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Thread: The worst year ever to be alive was caused by two volcanos in 536 A.D.

  1. #1
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    Post The worst year ever to be alive was caused by two volcanos in 536 A.D.

    I wasn't even aware this was a historical mystery until now.


    https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018...-year-be-alive

    Why 536 was ‘the worst year to be alive’
    By Ann Gibbons, Nov. 15, 2018 , 2:00 PM

    Ask medieval historian Michael McCormick what year was the worst to be alive, and he's got an answer: "536." Not 1349, when the Black Death wiped out half of Europe. Not 1918, when the flu killed 50 million to 100 million people, mostly young adults. But 536. In Europe, "It was the beginning of one of the worst periods to be alive, if not the worst year," says McCormick, a historian and archaeologist who chairs the Harvard University Initiative for the Science of the Human Past.

    A mysterious fog plunged Europe, the Middle East, and parts of Asia into darkness, day and night—for 18 months. "For the sun gave forth its light without brightness, like the moon, during the whole year," wrote Byzantine historian Procopius. Temperatures in the summer of 536 fell 1.5°C to 2.5°C, initiating the coldest decade in the past 2300 years. Snow fell that summer in China; crops failed; people starved. The Irish chronicles record "a failure of bread from the years 536–539." Then, in 541, bubonic plague struck the Roman port of Pelusium, in Egypt. What came to be called the Plague of Justinian spread rapidly, wiping out one-third to one-half of the population of the eastern Roman Empire and hastening its collapse, McCormick says.
    Do good work. —Virgil Ivan "Gus" Grissom

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    It seems the historical mystery was not that a volcanic eruption(s) caused the unusually cold climate in those years but precisely which volcano. Tree ring and ice core data from Greenland and Antarctica had already pointed to volcanoes as the cause. The article discusses new ice core evidence that shows volcanic fragments matching that which would be produced from Iceland.

    Ice cores really are a fabulous record of the past. Good article.

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    The answer found?

    https://ui.adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/20...5855D/abstract

    Radiocarbon and geologic evidence reveal Ilopango volcano as source of the colossal 'mystery' eruption of 539/40 CE
    Dull, Robert A.; Southon, John R.; Kutterolf, Steffen; Anchukaitis, Kevin J.; Freundt, Armin; Wahl, David B.; Sheets, Payson; Amaroli, Paul; Hernandez, Walter; Wiemann, Michael C.; Oppenheimer, Clive

    Ilopango volcano (El Salvador) erupted violently during the Maya Classic Period (250-900 CE) in a densely-populated and intensively-cultivated region of the southern Maya realm, causing regional abandonment of an area covering more than 20,000 km2. However, neither the regional nor global impacts of the Tierra Blanca Joven (TBJ) eruption in Mesoamerica have been well appraised due to limitations in available volcanological, chronological, and archaeological observations. Here we present new evidence of the age, magnitude and sulfur release of the TBJ eruption, establishing it as one of the two hitherto unidentified volcanic triggers of a period of stratospheric aerosol loading that profoundly impacted Northern Hemisphere climate and society between circa 536 and 550 CE. Our chronology is derived from 100 new radiocarbon measurements performed on three subfossil tree trunks enveloped in proximal TBJ pyroclastic deposits. We also reassess the eruption magnitude using terrestrial (El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras) and near-shore marine TBJ tephra deposit thickness measurements. Together, our new constraints on the age, eruption size (43.6 km3 Dense Rock Equivalent of magma, magnitude = 7.0) and sulfur yield (∼9-90 Tg), along with Ilopango's latitude (13.7° N), squarely frame the TBJ as the major climate-forcing eruption of 539 or 540 CE identified in bipolar ice cores and sourced to the tropics. In addition to deepening appreciation of the TBJ eruption's impacts in Mesoamerica, linking it to the major Northern Hemisphere climatic downturn of the mid-6th century CE offers another piece in the puzzle of understanding Eurasian history of the period.

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    I believe David Keys did the original historical detective work on this back in 1999, which he wrote up in a fascinating book entitled Catastrophe. Still very much worth reading. IIRC there was a Channel 4 documentary in their Secrets Of The Dead strand, round about the same time.

    Grant Hutchison

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    This might be connected to the severe weather in 535/536, during the reign of Justinian I
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extrem...35%E2%80%93536

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    But 74,000 years ago was not much fun, either. Still, ancient humans survived a super-volcano, Toba, 74,000 years ago, and here's proof.

    https://phys.org/news/2020-02-human-...-volcanic.html
    https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/25/world...scn/index.html
    Do good work. —Virgil Ivan "Gus" Grissom

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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger E. Moore View Post
    But 74,000 years ago was not much fun, either. Still, ancient humans survived a super-volcano, Toba, 74,000 years ago, and here's proof.
    Well we kinda know humans survived, sorta. We are the proof of that.

    To clarify for the room, the articles say archaic humans or hominins living in the region where the Toba eruption occurred apparently continued to make tools associated with their prior hunter/gatherer lifestyles, without evidence of the commonly assumed mass extinctions or population bottleneck.
    Last edited by Noclevername; 2020-Feb-27 at 01:22 PM.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger E. Moore View Post
    What came to be called the Plague of Justinian spread rapidly, wiping out one-third to one-half of the population of the eastern Roman Empire and hastening its collapse, McCormick says.
    I don't understand this bit. If this was 536, the Western Roman Empire had already collapsed and the Eastern Roman Empire existed for another 900+ years.
    Solfe

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    IIRC, the Eastern Roman Empire lasted until 1450 or so. Most texts give the fall of the West as 476.

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    Smithsonian's take on the issue... two volcanoes, not one, four years apart.

    https://www.smithsonianmag.com/scien...ons-180955858/
    Last edited by Roger E. Moore; 2020-Mar-27 at 04:14 PM.
    Do good work. —Virgil Ivan "Gus" Grissom

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