Monday, March 30, 2015
PLACERVILLE, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Rock doc: One big eruption

By
From page A4 | November 04, 2013 |

When I was a child, I read a lot of murder mysteries. At a young age I favored the books featuring Miss Marple by Agatha Christie. When I was a bit older I fell in love with Lord Peter Wimsey in the books by Dorothy Sayers. No matter the book, I liked to follow along as the hero of the tale put the clues together to figure out who-done-it.

So the quote from the BBC News got my attention. It was from Prof. Franck Lavigne of the Pantheon-Sorbonne University in France.
“We didn’t know the culprit at first, but we had the time of the murder and the fingerprints,” Lavigne said.
It wasn’t literally a murder that Lavigne was discussing, although many deaths may have been related to what happened. Instead, the mystery was one that hinged on geology. What’s at issue was evidence that a major volcanic eruption occurred somewhere in the world in the year 1257. The eruption was large enough its geochemical signature — or fingerprints — show up in both Arctic and Antarctic ice of medieval age.
In Europe, written records show atrocious weather hitting society hard one year later in 1258. It was cold and rainy throughout the growing season that year, with flooding replacing good harvests. In London, thousands of people were buried in mass graves, possibly due to hunger weakening the population and making it more susceptible to disease.
But where was the smoking gun, the volcano that had caused the problem? Candidates had been put forward in New Zealand, Mexico and Ecuador, but none of them quite fit the time or the specific chemical fingerprint found in the volcanic material buried in the ice.
Recently an international team of researchers announced their evidence that the Samalas Volcano on Lombok Island, Indonesia, was the culprit that caused short-lived but worldwide climate change. The team looked at several different types of evidence, including sulfur and volcanic dust traces in ice, as well as what’s found at Lombok. They also did radiocarbon dating of materials and they even checked with local written records that tell of the fall of the Lombok Kingdom in the 1200s.
“The evidence is very strong and compelling,” said Prof. Clive Oppenheimer of Cambridge University, speaking to the BBC.
Oppenheimer, Lavigne and their colleagues tied together the evidence of the far-away ice with material found in the Lombok region. They argue that about 10 cubic miles of volcanic material was hurled skyward in an enormous eruption. The smallest particles launched upward would have reached an altitude of 25 miles or more. Only such an enormous eruption would have carried volcanic materials in the quantities identified in Antarctic and Greenland ice layers. And an eruption on that scale would have made for significant climate change.
It’s not always that scientists are given a full set of clues that wrap fully around the world. But such appears to have been the case in the mystery of what happened in the year 1257.
Dr. E. Kirsten Peters, a native of the rural Northwest, was trained as a geologist at Princeton and Harvard. This column is a service of the College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences at Washington State University. 

Comments

Subscription Required

Thank you for reading the MtDemocrat.com digital edition. In order to continue reading this story please choose one of the following options.

Current Subscribers
If you are a current subscriber and wish to obtain access to MtDemocrat.com, please select the Subscriber Verification option below. If you already have a login, please select "Login" at the lower right corner of this box.

Subscriber Verification

Special Introductory Offer
For a short time we will be offering a discount to those who call us in order to obtain access to MtDemocrat.com and start your print subscription. Our customer support team will be standing by Monday through Friday, 8am to 5pm to assist you.

Call and Save! (530) 344-5000

If you are not a current subscriber and wish not to take advantage of our special introductory offer, please select the $12 monthly option below to obtain access to MtDemocrat.com and start your online subscription

Help?

E. Kirsten Peters

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe and receive notifications of new posts by email.

  • .

    News

    Courthouse debate results in letter from city

    By Wendy Schultz | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Heard over the back fence: Home and Garden Show

    By Bob Billingsley | From Page: B1

     
    All aboard: And breakfast is served

    By Chris Daley | From Page: A1

     
    Three development projects awarded

    By Cole Mayer | From Page: A3

    .

    Opinion

    Mark Shields: Laughter, still pretty good medicine

    By Special to the Democrat | From Page: A4

     
    The rural life: New birds on the block

    By Jennifer Forsberg Meyer | From Page: A4

    California rambling: The Rhônes of Pleasant Valley

    By John Poimiroo | From Page: A4

     
    .

    Letters

    County budget shortfall

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

     
    Prom and graduation: Safety first

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

    Die off

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

     
    We are all people

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

    .

    Sports

    Schedule: Mar. 30-Apr. 4, 2015

    By Democrat Staff | From Page: A6

     
    Two Cougars voted Spider Sabich Award winners

    By Democrat Staff | From Page: A6

    Trojans fall in 4

    By Brandon Anicich | From Page: A6

     
    Lady Cougars post shutout win

    By Mike Bush | From Page: A6

    Laut leaps high at Cougar Coed Relays

    By Mike Bush | From Page: A6 | Gallery

     
    Under the scoreboard: Mar. 30, 3015

    By Democrat Staff | From Page: A6

    Roundup: Mar. 27, 2015

    By Democrat Staff | From Page: A7 | Gallery

     
    Combine at Oak Ridge

    By Democrat Staff | From Page: A7

    .

    Prospecting

    Haute cuisine comes home

    By Pat Lakey | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Foothill dining: Simple seafood recipes for Lent

    By Family Features | From Page: B2

    Celio to cultivate a happy career

    By Dawn Hodson | From Page: B2 | Gallery

     
    FoodCorps supporters wanted

    By Master Gardner | From Page: B3

    As we were: Water woes

    By Ken Deibert | From Page: B4

     
    Give where you live campaign in April

    By El Dorado Community Foundation | From Page: B4

    ‘Mary Poppins’ auditions at Imagination Theater

    By Imagination Theater | From Page: B5

     
    Lois Payne: Do you smile when you drive?

    By Lois Payne | From Page: B5

    .

    Essentials

    Correction

    By Democrat Staff | From Page: A2

     
    Correction

    By Mimi Escabar | From Page: A2

    Crime Log: Feb. 25-26

    By Cole Mayer | From Page: A2

     
    Lake Levels 3/26/15

    By Cole Mayer | From Page: A2

    Crime Log: Feb. 27- March 1

    By Cole Mayer | From Page: A2

     
    .

    Obituaries

    Bernice Farris

    By Contributor | From Page: A2

     
    .

    Real Estate

    .

    Comics

    Sudoku

    By Contributor | From Page: A8

     
    New York Times Crossword

    By Contributor | From Page: A8

    TV Listings

    By Contributor | From Page: A8

     
    Horoscope, Tuesday, March 31, 2015

    By Contributor | From Page: A8

    Horoscope, Monday, March 30, 2015

    By Contributor | From Page: A8

     
    Shoe

    By Contributor | From Page: A8

    Rubes

    By Contributor | From Page: A8

     
    Speed Bump

    By Contributor | From Page: A8

    Tundra

    By Contributor | From Page: A8