Klima og hungersnød i middelalderen


  • Nils Hybel


Climate and Hunger in the Middle AgesThe term "Medieval Warm Period" has been used to describe a past climate epoch in Europe and neighbouring regions during the 11th-14th centuries. However, it has been demonstrated that this warm period varies geographically in a considerable way and that the evidence does not support a synchronous period of anomalous warmth during the Middle Ages. Western Greenland exhibited unusual warmth locally around 1000, and to lesser extent, around 1400, with quite cold conditions during the latter part of the 11th century, while Scandinavian summer temperatures appear to have been relatively warm only during the 11th and early 12th centuries. In Western and Central Europe the 13th century was the Medieval Warmth Period proper. On the European continent the warmth period was over sometime in the first half of the 14th century. In England and Iceland it outlasted the 14th century.The latest assessment report from the UN climate panel describes the long-term hemispheric trend as a modest and irregular cooling from 1000 to around 1850-1900, followed by an abrupt 20th century warming sometime after 1960. Recent estimates of the northern hemisphere mean temperature show temperatures from the 11th-14th centuries to be only about 0.2 degree celsius warmer than those from the 15th-19th centuries, but rather below mid 20th century temperatures. On the basis of these estimates it can hardly be argued that the long termed so called Medieval Warmth period is very important for our understanding of the development of Europe in the Middle Ages.The relatively short termed, extraordinary strong and geographically wide-ranging climatic anomalistic years were more important. These years caused famine, epidemics and demographic decline. Medieval chronicles and annals report countless famine years caused by bad weather. The most grave situations developed of course when the climate was unfavourable in more than one year - in most cases two or three years. But to generate catastrophic consequences a famine not only had to cover two or three years in succession it also had to cover a larger geographic area. Trade in grain and other victuals was quite developed in the Middle Ages, and in a critical situation relief could be found in imports from places not affected by unfavourable weather. Still, the importance of trade in victuals must indeed not be exaggerated.Comparing meteorological information in North European annals, chronicles, surveys, manorial accounts etc. this study shows that Denmark and the rest of Northern Europe was hit by general famine crises caused by bad weather two times in the 11th century, five times in 12th century, in the 1220s and in the second decade of the 14th century. Reports of such calamities ravaging Northern Europe have on the other hand not been found from 1320 to about 1500. Thus, the climate seems to have been a more severe adversary to man and human society in the High than in the Late Middle Ages.





Hybel, N. (2013). Klima og hungersnød i middelalderen. Historisk Tidsskrift, 102(2). Hentet fra https://tidsskrift.dk/historisktidsskrift/article/view/56005