As a result of the colder temperatures, it was much more difficult to grow grain. In addition the pastures were green for a shorter period of time and more forage had to be cut, dried and stored for winter. Even the cod fish, which had been abundant for Greenlanders and Icelanders, no longer came far enough north for the Viking fishing boats because the water in that part of the North Sea had become too cold.
The agricultural settlements in Greenland failed in about 1350 and the fishing settlements were gone by 1500. In Iceland the population declined from 77,500 in 1095 to only 38,000 by the mid-1780’s. The physical height of the Greenlanders declined from an average of 5’7” in 1150 to 5’ or even less toward the end of their stay there. Icelanders also suffered a decline in height, from 5’’8” to 5’6”—obviously the health of the populace in both locations was suffering as the climate became substantially colder.
Temperature of the Earth over the past 1100 years
As is apparent form the chart (the same basic picture was given on a chart published in a 1995 report by the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), the globe was much warmer during the Viking era than it is today, and was much colder during the Little Ice Age, a period from which the Earth has only recently emerged.