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The Medieval Warm Period in Svalbard, Norway
Grinsted, A., Moore, J.C., Pohjola, V., Martma, T. and Isaksson, E. 2006. Svalbard summer melting, continentality, and sea ice extent from the Lomonosovfonna ice core. Journal of Geophysical Research 111: 10.1029/2005JD006494.

What was done
From data obtained from a 121-meter-long ice core they extracted from the highest ice field in Svalbard (Lomonosovfonna: 7851'53"N, 1725'30"E), the authors developed "a model of chemical fractionation in ice based on differing elution rates for pairs of ions ... as a proxy for summer melt (1130-1990)," which was "validated against twentieth-century instrumental records and longer historical climate proxies."

What was learned
Grinsted et al. say that "in the oldest part of the core (1130-1200), the washout indices are more than 4 times as high as those seen during the last century, indicating a high degree of runoff." In addition, they report they have performed regular snow pit studies near the ice core site since 1997 (Virkkunen, 2004) and that "the very warm 2001 summer resulted in similar loss of ions and washout ratios as the earliest part of the core." They then state that "this suggests that the Medieval Warm Period in Svalbard summer conditions [was] as warm (or warmer) as present-day, consistent with the Northern Hemisphere temperature reconstruction of Moberg et al. (2005)."

What it means
Grinsted et al. conclude that "the degree of summer melt was significantly larger during the period 1130-1300 than in the 1990s," which likewise suggests that a large portion of the Medieval Warm Period was significantly warmer than the peak warmth (1990s) of the Current Warm Period.

Moberg, A., Sonechkin, D.M., Holmgren, K., Datsenko, N.M. and Karlenm, W. 2005. Highly variable Northern Hemisphere temperatures reconstructed from low- and high-resolution proxy data. Nature 433: 613-617.

Virkkunen, K. 2004. Snowpit Studies in 2001-2002 in Lomonosovfonna, Svalbard. M.S. Thesis, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland.

Reviewed 26 July 2006