Climatic Change

, Volume 42, Issue 4, pp 713-723

First online:

Volcanic Dry Fogs, Climate Cooling, and Plague Pandemics in Europe and the Middle East

  • Richard B. Stothers

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Dry fogs spawned by large volcanic eruptions cool the climate by partially blocking incident sunlight and perturbing atmospheric circulation patterns. The climatic and epidemiological consequences of seven intense volcanic dry fogs of the past 21 centuries, detected in Europe and the Middle East, are investigated by using historical reports, supplemented by tree-ring data and polar-ice acidity measurements. The signal-to-noise ratio in the historical data is very high. In four cases, the first winter following the eruption was exceptionally cold. The eruptions preceding these frigid first winters are known, or strongly suspected, to have occurred at high northern latitudes. Two of the other dry fogs are linked unambiguously to tropical eruptions, after each of which the first winter was comparatively mild. The following few years tended to be cooler on the average in all six of the instances that can be checked. Famine and disease pandemics ensued, with the epidemics in all cases reaching the Mediterranean area within 1 to 5 years after the eruptions. In at least five cases, the contagion responsible for the mass mortality was probably plague.