13th century volcano mystery eruption may be solved

A photo of the Rinjani caldera in Indonesia, while Lavigne won’t name the volcano until his paper is published, insiders suggest this a likely candidate for the missing 1258 AD eruption. Image: Wikipedia

From ScienceNews: Indonesia implicated as location of biggest eruption in last seven millennia

SELFOSS, Iceland — One of the biggest mysteries in volcanology may finally have a solution. An eruption long thought to have gone off in the year 1258, spreading cooling sulfur particles around the globe, happened the year before in Indonesia, scientists report.

Until now, researchers have known a big volcano went off somewhere in the world around that time, but they didn’t know exactly where or when.

The new report still remains something of a mystery. Franck Lavigne, a geoscientist at Panthéon-Sorbonne University’s Laboratory of Physical Geography in Meudon, France, showed data and close-up photographs of the remains of the perpetrator volcano on June 14 at an American Geophysical Union conference on volcanism and the atmosphere. But he declined to name the specific volcano, saying he had agreed with his international colleagues not to identify it until the work is published in a peer-reviewed journal.

“We have new and solid evidence for the biggest volcanic eruption in 7,000 years,” Lavigne said.

Consensus in the meeting hallways was that he showed pictures of Indonesia. Lavigne would say only that Indonesia has more than 130 active volcanoes.

Scientists know a big eruption must have happened in the mid-13th century because ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica dating to that time contain huge amounts of sulfur. Tree rings, historical records and other evidence also show that the planet cooled soon thereafter. Big volcanic eruptions can spew sulfur particles into the upper atmosphere, where they spread around the globe and reflect sunlight, temporarily chilling the planet.

Leading candidates for the 1258 eruption have included Mexico’s El Chichón, which also erupted in 1982, and Quilotoa in the Ecuadorean Andes. But the chemical composition of rocks from those volcanoes, among other factors, don’t really match the 1258 sulfur from ice cores.


40 thoughts on “13th century volcano mystery eruption may be solved

  1. Volcanoes erupt and cause cooling. Big volcanoes erupt and cause big cooling.
    so the warming that began with the RWP, perhaps earlier, interrupted by volcanoes spewing forth sulphur, appears to be continuing.

  2. I just watched a Piers Corbyn podcast in which he postulated that volcanoes and global cooling have a common cause. He said the effect of volcanoes, per se, was over rated. Is anyone aware of him being able to back that contention up with data or physics?

  3. This would be consistent with the suddeness of the Little Ice Age onset in Europe, but I thought I rememberd that date being closer to ~1300.
    How much larger was this than Tambora?

  4. don,t worry Australias PM gillard will stop globle warming with a carbon tax god bless her. the only problem she dose not belive in god or anything else

  5. And Gaia never recovered … species killed off, bitter cold that wiped out the human race except for Tropical refuges, the sea is still acidic from the gases, ozone layer destroyed, alpine life eliminated, and the planet remains almost lifeless.
    A lesson for all humans barely surviving today and whose Cancerous Carbon emissions will soon eliminate life that is still just barely hanging on.
    Wait … I’m think I’m channeling someone or something … “Is this a Hockey Stick I see before me its Shaft toward my hand?

  6. “Newly unearthed historical records and other evidence show that climate changes were already happening in the region by the winter of 1257-1258, Lavigne said. “We think the eruption may have been in the late spring or summer of 1257,” he said. That’s nearly a year earlier than previously thought.”
    Or the that the ice core date of 1258/9 is correct and this is yet another confirmation of a cold winter before a major eruption.

  7. Didn’t I read a post on here a month or so back claiming that volcanic eruptions do not correlate well with cool periods?

  8. I hiked into the Rinjani caldera about ten years ago. Stiff climb up but the descent into the caldera was treacherous. And the smoking cone and eerily silent group of local animists I bumped into in the dark made for an unsettling night.

  9. John F. Hultquist says, June 15, 2012 at 6:31 am
    Yep. Odd how temps were already on the decline before each of these major events.

  10. commieBob says:
    June 15, 2012 at 4:39 am
    He said the effect of volcanoes, per se, was over rated. Is anyone aware of him being able to back that contention up with data or physics?
    A paper written by researchers from Beijing Normal University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences found a significant relationship between tidal forces and earthquakes in China and Taiwan. The paper considered the relationship between 21 major earthquakes (Ms ≥ 7.0) in land and the offshore area of Taiwan island in the 20th century and the variance ratio of the lunar–solar tidal force. The result indicated that the time of these earthquakes is closely related to the variance ratio of the lunar–solar tidal force, and therefore that the tidal force possibly plays an important role in triggering earthquakes.[63] The conclusion is this method may be used to help forecast earthquakes by studying the lunar perigee.
    During 1990, anticipation grew among the general public that such events might again be replayed in the Midwest around Dec. 3, 1990 — despite the skepticism of most seismologists. The date for this prediction had been given by Dr. Iben Browning, whose previous track record for anticipating earthquakes had been phenomenal and well-publicized by the media. [See Winkless, Browning, 1975.] Browning’s rationale was that the 19-year lunar cycle, which brings the earth, sun, and moon into a recurrent alignment, would once again put the full moon at its closest approach to the earth (perigee), while the earth approached its own perihelion with the sun. He theorized that this combination of multiple cycles of tidal force would put seismically sensitive areas at risk. Browning’s predicted timetable for the 1990 earthquake was also 178-179 years after the 1811-12 events, a well-established period in which most of the planets are aligned on one side of the sun. It was this same 178-year planetary cycle that had been the subject of Gribbin and Plagemann’s controversial book, The Jupiter Effect [1974].
    “The number of significant earthquakes in the world increased in 1990, and the number of deaths attributed to earthquakes in 1990 was almost as high as during the entire decade of the 1980s. … 68 significant earthquakes (6.5 or greater in magnitude) occurred throughout the world in 1990 [10% more than the annual average during the 1980s]. … The reported earthquake death toll for 1990 exceeded 52,000, a number comparable to the total earthquake deaths of 57,000 for the entire previous decade.”

  11. I love the way the writer of the Wired piece gets snippy because the scientist released a lot of the technical information early – but won’t tell anyone the conclusion of the study (the actual name of the volcano) until the paper is published.
    When you think about it, it’s a great way to confirm your theory without the same confirmation bias… and it’s a fun little mystery for the geologists, too.

  12. How very convenient for the CO2AGW believers. If they had not lost all credibility a long time ago I would even look at this. But it’s probably another made to measure research result reviewed by the usual peers.

  13. “Wait … I’m think I’m channeling someone or something … “Is this a Hockey Stick I see before me its Shaft toward my hand?”
    “Or, art thou but a False Creation, proceeding from the heat oppressed brain……..”
    Hmmmm – Seems like Shakespeare may have been Chanelling both Nostradamus and a certain Dr. Mann at the same time.
    Perhaps all the recent warming gave him a touch of heat stroke back in ’98 😉

  14. Of course Indonesia should be implicated.
    Very interesting relevant dialogue, only from the last post here, TonyB who has done a lot of work on validating human records as indexes of temperature in the past.

  15. Hoser says:
    June 15, 2012 at 9:25 am
    And then there’s the Toba event. Was the human population reduced to a low number by a near-extinction event? It seems more like another scare story used to raise the blood pressure (i.e. Yellowstone supervolcano) and make people believe they need more government.

    Assuming Yellowstone goes off anytime in the next few hundred years, there won’t by any “more government” around to do anything about it. Barring a miracle, in the wake of such an event, the United States as we know it is unlikely to continue as a viable political entity.

  16. Lucy
    Thanks for your reference to my extended post in the previous thread which is also directly releant to this one.
    In all the contemporary medieval records I have read, the only ones close to the 1257 date are;
    AD1230 ” the harvest having failed for two successive years owing to continual rain which caused great overflowing of the river (in Exeter) there was so great a scarcity of provisions that the people were obliged to eat horse flesh and substitute bark of trees for bread
    AD1286 the summer proved very wet which caused great innundation

  17. ” people were obliged to eat horse flesh”
    OMG, you mean like the French do? It must have been aweful.
    Hopefully with a bit more global warming France may finally recover from the 1257 eruption and no longer be “obliged to eat horse flesh”.

  18. commieBob says:
    June 15, 2012 at 4:39 am
    He said the effect of volcanoes, per se, was over rated. Is anyone aware of him being able to back that contention up with data or physics?
    Exaggerated volcano effects are part of the reason for increased CO2 forcing in climate models.
    That’s why Hansen’s forcings are bigger than anyone else’s.

  19. P solar
    That horse flesh reference also intrigued me as this is only some 200 years after the Norman invasion. Bearing in mind they were ‘Norsemen’ who were unlikely to have eaten horseflesh it must be assumed that this french liking for horseflesh only developed after the Norse influence was diluted

  20. commieBob says:
    June 15, 2012 at 4:39 am

    I just watched a Piers Corbyn podcast in which he postulated that volcanoes and global cooling have a common cause. He said the effect of volcanoes, per se, was over rated. Is anyone aware of him being able to back that contention up with data or physics?

    I discussed this question, and in fact this volcano, in Dronning Maud Meets the Little Ice Age, and Missing the Missing Summer.

  21. Tony B
    P solar
    Re: horse flesh eating French
    The Treaty of Paris, was a treaty between Louis IX of France and Henry III of England, agreed to on December 4, 1259. Under the Treaty, Henry acknowledged loss of the Dukedom of Normandy. (wikipedia)

  22. Could be Rinjani, eruptions in Indonesia are not well documented. Its the second biggest volcano in Indonesia I think, and that’s after its blew off some of its top.
    Some people also think the ~534-536 AD darkening of the sun recorded in Europe was from Krakatoa, althogh the local chronologies record a Krakatoa eruption around this time, the dates don’t exactly match, but that could also be a local chronological issue.

  23. The Rinjani caldera is 5Ks across, compared to Tambora, 6.9Ks (measured from Google Earth), meaning it wasn’t as big an eruption, roughly half the size, but SO2 emissions could well have been greater. Alternatively there were 2 separate eruptions at pretty much the same time.

  24. Lake Toba is much bigger and erupted sometime around 75,000.BP But 75,000 years ago Australia was not settled by Homo sapien sapiens. However, the Hobbit or Homo floresiensis lived on Flores 95,000 – 18,000 years ago, and is thought to be a mini me Homo Erectus. Island bound animals and humans do grow and evolve much smaller than the same species on the mainland. I was taught by Professors Peter Brown and Mike Morwood archaeology and palaeoanthropology.and Mike said 25 years ago, that we would find links to Aboriginal ancestory in SE Asia. But in the late 1980s the political situation was not good around some spots and islands in the ring of fire.
    But Lake Toba the caldera that remains is massive, it would have effected SE Asia and Australia, to India I believe. But they were hunter and gatherers then and fishing probably, not pastoralists or agriculturalists. Also in Victoria and South Australia there are hot spots and a lake that formed after the last volcanic explosion around 5,000 years ago. It’s mentioned in Aboriginal dreamtime history for killing lots of people.There is a active volcano on Herd Island, that is Australian Territory near Antarctica.
    Anything that Mike Mann is involved in I would be very suspicious about now. Nothing new volcanoes do alter the Earth’s atmosphere for a few years, Toba discharged 600 billion tonnes of sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere, but overall the black death in 1348 and 1351 was more destructive to human kind world wide. Look at Vesuvius, Etna and Stromboli they frequently erupt. Mt Helena in Washington State? And 80% of volcanic eruptions happen in the ring of fire in SE Asia particularly Indonesia. They stopped making wine in UK as the cold temps didn’t favor grapes, during the MIA, but they turned the grape presses into the first printing presses. Humans do adapt and propose different ways to survive, but nature always disposes. Maybe they are wanting people believe they have discovered something new? Qualify their fees and reputation, fancy not disclosing where the volcanic eruption occurred? .So other scientists can check out their data. These men are getting desperate I think.

  25. Philip Bradley says:
    June 15, 2012 at 9:37 pm
    The Rinjani caldera is 5Ks across, compared to Tambora, 6.9Ks (measured from Google Earth), meaning it wasn’t as big an eruption, roughly half the size, but SO2 emissions could well have been greater. Alternatively there were 2 separate eruptions at pretty much the same time.

    I was having a look at Google Earth myself just now, as it happens. Make the camera angle pretty much horizontal, eye altitude about 6km and have a good pan around both Rinjani and Tambora. While Tambora’s crater is measurably very deep, Rinjani appears to have lost an awful lot of material at some point. A rough estimate would put its pre-explosion height, by my eye, at well over 5000m assuming a pretty regular stratovolcano. Based on that and what remains, I’d say there could well have been over 50 cubic kilometres of the mountain blown away at some point, perhaps much, much more. As Tambora lost 30 cubic kilometres, that suggests Rinjani could’ve had a monstrous explosion. Certainly not on the scale of Toba (about 2800 cubic kilometres), but devastating nonetheless.
    The first real question is when did it happen? The second is of the chicken and egg variety, climate-wise.

  26. thingadonta says: June 15, 2012 at 6:46 pm
    Some people also think the ~534-536 AD darkening of the sun recorded in Europe was from Krakatoa
    The ~535 event is attributed to the broader Sunda Caldera, of which Krakatoa is a volcano within the boundaries of the Caldera.

  27. [SNIP: This is Wwwwaaaayyyyy off topic for this thread. Please take the time to find a more appropriate thread. It also appears that your e-mail address is not what you have provided. You can check our site policy. -REP]

  28. ab: Whaat’s off topic? We’re talking about volcanic eruptions and their effect on the weather. Anthony W who is REP? My email addy is correct, or was that meant for someone else?
    [REPLY: Bushbunny, I trust that the SNIPPED comment was NOT yours. It had a different screen name, different e-mail address, and an anonymous IP address, the first two of which are violations of site policy and the third of which should be. The comment had nothing to do with volcanoes but rather seemed to be a “gotcha” regarding a well known long-range weather forecaster. Now why would you think the comment is yours? As for who I am, I am simply one of several moderators who have volunteered to help Anthony. -REP]

  29. Something amiss here? Anthony my email addy is correct. I thought we were discussing the effect on the weather from volcanic eruptions? And the non disclosure of which volcano these people are referring to?
    [REPLY: See above. -REP]

  30. Have just come across this study while looking for something else:
    “Italian super-eruption larger than thought
    June 18, 2012
    Recent research suggested that the super-eruption of the Campi Flegrei caldera volcano in southern Italy about 40,000 years ago may have played a part in wiping out, or forcing the migration of, the Neanderthal and modern human populations in the eastern Mediterranean regions that were covered in ash.
    Now a new modeling study by Costa et al. suggests that this eruption may have been even larger than previously thought. This Campi Flegrei eruption produced a widespread ash layer known as Campanian Ignimbrite (CI). Using ash thickness measurements collected at 115 sites and a three-dimensional ash dispersal model, the authors find that the CI super-eruption would have spread 250-300 cubic kilometers (60-72 cubic miles) of ash across a 3.7-million-square-kilometer (1.4- million-square-mile) region-2 to 3 times previous ash volume estimates.
    The updated values stem from a new method of modeling what the wind would have been like during the eruption. Traditionally, models assume a consistent wind field for the entire duration of an eruption. The authors, however, incorporate wind fields into the model that are based on 15 years of recent measurements, using the modern wind field that best accounts for the ash deposit measurements.
    On the basis of their updated estimates, the authors calculate that up to 450 million kilograms (990 million pounds) of sulfur dioxide would have been spread into the atmosphere, driving down temperatures by 1-2 degrees Celsius (1.8-3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) for 2 to 3 years. Further, sulfur dioxide and chloride emissions would have triggered acidic rains, and fluorine-laden ash would have become incorporated into plant matter, potentially inducing fluorosis, replete with eye, tooth, and organ damage, in animal populations.”
    More information: Quantifying volcanic ash dispersal and impact of the Campanian Ignimbrite super-eruption, Geophysical Research Letters, doi:10.1029/2012GL051605, 2012.

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