatures started to rise precipitously.

The warming period, followed by the cooling period affected the climate and population of Europe (and for my purposes, Wales).   Wales is mountainous and rocky, and the warmer air ushered in a period of prosperity in which the population doubled between 950 AD and 1350 AD, when the population was decimated by the Black Plague.   The population of Wales didn’t exceed 1350 levels again until the 16th century. (see my post here)

Glacial Ice began expanding in 1250 AD, but did not seriously impact much of Europe until the mid-1500s. Mann writes:  “In the Chamonix valley near Mont Blanc, France, numerous farms and villages were lost to the advancing front of a nearby mountain glacier. The damage was so threatening that the villagers summoned the Bishop of Geneva to perform an exorcism of the dark forces presumed responsible.”   (Little Ice Age) Unfortunately for the villagers, the attempts were unsuccessful 🙂



How did medieval people keep warm?

Categories: Research, Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

How did medieval people keep warm?  The short answer might be they didn’t, but that’s only half an answer.  Certainly, in medieval Wales like in modern Wales, people didn’t have to deal with extreme temperatures of say–Minnesota–but they did have to deal with snow and cold in the winter, and occasional heat waves in the summer.

How did they protect themselves against the cold?  Houses, certainly, weren’t kept very warm.  Cloaks, scarves, boots, and gloves were worn indoors.  Especially with the inefficient and smoky heating system (see my post on chimneys), the cold inside could approximate the cold inside.

Medieval people had gloves, for example:  http://medievalgloves.blogspot.com/2007/11/three-pairs-of-gloves.html

“For the peasant, the garb was basic and simple. The outer clothing was commonly made of wool with undergarments of linen. As one would expect, the wool garments were hot, heavy and itchy, but fortunately, the linen undergarments made the wool a bit more comfortable. The undergarments were laundered, but it was rare to wash the outer garments. While one might think this would serve to create a rather pungent society, such was not necessarily the case. Though the peasants worked very hard, frequently at manual labor, they also spent a great deal of time around open fires and smoke. The smoke permeated their clothes and acted as a natural deodorant reducing the odors.

In the winter and colder months, cloaks, mittens and woolen hats were worn as protection from the elements. Shoes were worn, but were often a luxury. Leather boots could be found among the peasants, but it was not uncommon for peasants to go without shoes. Along with their woolen dresses, women often wore simple caps.”  http://www.medieval-period.com/medievalclothing.html

BBC did a feature on what Robin Hood might have worn in Sherwood Forest to keep warm in winter:  “In the medieval era, clothes would be made of wool with a next-to-body material generally of linen. Both materials – worn in layers – are excellent to keep you warm. Perspiration reduces this effectiveness, so if you couldn’t avoid sweating for some reason and you became hot through physical exertion the correct thing to do would be to take a layer or two off until you cooled down, then put the layers back on again.

Medieval men wore a linen shirt and underclothes, a woollen coat with a hood over a coif – a tight fitting cap – on the head and also covering the shoulders and upper arms. Gloves were known – by comparison to our modern five-fingered gloves medieval winter gloves had two ‘fingers and a thumb’ only or more likely looked like mittens, made from wool or padded / lined leather.

Even soaking wet wool provides a modicum of warmth. Our medieval outlaws couldn’t wear anything else anyway, as fibres such as polyester, lycra and nylon weren’t invented and silk was both rare and too expensive for a common man when seen at market (Silk is a recommended next-to-body material for keeping warm, but rare in England for many years to come. Being an outlaw, if you couldn’t afford any silk you could always steal some).

Wool if clean and maintained is waterproof up to a point, but would not resist a downpour and shelter have to be sought. Wool can be waterproofed, but this affects the warmth it provides.

A far better and a more common waterproof for wintertime would be leather – a fatty skin taken from an animal such as a deer or a pig or a skin treated and tanned into leather and fashioned into a cloak, perhaps including a hood.”  http://www.bbc.co.uk/nottingham/features/2003/12/sherwood_forest_survival_guide.shtml