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[A] leading catastrophist is Mike Baillie, an expert in early climate change, at Queen's University in Belfast. Mr. Baillie starts from scientific grounds, such as the measurement of tree rings and the examination of ice core samples, and then delves into mythology to find out if legends can throw light on the extraordinary, perhaps catastrophic climatic events revealed by the records. In a book, "Exodus to Arthur," Mr. Baillie asks whether the simultaneous emergence of legends about dragons in China and angels in Western mythology were common reactions to the appearance of a comet.
Mr. Baillie points out that contemporary accounts at the time of the Black Death, which killed one third of Europe's population in the 14th century, mentioned droughts, floods, masses of dead fish, earthquakes, sheets of fire, stinking smoke, huge hailstones and blasts of hot wind - all possible descriptions, he said, of a close encounter with an asteroid or comet.
One record spoke of a large bright star over Paris, and another said that the sky looked yellow and the air red because of burning vapors. Tree ring studies reveal evidence of massive climate disturbance at the same time, Mr. Baillie added.