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The year 1258ad … again

23 August 2012

The intrepid Weather Eye in The Times has caught the 'volcanoes cause cold weather' bug – volcanoes causing bad weather here in the UK. A volcano in Alaska is blamed for bad weather in 1912 – which he then compares with the weather this year, 2012 – which is without said volcano. On another day this past week or so Weather Eye, an author of several interesting books on past weather reports that CAGW doomsayers might like to read as they show fairly comprehensively the climate is not currently weirding, and is not behaving in any way unusual in comparison to what it has behaved in the past, sets his beady gaze on 1258. He more or less regurgitates the story that surfaced last week – but we learn a little more. In 1258 the weather was indeed worse than this year, wet and very cold – frosts in summer, flooding, a poor harvest leading to famine and starvation. Mass burial graves unearthed at Spitalfields are C14 dated to around the 1258 window. A monk, Matthew Paris, describes the spring and summer as very cold right through to June, killing cattle as much as the peasant population. He also seemed to suggest, ' … an awful and intolerable pestilence attacks the people, especially those of the lower orders, and spread death among them in a most lamentable degree' which possibly refers to starvation rather than plague (pestilence). Weather Eye is astute, however, and he notes that in some parts of Europe the self flagellation religious movement began in 1260, possibly in response to whatever happened in 1258. However, he then says the cause of the bad weather is now known – it was a huge volcano that erupted somewhere in the tropics (location unknown). He should have said, it is thought a volcano caused the bad weather as after all, there are other things that might cause dust to accumulate in the atmosphere, with a cosmic origin (a heavy meteor shower, a space rock, changes on the face of the Sun). He notes the presence of sulphur in Greenland ice cores is proof of the volcano pudding – but is it?

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