The Impact of the Climate Catastrophe of 536-537 AD in Estonia and Neighbouring Areas/536.-537. Aasta Kliimakatastroofi Moju Eestis Ja Naaberaladel

By Tvauri, Andres | Estonian Journal of Archaeology, June 2014 | Go to article overview

The Impact of the Climate Catastrophe of 536-537 AD in Estonia and Neighbouring Areas/536.-537. Aasta Kliimakatastroofi Moju Eestis Ja Naaberaladel


Tvauri, Andres, Estonian Journal of Archaeology


Introduction

In 536-541 AD a short-term and sudden cooling took place in the northern hemisphere which has caught the attention of researchers only quite recently. In 1983, Richard Stothers and Michael Rampino published a list of volcanic eruptions prior to 630 AD known from historical sources (Stothers & Rampino 1983). Their list included a veil of dust or dry fog that darkened the sky for almost a year in 536-537 AD and caused crop failure.

Dendrochronologist Mike Baillie found physical evidence of the event studying the tree rings of Irish oak (Baillie 1994). During the last decades, numerous publications (e.g. Randsborg 1997; Axboe 1999; 2001a; 2001b; Baillie 1999; Keys 1999; Gunn 2000; Hoilund Nielsen 2006; Graslund 2008; Graslund & Price 2012; Arrhenius 2013) have discussed the historical significance and impact of the 536-537 event as well as its archaeological manifestations and written sources. The emergence of this new research topic is due to recent advancements in climate reconstructions based on natural science. Having access to much higher-resolution climate records makes it possible to discuss the demographic, economic, and cultural impacts of climate change more precisely (Widgren 2012, 126).

The event in question appears clearly in the growth rings of trees in the northern hemisphere, namely in the common oak (Quercus robur) and families of pine (Pinus). Tree rings show abnormally little growth in 536 and the following years. A similar pattern has been found in tree rings from 540 in the southern hemisphere, for example in southern Chile and Argentina (Baillie 1999; 2007; Gunn 2000; Jones 2000; Young 2000 and citations therein). Tree rings of the northern hemisphere show that growth was hampered in two periods. After recovery a new, even sharper drop emerged in 540-541 (D'Arrigo et al. 2001, 240). According to tree rings, extraordinarily cold weather continued in the northern hemisphere until the year 545 (Graslund & Price 2012, 430 and citations therein).

Traces of the event can be found in ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica. The earliest studies referred to the high sulphuric acid content of ice deposits in Greenland from around 540 which indicate the volcanic origin of the event (see Stothers & Rampino 1983; Stothers 1999). Later researchers have also found evidence of substantial sulphate deposits in ice layers from Greenland and Antarctica, supporting the notion of volcanic dust (e.g. Traufetter et al. 2004; Larsen et al. 2008; Ferris et al. 2011).

Most scientists who have studied the causes of the event of 536 have concluded that it was caused by an immense volcanic eruption in the tropical zone of Earth (see Stothers & Rampino 1983; Stothers 1999; Larsen et al. 2008). Several volcanoes and places have been proposed (see Stothers 1984; Keys 1999; Wohletz 2000). The most convincing evidence so far refers to the Tierra Blanca Joven eruption of the Ilopango caldera in central El Salvador (Dull et al. 2001; 2010; Oppenheimer 2011, 254 ff.). Others believe that a comet or a meteorite explosion caused the event (Baillie 1999; 2007; Rigby et al. 2004). Magnetite and silicate spherules found from the ice layers of 536-537 in Greenland support this alternative explanation (Abbott et al. 2008). Similar sphelures have been found in northern Australia from a supposed metorite crater in the Gulf of Carpentaria (Abbott et al. 2008; Subt et al. 2010). Thus, natural scientists have not agreed on what caused the climate anomaly of 536-537. Nevertheless, according to tree growth rings it was the worst shock to the ecosystem within the last 2000 years (Baillie 2007, 106).

Antti Arjava (2006) has studied written evidence from Mediterranean sources of the extraordinary event of 536-537. In several of these sources it appears that a darkening of the sun was observable in the Mediterranean region during more than a year. Bishop Michael the Syrian writes in his 12th century chronicle, quoting the 6th century ecclesiastical historian John of Ephesos:

Each day it shone for about four hours, and still this light was only a feeble shadow. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

The Impact of the Climate Catastrophe of 536-537 AD in Estonia and Neighbouring Areas/536.-537. Aasta Kliimakatastroofi Moju Eestis Ja Naaberaladel
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.