Ancient Volcanic Data - Ireland

Scientists Use Ancient Knowledge to Understand Volcanic Activity

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In yet another example of the wisdom and advanced knowledge of our ancestors, modern day scientists have drawn upon the climate records produced by Irish monks between 431 to 1649 AD to discover a correlation between volcanic activity and periods of bitterly cold weather in Ireland.

The study, published in Environmental Research Letters, found that volcanic eruptions, such as the Peruvian eruption of Huaynaputina in 1600, were associated with a few years of strong winters in Ireland.

“The possibility that tropical eruptions may result in severe winter cooling for Ireland highlights the considerable complexity of the volcano-climate system in terms of the regional expression of the response of climate to volcanic disturbances,” said Francis Ludlow of Harvard University.

But what is particularly interesting was that the study authors were able to make this discovery using the historical records, called Annals, which were produced by Irish monks in monasteries many centuries ago. 

The Irish monks wrote the Annals as a record of religious feast days and major events and provide the oldest written records for Europe.  However, the earliest events were already ancient before they were even written down.

The annals have been intensely scrutinised by many scholars over the decades as they provide more than 1200 years of climatic data, include descriptions of extreme cold weather events, such as heavy snow or prolonged ice cover on lakes.

“It’s clear that the scribes of the Irish Annals were diligent reporters of severe cold weather, most probably because of the negative impacts this had on society and the biosphere,” Francis Ludlow of Harvard University said.

It is perhaps a symptom of human arrogance that we tend to look back on our ancient ancestors as simple-minded people who were ignorant of the wider-world, when the reality could not be further from the truth.

By April Holloway

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