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Archaeology & History

Volcanoes hastened fall of the Roman Empire

By T.K. Randall
July 9, 2015 · Comment icon 11 comments



A volcanic winter brought widespread famine to Europe. Image Credit: Johan Christian Dahl
A series of volcanic eruptions in North America once triggered widespread disaster across Europe.
In the year 536 AD early historians recorded how the sky had become veiled by clouds of thick dust and ash that blocked out the light from the sun for a period of several months.

During this time the sun shone no brighter than the moon and freak weather conditions including snow showers and frost in the middle of the summer lay waste to vast swathes of food crops.

The disaster resulted in plague and famine which ultimately wiped out one third of the entire population of Europe and brought what was left of the Roman Empire crashing to its knees.
Now thanks to a new study of ice cores and historical records scientists have been able to determine that this catastrophic series of events had been caused by a chain of volcanic eruptions in the Americas followed up by further eruptions in the tropics only a few years later.

"Our new dating allowed us to clarify long-standing debates concerning the origin and consequences of the severe and global climate anomalies which began with the mystery cloud in 536AD observed in the Mediterranean basin," said study author Dr Michael Sigl.

"These cooler temperatures were caused by large amounts of volcanic sulphate particles injected into the upper atmosphere shielding the Earth's surface from incoming solar radiation."

The study also showed that 15 of the 16 coldest summers between the 6th and 11th centuries had followed significant volcanic eruptions - some of which being the largest ever recorded.

Source: Telegraph | Comments (11)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #2 Posted by Ashotep 7 years ago
If that happened today there would be countries falling. We are all just one giant natural, or man made, disaster away from crumbling.
Comment icon #3 Posted by jarjarbinks 7 years ago
Yes, when we will have less food, the most powerful country will sell their souls and start wars over the remaining food production on Earth.
Comment icon #4 Posted by Bavarian Raven 7 years ago
Yes, when we will have less food, the most powerful country will sell their souls and start wars over the remaining food production on Earth. And can you blame then?
Comment icon #5 Posted by Athena1979 7 years ago
Are they sure it was volcanoes and not SUVs?
Comment icon #6 Posted by lightly 7 years ago
the Roman Empire got "too big to fail" . So it did.
Comment icon #7 Posted by Infernal Gnu 7 years ago
Once they switched their official religion to Christianity it was only a matter of time before one of the old gods got revenge, in this case Vulcan, the god of fire.
Comment icon #8 Posted by Doug1029 7 years ago
On March 24 536AD the sky suddenly darkened across continental Europe as a thick dust cloud rolled in and stayed put for 18 months. In 407 AD, the ruling council in Britain asked Emperor Honorius for aid in repelling attacks by the Picts and Scots. Honorius replied that there was no help to send, effectively acknowledging that Britain was no longer part of the empire (The last legion left in 383 AD, intending to return, which it never did.). Rome fell to Alaric in 410 AD. In 476, Odoacer deemed the title of Emperor to be more trouble than it was worth and sent the Roman standards to Constantin... [More]
Comment icon #9 Posted by questionmark 7 years ago
well, one Aquila was found and is at the Museum of Cleveland... now I leave the "non-lost" to another buff...
Comment icon #10 Posted by Zalmoxis 7 years ago
Interesting article. Thanks for the link.
Comment icon #11 Posted by aearluin 7 years ago
I don't doubt that heavy vulcanism could bring a strong civilization to its knees, but claiming that vulcans destroyed the Roman Empire almost 1 century after the fall of Rome seems just plain stupid to me... Depends on definition, but the fall of the Western Roman Empire (and Rome) is usually considerd to have happened between 405 and 480, with the notorious "sack of Rome" taking place alrady in 410 as Doug1o29 mentioned above. Anyway, the empire had been crumbling on its own since the late 4th century AD. As for the Eastern Roman Empire (Constantinople), it only fell in the 1400s. Hence, vul... [More]


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