Vintage Year for Archaeology Follows Hot, Dry Weather

dryer weather ancient sites photo

Image credit: National Heritage

Unless the very worst predictions come true (which is perfectly possible), then it is fair to assume there will be winners and losers from climate change. We've already heard about Greenlander's celebrating increased access to natural resources, and even exploring the idea of bottled iceberg water. Now another segment of the global population may have a (very minor) reason to celebrate—archaeologists. It appears that dryer weather helps uncover ancient sites. Obviously, with the very real prospect of more resource wars, climate-related hunger and disease, and extreme weather across the Globe, news that we may also find out where some Roman guy once built his house tends to only emphasize the fact that climate change, overall, is probably not a good thing.

Nevertheless, news from English Heritage that the hot, dry summer has lead to a huge amount of archaeological discoveries across Britain is an interesting reminder of how weather and climate impact our lives in unexpected ways. It seems that as crops were placed under stress by the dry weather, the variability in growth patterns increased, revealing a whole host of hitherto hidden remains:

"Promising signs started to emerge in late May when the dry conditions had started to reveal cropmarks on well drained soils, especially river gravels and chalk in the East and South East of England. By June it became clear that the continuing dry conditions would produce good results across most of the country. We then targeted areas that do not always produce cropmarks, such as clay soils, or have seen little reconnaissance in recent years due to recent wet summers or busy airspace."

Naturally, it's dangerous to attribute any one weather phenomenon to climate change. It's also dangerous to assume that climate change will just bring heat and drought—hurricanes and heavy rainfall will be part of the picture too. But if climate models prove correct, there will be more long, hot dry spells to come in the UK. Now archaeologists will just have to figure out how to keep their planes in the air without exacerbating the problem. Luckily, English Heritage is actively campaigning about the threat to the historic environment caused by climate change too.

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