Volcanoes and Changing Weather

Christianity was introduced to Ireland at around 423. However, it did not have much presence until 500 with the flowering of Irish monasticism. Churches, monasteries, and intricate stone high crosses popped up all over the Irish countryside and with it the priests and monks and other trappings of the religion. But it wasn’t just about spreading the new religion to the people of Ireland. Compared to the general populace, the monks were very well educated, copying and illuminating beautiful texts such as The Book of Kells and keeping records of the important goings-on in the land. Feast days, festivals, harvests, and even peculiar weather patterns were recorded by the monks. Many of these ancient texts still survive today.

Some of the texts are being used by researchers to determine if some of the more unusual weather in ancient Ireland was caused by volcanic activity. Volcano eruptions can cause extreme weather issues that sometimes last for years. Disruptive weather could be responsible for crop failures, and in turn a higher death rate of both people and animals.

Researchers are attempting to line up mentions of strange weather such as periods of unusually cold temperatures with layers of volcanic deposits in ice. When a volcano erupts, it spews ash, sulphates, and other particlulates into the air. They settle in layers on the ice and another layer of ice forms over them. Like rings on a tree can be used to calculate the tree’s age, estimates can be made as to when the volcanic material was deposited on the ice.

Hundreds of years ago, destructive weather was recorded by monks and priests, and sometimes interpreted as a portent of doom or the anger of a god. These same recordings are now being put to a more scientific use to find a correlation between cold weather in Ireland and volcanic activity. The hope is that the texts and corresponding volcanic data will give people an idea of possible climate and weather changes in years to come.

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