Fascinating article by Ann Gibbons, writing for Science, about what a team of researchers learned from analysing polar ice cores, and matching their results with historical records:
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.
The title of the article Why 536 was ‘the worst year to be alive’ could not have been more on point. Now you have to wonder: What if such eruptions were to happen in our times?