Researchers use ancient Irish texts to draw link between cold winters and volcanic activity
Meticulous record-keeping by Irish monks provides strong evidence for research
Records kept by Irish monks have proved to be a useful resource to researchers who were examining climate change in relation to volcanic explosions.
Newstalk reports that academics from UCC, Trinity, Queens University Belfast and UCD were involved in a major study which ultimately matched major deposits of volcanic ash in the Greenland ice sheet to accounts of extreme weather record by Irish monks between the years 431-1649 A.D.
BBC News writes that scribes at monastic centers around Ireland were dedicated to recording significant events, such as feast days, obituaries and descriptions of extreme cold and heat.
The chronicles created by the Irish monks are now generally known as the Irish Annals. Researchers examined around 40,000 entries in order to conclude a relation between volcanic activity and cold winters.
BBC explains that as volcanoes erupt, they produce sulphate aerosol particles which down the centuries have been deposited on and frozen in ice sheets, leaving an extremely accurate temporal record of the event.
Scientists say these particles reflect incoming sunlight and can cause a temporary cooling of the Earth's surface. In a country with a mild maritime climate like Ireland, these colder events would have a significant impact.
Researchers on the project were able to identify 48 volcanic eruptions in the time period spanning 1,219 years. Of those eruptions, 38 were associated closely in time with extreme weather events identified in the Irish texts.
The accuracy of the Irish Annals lays in the fact the texts also accurately recorded solar and lunar eclipses which can be compared with other contemporary sources.
The research team believes their work shows the complex nature of volcanic impacts on climate, and they say there are lessons for the future in the ancient texts.
"That tells us a lot about what sort of weather we might expect in the British Isles when the next big eruption goes off," Harvard professor Dr Ludlow told BBC News.
"We might want to buy a bit more salt for the roads."
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