Volcanology: Chronicling a medieval eruption

The climatic response to the eruption of the Samalas Volcano in 1257 has been elusive. Medieval archives tell of a spatially variable reaction, with Europe and Japan experiencing severe cold compared to relative warmth in North America.

The eruption of Samalas Volcano in Indonesia in 1257 was one of the largest in the history of human civilization and probably perturbed global climate. Ice-core sulfate records show that the eruption created the largest stratospheric sulfate injection of the Common Era, with sulfate deposition preserved in Greenland ice cores roughly double that of the great Tambora eruption of 18151 . Yet, uncertainties surround the climatic impact of this eruption. Treering-based reconstructions of Northern Hemispheric summer temperatures diverge in the recorded severity of this climatic impact, whereas some climate models predict a greater impact than that suggested by palaeoclimatic archives1–4. Writing in Nature Geoscience, Guillet et al.5 use a combination of palaeoclimatic proxy records for the Northern Hemisphere, as well as medieval archives to show that although the eruption did trigger some of the coldest summer temperatures of the past millennium, these effects were felt only in some regions.

 Contemporary illustration of wine harvesting as illustrated in the Martyrology of the Saint-Germain-des-Prés Abbey (source: National Library of France, Paris, Ms lat. 12834, fol. 69v).

Contemporary illustration of wine harvesting as illustrated in the Martyrology of the
Saint-Germain-des-Prés Abbey (source: National Library of France, Paris, Ms lat. 12834, fol. 69v).

 

 

 

F. Ludlow. School of Histories & Humanities, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland.

Link to Nature Geoscience

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