“Scientists” Determine That the Worst Year in Human History Was… 536 AD.

Guest post by David Middleton

From the American Association for the Advancement of Science! in America:

Why 536 was ‘the worst year to be alive’

By Ann Gibbons Nov. 15, 2018


Ask medieval historian Michael McCormick what year was the worst to be alive, and he’s got an answer: “536.” Not 1349, when the Black Death wiped out half of Europe. Not 1918, when the flu killed 50 million to 100 million people, mostly young adults. But 536. In Europe, “It was the beginning of one of the worst periods to be alive, if not the worst year,” says McCormick, a historian and archaeologist who chairs the Harvard University Initiative for the Science of the Human Past.

A mysterious fog plunged Europe, the Middle East, and parts of Asia into darkness, day and night—for 18 months. “For the sun gave forth its light without brightness, like the moon, during the whole year,” wrote Byzantine historian Procopius. Temperatures in the summer of 536 fell 1.5°C to 2.5°C, initiating the coldest decade in the past 2300 years. Snow fell that summer in China; crops failed; people starved. The Irish chronicles record “a failure of bread from the years 536–539.” Then, in 541, bubonic plague struck the Roman port of Pelusium, in Egypt. What came to be called the Plague of Justinian spread rapidly, wiping out one-third to one-half of the population of the eastern Roman Empire and hastening its collapse, McCormick says.

Historians have long known that the middle of the sixth century was a dark hour in what used to be called the Dark Ages, but the source of the mysterious clouds has long been a puzzle. Now, an ultraprecise analysis of ice from a Swiss glacier by a team led by McCormick and glaciologist Paul Mayewski at the Climate Change Institute of The University of Maine (UM) in Orono has fingered a culprit. At a workshop at Harvard this week, the team reported that a cataclysmic volcanic eruption in Iceland spewed ash across the Northern Hemisphere early in 536. Two other massive eruptions followed, in 540 and 547. The repeated blows, followed by plague, plunged Europe into economic stagnation that lasted until 640, when another signal in the ice—a spike in airborne lead—marks a resurgence of silver mining, as the team reports in Antiquity this week.


Science! (as in she blinded me with)

It doesn’t seem possible that the worst year to be alive didn’t occur during the fake Anthropocene Epoch, the Climate Hellscape or the Trump administration.  How could the worst year in human history have occurred before ExxonMobil? Before SUV’s? Way back when the climate was cooler and CO2 was safely below 300 ppmv?

But there you have it… 536 AD was the pits.

This raises the question, “Would people have been better off dead in 536 AD?”

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November 17, 2018 9:45 am

I thought there was also a huge volcanic event in Central America (Guatemala) circa 540 AD, give or take 10 years? Sometimes volcanic events come in swarms. I know the Central American volcanic events have been suspects as well in the Dark Ages…

Reply to  Earthling2
November 17, 2018 9:54 am

Correction..maybe it was El Salvador’s Ilopango volcanic event that also erupted circa 536 AD. There is also a big decline in the Mesoamerican civilizations cultures same time period. Others volcanic events near to the timeline could include the South Pacific and North America. When it rains, it pours they say.


Reply to  Earthling2
November 17, 2018 7:45 pm

Volcanos? Nope. the worst catastrophe by far was anthropogenic–the plagues of Japanese and Germans in the early 1940s–any of its years outdoes 536. Let’s give mankind their due.

Kevin Lohse
Reply to  FTM
November 17, 2018 9:59 pm

The pandemic of Marxist socialism has done far more damage to humanity than the Nazi and Japanese outbreaks ever caused.

Reply to  Kevin Lohse
November 18, 2018 8:58 pm

And Political Islam over 1400 years probably did more damage and killed more people than both Fascism and Marxism. It has been nearly 100 years since the Ottomans fell in 1922, but still millions have died since then. Including everything that has happened since 911.

Dan Harrison
Reply to  Earthling2
November 17, 2018 3:47 pm

Every time I hear this Asteroid versus Volcanic cause argument for global cooling events I cringe. I’ve been convinced they are likely related. And I don’t believe the volcanism has to be only on the other side of the planet. A brief look at the many theories and unanswered questions on Asteroid strikes and vulcanism shows how much we still have to learn about both, and its impacts on human civilization.

“Did Giant Meteorites Slammed Earth Around A.D. 500?
Double impact may have caused tsunami, global cooling.”

Did Asteroids And Comets Turn The Tides Of Civilization?
Discovering Archaeology ^ | July/August 1999 | Mike Baillie
Posted on 7/11/2002, 1:56:44 PM

Then there’s the following: “Can impact events cause widespread volcanic activity on the other side of the planet?”

Patrick B
Reply to  Dan Harrison
November 17, 2018 4:25 pm

Sorry, but citing National Geographic is worse than citing a tabloid. Your comment lost all credibility.

Dan Harrison
Reply to  Patrick B
November 17, 2018 5:28 pm

I would agree, except that I read the article. It’s not bad, it’s plausible, and points to some evidence. An exception, perhaps?

Dan Harrison
Reply to  Patrick B
November 17, 2018 5:34 pm

I would agree, except that I read the article. It’s not bad, it’s plausible, and points to some evidence. A rare exception, perhaps?

Reply to  Patrick B
November 17, 2018 9:47 pm

Stifle your ad hominems! Address the merits of the argument not the credibility of the source.

Reply to  wattkid
November 22, 2018 2:32 am

A source for any assertion is essential, and is hardly an ad hominem. Regrettably, Nat Geo is no longer a credible source.

November 17, 2018 9:56 am

By the ice cores, it looks like the era was already in a cold phase, so the volcanic eruption may have made it worse, but was not the cause of the Dark Age Cold period.

Reply to  Tom Halla
November 17, 2018 10:04 am

Yes, usually medium, even big volcanic events are only 2-3 year events before coming back to a normal globally. But if things are coincident in a natural variation cooling phase, then they just pile on especially if there are subsequent volcanic events globally that keep piling on. Maybe good old Murphy has a hand in all this.

I also read that some think that an abnormally quiet Sun somehow also induce’s vulcanism, but I don’t fully understand the mechanism to cause such. Is that a correlation isn’t a causation thing?

Reply to  Earthling2
November 17, 2018 10:32 am

Eruptions (Mount St. Helens), as apposed to Lava Flows (Hawaii), are most often caused by large pockets of water meeting a flash boiling heat source. So could it be that larger amounts of snow/ice accumulation on volcanic peaks, results in internal water pockets forming quicker?

Adam Gallon
Reply to  Mat
November 17, 2018 11:11 am

Mount St Helens, wasn’t a phreatomagmatic eruption, it blew when an earthquake caused the collapse of one side of the mountain, so most of the force was lateral. Katla, Hekla, Bárðarbunga and Grímsvötn in Iceland are all potential culprits, erupting through overlying glaciers. Vesuvius also popped in 536 and Rabaul in New Britain C 540 AD. That one had a VEI of 6, so on part with Pinatubo.

Loren Wilson
Reply to  Adam Gallon
November 17, 2018 3:58 pm

Mount St Helens had filled with lava, expanding more than 400 feet out in an area over a mile in diameter. The earthquake caused the covering layer of rock and ash to slide off, reducing the pressure of the lava, whereupon it exploded.

Van Doren
Reply to  Earthling2
November 17, 2018 1:49 pm

It’s possible, that solar cycles are derived from planetary tidal forces. But the same tidal forces could also cause increased volcanic activity.

John in Oz
Reply to  Earthling2
November 17, 2018 2:18 pm

See “Sinkholes The Groundbreaking Truth” at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TLUgEXI9RYI for a hypothesis/theory on how sinkholes and earthquakes could be exacerbated by a quiet sun.

November 17, 2018 10:04 am

Another article on the subject:

It seems that there is little disagreement that it was volcanic eruptions that was the cause but some disagreement about where those eruptions occurred.

November 17, 2018 10:08 am

What stands out is the thickness of that line…..not how cold

November 17, 2018 10:10 am

Don’t blame the Sun:
comment image

Bob Weber
Reply to  Leif Svalgaard
November 17, 2018 12:11 pm

Hi Leif. Are you saying decadal resolution is high enough that you can say that with confidence?

How does your plot stack up vs other sunspot reconstructions, and how can anyone have any confidence yours is ‘good’? Does your plot match ancient Chinese sunspot records? I’d be more inclined to believe it’s good if it did.

Your uncertainty range for two thousand years back looks awfully tight. How did you establish such a tight range? How are you so sure sunspot numbers can be discerned to such high fidelity?

Reply to  Bob Weber
November 17, 2018 12:39 pm
Reply to  Bob Weber
November 17, 2018 1:08 pm

The point is those limits are not mine. The pre-1600 data is the best reconstruction we have from the cosmic ray record [the black curve], while the post-1600 data derives from many solar and geomagnetic records that all agree.
So, I’m pretty confident about this.

Bob Weber
Reply to  Bob Weber
November 17, 2018 1:55 pm

I don’t understand how the uncertainty range can be so constant from the beginning. Why wouldn’t the range be wider in the early record?

Reply to  Bob Weber
November 17, 2018 6:24 pm

Why wouldn’t the range be wider in the early record?
Read the Wu et al. paper. The record extends 9000 years into the past and the error does indeed increase as you go back, but not much in 2000 years.

Reply to  Leif Svalgaard
November 17, 2018 1:02 pm

Interesting correlations on that graph:

Late 7th Century, Arab invasion of Europe and conquest of Roman North Africa (later, Caliph Abd Al Malik would redact the events and invent Islam – if you think Islam as we know it today comes from Mohammed you don’t know the archeology: “An Historical Critique of Islam’s Beginnings” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zd9lIuUjPs0)

Late 11th century: Crusades begin to counter 4 centuries of Arab Imperialism and invasion

Late 15th Century: Roman Constantinople falls to Turks in 1453 as Ottomans complete their invasion and permanent occupation of Anatolia.

Late 17th Century: high tide of Ottoman invasion of Europe, finally forced back in 1683 at the Gates of Vienna when the Polish knights lift the siege and route the invaders.

Of course correlation is not causation. It would make sense if colder temperatures placed northern civilizations at a disadvantage to those closer to the equator. But the temperatures vary little, its the sunspots that change a great deal.

And of course, today’s invasion and conquest of Europe (assured, given demographic replacements and the clear stupidity of Europeans due to successful demoralization, see: ex-KGB agent Yuri Bezmenov’s talks on how this was accomplished) is at a time of high temperatures. So none of this is a hypothesis, just an interesting observation in the millennia-term view.

Reply to  Moa
November 17, 2018 3:22 pm

Islamic successes followed the collapse of Rome and, later, Byzantium. Changing climate may have played a role, but there were certainly other causes.

We tend to focus on Europe, the ME, and North Africa, but how to explain the Islamic conquest of large parts of India, Central and SE Asia, and Africa?

Reply to  Adam
November 17, 2018 8:52 pm

Islam was the most brutal and ruthless system of enslavement, while pretending it was not enslavement. The aggressive Bedouin horde attacked the civilizations of Late Antiquity who had been peaceful away from the frontiers for decades if not centuries.

Islam didn’t arise because of the Dark Ages. Islam caused the Dark Ages by destroying the Classical World.

“Why We Are Afraid : A 1400 year secret”

Islam built jihad/ conquest as a obligatory (“fard”) for all able-bodied Muslim males. And given Mohammed was said to have waged a battle every month for the last 10 years of his life the Muslims simply follow that pattern. Relentless warfare against all non-Muslims. Which the video shows when it plots the data of the battles for 1400 years.

The Sicilian Mafia seem to have got their ideas from the Islamic “jizya” protection racket (see Koran 9:29 which provides the doctrinal basis for the systematic extortion of non-Muslims) – as Sicily was occupied by Islamic invaders for nearly two centuries.

Most of what Westerners are told about Islam does not match the historical data at all.

Reply to  Moa
November 20, 2018 11:04 am

While I recognize the problems in Islam, your comment has a lot of nonsense and shows your ignorance of history. Islamic arabs managed to defeat two of the most powerful empires, Eastern Rome and Sassanid Persia because two had been severely weakened by decades of warfare against another. They were anything but “peaceful”.

So Islam caused the fall of Roman empire 200 years before it even emerged? That’s ridiculous. Western Roman Empire fell in 476. Islamic conquests in the 600s were only the final nail in the coffin, not the main cause or instigator of these so called “dark ages”.

It’s true that islamic conquests were brutal, but then again so were all conquests. Islamic nations were often conquerors but so were Europeans and everyone else.

Not all muslims were ruthless barbarians just like not all Europeans were warmongerers. In some islamic nations the rulers tolerated people llke jews which ironically were persecuted in christian lands. Sometimes they promoted culture and science.

Yes, it’s possible for things like history to be complicated.

I think it’s pretty clear that most of what you know does not match historical data at all.

mike the morlock
Reply to  Adam
November 17, 2018 11:06 pm

Check the dates,,,

mike the morlock
Reply to  Leif Svalgaard
November 17, 2018 10:41 pm

It is not the Sun.. Belisarius, his invasions

Reply to  Leif Svalgaard
November 18, 2018 3:55 pm

Leif, how does your reconstruction compare with “backcasts” of Dr. Valentina Zharkova’s new solar model? Her model, which she claims is uncannily accurate for rhe past, forecasts that the next three solar cycles will be extremely weak. If they are, and temperatures increase or remain relatively stable, it will support the CO2 theory of climate change. But if the next three cycles are as low as her model forecasts, and also give us weather similar to the Dalton Minimum or worse, then the idea that CO2 is an important driver of climate change will need to be ditched forever. Or can sufficient grant money and political priorities keep bad science alive no matter how badly it fails?

Reply to  mikesmith
November 18, 2018 4:11 pm

Her model is totally wrong and has been thoroughly debunked, e.g.
“The paper by Popova et al. presents an oversimplified mathematical model of solar activity with a claim of predicting/postdicting it for several millennia ahead/backwards. The work contains several flaws devaluating the results: (1) the method is unreliable from the point of view of signal processing (it is impossible to make harmonic predictions for thousands of years based on only 35 years of data) and lacks quality control; (2) the result of post-diction apparently contradicts the observational data. (3) theoretical speculations make little
sense; To summarize, a multi-harmonic mathematical model, hardly related to full solar dynamo theory, is presented, which is not applicable to realistic solar conditions because of the significant chaotic/stochastic intrinsic component and strong non-stationarity of solar activity. The obtained result is apparently inconsistent with the data in the past and thus cannot be trusted for the future predictions.”

Reply to  Leif Svalgaard
November 18, 2018 4:45 pm

Leif, thank you for your reply. I read the pdf. Some of the criticisms are deductive in nature, and science demands induction for a reason: deduction is just much less reliable in science than in geometry. The only inductive critique was that it does not fit the data, with emphasis on the “big miss” of the Sporer Minimum. However, looking over the graph, it appears to me that the model does not so much miss as lag the data, and I can see a somewhat larger lag in the case of the Sporer period, but it appears to clearly be a lag, not an outright miss. I don’t know whether these lags have any thing to do with the “decadal averaging” of the data that the critiquer refers to, but this certainly appears to be the sort of problem that can be compensated for. Such an easy dismissal of Zharkova’s model would have been much more applicable to C14 dating which was often wildly off the mark for a long time, but eventually archaeologists refined the method and made it much more reliable. It appears to me that this apparent shortcoming in Zharkova’s model will be much easier to remedy. The major peaks and valleys are there, including Sporer, just a little later than the decadally averaged data. I think this dismissal is too hasty.

Reply to  mikesmith
November 18, 2018 6:26 pm

I think this dismissal is too hasty.
Whenever a model does not agree with observations, it is prudent to dismiss it.
Her model is wrong on so many levels that it cannot be repaired. In any event she predicts a very small SC25 and 26. If those predictions are also wrong, would you still cling to her theory?

Reply to  mikesmith
November 18, 2018 4:16 pm

and https://arxiv.org/pdf/1512.05516.pdf
“A two-wave dynamo model was recently proposed by Zharkova et al. (2015, Zh15 henceforth), which aims at long-term predictions of solar activity for millennia ahead and backwards. Here we confront the backward
predictions for the last 800 years with known variability of solar activity, using both direct sunspot observations since 1610 and reconstructions based on cosmogenic nuclide data. We show that the Zh15 model fails to reproduce the well-established features of the solar activity evolution during the last millennium. This means that the predictive part for the future is not reliable either.”

Reply to  Leif Svalgaard
November 18, 2018 5:10 pm

I have now read over the second pdf too, the criticisms of which are very similar to those in the more recent pdf, but it deals with her 2015 model, which is not necessarily relevant to her further refined current model. But I do thank you for your efforts. If these are the strongest criticisms of her model, then I remain optimistic. It rather reminds me of those strained early attempts to refute Svenmark’s GCR theory. A reliable wait to forecast changes in solar activity would be a great asset both to public and private planners.

Reply to  mikesmith
November 18, 2018 5:12 pm

“reliable WAIT to forecast” should read: WAY–I don’t know how I make these typo’s!

Reply to  mikesmith
November 18, 2018 5:19 pm

which is not necessarily relevant to her further refined current model
Have you even looked at the details of her current model?
To my knowledge it is not any different from the old one.

Reply to  mikesmith
November 18, 2018 6:34 pm

“Have you even looked at the details of her current model? To my knowledge it is not any different from the old one.”

Hi, Leif. I understood her to say in her recent presentation to the GWPF that it is further improved upon.


The sciencedirect paper appears to be the same as the first pdf you posted a link to, which I have responded to (twice! I hope the second try goes through). Despite the author’s statistical number-crunching and his claim her model does not show the Sporer, I can see an obvious and consistent relationship (with a time lag) just by eye-balling the critic’s own graph, including for the Sporer.

An article from The Guardian–really? I have read this poorly supported assertion here and there before, basically just saying: “Don’t be alarmed, nothing to see here folks! Just move right along.” Given the last few winters, I think they are blowing smoke, as we say in America. That is, I don’t think they are nearly as confident as they project to be. I also think the next 10 years will put both major theories of climate change to a decisive test. Assuming the anticipated Eddy Minimum materializes as expected by the astronomers who have already named it, the supporters of whichever theory will have failed the test by 2030 needs to abandon it. If the Minimum is barely noticed by us on earth, then the Svensmark/Shaviv/Veizer/Zharkova theory is clearly not a very important factor compared to CO2. But if the effects are much more severe than anticipated by Carbocentrists who promise “minimal impact” as global warming regresses a mere 15 years, then the CO2 theory needs to be abandoned. Don’t you agree, Leif? Can nearly everyone on both sides of this debate agree that this test will be decisive for their views on this question?

As for Mike Lockwood’s claims that the LIA is a misnomer because the cooling then was minimal compared to a major glaciation, well, that is certainly true! But is it relevant? After all, the Wurm Glaciation was just a minor event compared to Snowball Earth! Given what we know of the LIA, it appears to me that the effects on mankind of even a small cooling from the temperatures we are familiar with ought to be grave.

November 17, 2018 10:24 am

I wondered if it affected China.

In the Beishi chronicles, the official history of the Northern Dynasties, mentions that in 536, in the province of Xi’an, 80% of the population died and the survivors ate corpses to survive. link

As everyone on WUWT has often observed, cold is way more deadly than hot.

Reply to  commieBob
November 17, 2018 3:26 pm

Hot is no problem, so long as you have adequate supplies of fresh water.

Reply to  Adam
November 18, 2018 10:48 am

I can’t find it but I saw a pee chart from a North Australian pub. Next to each color, except the darkest, it said DRINK. Next to the darkest color it said DRINK WATER.

November 17, 2018 10:27 am

Funny that you mentioned the bubonic plague early 14th century…. That was indeed a very bad situation and so many died. [unlike 537 AD]
At that time at some point or another someone must have pointed at the source of the plague…which solved the problem. Otherwise, indeed, all human kind would have been wiped out.?
Note my blog post

is it perhaps not a co-incidence that the cloth was ‘dated’ to exactly that time in history?

I wonder…

[always believing in miracles;;;\]

Michael Graebner
Reply to  henryp
November 17, 2018 1:53 pm

the initial date was from that part of the shroud that had been repaired as a result of fire damage. Additional date were obtained from threads from the image area, which came out as 30 AD and 70 AD .

Reply to  henryp
November 18, 2018 5:21 pm

+henryp, historians think the Plague of Justinian (which killed Empress Theodora, and Justinian himself recovered but never fully regained his health) was just as bad as the Black Death of 1348-1350. However, written records from that earlier period are less abundant than those of the more advanced 14th century, so we lack as many details. And the 18 month climate catastrophe that began in 536 had to have resulted in mass famine. Someone else in these comments suggested that the response would have been to crowd into the cities (where very little food is grown!), but historians say the opposite–cities emptied out in this period (or maybe a lot of people just died and historians misinterpret it).

November 17, 2018 10:43 am

Strange how empires’ collapse are always attributed to natural phenomena. The definitive operations manual :
 Edward Gibbon. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, “General Observations on the Fall of the Roman Empire in the West”, Chapter 38
This book was written to explain and avoid the collapse of the new Roman Empire, the British Empire.
The economics of empire always leads to collapse, just like the only global modern financial empire – the 2008 warning makes Nebuchadnezzar’s refusal to read the writing on the wall look like amateur folly.
When another 2008 strikes, and it will if certain measures are not immediately taken – Trump beware!, the NYT will blame a handy volcano or storm or Trump of course.
If these measures are not taken 536 will look like a holiday.

Reply to  bonbon
November 17, 2018 9:46 pm

Definitely a lot more people to be affected too now. And something always happens sooner or later that affects human kind, as we see in the archaeological record so often, but over longer time scales. Everything goes swimmingly well, until it doesn’t for whatever reason. We are a tad spoiled today, which will probably make matters much worse when our smart phones and internet don’t work that well, and you can’t just use google maps or order pizza to survive. The longer it is until a major event and the more people, then more people are just going to be caught up in whatever disaster happens. If it is loss of food supply from agriculture due to a VEI 7-8, then most are toast and not many will be returning to hunting and gathering, except for those folks already predisposed to be able to.

If the volcanic event in 75,000 BC at Toba happened today, It would be mayhem for the majority of the people on the good Earth and over 7 years, a significant number would probably perish. But because there was so many to begin with, probably a lot would survive and off to the races all over. It is going to take a lot to get rid of humans, which is why I am a long term optimist, although a bit short term pessimistic. And is also why I don’t worry at all about global warming. But significant global cooling for whatever reason, and this is a whole different story.

Reply to  Earthling2
November 18, 2018 5:48 am

Again volcanoes. Societies collapse because of bad economics – they go green from within. Look at Angkorwat or Rome where the idea of progress is suppressed by a power elite. No progress means collapse. There is no “sustainable” zero-progress reality outside the hallowed halls of academia and the Club or Rome. Basing the British Empire on Rome, as Gibbon did, is nuts – its collapse cannot be avoided.
A financial collapse now is immanent as the transatlantic debt of 15 quadrillion cannot ever be “bailed-out” without mass genocide. Progress stopped with Nixon in 1971.

Neither warming nor cooling is the problem, rather financial chaos, bail-outs, austerity, empire resuscitation.
WUWT finance?

Reply to  bonbon
November 18, 2018 9:50 am

Try Joseph Tainter’s ‘the collapse of complex civilisations’ for a very different take.

He reckons its more idiocracy…

Reply to  bonbon
November 18, 2018 6:49 pm

“Strange how empires’ collapse are always attributed to natural phenomena.”

+bonbon, I have read a lot of history in my time on earth, and I am confident that historians usually do not attribute the fall of empires to natural phenomena. Those have usually been the last causes they considered! But I think they should pay a lot more attention to natural phenomena. There are too many relationships to all be a coincidence. Countries can recover from tulipmanias and south sea bubbles or Great Depressions, just as Rome recovered handily from inflation related to coinage debasement. When dynasties and sometimes whole civilizations become endangered is when food supplies are chronically stressed. Civilization emerges from crop surpluses, and the bigger the surplus the more advanced the civilization can become as more non-food-producing specialists can be employed. But as the food surplus diminishes, the civilization comes under stress, cities necessarily become smaller, the hungry masses become increasingly desperate, revolts break out, and sometimes events spin out of control.

Reply to  mikesmith
November 18, 2018 6:53 pm

I would have to agree with bonbon. As you mention food shortages, pray tell, what causes food shortages? Bad weather, which, unless one is a Manniac, is a natural phenomenon.

November 17, 2018 10:46 am

Sounds about right, actually.
Europe was in the middle of a cold period. To lose a single crop was miserable, and made for a long winter. So insofar as they could, people grew a variety of things, in hopes of not ever losing everything.
Then a really bad year came along and they did lose all their crops. It was a very long winter, indeed. The following year, they lost everything again. The situation had to be catastrophic.
After a few years of famine, and then a few more years of poor crops, a plague struck.
Accounts I have read give the death toll as high as 90% in parts of Europe between the famine and the plague.
The Year536 AD was well and truly a bad year all around.

Reply to  TonyL
November 17, 2018 11:07 am

famine probably forced them into the cities…..tight, over populated, and filthy….perfect for a plague

Reply to  Latitude
November 18, 2018 4:17 pm

Moa, it wasn’t the Bedouin. It was Arab mercenaries that Rome (Constantinople) hired to patrol its border with the Parthian (Persian) Empire. After warfare between the Romans and Parthians left both sides financially and militarily exhausted, the Arab mercenaries took advantage of the situation to successfully conquer much of the Roman and all of the Parthian Empires. Arab rulers in the late 7th century worried that the appeal of Christianity might make its supporters sympathetic to the Romans, so they created an alternative monotheism to cement loyalty to their own empire. Unfortunately, most Western historians have been content to uncritically repeat Islam’s “offiicial” story of its origins, something they are far less inclined to do when discussing the origins of Judaism and Christianity.

Peta of Newark
November 17, 2018 10:51 am

And see what happened AFTER the volcano – average temperatures went up.

The volcano fertilised the plant life.
Plants flourished, lived then died and as Dead Plants, retained water within the top 2 feet of the soil where they grew.
Hence why the South West corner of the UK is, on average the warmest.
It is where the cows live, on perennially green fields and farms.

Yes, the South East corner sees higher temperatures but the perennial plants are gone, replaced by annuals and the result is a desert landscape for 9 months of the year when the annuals (wheat, barley, oilseed and corn for the digesters) are not vigorously growing.
Contrary to what you were told at school, deserts are cold places. Deserts are he11 and the growing of annual plants is what creates them. Hence why the Irish ran out of bread and then some centuries later, potatoes.
Really rather oddly, they ran out of potatoes while still exporting vast amounts of beef, pork and lamb to England.
Strange that innit

Adam Gallon
Reply to  Peta of Newark
November 17, 2018 11:16 am

Blight. The poor planted potatoes as their staple food, the poor can’t afford to eat much meat, certainly not cattle or sheep. The former are for milk, the latter for fleeces. They’d have a few pigs.

Reply to  Adam Gallon
November 17, 2018 12:41 pm

……But they (Europeans) had no potatoes…..Not for another thousand years or so after 536 AD.

November 17, 2018 10:54 am

There’s been—maybe—50 or 60 thousand years of human history. No one really knows what happened most of that time. Still, we keep hearing about the best this, the worst that, the hottest this and coldest that.

Recorded history goes back, what? a few thousand years . . . probably less than 10% of the time there have been humans.

John Tillman
November 17, 2018 10:54 am

In 1993 Ann Gibbons suggested that the Toba super volcano eruption ~75 Ka caused a human population bottleneck. Recent work has debunked her hypothesis.

Pat Frank
November 17, 2018 11:03 am

What came to be called the Plague of Justinian spread rapidly, wiping out one-third to one-half of the population of the eastern Roman Empire and hastening its collapse, McCormick says.

Hardly. The Eastern Empire recovered and lasted another thousand years. By the 10th century, Byzantium had learned the military lessons needed to fight Saracen armies and more than held its own.

Byzantium was lost through betrayal, when the infantry abandoned the cavalry to face the Turkish army by itself. It was the Battle of Manzikert in 1176, and after a hard day’s fighting the Byzantine cavalry lost. The infantry general had pretensions to the throne, and saw his chance to take it. Byzantium lost its entire eastern population to the Turkish invaders and was essentially hollowed out.

After that was a steady erosion until the final extinction in 1454.

Reply to  Pat Frank
November 17, 2018 1:27 pm

However during the second half of the sixth century almost the whole Balkan Peninsula, the northwestern third of the Empire, was overrun and settled by slavic tribes from the north-east. And the strange thing is that there is virtually no record of any fighting or resistance. Only a few urban centers like Athens, Saloniki and Constantinople and their immediate surroundings remained Greek. The only reasonable explanation is that the area was more or less unpopulated. The same was apparently true for the formerly Germanic western Poland, Czechia, Slovakia and Germany east of the Elbe which was also settled by slavs at the same time, also as far as is known, without any fighting.

Part of the Balkans was later reconquered by the Empire and the southernmost slavic tribes ultimately grecisized and the rest christianized, but much of the Balkan and Central Europe is still slavic. And this all happened in about a generation after 550 AD.

By the way Manzikert was in 1076 and Constantinople fell in 1453.

Reply to  tty
November 17, 2018 2:11 pm

The fatal decline started when the Fourth Crusade sacked the city in 1204 and stole its wealth. It was recovered by Greeks in 1261.


Moderately Cross of East Anglia
Reply to  tty
November 17, 2018 2:56 pm

The assertion that the areas now comprising the Czech, Slovak, and Polish states and eastern Germany were unpopulated at the time you speak of is flat out wrong. Slavonic tribes inhabited all these areas and Germanic settlement was also present. The Nazis made strenuous efforts to eradicate archaeological evidence of this selectively I ncluding destroying entire Slavonic settlements. They also rewrote the history for propaganda purposes, as earlier on did the Teutonic Knights who waged a ruthless war of extermination on the original pagan Prussian tribes who inhabited what is now roughly north eastern Poland that was so complete that later they just took over the name of the tribes and created the Prussian state. The areas in question were large but never lacking settlement or people.

Reply to  Moderately Cross of East Anglia
November 18, 2018 2:10 am

You’re not very good on history are you? The (original) Prussians weren’t even a slavic people. They were balts, like the Letts and Lithuanians.

Would you care to name the slav tribes living in e. g. Bohemia or Eastern Germany before 550 AD?

Pat Frank
Reply to  tty
November 17, 2018 8:11 pm

Thanks for the correction on dates, tty. I was working from memory. It seems the Battle of Manzikert was in 1071.

steven mosher
Reply to  Pat Frank
November 17, 2018 4:42 pm

pat has no training in history.


Dave Burton
Reply to  steven mosher
November 17, 2018 4:54 pm

+1 Steve

Pat Frank
Reply to  steven mosher
November 17, 2018 8:04 pm

Lets see you disprove my comment, Steve.

Steve specializes in vacuous disparagement. Pathetic.

And -1 for Dave Burton.

mike the morlock
Reply to  steven mosher
November 17, 2018 11:31 pm

Hello steven
Most don’t see a change from 400 to 450, and don’t think of it, as how we view our own times.

There are many, many, things happening in this small time frame.

I reserve judgment due to the religious tone to many of the writing. You have to be familiar with the early writings of scholars of the time. They viewed the world differently.


November 17, 2018 12:25 pm

This is exciting, and FINALLY! I’ve been studying variations of this most of my life. You will also find that the era is immortalized in legend and lore as the death of Arthur and the era of the Grail quests.

M Courtney
November 17, 2018 12:30 pm

The earliest of the Arthurian tales is set in a land that is emptied by plague.
If Arthur existed he lived around this time.

As “Worst Year Evah” goes it’s quite a good call.

November 17, 2018 12:31 pm

Michael McCormick says year 536 was the worst to be alive. However bad that was, the coming years will be worse, according to a British green group.

“Tiana Jacout, of Extinction Rebellion, said the blockages were “not a step we take lightly” but “if things continue as is, we face an extinction greater than the one that killed the dinosaurs”.”
“Extinction Rebellion protests block London bridges”

We don’t have to worry about the past, only the future, so let’s make the present bad too. /sarc

Reply to  Toto
November 18, 2018 5:32 pm

Paul Beckwith says we’ll all be dead in 10 years, LOL. Strangely, not even the more respectable figures in the AGW Believer community try to distance themselves from this sort of nonsense. I am hardly on optimist myself about the near term future, but human extinction in 10 years? Not plausible.

roger w carradice
November 17, 2018 12:36 pm

Dear Antony
Byzantium fell in 1453. Manzikert (or Malesgerd) was the biggest disaster to befall Europe in the last thousand years. The Turks eventually reached the gates of Vienna.

Walter Sobchak
November 17, 2018 12:47 pm

A warmer world is a healthier, happier, more prosperous world.

November 17, 2018 12:47 pm

November 17, 2018 1:10 pm

There was a widespread population collapse in Scandinavia c. 550 AD. The northernmost farming areas in Österbotten, Ångermanland and Medelpad were apparently completely depiopulated and not recolonized for several centuries, and there was large-scale abandonment of farms and villages further south, the so-called “stensträngsbygderna” where overgrown remains of houses and field-boundaries remain to this day.

Whether this was due to climate or the Justinian plague, or both is uncertain. It has been hypothesized that the myth of the fimbulvinter, the great winter or three winters in a row with no intervening summer which according to the Edda will foretell the Ragnarök, the end of Days, is based on a memory of this period.

November 17, 2018 1:48 pm

I wasn’t there, but depending which side you were on ….there might have been some really bad years back in the day.
“Mongol leader Genghis Khan (1162-1227) rose from humble beginnings to establish the largest land empire in history.”

November 17, 2018 1:51 pm

Volcanic activity tied to solar activity as I have stressed many times. We are seeing it now with geological activity very high and still on the increase.

John Tillman
Reply to  Salvatore Drl Prete
November 19, 2018 7:05 am

Since at least the 1960s, the correlation of low solar activity with volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and extreme WX has been noted.

November 17, 2018 1:57 pm

This may seem like a stupid question, however, it needs asked.
Why the concern over cattle and the fact they generate CO2? If the cows do not eat the grass and become flatulent the grass will still create CO2
This meme is pushed to the point that we should get our protein elsewhere, quit drinking milk, grow other plants, like soy etc. and not use cattle for a source of food. Isn’t, protein from animals a better source and also a more compact source of protein?
It seems to me that the source of the CO2 that cattle generate, and most other life forms, like humans (other than breathing oxygen) comes from their digestion of plants and other natural plant life in the ecosystem. If the cattle do not eat the grass, the grass will die naturally, fall to the ground rot and decay and release the CO2 anyway either by decaying or by other lifeforms digesting the grass, cornstalks, wheat stalks, etc. And when there are no longer any cattle or their number is greatly reduced , the land that was used to grow this land will revert back to nature and generate plant life that dies and creates food for these various life forms.
Am I missing something? Is the minor reduction in CO2 considering the entire macro process of feeding humans with food generated by cattle worth the negligible reduction of CO2 that would be created anyway?

November 17, 2018 2:00 pm


Interesting read on the solar effects during the dark ages..

Chris Hanley
November 17, 2018 3:23 pm

Apropos the Dark Age another piece of the remarkable Antikythera mechanism (87 – 205BC) has been recovered from a ship wreck site in the Aegean Sea:
The mechanism represents a degree of ancient ingenuity and metal craft lost until the the 14th Century:

November 17, 2018 3:46 pm

The push by Green vege groups to remove all human consumed live stock, appears to forget that we do have plenty of wild life. So if all the cattle, pigs etc. cease to be on the land, then wild life will take over and the CO2 will continue to be produced. This of course negelects the fact that we humans are animals too, and we produce lots of CO2 all by ourselves.


Reply to  Michael
November 18, 2018 12:19 am

Remember that there were an estimated 60 million plus buffalo on the North American prairies before they were exterminated and since replaced with the cattle that the Greens hate.
If they were still extant, would the Greens be asking for their removal?

Jim Giordano
Reply to  Michael
November 21, 2018 2:24 am

We’re next on the Green’s hit list, but they may have already started actually, what with abortion, euthanasia, banning of DDT, etc.

November 18, 2018 4:54 am

1979 was pretty ordinary too.

Jean Parisot
November 18, 2018 11:30 am

It wasn’t 2016 and the Trump election?

Tom Bakewell
November 18, 2018 12:31 pm

Glancing thru this dandy offering of posts and repostes I am surprised to find no mention of David Keys and his book “Catastrophe”, published in 1999. I believe a pretty good documentary was made (BBC?) and ended with looking for evidence of a suitably timed volcanic event in Indonesia. Nothing was turned up. So the book, a world wide compilation of historical events, seems to have faded away. Memory says David Keys was an independent scholar working at home . Not in the establishment, and so easy to dismiss.

This is another fine example of David Middleton’s craftsmanship and wide range of interests. Please keep up the good work!

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