Cataclysmic volcanic eruption in Iceland caused mass dying in Europe in year 536


Staff member
Oct 7, 2008

[SUB]An 72-meter ice core drilled in the Colle Gnifetti Glacier in the Swiss Alps entombs more than 2000 years of fallout from volcanoes, storms, and human pollution.[/SUB]

A mysterious fog plunged Europe, the Middle East, and parts of Asia into darkness, day and night—for 18 months starting in the year 536.

"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.

Historians have long known that the middle of the sixth century was a dark hour in what used to be called the Dark Ages, but the source of the mysterious clouds has long been a puzzle. Now, an ultraprecise analysis of ice from a Swiss glacier by a team led by McCormick and glaciologist Paul Mayewski at the Climate Change Institute of The University of Maine (UM) in Orono has fingered a culprit. At a workshop at Harvard this week, the team reported that a cataclysmic volcanic eruption in Iceland spewed ash across the Northern Hemisphere early in 536. Two other massive eruptions followed, in 540 and 547. The repeated blows, followed by plague, plunged Europe into economic stagnation that lasted until 640, when another signal in the ice—a spike in airborne lead—marks a resurgence of silver mining.


Forum Elite
Elite Member
Oct 7, 2008
Something very similar happened in 1783 - a massive eruption in the Laki fissure belt released vast quantities of sulphur dioxide and fluorine which caused crop failures and famines in Europe and North America as well as devastating Iceland itself with 20-25% of the population dying.

old bearkill

Forum Regular
Oct 25, 2011
Stockholm Sweden
The Year Without a Summer

After the eruption of The Mount Tambora in 1815 , the year of 1816 was called The Year Without a Summer. Global temperature decreased 0,4-0,7 Celsius degrees, witch caused a famine in the northern hemisphere.

Turners fameouse Yellow atmospheric paintings is believed to be inspired by volacnic dust miss colouring the skies.