Get Laki, Get Unlaki

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

Well, we haven’t had a game of “Spot The Volcano” in a while, so I thought I’d take a look at what is likely the earliest volcanic eruption for which we have actual temperature records. This was the eruption of the Icelandic volcano Laki in June of 1783. It is claimed to have caused a very cold winter in 1783-1784. A study of the effects (see end notes) says:

… the 1783-1784 winter was extremely cold and snowy around the circum-North Atlantic. European temperatures were ~2°C below average for the late 1700s, and it was among the coldest winters in Central England …

Well dang … that sounds pretty scary. However, being a naturally suspicious fellow, I thought I’d take a look and see just what the temperatures actually said. I found eight records in the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature dataset that went back that far, there may be others, but these cover a wide area of Europe. Here’s your puzzle:


spot the laki eruptionFigure 1. Eight long-term temperature records from Europe. All of them are aligned to start and end on the same date, but the dates have been removed

So … is the year of the “extremely cold and snowy winter” location number 1, 2, 3, or 4?

While you consider that question, let me point out that despite frequent claims of “unusual” or “extremely” or “unprecedented” and the like, I’ve shown in the past even very large volcanic eruptions cause little in the way of temperature changes (see end notes). The Laki volcano is in Iceland, so you’d think that the signal from it would be strong in Europe. And indeed, as the quote above shows, this is the common wisdom.

But as the temperature graphs show, the actual eruption makes little difference to the temperatures. The winter following the eruption of Laki is actually at location number 3, so there is some effect from it visible in all of the records. Looks like it is the one winter that was unusually cold in every one of the eight records.

But even then, it’s not that large and … and … oops … hang on a minute, sorry ’bout that. I got the numbers wrong. Here’s the actual situation regarding the winter of 1783-1784:


spot the laki eruption 2Figure 2. As in Figure 1, but including the dates.

As you can see, the winter following the Laki eruption is not the one marked with the red “3”. Actually it’s the one marked by the red “2” … and it is pretty unremarkable. In general it is NOT “~2°C below average for the late 1700s” as the quoted study says, that’s simply untrue. And in several of the datasets, it’s no colder than normal.

We do have one other dataset going back that far, the Central England temperature dataset. Here’s that data:


monthly cet lakiFigure 3. Central England Temperature (CET), late 1700’s.

Remembering that the study claimed that this was “among the coldest winters in Central England”, which winter looks like the big winner here?

In fact, far from being among the coldest all-time winters, the winter of 1783-1784 was not even in the top three for the quarter century 1775-1800 …


monthly cet laki plus datesFigure 4. CET including the dates.

My point is simple. We have been told a story all of our lives about how volcanic eruptions have large, widespread, and long-lasting effects on the global weather. It turns out that this was a scientific urban legend. In fact, the effects are small, localized, and short-lived.

UPDATE: For those who like averages, here are the averages of the eight station records.

average temperature anomaly 8 european locations laki

Regards to everyone,


AS ALWAYS: If you disagree with someone, please QUOTE THE EXACT WORDS YOU DISAGREE WITH, so we can all understand the substance and nature of your objections.

FURTHER READING: I’ve analyzed the effects of a number of large volcanic eruptions. In all cases, their effects have been small. See:

Overshoot and Undershoot

Prediction is hard, especially of the future.

Volcanic Disruptions

Dronning Maud Meets the Little Ice Age

Missing the Missing Summer

New Data, Old Claims About Volcanoes

BEST, Volcanoes and Climate Sensitivity

Volcanic Corroboration

Volcanoes: Active, Inactive, and Retroactive

Stacked Volcanoes Falsify Models

The Eruption Over the IPCC AR5

Volcanoes Erupt Again

Eruptions and Ocean Heat Content

DATA: Monthly mean HadCET data

Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature data

Laki Winter study quoted above

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Curious George
November 18, 2014 8:10 pm

Just curious .. BEST does adjustments (maybe not that far back). Did you use raw data or adjusted data?

Reply to  Curious George
November 19, 2014 2:23 am

C’mon. Everyone knows (at least 97%) you use adjusted data for peer reviewed stuff. Only Koch backed shamans use raw data.

November 18, 2014 8:10 pm

That was surprising. I would not have even thought to question that assertion.
So, now I’m wondering if climate modellers have any real grasp of the effect of aerosols on surface temperatures. Not that climate modellers necessarily understand anything else.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 19, 2014 2:25 am

Sort of makes sense, since the high volcano sensitivity will allow high CO2 sensitivity

Morley Sutter
November 18, 2014 8:14 pm

Thank you Willis. You demonstrate that data is all important in science. Models, conclusions, opinions etc. without data simply are dross.

November 18, 2014 8:16 pm

What is interesting is the range of from summer to winter during “the event”. It seems to get a couple of degrees warmer in the summer of 1783(?) but not significant. Winter has no significance what so ever.

November 18, 2014 8:23 pm

Did I read that right? Did they use tree rings for their temp reconstructions?

Jeff in Calgary
Reply to  BarryW
November 19, 2014 9:08 am

If so, that could explain a lot. Tree rings resopond to many things other than temperature. CO2 in the air, and available sunlight I am sure would produce greater veriance in tree rings than temperature does.

Jeff Mitchell
Reply to  BarryW
November 19, 2014 9:15 pm

Nah, they used volcano rings…

Richard G
November 18, 2014 8:24 pm

Looking at the graph it looks like the following summer was the coldest in that record. Could it be the aerosols block some of the incoming IR?

Reply to  Richard G
November 18, 2014 8:52 pm

Purely anecdotal: in 1992 the summer after pinatubo I was on a 650 mile canoe trip in the NWT of Canada and it was darn cold. We dragged across ice on most of the lakes and I doubt the ice fully went out on Dubawnt lake that year.

Richard G
Reply to  Richard G
November 18, 2014 9:31 pm

I would think it would take some time for the aerosols to reach high altitude and disperse over a wider area. While in the CET graph presented here the summer of the eruption was the warmest and the summer after was the coolest, the average of the 8 locations shows that each of the summers after the eruption were cooler than the one preceding it.

Richard G
Reply to  Richard G
November 19, 2014 12:06 am

Agreed Willis and thank you for adding the graph of location averages for it depicts the problem of attributing temperatures to volcanic eruptions.
In the averaged graph it shows the 3 following summers each cooler than the one before, but you would expect the opposite to happen. Each summer that passes you would expect the cooling effect from aerosols to decrease, not increase.

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  Richard G
November 20, 2014 6:56 pm

And again, averaging those disparate stations into one gives you nothing physically meaningful.

November 18, 2014 8:45 pm

Is BarryW right? Is this tree ring data?
If so, do modern era temperature reconstructions after local volcanic cooling events correlate well with actual temperature data?

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 19, 2014 1:16 pm

That’s why I mentioned it. They trusted proxy data and anecdotes but didn’t seem to verify their reconstruction against actual temps whereas you used actual temps. They got the answer they were looking for so a reality check didn’t seem to enter into their minds.

John F. Hultquist
November 18, 2014 9:21 pm

I have no idea if this is relevant or not.
Volcanoes are not all the same. The characteristics of the eruptions differ as do the particles and gases. This site
. . . states that the eruption lasted eight months. Claims are made for an eastern USA temperature drop of 4.8 C degrees and a 1 C degree drop for the Northern Hemisphere. But I digress.
Did the sulfuric acid aerosol (80 X more than Mt. St. Helens – it says) emerge uniformly over the 8 months? How much of the gas from Mt. St. Helens came in one day with the early morning blast? How high into the atmosphere does material go for different eruptions? Mt. St. Helens is a subduction zone volcano. The Icelandic region is a spreading center.
All I’m saying is that the signatures of all volcanoes are likely not the same.

November 18, 2014 10:20 pm
Steve Keohane
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 19, 2014 4:36 am

Hi Willis, Thanks for looking into this. Latest Science News Nov 1, 2014 has an article siting two previously unknown documented observations indicating a large volcanic eruption by December 1808 from observation in Bogota Colombia of red, green and blue sunsets, and in Peru February of 1809 of prolonged twilight. I can’t find it on their online site. I know many have complained that Mt. Tambora eruption in 1815 was too late to cause cooling. This is interesting.

November 18, 2014 10:42 pm

Have you cross ran the CET figures for the same time? The best data I could quickly find for max ranges during this period for CET for the decade around this event gives.
1781 … 20.9 … 01 June ……………… -2.9 … 23 Jan …………… -2.9 on 23 Jan 1781
1782 … 20.1 … 26 June ……………… -2.2 … 16 Feb ………….. -2.2 on 16 Feb 1782
1783 … 22.6 … 11 July ……………….. -7.1 … 31 Dec ………….. -4.7 on 26 Feb 1783
1784 … 20.3 … 07 July ……………….. -6.7 … 12 Feb, 11 Dec.. -7.1 on 31 Dec 1783
1785 … 19.5 … 27 June, 26 July ….. -6.6 … 20 Feb …………… -6.7 on 11 Dec 1784
1786 … 20.7 … 05 June ……………….-7.6 … 03 Jan ……………. -7.6 on 3 Jan 1786
1787 … 19.9 … 05 July ……………….. -2.2 … 28 Nov …………… -0.5 on 15 Nov 1786 & 27 Jan 1787**
1788 … 20.4 … 12 July ……………….. -5.9 … 30 Dec ………….. -2.5 on 8 March 1788
1789 … 19.2 … 05 Aug ……………….. -6.7 … 12 Jan …………… -6.7 on 12 Jan 1789
1790 … 21.8 … 22 June ……………… -0.6 … 29 Dec …………… +0.6 on 20 Jan 1790
The 1783 period does stand out and follow along impact to regional temps appears to be
Thoughts on Laki being more regional then your BEST Scatter version?

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 19, 2014 12:40 am

My apologies,
I was made a mistake. I scrolled past those charts, as I didn’t see any way to put them into context, example being average bars, as such I started thinking about the missing context instead of reading the actual context. My mistake.

Jerker Andersson
November 18, 2014 10:43 pm

By just looking at the graphs it looks like the winter 1783-1784 could be about 2C colder than the average for the period of the graphs. It’s not the clodest winter, it is within the natural variation during that period but still I think the eruption helped pushing down the temperatures that winter so it bacame a bit colder than it would have been without the eruption.
In order for the winter to be exceptional due to a volcanic eruption it would require natural conditons that gives one of the coldest winters during the period. Then add some extra cooling from a volcano and it will be the coldest one. If those 2 things do not happen at the same time, the effect from an eruption is hard to notice by just looking on the temperature since the natural variations are larger than the effect from the eruption.

November 18, 2014 10:48 pm

Benjamin Franklin had something to say about the weather/climate at the time of this eruption, as you are no doubt aware. He wasn’t one to make up stories.
Note that in several anecdotal reports, both excesses of heat and cold were reported at different times and places, so perhaps this might cancel out some of the regional averages. Also note, unusual cold was reported in the US, and perhaps they just assumed Europe was also affected. The graphs above only show European data.
It is an interesting eruption, in that both unusual heat and cold is reported, as well as widespread fog or haze. This follows up an earlier point that not all volcanic eruptions are the same, nor their effects.
I read somewhere that the closer they are to the equator, the more they effect both hemispheres, (sounds logical) and also they differ greatly in the amount of S02 produced. Pinatubo was apparently unusually high in S02 for its’ size.

Reply to  thingadonta
November 19, 2014 10:49 am

You mean how anecdotal reports of last night — freezing temperatures in all fifty states, the coldest night on this date in over 100 years in NC, at least (it went down to 16F in my back yard — most of the last 30 years one would still be picking tomatoes from unfrosted vines in NC at this time of year but we had snow and/or killing frost back around Halloween) — might cancel out some of the reports that the average global temperature is supposedly 0.9C higher now than it was in 1903, the last time it got this cold this early in NC (and most of the rest of the US)? What’s one continent among friends? And not even forced by a volcano!
The problem is this, and Willis is quite right to point it out. It is pretty easy to:
a) See a volcano (or rather, know the date when some big volcano erupted), and;
b) Look at e.g HadCRUT4 and draw a line and attribute a dip right afterward as “cooling due to the volcano”.
It is not so easy to:
a) Look at e.g. HadCRUT4:
(to make it easy for you) and;
b) Guess where volcanoes happened.
In fact, it is basically impossible to do the latter, and if you include all volcanoes larger than some given size, it isn’t as easy to do the former as you might think — even largish volcanoes can have little effect. HadCRUT4 bobs up and down by as much as 0.6C over a matter of months! Indeed, it is if anything extremely surprising how much planetary spatially averaged temperatures oscillate around some sort of non-stationary temporal “mean”.
Bear in mind that nearly all of this record is seriously flawed in one important respect. Sea surface temperatures were absolutely terribly sampled and recorded for almost all of it. By “terribly” I mean using terrible methodology, using indifferent instrumentation, by people who didn’t care much about doing so, and sampling only along the “sea lanes” — and thereby excluding huge chunks of 70% of the Earth’s surface altogether.
To be specific, one thing that helped drive up this year’s supposedly impending “all time high” GISSTEMP is the transient blocking of the jet stream over a large chunk of the Pacific. SSTs skyrocketed over a part of the ocean that would have hardly been travelled in much of the 19th century. Remove the event, and global temperature estimates would be much lower. All such events are basically absent from all of the global anomalies, simply because there were huge chunks of the ocean for which no data was recorded, or for which what was recorded is not reliable.
It is amusing to look at the actual data for the PDO — the Pacific Decadal Oscillation that is probably a dominant factor in a prominent oscillation of global average temperature and a key component of the ENSO events that have easily as great or greater an impact on global temperatures than volcanoes. PDO data (which I happen to have in my possession) only goes back to 1900! Before that, no doubt the PDO happened, but we have no records from which it can be reliably extracted or observed. Half of the Pacific could have gotten as hot as it did last summer in (say) 1878-1880, when HadCRUT4 had an enormous and unexplained spike that very likely had little to do with CO_2. We have similar issues all over the globe — kriging data over sparsely sampled areas by its nature eliminates extremes in the interpolated areas. At best it presents a “relaxed” version of the interpolated temperature field, at worst it is just plain wrong, and either way the error estimates have to be much larger to accommodate either one.
It is interesting to contemplate how much of the assumed global warming anomaly is due to temperatures that we attribute to regions using models for which we simply lacked data in 1900, compared to data from the present that is computed using actual measurements for those areas.
The other thing that is interesting to contemplate is:
This is atmospheric transmission of direct solar radiation as measured at Mauna Loa, that is, above most of the troposphere and on “clear mornings”. Volcanic events are in fact easily visible in this record on top of Mauna Loa. I can direct you to numerous articles that “prove” that this directly observable clear signal drop in global insolation caused a temperature drop of 0.3 to 0.5C, e.g.
But if you plot:
then a) it looks nothing like this and b) you are right back up against Willis’ argument. This is just 20 years of HadCRUT4. Somewhere in there is Pinatubo. We know from having just looked at Mauna Loa that it caused a huge dip in insolation that lasted from 1991 through 1994 if not 1995, but to me it looks basically flat from maybe 1887 through 1996. To put it another way, a “dip” relative to what, exactly? The peak in 1991? The ten year mean? The twenty year mean? The linear trend:
? No matter how you slice it is unremarkable, and there are plenty of oscillations both up and down that are not related to volcanoes but which appear to be just as large. Well, it’s “remarkable” if you count the dip from the 1990 peak but really? Shall we then play the “let’s count the remarkable dips” game on the entire stretch, or on all of HadCRUT4?
Again, give the Mauna Loa observations or prior knowledge of when volcanoes happened, we can identify a possible dip after the fact, but we can’t do much better than a probability that any given dip in the record is associated with a volcano, and we absolutely cannot predict either the amplitude of the dip or its duration, partly because dips and rises of identical amplitude and duration are occurring without volcanic help at all, and such an “effect” takes place against the background of these natural oscillations and simply activate the same negative feedbacks and internal dynamics that give rise to the natural oscillations so that they are nearly indistinguishable.
This is in sharp contrast, BTW, to the effects of ENSO events. Interestingly, volcanos appear to produce highly transient cooling of the same order as natural fluctuations but don’t appear to “stick”. ENSO events appear to have some real staying power — they can actually shift the entire strange attractor, as it were, where volcanoes just cause a discrete jump on the same attractor. Or this might be one possible interpretation of what is, no doubt, a very, very complicated dynamic that is not well suited to this sort of projective linearized decomposition.
The one thing that we can instantly get from the Mauna Loa top of atmosphere insolation is this. It basically hasn’t changed from 1959 to the present. It is remarkably unremarkable. Yes, there are a few odd spikes and dips but it has stayed pretty much the same within around 1% except for volcanoes. This also emphasizes an extremely important point made a couple of posts below (as pointed out by Lindzen). The climate appears to be remarkably insensitive to direct variation of its atmospheric forcing. Let me repeat that. We can see variations in forcing by as much as 10% lasting years in the Mauna Loa data, but they produced almost no response at all in the climate — a response literally indistinguishable from natural variations of at most a couple of tenths of a degree, not sustained.
I’m sure that the fluctuation-dissipation theorem has a lot to say about this in a more quantitative way — if one simply inputs the 10% fluctuation in TOT insolation and does autocorrelation, I’m guessing it will tell us that a) the atmosphere cancels nearly all of the changing in forcing; and b) that it responds almost instantly and tracks the event decay tightly. So at the same time, the climate is never substantially disequilibrated with its inputs and yet its internal dynamics produces truly substantial variation all by itself.
Precisely as one might expect for a nonlinear chaotic complex open system in an open non-stationary equilibrium.

Reply to  rgbatduke
November 19, 2014 12:32 pm

Thank you for a very interesting research on temperatures and the related phantom volcano signatures.
As you’ve mentioned before Earth has it own temperature modulation process for when temperatures spike. Perhaps there is a modulation process that handles transient drops in insolation. Substantial lengthy periods of lower insolation slowly cause lower temperatures, much like higher levels of insolation didn’t cause Dante’s Inferno on Earth the next day or even the next year.
Small changes in insolation = small changes in temperature over time? Enso as a modulator?
Dr. Brown:
Thank you for the additional research and emphasis on research requires analysis of observations.

Ulric Lyons
Reply to  thingadonta
November 19, 2014 7:27 pm

November 18, 2014 at 10:48 pm
“Also note, unusual cold was reported in the US,”
That is common for the US interior when there is a positive NAO in summer. Check, the US had a hot summer in 2012:

November 18, 2014 11:02 pm

Willis– Dr. Richard Lindzen often uses climate’s quick recovery from large volcanic eruptions as an argument against the notion of climate being an overly sensitive system.
Here is a lecture by Dr. Lindzen explaining how volcanoes show climate seems to be much less sensitive than CAGW assumes.
(This is discussed at about the 31:00 minute mark of the following lecture):

Reply to  SAMURAI
November 19, 2014 12:12 pm

A very lovely talk. His remarks on volcanoes are dead on the money. As I (also, independently) noted above, if the climate were highly sensitive, volcanoes would produce persistent and unmistakable changes in the climate that are simply not visible. Indeed, the order of the effects that are ex post facto visible (only) suggest a low climate sensitivity, not even an intermediate one, as a conclusion that can be drawn independent of assertions about natural or anthropogenic aerosols or water vapor feedbacks. It is again a case of the null hypothesis. One observes little difference in the kind or scale of response of temperature to volcanic events across all of HadCRUT4, which suggests that independent of any changes in aerosols due to humans and independent of any changes in water vapor feedback, the climate is basically not very sensitive to forcings and varies more on its own locally for reasons other than changes in forcing than it does in response to even very large changes in forcing.
And (woo-woo!) he actually cites me on one of his transparencies. That was a surprise!
I’m still working on a “paper” I plan to publish as a WUWT top post that goes into the GHG, total climate sensitivity, and carbon dioxide, although I keep encountering new ideas that it might be worth including and (since I decided to use R and do proper nonlinear least square fits) tweaking to fit the paper narrative. I’m curious, for example, whether inputting the Mauna Loa top of troposphere insolation as an additional modulator would alter the best fit or lead to anything like an improved fit.
NEXT up is going to be to put some actual numbers to the very observation he cites in the talk. What if we didn’t present spaghetti and/or multimodel ensemble means as if they had meaning? What if we directly compared each model in CMIP5, one at a time, to the actual climate? Where I’m perfectly happy to compare both the individual model runs (one run at a time) to the climate and the perturbed parameter ensemble mean for the individual model (one model at a time) to the climate, as I’m certain both will be instructive.
The goal will be to see if there is one single model in CMIP5 that can beat my two parameter, best fit of the actual physical model of CO2-driven warming to HadCRUT4 from 1850 to the present. I’m betting that the answer is not only no, but no in the profound don’t make me laugh out loud sense of no, they cannot, simply because not one strand of spaghetti in figure 9.8a of AR5 comes close to doing so, and those spaghetti strands are presumably PPE means per model, meaning that they will do even worse per run. But we’ll see. Sadly, that means I may have to use the world’s most annoying data retrieval system in order to get individual model runs (if I can figure out how to do so at all, as it was designed by somebody that wanted to make it as difficult as humanly possible instead of, say, simply creating a tree structure of the data in a straightforward common format and letting people browse the tree).
P.S. But Dr. Lindzen gets my name slightly wrong — I’m Rob, not Bob, to my friends and relatives and so on, and I would be honored indeed to be considered a friend…;-)

Bill Illis
Reply to  SAMURAI
November 19, 2014 5:31 pm

Lindzen notes (which Wills is also noting here in a different way) that the climate impacts of volcanoes are way smaller than is expected and more likely indicates a very low climate sensitivity to “pertubation” as Lindzen likes to say but is more often called “forcing”.
The world climate should just cool off way more from the amount of sunlight reflected back to space by sulphate aerosols from volcanoes than actually occurs.
The surface impact that is.
Because as Greg notes below, we really do see a large volcanic signal in the stratosphere temperatures. We see a big spike in temperatures (just days after a major stratospheric eruption) and then a longer-term, long-lasting decline in the average temperatures in the stratosphere, a -0.5C step-change (most likely due to Ozone destruction).
So we have a minimal if not Zero impact on the surface, but a very large temporary increase, but also a large long-lasting decline in the stratosphere.
Maybe the CO2 forcing is similar. It has a large impact on some layers of the atmosphere, but a much lower impact on the surface.
We are also seeing larger impacts on water vapor levels in different layers of the atmosphere. The surface/very low level water vapor levels are going up fast but the higher layers are going down. That was not the prediction.
Is there a major re-write necessary in the theory based on these empirical results.
Climate science has basically 4 different layers of impact (the deep ocean, the surface, the tropopause, and the stratosphere). But they have gotten all of the impacts in these layers wrong. By a mile in some cases.
The stratosphere is losing water vapor but seems to be impacted more by volcanoes by a mile than by CO2. Volcanoes could explain 100% of the changes observed. The tropopause is not warming anywhere near projected, and the water vapor is declining, opposite to the big increase that was predicted, especially in the tropics. The surface is warming slower than expected but water vapor is close to predictions. The deep ocean is only absorbing about one-third of the joules that were predicted.
They need to start over. Maybe rgtbatduke or Willis could think about the above.

don penman
November 18, 2014 11:21 pm

There seems to be a problem with acid rain from this eruption which would have made the drop in temperature seem more severe .

November 18, 2014 11:31 pm

Willis wrote:
In general it is NOT “~2°C below average for the late 1700s” as the quoted study says, that’s simply untrue. And in several of the datasets, it’s no colder than normal.
Willis, while I agree with you that the effects were not that great and that natural variability can do that and more without volcanoes taking part on it, the claim that you quote seems true to me, not untrue. I didn’t check the specific data, I’m just eyeballing your plots of it, but looking at the average of those 8 stations, I do see that that winter was roughly 2C below the average for the late 1700s. And some others were 3 and 4 degrees lower as well. But still that was a cold winter, at aprox -13.5ºC for the minimum when about half of the rest of the years seem to be above -10ºC, and with three full months being lower than the minimum temperature of any month in about the 25% warmest years.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 19, 2014 1:02 pm

Please define “unusual”.
The winter most affected by Laki was the second most severe in the CET for the 18th century, except for one at the end of the Maunder and one early in the Dalton Minimum.
Here are all the winters rated “Severe” in the CET for that century (with ratings for the whole period):
1708/09 – 3.5c…SEVERE (tie, #4, Maunder)
1715/16 – 2.5c…SEVERE (#3, Maunder)
1739/40 – -1.2c…VERY SEVERE (#1)
1765/66 – 4.1c…SEVERE (tie, #6)
1779/80 – 4.3c…SEVERE (#8)
1783/84 – 3.5c…SEVERE (tie, #4)
1784/85 – 4.1c…SEVERE (tie, #6)
1794/95 – 1.4c…SEVERE (#2, Dalton)
For outside of solar minima:
1739/40 – -1.2c…VERY SEVERE (#1)
1765/66 – 4.1c…SEVERE (tie, #3)
1779/80 – 4.3c…SEVERE (#5)
1783/84 – 3.5c…SEVERE (#2)
1784/85 – 4.1c…SEVERE (tie, #3)
The winter of 1708/9 was the coldest of the past 500 years in Europe. It affected history by, among other ways, helping to destroy in the Ukraine the Swedish army of Charles XII, defeated at Poltava in 1709 by Peter the Great.
The exceptional winter of 1739/40 was caused by another blocking high, bringing in east winds and clear skies.

don penman
November 18, 2014 11:49 pm

Thinking about it a little bit more we are being asked to pick out this event from a graph of data which may not be very accurate,only the people living through that event would really have known how severe the effects were.The world temperature graph is not a reality but it is constantly being presented to us as a such,you present these graphs in the same way..

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 19, 2014 1:15 am

Not true Willis, These are averages, not actual records. They appear to be a mixture of monthly, quarterly and annual averages. Averaging can hide all sorts of information.

Claude Harvey
November 18, 2014 11:56 pm

Volcanoes eruptions are like tree rings. You got your temperature trees and you got your liar trees. You just picked one of those liar volcanoes, Willis.

B. Baak
November 19, 2014 12:27 am

Willis, Historical observations are also data. Why leaving those data out? With only temperature records you cannot get the whole picture. It will be interesting to see what the weather historian Jan Buisman will say in his upcoming book 7.

Reply to  B. Baak
November 19, 2014 12:57 am

In the novel Lorna Doone, by Richard? Blackmoor, the great winter described therein, is said to be a description of the 1784 winter – if so, it was certainly a very severe winter in SW England.

Reply to  Polarwind
November 19, 2014 1:29 am

Poor memory Willis – yes, 1684, sorry. I need another coffee.

Mike the Morlock
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 19, 2014 2:12 am

Hi Willis, sigh, I don’t dispute anything you say its just with Big George. He took a rage tag army across a river in the dead of winter on X-mas eve 1776. And then fought a battle with some of the best troops from Europe at Trenton. If he could not leave Mount Vernon it was ether he didn’t want to or it was not possible to do so, roads not with standing. Oh and for the record, the war ended in 1783. So maybe the snow was an excuse to take a well deserved rest.
And yes I thought volcanoes caused cooling. Now I have some reading to do.
Sigh, just had to burst my bubble.

November 19, 2014 12:30 am

Hi Willis, I always love playing spot the volcano.
Here’s one for you.
Some exlanation of how it affects surface temps is in the associated article:

My point is simple. We have been told a story all of our lives about how volcanic eruptions have large, widespread, and long-lasting effects on the global weather. It turns out that this was a scientific urban legend. In fact, the effects are small, localized, and short-lived.

Maybe you need a citation to back up the “long lasting” part. From what I’ve read the effects don’t seem to go beyond the initial distruption to atmospheric optical depth ( AOD). As can be seen above that is demonstrably wrong.
The “myth” if you like is that the effect of volcanoes ends when AOD settles and worse the sense of the long lasting effect the polar opposite of what is usually attributed to volcanoes and what most climatologists get by naive, simplistic regression analysis.
The late 20th c. warming was in large part due to volcanic induces changes in the stratosphere.

Reply to  Greg
November 19, 2014 1:43 am

Once the true nature of the effects of volcanoes has been identified by clearly identifiable pattern in the stratosphere, the similarity to changes in the surface record can be seen:
Southern hemisphere SST:
GISS LOTI global land and sea average.

M Courtney
November 19, 2014 12:47 am

OK. So why did the idea that volcanoes lead to cold winters come about? I suggest it’s because winters feel colder after a large volcano.
We don’t just feel the temperature – humidity affects how we feel. A wet cold and a dry cold feel different. Do volcanoes (and their particulates) cause a change on precipitation that makes the cold feel unusual?
Just speculation but worth considering in my opinion.

November 19, 2014 1:12 am

Hi Willis
A couple of years ago I visited the archives of Exeter Cathedral looking for references to severe weather events. I found these for the 18th century;
1703 trees blown down in Cathedral Close by storm –December
1740 January ‘£23 to be given to poor in consideration of the severity of the season.’
1783 ‘Extra poor relief in extreme cold’ (due to Iceland volcano?)
1740 was a humdinger of a winter and brought to an end a decade of notable warmth which caused Phil Jones to investigate the 1730 decade in 2005 and admit that natural variability was much greater than he had hitherto realised.
As regards Laki, I have also said numerous times that the observational records do not illustrate any long term effects from large volcanos, even the super one of 1287 that Michael Mann got so excited about.
But undoubtedly the winter of 1783 was cold, although the effects do not seem to be long lasting.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 19, 2014 10:31 am

You are mistaken about the CET record. Only one winter in the period you cite was more severe, and it occurred during the Dalton Minimum.
The second and third coldest CET winters during that quarter century were back to back after Laki:
1783/84 – 3.5c…SEVERE
1784/85 – 4.1c…SEVERE
Only 1794/5 was worse.
1794/95 – 1.4c…SEVERE

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 19, 2014 12:34 pm

Wrong Willis ….. It is/was the coldest winter in the CET (1659 to present)…..
The DJF mean temp was -1.2C
The next coldest was 1740 at -0.4C

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 19, 2014 12:38 pm

Also from the UKMO for stronger confirmation …..

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 19, 2014 12:42 pm

Also the study you quote from does not say that the Laki eruption caused the 1683/84 winter … on the contrary (from abstract)…
“Data sources and model simulations support our hypothesis that a combined negative NAO‐ENSO warm phase was the dominant cause of the anomalous winter of 1783–1784, and that these events likely resulted from natural variability unconnected to Laki. “

Reply to  tonyb
November 19, 2014 2:00 am

Tony, the effects of the late 20th c. ones were not long lasting either. I do not know whether conditions would have been the same in pre-industrial period or not since it is possible part of what caused an increase in optical transparency of the stratosphere in my graphs above may has been removal of industrial aerosol pollution: “global dimming”.
In any case, it seems that changes in ozone are a significant part of the storey and that probably would have applied back then too.

Stephen Wilde
November 19, 2014 1:27 am

4th coldest from 25 qualifies as amongst the coldest.
All that is proposed is that it was colder than it otherwise would have been due to the eruption which seems fair enough to me.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 19, 2014 2:51 am

I had a similar question to that of EW about a “year without a summer” and followed your recommended further reading and ( to cut the waffle) that led me to your “thermostatic mechanisms”, the post of 2009 :
and the enormous no of responses that that generated .
Clearly the idea that , without human interference via CO2 ( if that is actual) there is a stable climate (dependent on continent geometry) to which the temperature relaxes, is a very powerful one .
However the date of that post and the references contained therein was 2009 . Have you revisited the thermostatic mechanism in similar detail more recently? . Because since 2009 the differences between GCMs and real world data have become even more obvious without provoking any change in attitude amongst the climate science community or their paymasters .
More intense publicly funded research on the thermostatic mechanisms might be sensible to establish the base on which any CO2 forcing is imposed as a second order effect.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 19, 2014 11:19 am

It was the second coldest among the 25, not just among them, and it occurred during the warmer part of that quarter century, the latter part of which included the onset of the Dalton Minimum.
In the entire 18th century, only three winters were more severe and one tied it. All but one of those winters occurred during the Maunder or Dalton Minima. The exception was the famous winter of 1739/40.
I didn’t check the 17th or 19th centuries. The 17th of course included most of the Maunder, so contained a lot of severe winters. If you want to do a meaningful analysis, compare how 1783/4 did with winters during warm cycles of the LIA, not with its depths during solar minima.

November 19, 2014 2:05 am

Laki June 1783
Here are the record coldest months from CET back to 1659 around that period;
jan 1740 4th
feb 1740 4th
april 1770 6th
may 1740 2nd
Oct 1740 1st
nov 1740 8th
jan 1776 7th
jan 1776 7th
nov 1782 1st
april 1782 3rd
may 1782 12th
dec 1783 4th
mar 1784 12th
mar 1785 2nd
feb 1785 12th
march 1786 7th
nov 1786 10th
I think it is reasonable to say that SOME of the months following the Laki eruption of June 1783 were notably cold. However, it appears the cold had started the previous year in 1782 and in that context the following years were a continuation, perhaps tweaked by the volcano perhaps not, bearing in mind the other cold months/.years in the record, which is by no means exhaustive.
Any volcanos in 1740?

Richard Barraclough
Reply to  climatereason
November 19, 2014 4:19 am

Yes, indeed. There’s strong speculation, though no hard evidence, that the spectacular cold of 1740 was caused by the eruption of Mount Ichinsky, in the Kamchatka peninsula. This was by far the coldest year in the CET rercord (6.83 deg C), and was all the more remarkable in that it followed the benign decade of the 1730’s (decadal average 9.86 deg C). Winter 1740 was almost 6 degrees C colder than winter 1739.
For those who suspect the accuracy of 18th century thermometers, about 15% of the population of Ireland died as a result of the harsh weather. (OK, I know it’s not Central England, but it’s not far away, and I have the figures to hand!)
Getting back to 1784, the graphs presented in the article show monthly temperatures. Oon the scale used, this effectively hide the seasonal temperatures, which are the subject of the discussion. It’s not surprising that a few other years had a single month which was colder than 1784’s coldest month.
However, if we look at seasonal and annual temperatures, the winter (Dec, Jan, Feb) of 1783-84 was the coldest (1.16 C) since the aforementioned 1740, and the summer was also the coldest since 1740. Similarly, the annual temperature of 7.83 C was the coldest since 1740.
The only colder years in the whole CET record were 1692,94,95,98 (what was going on then?), 1740, 1814 and 1879.
It’s not surprising that 1784 was seen as an unusually cold year in England, and the spiky graph in Figure 4 hides this.

Richard Barraclough
Reply to  Richard Barraclough
November 19, 2014 4:21 am

Apologies for a couple of typos

Reply to  Richard Barraclough
November 19, 2014 7:01 am

I have looked at the data for the volcano you cite
Yes its last eruption was in 1740 but it doesn’t seem to be of much consequence. Phil Jones seemed uninterested in it in 2005 as a cause for the extreme 1740 winter, instead citing unexpected levels of natural variability

Robert W Turner
Reply to  Richard Barraclough
November 19, 2014 9:17 am

“The only colder years in the whole CET record were 1692,94,95,98”
Maunder Minimum, although the sun has nothing to do with these very minor temperature fluctuations we’re talking about. /s

Stephen Wilde
Reply to  climatereason
November 19, 2014 6:07 am

December 1783 being 4th coldest in the entire CET record seems good enough to justify the original study. It is just that the other winter months brought it back up to 15th overall.
Willis is right though in suggesting that it is a short term effect from volcanoes with very variable regional effects.
Interestingly,the 2010 eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland was followed by the coldest December in England since the national series began in 2010

The Ghost Of Big Jim Cooley
November 19, 2014 2:39 am

I first started getting interested in ‘global warming’ in 2003. I used to argue on the old BBC website then. My very first point was that the actual ‘proper’ thermometer wasn’t invented until 1714. Even then, we have no right to think that early measurements were very accurate. Old records simply aren’t good enough – about as good as taking the sea temperature from a bucket of water dragged by a ship!
We don’t know what to think. Even today, surface temps are taken by rotten location…and then adjusted! The temps in the atmosphere (UAH and RSS) are not actual temperature recordings. It’s all a joke. If any other ‘science’ used such practices, they would be akin to alchemy. The idea that we can measure differences of tenths of a degree between past times and now is amazingly laughable. We might use tree ring data from one tree, or a core of ice from one location…and infer that we ‘know’ what the temperature was. Climate ‘science’ is bringing all of science down. I predicted that back in 2003. As an atheist, I laugh at religion (with its books written by subjective believers, its 20th-hand accounts, and of course its total lack of any evidence at all). But science has been a love of mine since my college days in 1975. I am SO disappointed that this charade, this nonsense, this puerility of climate ‘science’ is allowed to get away with fooling the public that it is anything near accurate, and that it WILL damage ‘science’ itself. Climate ‘science’ is no better than religion – it really isn’t! And any scientist reading this should be shouting it at his/her colleagues.

November 19, 2014 2:52 am

I’d guess (without much evidence) that a tropical volcano, like Pinatubo, might have quite different climate impact from an (almost) arctic one like Laki. Any evidence for this?

Mike McMillan
November 19, 2014 3:32 am

Looks to me as though CET had a very warm summer then a cold winter, followed by a cool summer. The big drop from summer to winter would leave the impression that the winter was colder in absolute terms, while only very cold relatively. The subsequent cool summer only cemented the deal.

Pete in Cumbria UK
November 19, 2014 3:59 am

Having witnessed through the media and via conversations with peeps with a keen interest in weather, would the ‘cold summer’ just be a result of social interaction between people.
My example would be the recent floods in the South West of England. OK, maybe some places got a lot of rain but it was in a place and time that historically spent all winter underwater anyway. The landscape was man-made and then neglected through lack of maintenance, the switching off of drainage pumps and failed forecasts.
But it was what ensued after a Met Office muppet jumped up on TV. He solemnly declared, repeatedly, and then copied onto the main news headlines, that a tin-pot little village, somewhere no-one had ever heard about, cared about nor ever will very much (unless they actually lived there of course) had had TWICE AS MUCH RAIN as it normally got in a year.
Before you knew it, EVERYwhere in England had had twice as much rain. Everyone was talking about it and it was repeatedly reinforced by the lame stream media. Actual weather station data was simply ignored, nobody checked the reality. For a population permanently muddled headed, soporific and chronically depressed by a diet of starch and alcohol, exchanging tales of woe and hardship is second nature – reinforced ever more by the dirge of soap operas that are de-riguer viewing on early evening British TV. The pluvial downpour, well within the bounds of natural variability, that engulfed Lower Middle Nowheresville (Pop. 45) became the national standard.
Did something similar happen after Laki, a small isolated event (a low temperature reading somewhere) get magnified by confirmation bias and social interaction. Possibly the only situation involving real positive feedback in the whole climate system?
Would it be an idea (not really but ykwim) for Lunadonkey and his side kick John Crook to devote some of their energies to analysing this, instead of spending their days (and my money) slagging off skeptics as they do.

November 19, 2014 4:16 am

The Winter of 1783/84 was exceedingly cold in the American Southeast, both for its long continuance, extremely heavy snowstorms and freeze severity. Feb 1784 and Feb 1899 contain the
only two instances of ice flows passing out of the mouth of the Mississippi River at 29 degrees N
and being meet by ships in the open Gulf of Mexico at 28 degrees N.
Reference David Ludlum-“Early American Winters 1604-1820”.

November 19, 2014 5:03 am

Pete in Cumbria UK makes an astute observation about perception especially when it comes to weather.
In our area where harsh winters are the norm, the winter of 11/12 was soft and mild and everyone was noting how easy the winter was. I was speaking with a clerk and we were talking about the weather and I said ‘thank heavens the winter is more humane than last year’.
I’ll never forget her response. She looked at me with complete puzzlement and stated that global warming was making all the winters mild. She had completely forgotten the brutal winter we had just endured the previous year.

November 19, 2014 5:27 am

Reblogged this on gottadobetterthanthis and commented:

The only point, volcanoes are not nearly as important as we assume them to be.

November 19, 2014 5:51 am

The winter after the Laki eruption was colder than the previous 9 winters. Could it be that the other dips in the record indicate volcanic eruptions in other places that the europeans were unaware of?

November 19, 2014 6:53 am

Thanks Willis. This certainly again throws a wrench in our intuitive sense a volcano’s ash and sulfur must cause cooling.
I actually think it does cause cooling, but the cooling doesn’t manifest in the way our minds look for. Rather it manifests by shifting the jet stream. (I think it was Dr. Tim Ball who started my thinking down these lines, by suggesting a “zonal” jet stream would often become “meridianal” after a major eruption.)
What really messes with our minds is that volcanoes mess with the timing of ordinary shifts in the AMO and PDO which cause ordinary shifts in the jet stream from flat (“zonal”) to loopy (“meridianal.”)
Sometimes I mess with children’s minds to make them laugh, by pretending I don’t know how to push them on a swing. To push them correctly I would, of course, push them from the rear, and time my pushes correctly. Instead I pretend I don’t have a clue, and push from the side, or push at just the wrong time, which stops them dead rather than increasing their swings. The children delight in telling me what a fool I am, and lecturing me about when and where to push.
Some people seem to be inadvertently giving volcanoes similar lectures, by expecting the same result from every volcano, irregardless of the situation created by the AMO, PDO and jet stream as a starting point. Volcanoes don’t heed us, and push whenever they please wherever they please.
What I surmise Tamboro did in 1815 was to push just when the jet stream was in a loopy phase, thus creating a jet stream that was a super duper looper. Where 2007 pushed a lot of ice down through Fram Strait, after 1815 the entire, cotton-pocking icecap got discharged into the North Atlantic. If this occurred again it might please Alarmists, “Look how little ice is at the Pole! It must be warmer” until the North Atlantic being turned into ice-water gave Europe a modern “Year With No Summer.”
What I’m suggesting is that the effect of volcanoes is much more complex than merely the air being cooled.

Ferdinand Engelbeen
November 19, 2014 8:59 am

The real effect of volcanoes on climate is if they inject a lot of debris, including SO2 into the stratosphere, but even that is not lasting long: a few months for the heavy particles and 2-3 years for SOx-water drops for the Pinatubo which was a one-in-a-century VEI 6 event. Most eruptions are a lot less explosive and don’t even reach the stratosphere. The VEI index is a logarithmic scale with a factor 10 of debris ejected for each point on the scale.
Eruptions of the Laki and currently the Bárðarbunga eject a lot of mass, but mostly low in the atmosphere, which has far less climate impact. Besides that, the emissions of SO2 and especially HF (hydrogen fluoride), where the latter is very toxic for sheep and cows, killed about halve of all animals on Iceland and a quarter of the population as result of hunger at the time of the Laki eruption. See the many references at Wiki:
They also mention a lot of haze over Iceland and Europe. If that is true, that may not show up in winter temperatures (heat retainment), and reflects sunlight in spring…
For those who haven’t been in Iceland: here a picture from the top of the main Laki volcano (40 km inland from the main circle road, extremely bad road, several rivers to cross!) towards the long fissure: over 100 smaller volcanoes were formed at that time:

Reply to  Ferdinand Engelbeen
November 19, 2014 9:15 am

So basically there may be an effect for a particular type of volcano in a specfic location that projects a great deal of the appropriate material high into the stratosphere, but basically these are very rare and have a short term effect, if at all?
So the LIA is unlikely to have been caused by the 1257 eruption and a couple a few decades later?

Ferdinand Engelbeen
Reply to  climatereason
November 19, 2014 9:52 am

Hi Tony,
Some -long- time ago we have met…
Indeed, most of the heavy debris of the Pinatubo did drop out in a few months. Only SO2 remained in the stratosphere, was oxidized to SO3 by ozone and attracted water to slowly form drop large enough to reflect/deflect sunlight. As I remember well from some work, the deflection caused more photosynthesis, because more leaves which were part of the day in the shadow of other leaves received more of the scattered sunlight which caused more CO2 uptake. That is visible in the minimum CO2 increase in the year(s) after the eruption.
SO2 emissions in the lower troposphere in general drop out as dry deposit within a few days, with rain even faster, so their climate impact in general is minimal.
I had a few good references some years ago which did show the aerosol impact of explosive volcanoes, but as usual they are gone now…

Reply to  climatereason
November 19, 2014 9:57 am

Correct, as usual.
There is no significant difference between volcanism during the LIA and during the Medieval Warm Period preceding it or the Modern Warm Period following it. Indeed, so far the Modern WP has seen big eruptions at a higher pace than the average across the LIA.
OTOH, the LIA is associated with an unusual number and magnitude of solar minima.

November 19, 2014 9:19 am

Willis your data is wrong major volcanic eruptions have been shown time and time again to have major climatic impacts. They may be short lived but they are major.

November 19, 2014 9:22 am

Dr. Spencer agrees with most of us who think volcanic activity does indeed have a cooling effect. I would say over 99% of the scientific community has reached those conclusions.
Dr. Roy Spencer, Ph. D. says:
November 16, 2014 at 8:36 AM
It is a visible reflector, but also an IR absorber. The Earth Radiation Budget Satellite (ERBS) measured a 2%-4% increased reflection by the sulfate aerosols after the 1991 eruption of Pinatubo, but it also measured the decreased IR emission because the aerosol layer in the lower stratosphere was blocking the warmer IR emission from below. The solar reflection effect dominates, which is why volcanoes cool.
The increased IR absorption by the aerosol layer leads to a dramatic warming in the lower stratosphere after a major eruption.

November 19, 2014 9:25 am
In agreement with this and all the other thousands of studies which reach essentially similar conclusions.

November 19, 2014 9:35 am
One last post here, but this one is very enlightening and full of information on solar/volcanic relationships and how they due indeed effect the climate.

November 19, 2014 9:53 am

The effect of volcanoes has been well studied. Willis would benefit from reading the research. Many such studies have been linked on this blog in the past.
The effect of volcanic eruptions on weather depends on a number of factors besides their magnitude. An important one is where the volcano is located. Tropical eruptions affect global weather differently from higher latitude eruptions. Pinatubo displayed the effect of a large tropical eruption well.
On average, the effects on weather of an eruption big enough to matter is short term cooling followed by longer term warming, but neither persists for sufficient time to affect climate, although a prolonged period of increased volcanism might.

Reply to  sturgishooper
November 19, 2014 10:04 am

Irish chronicle shows cooling effect of volcanoes:

Reply to  sturgishooper
November 19, 2014 10:06 am
Reply to  sturgishooper
November 19, 2014 10:13 am

Effect on CCNs and creation of vog:
Naturally the USGS had to throw in “climate”, although single volcanic effects rarely last long enough to affect climate.

November 19, 2014 9:58 am

Thanks Willis, interesting as usual.
Could you clarify the scale of the last (updated) graph. It says ‘anomaly’, but that looks like a large anomaly differential to me (+12 to -12 ºc). But if they are actual temperatures -12ºc looks much too cold for an average European winter.
A quick explanation?
Thanks, R.

Frank de Jong
November 19, 2014 10:15 am

After having a look at the data, like yourself, I found the data unconvincing of an effect.
However, when you look at the prevailing winds, Icelandic volcanic aerosols would be blown mostly southwesterly towards Newfoundland, and somewhat northeasterly towards Norway. Therefore, looking at Prague, Geneva and Milan doesn’t prove much at all either way. Looking at Trondheim seems to be the most relevant… and then maybe CET or Stockholm. But even there, the winter of 1783/1784 doesn’t seem “unprecedented”.
The historic reports of very cold winters might be related to the fact that 1783 seems to have had quite a warm summer. Maybe that had an influence on the amount of snow or humidity? As you will know, there’s a difference between absolute temperature and “perceived” temperature.

November 19, 2014 10:54 am

Its possible the CET is not a very good indicator of climate, at least what humans experience. Take for instance 1816 the year without a summer, caused by Tambora:
“Cool temperatures and heavy rains resulted in failed harvests in Britain and Ireland. Families in Wales travelled long distances as refugees, begging for food. Famine was prevalent in north and southwest Ireland, following the failure of wheat, oats, and potato harvests. In Germany, the crisis was severe; food prices rose sharply. With the cause of the problems unknown, people demonstrated in front of grain markets and bakeries, and later riots, arson, and looting took place in many European cities. It was the worst famine of 19th-century Europe.[9][15]”
Nothing impressive shows up during 1816 on the CET, even though history clearly documents it as a major disruption of climate and significant hardship for humanity globally.

Reply to  LT
November 19, 2014 11:11 am

The winter of 1815/16 was cold but not severe in the CET.
This is not surprising, since big tropical eruptions affect various parts of the globe differently. Tropical Asian Tambora’s effect on NW Europe was less than Laki’s, which went off in its own neighborhood. Tambora hammered NE North America worse than NW Europe because its effect on the Gulf Stream was less downstream than upstream, and Central England lies at higher latitude than New England, for instance.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 19, 2014 11:33 am

You must have missed this part of the abstract:
“The summer of 1783 was characterized by extreme and unusual weather, including an unusually hot July in western Europe, most likely caused by perseverance of southerly air currents. The following winter was one of
the most severe winters on record in Europe and North America. In these regions, the annual mean surface cooling that followed the Laki eruption was about “1.3!C and lasted for 2–3 years. We propose that the upper troposphere/lower stratosphere aerosols from Laki disrupted the thermal balance of the Arctic regions for two summers and were the main mechanism for the associated climate perturbations.”
I’ve linked to another paper by Self above, on the effect of large eruptions.

Reply to  sturgishooper
November 19, 2014 11:34 am

In the same comment, a Hawaiian volcano observatory paper discusses vog.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 19, 2014 12:27 pm

you dont measure the effect by asking whether it was UNUSUAL in any way. wrong headed approach.
this isnt an abduction problem.
The problem is pretty simple.
X is the temperature that WOULD HAVE BEEN but for the volcano
Y is the temperature that was actually recorded.
The effect of volcanos is X-Y. simple.
But we dont have X. we will never have X. we could model X, but that’s not data its an estimate of what would have been.
Or If you do a simple regression you can see that the years with volcanos are, in general, colder than one would expect. the residuals can show that to you. Or you can stack the volcano epoche’s.. or detrend and stack
Which ever method you use ( physical modelling of X or statistically trying to separate out the additional cooling), one thing remains clear. We don’t have X. we will never have X and so any statements we make are going to be heavily caveated.

richard verney
Reply to  Steven Mosher
November 19, 2014 12:53 pm

Since you do not know X for any year when there was a volcano, one can never say “that the years with volcanos are, in general, colder than one would expect.”,

November 19, 2014 11:45 am

The Laki eruption lasted eight months during which time about 14 cubic km of basaltic lava and some tephra were erupted. Haze from the eruption was reported from Iceland to Syria. In Iceland, the haze lead to the loss of most of the island’s livestock (by eating fluorine contaminated grass), crop failure (by acid rain), and the death of one-quarter of the human residents (by famine). Ben Franklin noted the atmospheric effects of the eruption (Wood, 1992).
It is estimated that 80 Mt of sulfuric acid aerosol was released by the eruption (4 times more than El Chichon and 80 times more than Mount St. Helens).
The climatic effects of the Laki eruption are impressive. In the eastern United States, the winter average temperature was 4.8 degrees C below the 225 year average. The estimate for the temperature decrease of the entire Northern Hemisphere is about 1 degree C. The The top graph shows change in acidity in micro equivalents H+ per kg in the Greenland icecap. The bottom graph represents the winter temperature records in the eastern United States. From Sigurdsson (1982).

Reply to  Salvatore Del Prete
November 19, 2014 11:58 am

Besides devastating Iceland, Laki caused widespread famine in Egypt (1784), Tunisia (1784–85) and probably India (1783–84):
You probably won’t like the tree ring data or the modeling to explain the effects of the eruption on Egypt, but there are plenty of other data.
The Tunisian famine killed up to one-fifth of all Tunisians.
India had already suffered a famine in the prior year, probably resulting from El Nino-related drought, but the follow on might well have been worsened by the effects of Laki. Together the two famines killed about 11 million people there:

November 19, 2014 12:46 pm

These posted above in a reply to Willis (in case overlooked)
Wrong Willis ….. It is/was the coldest winter in the CET (1659 to present)…..
The DJF mean temp was -1.2C
The next coldest was 1740 at -0.4C
Also from the UKMO for stronger confirmation …..
Also the study you quote from does not say that the Laki eruption caused the 1683/84 winter … on the contrary (from abstract)…
“Data sources and model simulations support our hypothesis that a combined negative NAO‐ENSO warm phase was the dominant cause of the anomalous winter of 1783–1784, and that these events likely resulted from natural variability unconnected to Laki. “

November 19, 2014 1:01 pm

Late comer here, I have only scanned the comments above and may have overlooked the following topic. Back in the cold war days, the concept of a “nuclear winter” existed. Forecasts based on a program TTAPSS (sp?) predicted severe consequences resulting from nuclear explosions producing great quantities of atmospheric debris. The concept was “tested” when the Iraqi’s blew up the Kuwait oil fields. Memory serves me less well now days, but I seem to recall there was NO detectable effect on global temps. Does anyone have a better memory?

Reply to  RichardT
November 19, 2014 1:07 pm

Your memory is basically correct:
The astronomical Dr. Sagan and his usual suspect cronies Dr. Ehrlich and Dr. Schneider were climastrologists then, as Dr. Ehrlich remains. Dr. Sagan died before being able to jump on the Watermelon climate bandwagon, but Dr. Schneider of course did before his demise.

Ferdinand Engelbeen
Reply to  RichardT
November 19, 2014 1:36 pm

The point is that to have a large but short (2-3 years) effect on climate, the emissions must reach the stratosphere, which was the case for the Pinatubo and a few other eruptions in the recent past and in part for the Laki, and are certain in the case of nuclear explosions, but not for the Kuwait oil fires. After a few days, the smoke/particulates of the fires rain out are dispose off on land or oceans…

Reply to  Ferdinand Engelbeen
November 19, 2014 1:58 pm

Nuclear winter is as big a crock as man-made climate change, and based upon equally execrable models and false assumptions. Schneider at NCAR did at least have the integrity to lower the doomsday level in his later modeling after consideration of better soot data, to “Nuclear Autumn”.
Besides which nuclear war now would not produce the needed firestorms. First because “countervalue” targeting (bombing cities) by the superpowers is at best highly unlikely, as opposed to attacking military targets. Second because modern cities just don’t burn as easily as did Hamburg and Hiroshima, both of which cases required exceptional meteorological conditions. No firestorm occurred over Nagasaki.

Reply to  Ferdinand Engelbeen
November 19, 2014 2:11 pm

In 1988 Russell Seitz of the Harvard University Center for International Affairs said that the models’ assumptions produced the results that researchers wanted to achieve and were an instance of “worst-case analysis run amok”.
Sound familiar?
Marxist academics happily abuse their positions of trust and will stop at nothing to further their ideological agendas.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 19, 2014 2:25 pm

My apologies … i was a century out.
However your article is based on a false premise.
The quoted study was not claiming that Laki was responsible for the winter of 1783/84 … son.

November 19, 2014 1:48 pm

Willis, can you integrate those graphs. It may be that it was colder by number of degree days, not by absolute or average temps. Thx. As always I am pleased by what you do.

Ulric Lyons
November 19, 2014 2:17 pm

Willis said:
“Remembering that the study claimed that this was “among the coldest winters in Central England”, which winter looks like the big winner here?
In fact, far from being among the coldest all-time winters, the winter of 1783-1784 was not even in the top three for the quarter century 1775-1800 …”
As you saying coldest winters and not coldest months, the usual practice is give the average for December, January and February, you should find that it is the second coldest in that 26yrs.
While there are known astronomical causes for the winter of 1783/84, the effects of aerosols and ash from Laki, being low altitude, had the effect of exacerbating the high temperatures through the summer months when they engulfed the UK.

Reply to  Ulric Lyons
November 19, 2014 2:46 pm

You are right and Willis dead wrong, for whatever reason. I already pointed this out to Willis, but as per usual, he hasn’t bothered to respond.
For the 50 years 1741 to 1790 (onset of the Dalton Minimum), 1783/84 was the coldest three months. And the following winter tied the next coldest of that half century, 1764/65.
Here again is what I wrote above, typically ignored by Willis:
You are mistaken about the CET record. Only one winter in the period you cite was more severe, and it occurred during the Dalton Minimum.
The second and third coldest CET winters during that quarter century were back to back after Laki:
1783/84 – 3.5c…SEVERE
1784/85 – 4.1c…SEVERE
Only 1794/5 was worse.
1794/95 – 1.4c…SEVERE

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 19, 2014 3:31 pm

Again, what counts as “unusual”?
It was the lowest in an ~55 year period, followed by the next lowest winter. The lower winter T of 1704/95, as repeatedly noted, fell during the Dalton Minimum and except for 1739/40, the other two lows were during the Maunder Minimum.
IMO the lowest temperature in a period longer than half a century, followed by another unusually low T winter, is more than “unusual”. Especially when going back another 25 years (1715-39) gets you only one winter colder.
You would benefit from looking at the actual numbers I linked for your benefit, rather than at a graph.
You should also acknowledge that your statement “the winter of 1783 was cold … but according to the CET, it didn’t even make the top three in the quarter century 1775-1800. Hardly impressive” was wrong. As noted over and over again, it was the coldest in that period but one during the Dalton, and it was followed by another which tied for third.

Catherine Ronconi
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 19, 2014 3:43 pm

Sadly, Willis is a recidivist, serial ignorer, as of the hundreds of papers showing the influence of solar activity on climatic phenomena. Going “La-la-la, I can’t read you!” is the anti-scientific method.

November 19, 2014 3:14 pm
As one can see the volcanic eruption DID have a BIG effect on temperatures, although not long in duration.

Catherine Ronconi
Reply to  Salvatore Del Prete
November 19, 2014 5:45 pm

Now there’s an instructive graphic.

November 19, 2014 3:18 pm

The chart above and the following below are from Joe D’Aleo of Weatherbell, the best I have ever come across when it comes to climate and why/how it may change..
In North America, the winter of 1784 was the longest and one of the coldest on record. It was the longest period of below-zero temperatures in New England, the largest accumulation of snow in New Jersey, and the longest freezing over of the Chesapeake Bay. There was ice skating in Charleston Harbor, a huge snowstorm hit the south, the Mississippi River froze at New Orleans, and there was ice in the Gulf of Mexico.
The Laki eruption illustrates that low energy, large volume, long duration basaltic eruptions can have climatic impacts greater than large volume explosive silica-rich eruptions. The sulfur contents of basaltic magmas are 10-100 times higher than silica-rich magmas (Palais and Sigurdsson, 1989). The sulfur dioxide is what forms the sulfate aerosols which reflect radiation.
How does sun play a role? I believe the sun drives the oceanic cycles which drive the weather. See the details of how here. Volcanism is the wildcard amplifier. See how the TSI as compiled by Hoyt/Schatten/Willson matches the ocean cycles and temperatures.

Catherine Ronconi
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 19, 2014 5:42 pm

What you still don’t get is that the coldest winters were during the Maunder Minimum. Take out the solar minima and look just at the long stretch of the 18th century that is most comparable with 1783-84. That would be the correct statistical procedure.
For the whole period from the end of the Maunder to beginning of the Dalton (ie ~78 years, incl, 1716-93), only one year beats the two Laki-affected winters, the fabled chill of 1739/40. If that result means nothing to you, then you are truly a hopeless case, statistically speaking. Results could scarcely get more “unusual”, contrary to your assertion.
When BTW are you going to admit that you were wrong about the rank of 1783/84 in the period you cited? IMO you should rely less on graphs and more on the actual numbers upon which they are based. You miss things otherwise.

Catherine Ronconi
Reply to  Catherine Ronconi
November 19, 2014 5:49 pm

Perhaps I should say fabled and freakish for 1740. It was one of those rare weather events that happened to occur twice in the 18th century, but the first (1709) was during the Maunder, so not totally unexpected, while the famous mid-century chill came out of the blue, so to speak.

Reply to  Catherine Ronconi
November 19, 2014 7:22 pm

Some observations:
Willis will admit to error, but in my experience must be dragged to it after evasions. But that is still to his credit, when so many in the “climate change” universe are so averse to doing so.
You are right however that he does strangely rely upon graphs rather than the data behind the graphs.
I base this conclusion upon our discussion regarding the duration of the Holocene v. the Eemian, the previous interglacial. I showed the dates in thousand years before present for the Eemian, but Willis wouldn’t accept them until he found a graph based upon them, which he could post here. But, again, that was also an instance to his credit, in which he did own up to a mistake.
I don’t know why he does as he does in this case, pretending not to know about what you’re talking, when so many commenters have pointed out that his guess as to the number of winters colder than 1783 in his selected period is just plain wrong.

Catherine Ronconi
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 19, 2014 6:53 pm

Do you read people’s replies to you, or not? Apparently not?
At least once, your wildly, hilariously incorrect assertion has been shown you.
You claim as third coldest the summer that was second coldest during the period you cited. How many times does this need to be pointed out to you before you stop making an ALL CAPS fool of yourself?
I’m not diverting in the least, but just trying to school you in proper statistical technique, in which art all your posts and comments on this blog have shown over and over again that your sorely lack.

Catherine Ronconi
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 19, 2014 7:01 pm

What do you mean by “unusual”? This has been repeatedly asked of you.
More proof that you don’t bother to read the comments by your betters, ie people who have actually studied the relevant disciplines.
Did you really not read the many prior comments about your false on its face claim that “the winter of 1783 was cold … but according to the CET, it didn’t even make the top three in the quarter century 1775-1800. Hardly impressive”?
This appears to be an SOP tactic of yours. Pitiful. It seems that there is no tactic too low for you to which to stoop to try to rescue something from the ashes of your wasted existence late in its run.
As you have been showed repeatedly, only one year out of 78 from the appropriate period was colder than 1783/84. That makes two out of 78. On Planet Willis, 2.5% may be “usual”, but I’m afraid not on Planet Earth as pertains to statistical analysis.
Your adherence to ludicrous statistical technique in a vane attempt to maintain your indefensible position is nothing short of pathetic.

Catherine Ronconi
Reply to  Catherine Ronconi
November 19, 2014 7:12 pm

Again, sorry. Meant “vain”, obviously.
But however spelled, Willis’ SOP is pathetic. It’s beyond me how the psych (appropriate!) BA’s tricks have managed to enthrall as many fan boys and girls on this site as it seems have been so bewitched.
My guess is few to none among people with actual scientific degrees.

Reply to  Catherine Ronconi
November 19, 2014 10:32 pm

…….”My guess is few to none among people with actual scientific degrees.”
Count me amongst the trash, now what ?
You gonna educate me, or just argue with Willis.
Your move.

Ulric Lyons
November 19, 2014 7:20 pm

Willis said
“I’ve come across a very interesting and very detailed account of the actual effects of the volcano. The main effect seems to have been an acidic fog.”
“There are not many historical records from North America that mention the arrival of the Laki haze, but tree ring records from northern Alaska suggest that July and August 1783 were very cold.”
Yes very likely with a strongly positive North Atlantic Oscillation, while the UK was very hot, hot enough to cook meat on the pavement according to the Rev. Gilbert White.
And apart from a couple of brief late eruptive episodes, most of the haze was gone by Autumn, so there’s no direct link to the cold winter anyway. All the haze did was to make the 1783 summer hotter, like in Moscow in 2010 with the forest fire haze, and in our hottest ever UK Easter in 2011 when record levels of pollution drifted across from Europe.

Ulric Lyons
Reply to  Ulric Lyons
November 20, 2014 7:25 am

And high altitude aerosols remaining apparently till February (re pdf up thread), should have had a slight warming effect at such latitudes in winter months.

Ed Zuiderwijk
November 19, 2014 10:45 pm

It would be interesting to know when this “coldest winter” mantra appeared in the literature and in what context.
Also, people tend to consider a winter exceedingly cold when it is not so much the temperature that’s lower than usual, but when there’s much more snow than usual. A wet winter is perceived to be colder than a dry one. Are there any snow records for these temperature data sets?

Catherine Ronconi
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 20, 2014 10:44 am

IOW, you’re too cowardly to admit error, even after making a big deal about it.
IMO, all your critics have open minds. You just have failed utterly to make your case that the winters of 1783/84 and 1784/85 were usual. Clearly they were not.
Why is it that you don’t understand why the proper technique is to compare those years with those most like them, ie the majority of the 18th century outside the Maunder and Dalton solar minima? Apparently you do need help conducting a proper statistical analysis.
The fact remains that during the whole non-minimum period of ~1715 to 1790 only the exceptional winter of 1739/40 was colder than the winters of 1783-85. Only a statistical special pleader could possibly find those winters not unusual.
Your case fails prima facie. That is, it falls on its face.

November 20, 2014 12:25 am

HI willis
Just noticed that some calling himself ‘Toneb’ has started commenting.
It is NOT me.

November 20, 2014 2:00 am

Willis: my problem with the raw temperatures is that they show an annual summer-winter “sawtooth” pattern, which swamps the changes we’re looking for. I happen to have CET data on hand, so I used that. I took a 2-step aproach to making the jumps/drops more visible…
1) Plot a graph of ((monthly temperature current) – (monthly temperature 12 months ago). This is the change from year to year, e.g. ((Temp(Jan, 1760) – Temp(Jan, 1759)). That is still rather noisey, but some spikes begins to appear. That’s the 1st plot
2) I took a 12-month-running-mean of the results of step 1) above. This should work because volcanic ash from major eruptions doesn’t show up in the atmosphere one month, and disappera the next. That’s the 2nd plot. The largest negative delta is 1740. That was the Great Irish Frost of 1740. See for details. 1783 shows up along with 1684, 1795, and 1799. The downspike for 1816 is not quite as large.
The 2 graphs follow, for the period 1660 to 1820. Apologies for the plainess of the graphs. I cobbled this together quickly.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 20, 2014 1:57 pm

The average for the 12 months ending December 1660 is plotted at 1661.0. I believe that’s called a trailing average. Note that the calendar doesn’t have month zero (or day zero or year zero) but the spreadsheet does. To accomadate this I have to plot like so…
Jan 1661 = 1661.083
Feb 1661 = 1661.167

Nov 1661 = 1661.917
Dec 1661 = 1662.000
This looks a bit wierd until you note that
* Day 1 of 1662 = Jan 1, 1662
* Day 0 of 1662 = Dec 31, 1661
Thus data to the end of December 31, 1661 gets plotted at 1662.000.
I checked the tail-end of my graph. I have CET data through October 2014, and the 2nd graph (12 month running mean of 12 month delta) ends at 2014.833

November 20, 2014 8:43 am

Willis concludes from his data which is NOT the case for his point he keeps trying to make below. I have presented graphs and studies from very prominent people in the field such as Dr. Spencer /Joe D ‘Aleo that do not agree.
The point is that the effects of volcanoes on the surface temperature are so small that (as I’ve repeatedly demonstrated) you cannot distinguish them from the other variations in the temperature. If I were to give you the CET, there’s no way that you could

November 20, 2014 8:46 am
November 20, 2014 8:56 am

The problem as I see it is pitting one climate element in ISOLATION with out taken into account what else is going on at that given time. This is being done with solar and now volcanic activity.
Making it even worse is the focus in one particular area of the globe and not in the context of the whole globe.
Inn my opinion one can not take one item in isolation, in one particular section of the globe and try to prove what effect or non effect it may have on the climate. It will not work because the climate system is effected by several factors at any given time in addition to being non linear..

November 20, 2014 9:30 am

In my utterly meaningless opinion, I think figure 4 proves the exact opposite point the author intends. In the various temperature dips, I see the 1775 eruption of the Tseax Cone volcano, the 1779 eruption of Vesuvius, the 1783 eruption of Laki, the 1794 eruption of Vesuvius, and the 1798 eruption of Pico Viejo.

Catherine Ronconi
Reply to  RH
November 20, 2014 10:35 am

Me, too, in mine.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 20, 2014 1:05 pm

Thanks for the challenge, I’ll take a stab at it tonight. As an aside, did you notice the 21 year cycle running through the record? Sunspots?
Just kidding about the 21 year cycle. As an old electronics tech, I’ve troubleshot so many rf interference problems that I see cycles everywhere.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 20, 2014 1:07 pm

I meant just kidding abou the 21 year cycle being caused by sunspots; wouldn’t want to open that can of worms. But there is definately a 21 or 22 year cycle there.

Ulric Lyons
Reply to  RH
November 20, 2014 3:59 pm

Maybe you could try that with a set of solar cycles that are exclusively during a warm AMO mode:

Ulric Lyons
Reply to  RH
November 20, 2014 4:12 pm
Catherine Ronconi
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 20, 2014 4:24 pm

You’re conflating two different issues, ie whether before the fact volcanic eruptions can be detected with what constitutes “unusual”. Not all cold spells in the CET are caused by volcanoes, obviously, and not all volcanic eruptions cause cold winters. But the right kind of eruptions do. Laki is clearly one.
The result of Laki is easily spotted. It’s the coldest two winters between freakishly cold 1740 and the onset of the Dalton Minimum, which had one winter colder in the 18th century, and also colder than all the other winters from the end of the Maunder Minimum to 1740. It stands out like a sore thumb.
Again, look at the actual data instead of a graph, and use the relevant period.
Your whole premise fails.

Ulric Lyons
Reply to  Catherine Ronconi
November 20, 2014 6:10 pm

The high altitude haze that remained through the winter months, would lead to a minor surface warming at such latitudes. Which if anything would suggest that 1783/84 could have colder without the eruption. The winter itself is a short term drop out in the solar signal, when the Earth-Venus bisector is oriented in a particular direction at this type of Jovian configuration. The same pattern occurs in 1963, 1602, 1423, all severe European winters, and 1010 and 829 when the Nile froze too.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 20, 2014 5:49 pm

Okay, here is my attempt to “find the eruptions”. Was I close?

Reply to  RH
November 20, 2014 8:42 pm

Fascinating. It was easy finding significant eruptions that matched the pattern of temperature dips, even though there was no true correlation. Sometimes not finding patterns is harder than finding them. Thanks for taking the time.

November 20, 2014 4:16 pm

Willis is trying to tie the volcanic /solar no correlations /no co2 correlations into his theory which is the climate is in a steady state,(the thermostat hypothesis ) yet we know from the historical climatic record that this just is not so.
Nevertheless I will bite and see if Willis can explain his logic to the questions I pose to him. .
Willis, I need to ask you questions pertaining to your thermostat hypothesis theory which I see no evidence for. In-fact evidence points the opposite way. The most recent being there is now evidence that Ice Ages can begin in months much less years.
My question to you Willis, is if this hypothesis is correct why has the earth’s climate gone from interglacial- glacial so many times coming off stable climate periods for some 10000 years or more in the past similar to today? Why doesn’t your thermostat hypothesis stop this from happening? Why does your thermostat hypothesis keep the climate stable indefinitely? Maybe you dismiss the fact earth had glacial-inter- glacial periods in the past?
If not how do you then reconcile your hypothesis in the face of all the evidence which shows it does not hold up over time? Did something happen the last 10000 years that never was present in prior times? If so what? Why did it come about just the last 10000 years ?
Willis ‘s theory
I have explained in “The Thermostat Hypothesis” what I think is the mechanism responsible for this unexplained stability. My explanation may be wrong, but there must be some mechanism which kept the global temperature within plus or minus 1% for ten thousand

November 20, 2014 4:38 pm

Catherine you are SO correct and said it so elegantly..

November 21, 2014 4:08 am

Not sure if this came clearly through in the article, but the Laki eruption lasted from June 1783 to Feb 1784 while there also was an eruption at the Grimsvötn volcano going on from 1783 to 1785 so they combined could have influence for at least 2 winters and possibly 3 summer seasons on the Northern hemisphere.
It seems that local hazing / fogging contributed significantly to the anecdotical harsh weather that followed with up to catastrophic failure of crops to ripe the summers influenced.

November 21, 2014 10:43 am

That is fine Willis. Your points of view Willis although I disagree with still are interesting and makes me think more about this subject. I welcome the differences that is how one learns or at least becomes aware of other theories.

November 21, 2014 12:20 pm

I understand. I think you are sincere and trying to make your points. I like what you are doing because it makes me think. I will try not to be so vague in the future.,
I wish you the best and maybe you will be proven correct who knows.

November 24, 2014 10:10 am
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