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Medieval chronicles have given an international group of researchers a glimpse into the past to assess how historical volcanic eruptions affected the weather in Ireland up to 1500 years ago. By critically assessing over 40,000 written entries in the Irish Annals and comparing them with measurements taken from ice cores, the researchers successfully linked the climatic aftermath of volcanic eruptions to extreme cold weather events in Ireland over a 1200-year period from 431 to 1649.
Their study, which has been published today, 6 June, in IOP Publishing's journal Environmental Research Letters, showed that over this timescale up to 48 explosive volcanic eruptions could be identified in the Greenland Ice Sheet Project (GISP2) ice-core, which records the deposition of volcanic sulfate in annual layers of ice.
The dating and reliability of the Annals can be gauged by comparing reported events to those which are independently known, such as solar and lunar eclipses.
"With a few honourable exceptions, the Irish record of extreme events has only been used anecdotally, rather than systematically surveyed and exploited for the study of the climate history of Ireland and the North Atlantic, and so the richness of the record has been largely unrecognized," continued Dr Ludlow.
One example is the 1600 eruption in Peru of Huaynaputina, which the researchers found, against expectations, to be associated with extreme cold winter weather in Ireland in the following years.