Climate Change and Archaeological Sites Above: River bank erosion along the Oconaluftee River in Jackson County. River bank and shoreline erosion are among the many threats facing archaeological sites throughout the state in this era of changing climate. (Image by Allyson Ropp, NC Office of State Archaeology, 2021) Predicting Impacts, Tracking Changes, Saving our Heritage Change is inevitable, particularly in our environment. Every day, water moves sediment along riverbeds, ocean waves move sand up and down beaches, and the wind carries pollen to new locations. Some environmental changes are occurring faster than any other time in human history. Changes to Earth’s average air temperature are altering environments worldwide. We call this “climate change.” Climate is the average weather patterns in a particular area over long periods. In the past, events like solar flares, volcanic activity, and variations in the Earth’s orbit spurred climate change. Recently, anthropogenic (or human-caused) changes in greenhouse gas concentrations have accelerated climate change. This has caused shifts in temperature, precipitation (rain and snow), extreme weather events (like hurricanes and tornadoes), sea levels, and the chemistry of the ocean. SVG earth Predicting the Effects of Climate Change on Archaeological Sites Archaeological sites provide us with the most information about the past when the environment around them is stable. Climate change threatens archaeological sites. Soil temperature, moisture levels, increasing coastal erosion, and flooding negatively impact preservation. Learn more about predicting the effects of climate change on archaeological sites. SVG Different Risks in Different Places North Carolinians experience climate change differently across the state. Environmental characteristics like elevation, geology, and distance to the ocean impact climates. Archaeological sites are affected by these differences too. Delve into the threats climate change poses to sites in our state. SVG eye Watching and Saving Places at Risk How can we save archaeological sites at risk due to climate change? The Office of State Archaeology and other state agencies are working to save our shared history! By identifying important sites and tracking changes in real-time, we can protect sites and even reverse some of the harm already done. You can help too by exploring current programs to save cultural heritage in North Carolina! View References for This Page This material was produced with assistance from the Emergency Supplemental Historic Preservation Fund, administered by the National Park Service, Department of the Interior. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of the Interior.