Volcanic eruption in 1600 caused global disruption

April 26th, 2008 - 3:13 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, April 26 (IANS) The eruption of Huaynaputina in Peru in 1600 AD led to global disruption, triggering famines and cold winters in many places, according to a new study of records by geologists. The eruption is known to have put a large quantity of sulphur into the atmosphere, and tree ring studies show that 1601 was a cold year, but no one had looked at the agricultural and social impact, said Ken Verosub of University of California, Davis.

“We knew it was a big eruption, we knew it was a cold year, and that’s all we knew,” Verosub said.

Sulphur reacts with water in the air to form droplets of sulphuric acid, which cool the planet by reducing the amount of sunlight reaching the Earth’s surface. But the droplets soon fall back to Earth, so the cooling effects last only a year or so.

Verosub and undergraduate student Jake Lippmann combed through records from the turn of the 17th century from Europe, China and Japan, as well as the Spanish and Portuguese colonies in South America and the Philippines, for information about changes in climate, agriculture and society.

In Russia, 1601-1603 brought the worst famine in the country’s history, leading to the overthrow of the reigning tsar. Records from Switzerland, Latvia and Estonia record exceptionally cold winters in 1600-1602; in France, the 1601 wine harvest was late, and wine production collapsed in Germany and colonial Peru. In China, peach trees bloomed late, and Lake Suwa in Japan had one of its earliest freezing dates in 500 years.

The previous major eruption that might have affected global climate was in 1452-53, when records were much less complete: in Europe, people began to take more careful note of the natural world after the Renaissance.

The initial results have been published in EOS, the transactions of the American Geophysical Union.

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