History’s Conor Kostick has helped to solve a climate science mystery.
In a paper published in the world-leading scientific journal Nature, Dr Kostick’s research into medieval evidence for climate events has allowed scientists to pinpoint the exact relationship between historical volcanic activity and severe winters.
Dr Kostick said: “When Michael Sigl from the Desert Research Institute in Reno, Nevada and his team learned of my work on extreme medieval climate events, they asked could I find ‘tie-points’ – years in which the historical sources suggest volcanic activity. Thanks to my Nottingham Advanced Research Fellowship and my subsequent Marie Curie Fellowship I have been able to assemble a great deal of relevant evidence for unusual climate events in the medieval period.
“I looked through my data and gave them a list of events, based not just upon obvious reports, such as eyewitness accounts of the eruption of Vesuvius in 472 CE, but also on more subtle evidence such as reports of the sun being dim, or discoloured. And the beauty of what happened next is that these examples formed a perfect match with the new ice-core data, even though I hadn’t seen their data and had no idea which years they were interested in.”
Dr Kostick’s findings tie up with the findings of a team of ice-core experts who have dug a new Arctic core and used new techniques to establish with great precision the dating of each ice layer. The results of their work show that our previous ice-core dates for the period before about 1000 CE (and therefore for volcanic activity) are wrong by about seven years. With the new data it becomes evident that for certain years, such as 79, 536, 626 and 939 CE, volcanoes did indeed cause severe cold to develop over Europe.
University of Nottingham press release here.