Exploring abrupt climate change induced by comets and asteroids during human history

Baillie: 540 AD climate event likely volcano, not cosmic; seven year glitch discovered in ice cores

Restored from the library fire 1/1/20


The Tusk hates to see a good cosmic climate hypothesis die, but best it be at the hands of a catastrophist scientist and father of said theory. In a continuing demonstration of his intellectual integrity, true ring guru Mike Baillie has lowered the flag on the 540 AD event and recommended volcanoes as a better fit. It’s complicated as hell, but suffice to say that removing seven years from the annual layers of ice cores results in a match between known (but unidentified) volcanic eruptions and tree ring diminution.

There is already a good discussion thread with coauthor Jonny McAneney underway on a previous post. I hope the illuminating commentary there will move to this post so that comments will be available with the paper.

It has been evident for some time that a discrepancy has existed in the first millennium between evidence for volcanoes in Greenland (and now Antarctic) ice cores, when
compared with likely volcanic effects as witnessed by frost damage in American bristlecone pine trees; the offset being of the order of seven years with the ice dates being too old (Baillie, 2008). Here we have shown that remarkably consistent spacing between both the ice acidities and the frost rings allow additional documentation of this widespread offset. It has been possible to reconstruct how the ice cores from Dye3,25GRIP, NGRIP, NEEM, Law Dome and WDC06A are an integrated group, all offset, with only DML apparently retaining independence, and showing less of an effect.

~~From the conclusion

61 Responses

  1. All is not lost. What is enumerated here is the bones of the talk Mike Baillie gave to the SIS last year – and he has had this thing about 7 years out of kilter with ice cores for many a year. Baillie has not given up on the extraterrestrial connection – not at all. What he has done is concede that volcanoes might have caused the low growth tree ring event – as he has been hammering his head against the wall by attributing them to meteoric activity. It is very difficult to push the low growth tree ring activity to meteoric activity as they should also have an infusion of ammonium and other elements. This he developed in his book on the Black Death. Ammonium spikes became the indicator of meteors or comets (or whatever object or infusion into the atmosphere you might like). An ammonium spike occurred in 1908 – at the time of Tunguska. Hence, it is not necessary, I would imagine he has decided, that the 536 and 541 events were purely extraterrestrial in origin. What he is basically saying is that ‘volcanoes’ could have caused the low growth tree event – and note the plural. Not a volcano, per the ice core people, but volcanoes – as in a swarm of volcanoes (and no doubt a swarm of earthquakes). What might provoke such a thing – an impact or an atmospheric explosion at low altitude. In fact, the whole idea of earthquake swarms is central to the Bronze Age destructions (per Claude Schaeffer, 1948) which brought the Early Bronze, Middle Bronze, and Late Bronze Age civilisations to their knees. No, an extraterrestrial event is still in the offing and Mike Baillie has not abandoned it.

  2. Hi carol,

    As mikes co-author on this paper, i have had many a interesting conversation over coffee about impacts, volcanoes, myths etc, and I think it is safe to say that Mike is a scientist and goes where the data leads him. Ultimately, it doesnt bother him what the solution to it is, only that there is a solution. So it is not about conceding anything, but merely interpreting the data that is available. The myths and records around AD 540 are interesting, and we are both open to the idea that there may have been something cosmic going on.

    Regarding ammonium, we must remember the logic that mike was following at the time. he observed ammonium in the GISP2 ice core dated to 1908, and he also noted ammonium in the GRIP ice core at 539. Since the 1908 ammonia coincided with Tunguska, and since he had already proposed that 540 was cosmic, it seemed logical to suggest that the ammonia at 539 was cosmogenic in origin. However, there are two things to note about this latter date. The first is that GRIP is one of the cores that we argue is incorrectly dated. This “Date” is 7 years too old, and so should be 546, which is after the 540 event. Secondly, these data was obtained from the NOAA web site,and later the Ice core workers admitted to mike that they were actually incorrect and should never have been posted, and that the 539 ammonia was likely around 546 using their chronology. So that means that it should really have been around 553. Either way, the publsihed ammonia at 539 is not actually at 539. So irrespective as to whether this ammonia signal is extraterrestrial or not, it cannot be linked to the 540 tree ring event.

    While we cannot discount the possibility of one or more eruption occuring within the proximity of 540, I dont have any evidence of a volcano swarm, and I dont thnk Mike could stand over such a statement either. Regarding the swarms of earthquakes in the bronze age, one theory for them is that much of these were due to isostatic rebound from the ice sheets over northern Europe.

    But you are correct that Mike hasn’t given up on the possibility of extraterrestrial vectors influencing our environment, at least regarding other tree ring events. And as I have pointed out in another post, we might be wrong in our redating (though obviously at this moment in time we dont think that we are)

  3. Jonny and Carol –

    So for the moment the leaning is to a swarm of volcanoes – without any such evidence of those yet. Correct?

    Also two questions, which may be in the paper and I missed it because I haven’t finished it yet…

    1. The ammonium spike at (now) 553 AD – how high was the spike relative to, say, Tunguska?

    2. That ammonium spike – any candidate impacts or airbursts at this time?

  4. One more point…

    This paper gives me much fodder on a sore point with me – that datings, even from countable evidence from tree rings and ice cores – are subject to corrections.

    van Hoesel nitpicks over such things as if any of them are truly written in stone at this time. These of Mike’s and Jonny’s are being adjusted (if correct) by about 7 years in about 1500 years – using those straightforward countable measurements. van hoesel cries about 100 years at 12,800 ya – using calibrated C14. Those two ratios – 7:1480 (.0047) vs 100:12800 (.0078) are basically well within one magnitude.

    And C14 dating precision is, as Dennis argues, not really likely to be as claimed. Especially out there at nearly 1/4 of the limit of C14 dating.

    As this paper shows, the precision of the dating is a work in progress. The IntCal series for C14 is ALSO a work in progress – there having been THREE different calibrations just in this short portion of the century, IntCal04, IntCal09, and now IntCal13.

    My point is that one should be patient with claims of dates, understanding that some adjustments are still being made to the standards and proxies vs proxies.

    I DO think it is totally NECESSARY to rectify the ice cores and tree rings – to get those peaks/spikes IN-PHASE – and necessary to keep realizing that more such adjustments are going to occur in the future. This paper is only addressing those few spikes at those times in history. If this holds up, other rectifications should be forthcoming, when people have a need to address the issue again.

    In one way, all of this might even be a case of “If you don’t like the exact date listed so far, wait a while – you might get what you want!”

  5. Hi Steve,

    To be absolutely clear upon this, if we are talking about the AD 540 event, then there is no indication of a swarm of volcanoes. Being conservative on the matter, all we can say from the data is that there was at least one volcano. I say we cannot discount the possibility of more than one volcano occurring, because two eruptions in one year would look like just one volcano, since volcanic acid carries no signature of individual volcanoes. One would need to find tephra and analyses that to discern if there was one or more volcanoes involved. So the actual leaning at the moment is that there was one volcano that caused the AD 540 event. To propose more is unnecessary to explain the current data.

    Regarding the ammonium signal possibly being at 553. I am going on second hand information regarding the workers claims that it was in error and was likely at their dating of 546. I cannot say if this is correct or not. I suspect their dating of 539 may have been from ice flow modelling (something they abandoned in the 1980s in favour of layer counting). Anyway, with our proposed redating based on tree rings, if this 539 date is correct (within the internal dating of GICC05), then it must be AD 546. If I recall my second hand information correctly, then it is probably AD 553. In reality though, until this issue is clarified we cannot say for sure exactly where this ammonium signal resides.

    To address your first question though. How high is it with respect the ammonium signal at Tunguska? That is a very difficult question to answer with any satisfaction. The reason being is that the data file that contains the “539” GRIP ammonium signal begins at around 1642, i.e. the Tunguska coincident ammonia is not included in the same data set. The 1908 Ammonia signal is recorded in teh GISP2 and GISP2 B-core which was taken and and analysed by the American ice core workers (GRIP was by the European ice core workers), so a direct comparison is not possible without knowning the exact methods employed. To highlight this, the GRIP ammonia data gives 38 ppm for “539”, but GISP 2 gives 400 ppb for 1908. Now if one looks at this, we could claim that perhaps “539” is larger than Tunguska, but if we look at a part of teh two cores that may weel be showing the same ammonia signal we see that it is a measurement artifact. if we look in teh early 11th century we see in GRIP an ammonia signal at 1015 and in GISP2 it is at 1022 (these are the two largest ammonium signals in each core at this time, so they are likely the same signal). The GRIP core gives the concentration as 46.22 ppm, while GISP2 give it as 24.4 ppb. So teh same event has two different values orders of magnitude apart. this means that we cannot quantitatively compare a signal in GRIP at “539” with one from GISP2 at 1908 with any confidence.

    But now onto the more fun question, because it is fun to speculate. “That ammonium spike – any candidate impacts or airbursts at this time?” Well lets say that the second hand information as I remember it is correct, with the logic going 539 -> 546 = 553. Robert Juhl and Rangachar Iyrangar have suggested that there was a Tunguska like event in the south china sea in 552 and was recorded in the Enoshima Engi (see here http://www.lpi.usra.edu/meetings/metsoc2006/pdf/5019.pdf and references within). However, the dating of this “event is in contention” as Mike has argued that it could have been AD 538. I cant recall the reasoning, of this, whether it was based upon the 539 ammonia. Also as with most things, the interpretation is key, and depends upon which template one applies. If we use teh cosmic template, then it makes sense, but also, it can make a degree of sense applying a volcanic template. For example teh Enoshima Engi mentions

    “dark clouds covering the sea, earthquakes, the
    appearance of a bright goddess (Benzaiten/Sarasvati) above the
    clouds, boulders falling from the sky, lightning-bolts, rocks and
    sand spurting up from the sea, flames on the water, the emergence
    of an island, and the descent of the goddess onto the island.”

    Which most of the phenomena could describe an under water volcano. Indeed Iyengar adds from the Prabhasa-ksetra-mahatmya

    “With fire in his hand, the ocean lit up…
    Due to the gases emanating from the sea, the waters overflowed…”
    [4] The EE parallel is the description “flames flickered amidst the
    white-tipped waves”.
    The level of the sea apparently rose and dropped. Iyengar
    writes: “… after the fire started burning, initially the sea exceeded
    in its boundaries but later the coast started receding… In the 346th
    chapter, there is reference to large-scale loss of life associated most
    probably with a … tsunami”

    Again it could apply to an underwater volcano.

    But on to more sober scientific stuff. We now need to be careful about attribution of cosmic impacts with ammonia in ice cores in my opinion. I know that Mellot and Thomas have proposed mechanisms for impact generated ammonia, but the only true data point we have regarding any precise linkage between ammonia and impact is Tunguska. Given that the “539” ammonia (which was coincident with the AD 540 downturn and proposed impact) is now likely incorrect, it erodes the strength of the ammonia/impact correlation. We cannot for example, rule out that the 1908 ammonia is merely coincidence. I like to think it is not however. So in reality, we only have one real true data point to extrapolate from, and that is extremely dangerous (but as long as we remember that and dont take ourselves too seriously, it is none the less fun). After all, ammonia spikes can be caused by large scale biomass burning, which does not have to be cosmogenic in cause.

    As a further note and to reiterate something I have said on the Cosmic Tusk in the past. I mentioned above the AD 1015 ammonia, which Mike used to suggest that perhaps there was a possible impact in 1014 coinciding with the recorded St Michaelmass floods of the 29th September 1014. I dont think that the flooding was due to an impact induced tsunami. If one looks at that specific date, we see that it coincides with a New moon and hence spring tides. A storm surge in the North Sea coinciding with a spring tide could have caused the flooding. A similar event occurred in 1953 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Sea_flood_of_1953 and threatened the Irish and Welsh coasts this winter due to a series of storms fueled by the jet stream from the polar vortex excursion (while America froze, the United Kingdom got battered by storm after storm separated only by a few days). Some of these storms were extremely low depressions, and arrived coincident with high spring tides. So again, Occams razor means that an Impact is not required to explain the flooding.

  6. I seem to have some dis-equilibrium this afternoon, but what happens to ammonium when it comes into contact with sulfuric acid?

  7. Ammonia ia alkiline, and when alkaline comes into contact with an sulphuric acid, it is nuutralised., producing the salt ammonium sulphate.

  8. Jonny –

    “So the actual leaning at the moment is that there was one volcano that caused the AD 540 event. To propose more is unnecessary to explain the current data.”

    Understood as far as that goes. This goes maybe to the magnitude of the spike I was asking about, because a large volcanic eruption would certainly be known about already, wouldn’t it? If that is lacking but a spike exists, it sort of leads to consideration of multiples – at least that is where my logic takes me.

    Following your logic just for its own sake – all of which is fascinating, BTW – it speaks of the weighing of evidence (I’ve referred to it in the past as “prioritizing”) by individual scientists, and how that weighing points different researchers in different direction, totally dependent on how they weigh the evidence. It seems a totally natural thing to happen, but at the same time it affects the interpretations and therefore the science as published. I won’t go into variations of interpretations that might arise on this particular them, but they are there, nevertheless. I honestly don’t think two scientists looking at the same overall evidence will weigh each bit the same, and therefore will arrive at different conclusions.

    In this way science cannot be ever said to be a collection of facts, but rather science is a collection of interpretations of the facts. When similar but slightly different interpretations exist, they form groups and become a consensus – but within that consensus different flavors of the main interpretation do still exist.

    However, on topics that remain puzzles – ones still out on the frontiers of science – like you and Mike are working on, such consensus is less likely, because the collected evidence has not been complete enough yet. Then it is more or less “every man for himself” for a while, each researcher’s weighings sending him in different directions from his contemporaries.

    The historical accounts (especially the more ancient ones) are given weight only by some of the researchers. Translation difficulties, possible inaccurate re-tellings, and dating problems all tell some researchers to ignore such things and others to give them very little weight. At best, it seems, the accounts are only useful as signposts, narrowing down the dates and locations for targeting quantitative/forensic work that might be done.

    I’ve now said all of this perhaps three or four times on the CT and will probably not bring it up again. It is all only observations that help me understand how some researchers completely ignore (at least leave out) certain evidence while giving great weight to other evidence. It is the YDB skeptics who led me to think about this in the first place.

  9. it isnt different, since they use sulphate (SO4) compounds as the volcanic marker, and the reaction is 2NH3 + H2SO4 ===> (NH4)2SO4 .

  10. Thanks for the update Jonny. I was trying to be positive about the article as there was an air of disappointment developing. All the best

  11. Hi Jonny,

    There was some talk a while back about Krakatoa, and the possibility that there been a very large eruption there sometime around AD 540. Haven’t heard anything along that line since. Is your data able to pin it down to a specific volcano?

  12. Hi Dennis,

    I recall reading the discussion on the suggestion of Krakatoa by David Keys here on CT, and I have his book here, but have yet to actually read it (as with many of my to read list, I buy more books than I have time to read!).

    The problem with ice acidity is that you cannot use it to identify the location of a volcano (at least to my knowledge), and thus one must rely on other identification techniques such as finding and matching tephra to specific volcanoes. So in this regard, from teh data that we have access to, all we can reasonably conclude is that the volcanoe at AD 536 is likely Northern Hemisphere, and the AD 540 is likely equatorial. This is based upon the fact that no acid shows up in antarctica cores that we dated to AD 536, but acid shows upon in both hemispheres ice cores at 540. It was also pointed out previously by the Greenland ice core workers (Larsen et al., 2008) that their dated 529 eruption was likely Northern hemisphere, and their 533/534 was likely equatorial. Also, one other factor that could indicate the hemispheric locations of the eruptions is the fact that Argentinian trees suffer in 540, as well as northern, suggesting a bi-hemispheric effect (as far as I am aware only northern tree growth was effected by 536, but not being a dendrochronologist, I dont know if this is true or not).

    So now we have a problem that rather than one mysterious volcano to identify (i.e. 536), we now have two (536, and 540), which unless we unearth a specific historical reference dated to either date for an observed volcanic eruption, then two being so close together will make it extremely difficult to date scientifically. For example, I have already mentioned the Ilopango eruption in Salvador, but this has been radiocarbon dated to between A.D. 450 and 545, which actually covers three 6th century volcanic events (522, 536 and 540) in our revised chronology, whereas previously it only covered two.

    So thats the long answer. The short answer is “Alas, no, we cannot be specific as to which volcano it was”.

  13. I would think with that “many” volcanoes blowing their tops to the extent that a climate disaster is obvious, volcanologists would have already found them. I have been reading this history stuff for “only” a few years and just a guy who buys and mostly reads the books but I find it just a little difficult to visualize. I did sit on the roof of my house and watch St. Helens go off (being less then 40 miles – crow flies) and saw the damage first hand. And then when the winds reversed and Portland was covered, I didn’t have to sit on my roof to watch, it landed in my backyard, front yard, street, gutters, etc etc.

    Point being, to cause a complete climate breakdown in the world, it would have had to be one damn big volcano (St Helens was a pip squeak). I don’t see that. It does me no good to have someone say “a volcano caused it, but we’re still looking”.

    Is it possible that meteors could have caused shock waves in the mantle to cause volcanoes and earthquakes. I would say “yes” to that. So we now have both at the same time or volcanoes within a few years of a meteor (but we still don’t know what volcanoes).

    And I do have the 3 books by Mandelkehr. People can pick at him all day long but, again, they will have to explain the collapse of China first.

  14. Hi David,

    First up we have no evidence of “many” volcanoes occurring in AD 536 or AD 540, and it looks as if there was only one in either year, but that they were both rather large. We must remember why an impact hypothesis was proposed in the first place; namely due to (then) a lack of evidence of a large eruption at AD 540. Now that we have shown further that the ice cores are offset by 7 years, we find that there is a large volcano at AD 540. Invoking impacts as a contribution to the effects of, or as a cause of, massive explosive eruptions to dislocate climate is entirely unnecessary.

    You say that it does you no good to say “a volcano did it, but we are still looking”, but it can equally be said that “an impact did it, but we are still looking”. By this I mean that that surface impacts could be blamed, but where is the physical evidence left behind, and where did they occur? We would still be looking for that.

  15. So the discussion is — something really bad happened and we are still looking into as to “why”. There can be only two reasons.

  16. “It has been demonstrated that a volcanic eruption does not exclude a simultaneous cosmic dust loading.”

    Really? Who demonstrated it? Where’d they publish?

  17. any chance that Mike’s book will be re-issued so I don’t have to pay $775.00 to get it (smiles).

  18. Which book are you refering to? If you mean Exodus to Arthur, the publishers went bust shortly arfter it was published, so they wont be running anymore copies soon. Regarding celtic Gods and New light on the Black Death, there were only 1000 copies published, and it is not looking likely that the publishers are interested in further runs. One can still purchase A Slice through Time, and Tree Ring dating and Archaeology will be getting reprinted in October according to Amazon.

    On the other hand when I was last talking to Patrick McCafferty he was considering getting Celtic Gods into ebook format, but he is working on other things at the moment.

  19. Another mass extinction…”Gone Volcanic?”

    See —

    Australia’s deadly eruptions were reason for the first mass extinction

    May 30, 2014

    Curtin University


    Ancient volcanic eruptions in Australia 510 million years ago significantly affected the climate, causing the first known mass extinction in the history of complex life. Scientists used radioactive dating techniques to precisely measure the age of the eruptions of the Kalkarindji volcanic province.


  20. in regards to the volcano (meteor) time span and this different dating, etc., has any research been done on animal remains or human remains from this time period. DNA studies, etc etc etc. From the N.A. side we have studied lots of organic remains but I can’t find anything other then tree ring and ice cores for reading.

    Are human remains just as non-existent in the UK as they are over here. And I find this missing body count just plain untenable.

  21. Hi david, im not sure what you are asking, and i am jot sure if you are referring to circa 540, or 510 million years ago as in Trents post?

  22. oh — been reading on the 510 million – Australia volcanoes also,

    I was referring to the King Arthur time frame. From the tree ring studies, its looking like there is a “time frame” question going on. But at the same time, as near as I can tell, the UK islands were completely de-populated and there is tsunami horizons. I don’t think an “unknown” volcano did that. Maybe I’m trying to tie down “history” and the scientists (notice which group I used) haven’t completely all of the homework yet connected with this. This is also getting into the history of the people who Constantine called his own. He was from there. This is the history of the Welsh people who seemed to have “disappeared” from the radar and we wound up with the “history” that said the Anglo Saxons violently invaded with tons of death, destruction and slavery. This has now been proved “false”. Made up — fake. They walked in with different “migrations” vs “violence”. Something really, really terrible happened such that, even oral history took a hiatus. As near as I can tell, there is about a 200 yr (my guess) gap before Offa, king of Mercia, and Egbert, king of Wessex (both are late 8th century). There is really only guess work and myths from King Arthur’s time.

    There were people with a history living there and then they were gone. This is the same time frame that things started to heat up in the America’s with pre-Columbus stuff. Entire islands of humans just don’t “disappear” and we are left with “stories”.

  23. Hi David,

    I dont know where you got the idea that teh British isles were depopulated around the 540s, since this is simply not the case. We have historical and archaeological records that shows that while times were difficult, the islands were not “completely depopulated). For example, there are plenty of records regarding the mid sixth century saints and their travels around Ireland and the UK. We also have archaeological and historical records of increased construction, such as churches after the 540 period. Now while one could argue that this could be because of destruction of previous buildings, but one could wonder if only buildings would be destroyed leaving the forests unscathed, neither of which to my knowldge is evidenced in dendrochronological data sets.

    If there was a lack of population, then it is likely that we would see little construction since there would be enough housing. Indeed, this is something that is observed during the period of the Black death, where dendrochronologicallly speaking, there is an observed building hiatus evidenced in a gap in the chronology in archaeological timbers. No such gap has been seen around c540 to my knowledge.

    Perhaps you are are referring to the writing of Gildas, who talks about England being a wasteland, and of apparent migration to Brittany? While we could take this as historical we don’t know if it is exaggeration or religiously metaphorical since to my knowledge there is no other contemporary writer who describes the same wasteland.

    What we do know is that the late 530s and early 540s were extremely harsh environmentally, with the population of the UK a famine and plague.

    Could you perhaps cite your source for evidence of tsunamis and complete depopulation of the UK and or the whole of the British Isles. Again I must point out that the cosmic connection was only hypothesized as a mechanism for the environmental downturn at 540, due to the lack of volcanic evidence at the time. If there was prior evidence of a volcano at 540, then it would scientifically speaking not require a cosmic vector.

  24. Bebe also said that the “isles were afire from one end to the other” — ???

  25. I presume you mean Bede”s Ecclisiqstical History of Britain. I dont see any reference in that to the isles being afire from one end to the other.

    chapter 22 seems to cover the 6th century and even mentions Gildas, but no mention of fire http://www.gutenberg.org/files/38326/38326-h/38326-h.html#toc53

    Can you be more specific as to where Bede mentions this, and indeed what year, since chronology is extremely important.

  26. http://www.robertschoch.com/articles/schochvitrificationnewdawnspecialissuesept2010.pdf


    actually it was, according to Alan Hassell in 2011, Gildas. Now I have read where Bebe supposedly “lifted” everything from Gildas. So is this true or did Bebe do original work.

    ” Gildas describes how Britain was on fire from sea to sea.”

    “The aftermath of this event would be exactly the same as described by Gildas

    He stated that the land was contaminated and nothing could grow for between seven and eleven years”.


    I have been trying to chase down this comment where he says the temperature reached 13000 degrees. I not read “Gildas” myself. I have enough trouble reading science journals, I have not taught myself to read “old English” or whatever he wrote in.

    “Scientists estimate temperatures of over 13000 degrees Fahrenheit are generated and humans are automatically cremated in seconds.” — What scientists?

    if all of this is true, I would say the place was “depopulated”. Now it is also my understanding the history of the Welch is a really big bone to pick in the UK. Now we have a change in the tree ring counting. This sounds like a really big mess to me. You can take the work of historians an come up with an “average” (that’s why they are a soft field of study) vs. physical science. Hard science, to me, says if you have “vetrified” rock then you need a temperature to make it. If it is too high for a wood fire to make, then what made it. Its very cut and dried. Is there a burn layer in the UK just like on the other thread, when was it dated. What would make a “burn layer”.

    And if I’m wrong say so, but what does it take to get “vitrified” rock. I don’t think a person can just throw everything in the garbage can just because a person thinks the author is of no importance.

    Speaking of garbage cans, I have just started to read Charles Ginenthal’s book “Carl Sagan & Immanuel Velikovshy”. I’m on page 66 out of 415 or so. I thought scientists were a much nicer crowd. Guess not.

  27. let me clarify that last comment. It seems that Charles Ginenthal has caught Carl Sagan in a “few” misrepresentations (lies) of Velikovshy’s work. Sagan is the one in the can.

  28. Hi David,

    Regarding Robert Schoch, he is a geologist (and a rather alternative one at that), who happens to have been sucked into the Electric Universe “paradigm”, which (speaking as a professional physicist myself) is not a correct paradigm, despite EU proponents claiming that mainstream science has its head stuck in the sand (or in an orifice of their choice). So I wouldnt read too much into Plasma Impacts nor Anthony Perratts interpretations of plasma events recorded on petroglyphs. Also, we now know that there there exists two 14C excesses in trees and coral dated to 774/775, and 994/995. The 774 event was about twice as large in flux as the 994 event, and we have increased 10Be in ice around this period. The researchers have looked over the past 3 millennium and found no further 14C excess of these magnitudes or greater.

    Bede was not contemporary to events, so he had to rely upon written records, which is why he lifted from these records.

    The wasteland of Gildas is often interpreted as metaphor for the souls of the land. I dont necessaril;y see this as the case, and perhaps nothing grew because the environment turned nasty around 536/540. You can read more about this in Mike Baillies’s “Exodus to Arthur” for example, or Celtic Gods, if you can get your hands on them. I dont recall Gildas saying britain was on fire from Sea to Sea, but that doesnt mean it wasnt said, just I cant recall it.

    Regarding 13,000 degrees Fahrenheit, ask yourself how any ancient source could possibly know the temperature, or much less survive to record it? Also, if the entire land was afire, how did trees escape incineration to provide an undamaged tree ring chronology in this period? Remember that this portion of the tree ring chronologies come from archaeological timbers, and Mike or other dendrochronologists would have found burn damage one them.

    What physical evidence is there for a comet impact in AD 562, for which Hassell is quoting temperatures of 13,000 F? very little to my knowledge. The 13,000 F refers apparently to the air temperature around an impacting comet as it passes through the air, and Hassell argues that it passing over Britain incinerated everyone.

    Vitirfied rock could also come from lightning strikes etc.

    The thing is though, tree ring counting has not changed. The trees still show that there was a downturn in teh environment. What has changed is that we show evidence that the ice cores are incorrectly dated, and when they are corrected, we find that teh environmental downturns at AD 536 and AD 540 were caused by two massive volcanic eruptions that caused climatic dislocation, and over a decade of hardship. Now it is not impossible that there was an asteroid, or comet impact during this period, but it is not required. Indeed, it is possible that perhaps there was a Tunguska scale impact (or even a few), to explain certain mythology and historical observations, but it may not have affected the environment. As a scientist, we must be open minded enough to evaluate different models, and an asteroid or comet impact is a viable paradigm, but also as scientists we must give evidence its proper weighting, and if it looks as if a volcano caused the climatic dislocation then thats what we go with. It does not mean to say we dont stop looking to see if there was an impact around that time, since it is possible, just not necessary with teh current reinterpretation of physical evidence.

  29. not to confuse me even more — in reading Ginenthal, he is using Peter James work in comparing V and Sagan. I found this on tree ring dating in the Med. —


    my thoughts are —

    1) is the science still in much flux such that a guess in Conventional Chronology is only that but close.

    2) is money the issue for an all out exploration of the research

    3) is the fighting (???) between the diffusionists vs isolationists and the uniformitarianism vs catastrophism, far from over. i.e. — this Meltzer stuff

  30. here’s what I have (there are more but this is a start). And remember, my attention span and recall on the brain. (chuckles).

    Norton (Rocks from Space)
    Firestone (Cycle…..)
    Allen (Cataclysm)
    Mandelkehr (2300 bc…..)
    Jadczyk (several….)
    Baillie (King Arthur)
    Gilbert (Holy Kingdom)

  31. David –

    Gildas “The Ruination of Britain,” the only passage even remotely saying that Britain was factually burning from one end to the other is the passage. I’d run across Gildas before, and the guy was a fire and brimstone self-appointed prophet. 95% of what he talks about is how wickedness is rife in the country and it is all going to hell in a burning hand basket. Fire and brimstone is not history.

    “55. But hear also what threats the distinguished prophet Zephaniah heaps up: The great day of the Lord is near, near and hastening greatly. The voice of the day of the Lord hath been appointed bitter and mighty, that day is a day of wrath, a day of tribulation and distress, a day of cloud and mist, a day of trumpet and cry, a day of misery and desolation, a day of darkness and thick gloom, over strong cities and high corner towers. A nd I will distress men, and they shall go as blind, because they have sinned against the Lord; and I will pour out their blood as dust, and their flesh as the dung of oxen; and their silver and gold cannot deliver them in the day of the Lord’s anger. And by the fire of his jealousy shall the whole land be consumed, when the Lord shall bring an end and a loneliness over all that dwell in the land. Come together, and gather yourselves together, nation without discipline; before ye be made as a flower that passeth away, before the anger of the Lord come upon you.”

    Wherever you got your quote, it appears that they took it completely out of context. Gildas was an insane guy, all consumed with Day of The Lord delusional crap, similar to David Koresh.

  32. David, I might want to point out to your that this blog is about science, not alternate researcher stuff, though we do bring a touch of that in now and again. Mainly, it is about science.

    Also, you keep misspelling “Bede” as “Bebe,” for some reason. The dude’s name was “the Venerable Bede”, and he was from the 700s, so Gildas in the 500s could not have been a copier of Bede’s work. As to whether the Venerable Bede “lifted” Gildas’ work, it has no bearing on anything here.

    As to Gildas and some “seven years” of nothing growing (“He stated that the land was contaminated and nothing could grow for between seven and eleven years””), a text search of “The Ruination of Britain” shows four samples of “seven”, none of which pertains to crop failures. “Eleven” turns up zero hits. 12 hits for “grow” turns up a lot of fire and brimstone about the wickedness of men, and nothing whatsoever to do with growing crops or failure to grow crops.

    Whatever source you are using, you might want to scratch him off, because he is either taking things out of context or he is making stuff up. If it is you, sorry, no offense meant, but when you quote stuff, it really, REALLY helps if you also give your source, so that we don’t have to go on wild goose chases.

    My Gildas source above is from http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/gildas_02_ruin_of_britain.htm

  33. Jonny and David –

    David, I am not sure why you pasted in the link to Schock. It didn’t seem applicable. But then maybe my brain isn’t working so well today.

    Also, David, it appears you got the fire all over Britain thing from Alan Hassell. Wow, what a delusional guy. Off in la-la land. He said that, and he gave no source. He weaves fanciful tales and gives no way to verify any of his assertions. lack of links is usually a sign of weak work and unreliable information. I’d suggest you write him off. He said Gildas wrote a passage Gildas didn’t write. At least not in what I’ve been able to find. Gildas has only four docs, and two of those are 100% church crap. The other two are 80% church crap.

    In the only other non-100%-church Gildas document, “The Conquest of Britain,” it also does not have any such statement. “Fire” turns up 7 hits, none applicable. “Grow” turns up 0. “Seven” has 0 hits, as does “eleven”.

    Again, I see no connection between Schoch and Britain burning. Vitrified forts? That is another thing altogether.

    Jonny, as to Schoch himself, I’ve found him to be one of the more rational and solid alternate researchers. Perhaps his geology background gave him a solid foundation. I would think so. It seems that with his Sphynx enclosure water erosion issue along with John Anthony West he found a nice lucrative market that was more exciting than geology. All in all, I respect Schoch’s thinking quite a bit. Even when I disagree with all of his thinking, I can see clearly what he is thinking and why, so I can still respect it.

    The fact that he thinks outside the box is neither here nor there, IMHO. I’d like to see more scientists be as open-minded as he is. At least he has the guts to not worry about stepping on toes or breaking the conservative barrier.

  34. Hi Steve,

    I have nothing against Schoch personally, and i think his work is commendable in challanging the accepted consensus. Indeed, as you say, he does have some form of solid foundation in science, unlike other alternative researchers. For the record, I have nothing against the exploration of alternative ideas (I happen to be a long time moderator for Graham Hancocks forum for example), and I do enjoy reading some interesting suggestions about the past, and certain things should not be dismissed immediately out of hand, as they could hold kernels of truth to them, even if one must dig through a lot of garbage to get to it. Also, i find alternative research entertaining, and encourage others to read it, as long as they do so with a critical eye, and dont believe everything they read until they have absorbed all sides of the story. for example, most of us here would agree that Velikovskys central thesis is bonkers, but that change the motif from Venus rattling around the solar system violating classical dynamics, to a large disintegrating Encke like comet, and it is not so Bonkers. Velikovsky was bold, if misguided, but there could be kernels of truth burried amongst the bizzare.

    Robert Schoch though needs to be careful with his associations with the Electric Universe crowd though (for example Peratt), at least in my opinion. Electric Universe owns its genetics from Plasma Cosmology, which was a legitimate scientific challenge to Big Bang csmology make in the early days, but had many failings in explaining obsrvations, that falsified the theory. EU tends to sweep this under the carpet, and most of its arguements are hand wavy, non-quantitative, and post-dictive. I wont go into it all here, as you can find plenty of critical assements of EU online, as well as plenty of EU websites for those who wish to assess their claims themselves.

  35. I do watch Graham Hancock. My side says that if something doesn’t fit, then what you have isn’t right. I look at these “out of the mainstream” people (I just hate that word) as “inventors”. They see something and go for it. They should be treated as such. Our system of life is based on “inventors”.

    In the book I’m reading now, this author is listing the things that V-sky got right. One of the biggest (I think) was the radio waves of Jupiter. He did predict that and got it right. Sagan of course went off the deep end. I interpret all of this as the “your not part of the gang therefore you are not” effect. The second thing, which is a thread on “feet2fire”, is the destruction of the planet between Mars and Jupiter. V-sky was a person who took the mythology of all the ancients and said “why do we have all of these common myths from people who the isolationists said never knew the other existed”. This was an “in your face” challenge to the paradigm. And now we have this forum. You guys (gals) are trying to make the science fit to the physical world.

    Schoch took on the entrenched people in Egyptology and beat them. Of course, the geologists I know find the historians and archaeologists on the vertical erosion lines on the Sphinx just a hilarious joke forced onto a physical science that knows better. Maybe Schoch went that far because he just got tired of the jerks and is shoving back at them. I know Hancock went through hell and back because of his “underworld” book.

    It also wasn’t too long ago when astronomers were condemned for looking for other habitable planets. Look at what this world has gone through over the “clovis barrier”. This was so bad and it was (far as I can tell) a 18th – 19th century invention.

    Which is a contradiction. If we don’t believe the thousands of people who have seen UFO’s, why is NASA spending billions trying to find them?

    Why do we have thousands of tons of “nanodiamonds” and archaeologists and historians who absolutely refuse to accept how they were formed.

    Why do we believe why the “black plague” was caused by rats when we know rats don’t travel 3-4 miles a day like they were on a “mission”.

    Why do we believe that a cow kicked over a bucket of milk and started a fire in Chicago when scientists say “check this out”.


    none of this stuff is in the history books I know of. I did a short survey. On Wiki (ugh) under dendrochronology is the following

    1) 3 lines on history and Douglass
    2) 2 lines on climatology
    3) 21 lines on art history
    4) 4 lines on building history
    5) of 23 sources listed, 8 deal with art history


    this site is so much better but who goes to this site except “professionals”.


  36. Jonny –

    Your first paragraph, about alternative research, is spot on, exactly the way I do it, including the skepticism while trying to glean what one can from it. I’ve been doing that since around 1970. Literally. Schoch is one of the better ones.

    But I will say that his latest is a kind of rip-off of Firestone’s supernova conjecture, with Solar bursts included (which I assume Firestone did include in his, though I can’t recall specifically). I don’t know if Schoch has given credit, but I hope so.

    Two areas I avoid: EU and UFOs. UFOs because I concluded 40 years ago that we would not find anything out conclusively in my lifetime, so I thought t was not worth my time. So far that is proving a correct assessment. EU because I don’t like the presentations of it – like you said, too much hand-waving.

    Speaking of hand-waving, someone sent me a stupid thing the other day about “Solar Roadways!” I HAD to put the exclamation point in there, because in the YouTube video they never seem to say the phrase without it. They have garnered at my last count $1.9M, proving that a sucker is born every minute and that no one ever lost money betting against the intelligence of the average American. I will leave it to you to chase it down if you want a laugh. From an engineer’s POV it is wall-to-wall wild claims and really bad understanding of anything scientific.

  37. David: “Our system of life is based on “inventors”.”

    Actually, I hate to burst that bubble, but no. Our system of life is based on engineers and product designers, 99% of whom are employed by corporations small and large. And when they DO invent something, it is the corporations who get rights to the inventions. Okay, maybe it is not 99%, but it is certainly more than 85%. Every part of every product, equipment, and packaging you ever use has to have someone design that part, and someone else to machine it or mold it, etc. This is true, from hydro dams and power plants down to the smallest parts in computers and smart phones and GPS – and going back in time to Eli Whitney and his Interchangeable Parts.

    Most of the time I look at it that something isn’t even REALLY science until we have engineers turn it into a 100% reliable widget. Why? Because until it is 100% reliable – the effect, the process, or the mechanism – it isn’t really scientific. To be science, to me, is to REALLY be reliable. That is why I have a sad view of psychology, archaeology, cosmology, anthropology, and a few other so-called sciences (even climatology as presently done) – and their leaning on artifact comparisons and statistics. Hell, the directions that even physics has gone in are awfully la-la land, too.

    But when something is turned into a real useful product for the marketplace – electrical dynamos, electrical motors, LED lights, DVDs, chip technology, flat-screen TVs, touch-screen smart phones, GPS, rubber tires, fracking, internal combustion engines, jet/rocket engines, just to name a few examples – then we have millions of proofs that a principle works. And there are so very few of those that came from the stand-alone “inventors” of popular imagination. There WAS a time when that happened, but that time started to end when Edison rounded up all the clever technicians he could find and put them all in his Menlo Park lab. HE put HIS name on all those, while still publicly playing the role of independent inventor.

    The days of the independent inventor are all but over. And I am saying that as one who helped an independent inventor successfully develop a product for the marketplace. It was a one-off thing in my career.

  38. David –

    I AM feet2thefire at wordpress.com, in case you didn’t know it. I support the exploded planet hypothesis not because of anything Velikovsky said but because mostly of the work of the late astronomer Tom van Flandern. I don’t argue that THAT is the one and only explanation, but I DO think it should still be part of the discussion. Van Flandern didn’t invent the idea, either; it comes from the 1700s. But when catastrophism was being discarded in the mid-1800s, they decided catastrophes even OFF planet Earth were anathema, too – and threw the baby out with the bath water. Van Flandern has a list of reasons it makes sense that takes page after page to just present, not even counting making his arguments.

    Schoch fully explains himself in his books about the Sphynx enclosure and water weathering. HE was also very skeptical of Hancock’s (Schwaller’s) idea – until he went and did the actual science. He was open-minded enough to at least give it a shot. I haven’t read at any point where Schoch thinks of himself as “taking on” the establishment or going “in your face” with them. As fara as I know, he is still a professor at Boston University. Like I said before, though, Schoch HAS found that alternative books are a nice supplement to his income – and this (IMHO) provides him some security from which to remain open-minded. I think he is having fun at it, too!

  39. I finally figured that out (some days I’m actually faster then others). That’s all it takes for most all of this stuff. Get out of the office chair, pick up your tools and go do original research. I like that and I tend to buy the books of those who do.

  40. speaking of “new” thoughts regarding the 1st millennium

    —Still, archaeologists may be reluctant to embrace the tree daters or astonomical retro-calculators. To identify human history they cannot resort to mathematics (like the Fomenkoists), the heavens, or to ice layers, forests and C-14-levels. They are archaeologists. They have to focus on the remains of human habitats to make a point in the writing of human history. Even if they strongly believe in three 1st millennium CE catastrophes they still would love to show at least one site in Europe that exhibits those three cataclysmic devastations on top of each other stratigraphically. Yet, out of thousands of sites in all geograpical corners of Europe, neither South nor East or North has a single site with the following stratigraphy—–

    —What‘s wrong with the idea that three major earth-shaking catastrophes happened in the 1st millennium CE? Nothing, say the scientific daters. Tree rings, e. g., are supposed to have experienced dramatic downturns at 237 CE, 536/540 CE, and 942 CE.3—


    I know its written in English but I’m picking up a big question which made my eyes cross — is this true —- “the story of CHARLEMAGNE is not really true” as spelled out in the history books. Is there really ONLY 300 years of “clay pots and campfires”.



  41. Hi David,

    Regarding “Southern Hemisphere Volcanic Forcing During The Past 2,000 Years And Impact On Climate Change”, the problem with this is that the chronology in this study is still linked to the GICC05 timescale which Mike and myself are arguing is mis-dated in the 1st millennium. While it is interesting, it does not contribute to the dating resolution.

  42. Destruction what Destruction?

    “The Life of St. Teilo” contained in the “Llandaf Charters”, of St. Teilo, who had recently been made Bishop of Llandaf Cathedral in Morganwg, South Wales, it says:-

    “…however he could not long remain, on account of the pestilence which nearly destroyed the whole nation. It was called the Yellow Pestilence, because it occasioned all persons who were seized by it to be yellow and without blood, and it appeared to men a column of a watery cloud, having one end trailing along the ground, and the other above, proceeding in the air, and passing through the whole country like a shower going through the bottom of valleys.
    Whatever living creatures it touched with its pestiferous blast, either immediately died, or sickened for death … and so greatly did the aforesaid destruction rage throughout the nation, that it caused the country to be nearly deserted”.
    St. Teilo is recorded as having left South Wales for Brittany to escape the Yellow Pestilence, and that it lasted for some 11 years.

    Llandaf Charters, “Life of St. Teilo”, p. 75.

    One such site is St. Peter’s Church on Mynydd Y Gaer (Fortress Mountain), in Morganwg, South Wales.
    An excavation at the church in 1990 directed by Dr Eric Talbot, who for 22 years was head of Glasgow University’s Archeology Dept., uncovered evidence that human bones had been found,
    “…melted onto the stones…” [7]
    St. Peter’s Church is just 11½ miles from Llandaf Cathedral, but is situated atop one of the many mountains in South Wales, and they would have taken the brunt of any cometary fireball bombardment, with the valleys below possibly being devastated by heavy drifting clouds of sulphurous gases (fire and brimstone?).
    The resultant crop failures would have brought famine, mass migrations of the survivors, and outbreaks of diseases which could easily have reached plague proportions given that combination of circumstances. Certainly these events are remembered in the traditions and folklore of the area.
    Though little recognized now, this area of South Wales had been an important administrative centre for quite some time before the Romans came, and continued to be so up until the ‘event’ that gave rise to the ‘Yellow Pestilence’ in the mid-6th century AD.
    It marked the seat of the Kings of Morganwg (called by the Romans, Siluria) – an area that at one time stretched from the river Severn in the east, to Caerfyrddyn in the southwest.
    But Morganwg was just one kingdom in a vast Cymric (Welsh) empire in early Britain that at one time had reached as far as Strathclyde, where the Lailoken version of the ‘Merlyn Vision’ had its location. This ‘empire’ had been jointly administered from Wroxeter, now on the Welsh/English border, as well as from sites in Morganwg to the south.
    So important had Wroxeter been prior to the Roman invasion, that after capturing it they built Watling Street directly to it.
    Following the circa AD 540 ‘event’, Wroxeter fell into disuse, as did the sites in Morganwg. None of them ever recovered, and it would seem that if it was a bombardment of fireballs with cometary dust-loading the upper atmosphere that caused the death and destruction at the start of the European ‘Dark Age’, then it covered a vast area of the island of Britain.

    Extract from:- http://www.morien-institute.org/darkages.html

    As you said Jonny “the islands were not completely depopulated” all depends who writes the history i think and what their motives are. However maybe all the above, “Vitrified Hillforts”, 4 acres of shattered Dressed White Marble from the Caermead site in South Wales and the destruction of countless Roman sites was as you say caused by lightning,i don’t think so.
    Interesting article this https://sites.google.com/site/bemsha10/intro by ROBERT A.JUHL appears to favour a comet rather than volcanic

  43. The paper has finally passed through peer review and was published this morning here http://www.clim-past.net/11/105/2015/cp-11-105-2015.pdf

    There has been some change to it during the review process, with further development of the discussion questioning the ice core dating of the Eldgja eruption in the 930s, suggesting that the error in the ice cores occurs somewhere above this.


  44. Jonny –

    In time work like yours will be done to nail down the YD onset more precisely than exists at present. (Hahaha – you are invited to do it!)

    While van Hoesel did a sloppy job of it and quibbled about what she saw as about a 100-year discrepancy, some day someone will do a better job than she did. Was the YD onset at 12,800ya? Or 12,700ya? or 12,765ya?

    Perhaps the data to date it solidly exists already; perhaps not.

    Personally, I think that within a range of 100 years at a time that ancient is pretty darned good. With the proxies rarely able to time things as precisely as your paper did for those events ~530 AD and ~687 AD, much more exactness may not be possible. And with tree rings all but useless at 12,800ya, tree rings may be precluded as an aid. Ice cores are at this moment a bit under attack (though gently, IMHO), due to the wandering of gases up or down in the layers (…sorry, but the correct term escapes me at this moment…), so it is unclear how much help ice cores will be in narrowing it down further. Varves and perhaps alkenones will be able to help. Alkenones as I understand them are fairly new, so that is perhaps a window just now opening on timing events in the past. It IS quite clear that the YDB was a one-time dive in the climate and the granddaddy of them all, so every proxy should have the needed abrupt transition. it should be just a matter of time and the right people doing it.

    After all, it is not so long ago that climatologists and biologists were talking about the YDB being a 200-year onset, as opposed to the current thinking of substantially less than 100 years. As more work is done on fundamental cores of whatever kind, the YDB timing should be able to be nailed better.


  45. Jonny –

    In case it is something you’d missed, in Google books’ I ran across this September 2014 book “Volcanism, Impacts, and Mass Extinctions: Causes & Effects, edited by Gerta Keller and Andrew K.Carr” and on page 411 it has an article “Calendar-Year dating of the Greenland Ice Sheet Project (GISP2) ice core from the early sixth century using historical, ion, and particulate data”.

    They specifically address the resolution of the ice core data for the 536 AD climate event, with resolutions at the 3-year level. Your paper is done and published, but there may be info you’d like to compare to your assessments.

    I was able to access part of the paper, but not all, on Google books, but the authors do mention “dancing stars” in their abstract.

    The actual Abbott et al 2014 paper is at http://specialpapers.gsapubs.org/content/505/411.short and is dated January 2014.

  46. Hi Steve,

    I have a copy of that paper (though in pre-print form). This has been something we have been looking at, and indeed it was in the back of our minds while writing our paper. The problem with the work is that it uses the GISP2 core for analysis, which has its own chronological issues. I have mentioned it before, but there is a 14 metre section of trashed core (that is the core came up in ice cubes, not as a contiguous sample), which corresponds to about 70 years of missing chronology, right in the midst of the 6th century AD. In the GISP2 core, the gap is dated between AD 543.5 – 614.1 using their timescale. But the question of course is this, how do they know that the core continues on at a date of 543.5 if they have no layers to count above it? Hence using the ice core blind around this time is unwise.

    In light of our paper, it now becomes apparent that there is a second issue regarding the GISP2 core at this depth….it too is misdated, but rather than being too old, it appears to be too young. The reason I say this is that the AD 626 eruption, which produced an historic dust veil, hemispheric cooling, a frost ring at AD 627 etc, seems to be dated to 639.1-640.6 in GISP2. I say seems, since this is the largest sulphate spike in the 7th century in GISP2 and is closest to the 626 date. So it would seem that GISP2 in the early 7th century is actually 13-14 years too young.

    If we look at GISP2 below the 6th century gap, we see two eruptions 20 years apart dated to 507 and 528 (start dates in the ice). These have to be the same dates as sulphate peaks observed in the GICC05 constrained NEEM core at 495 and 515. Two reasons for this; one is that the limited space analysis fits (there are only two eruptions we know off in this century that are 20 years apart), and two, GISP2 AD 639 must be NEEM 619, which is AD 626, as explained above. To explain this point further. GISP2 above the gap is 13/14 years too young. So if we shift the GISP2 dates back 13/14 years below the gap, the two Sulphate signals become 493/4 and 514/5, which is the same dates as NEEM. But since we know from our paper that NEEM is ~7 years too old at this depth, meaning that GISP2 must be 6 or 7 years too young at this depth.

    But the important point about this then is that the 6th century gap in GISP2 is actually from AD 536.5 (or 537.5) to 601.1 or 601.1 (so lets say AD 536-601). SO GISP2 does not actually record the AD 536 or 540 eruptions.

    So what does this have to do with Abbott et al? Well, they use GISP2 core for their signal, and argue that GISP2 is 3 years too young in the early 6th century. Thus their dating is still out by a further 3 or 4 years. The knock on effect of this relates to a the next paper in that volume “D. H. Abbott, D. Breger, P. E. Biscaye, J.A. Barron R. A. Juhl P. McCafferty, “What caused terrestrial dust loading and climate downturns between 533 and 540 A.D.?” http://specialpapers.gsapubs.org/content/505/421.short (George had slides from some presentations by Abbott on site, but they must have went up in flames)

    In that paper, the group appear to find cosmic markers in ice around their date of 536 (that is GISP2 – 3 years) and suggest an oceanic impact. But now knowing that they are still out by 3 or 4 years, this layer should have a true date of AD 532/533, which would fit in well with the historical reports of the commencement of dancing stars.

  47. Ah, yes, Jonny, I thought you’d have a bit to say. I am glad to ask a good question once in a while.

    Rectification is a proper exercise for any analysis that uses proxies. I see your efforts and Abbott’s as rectification.

  48. New research published today in Nature shows that the ice cores are indeed too old in the 1st millennium as indicated by Mike Baillie and myself.


    Sigl et al. have used the two cosmic events at AD 774 and 993 which produced excess 14C in precisely dated global tree rings, and 10Be in ice cores, to constrain the NEEM core chronology, and confirms that the ice cores are too old by 7 years below AD 1000.

  49. Jonny –

    It’s excellent to see your work being supported so solidly. I wonder if the authors have any idea about your paper…

    The Abstract mentions the 6th century pandemic. Maybe I am forgetting something, but what vectors would have existed between eruptions and pandemics? I’ve got nothing on that one…

  50. Steve,

    I dare say they would have been aware of our paper, since Gill Plunkett and John Pilcher are work colleagues of Mike Baillie, and Bo Vinther was one of our paper referees. And I know one or two others were aware of it, since we sent them copies of our drafts.

    The 6th century pandemic is the Justinian plague, which took hold in the early 540’s. It has recently been shown that this plague was linked to Y.Pestis, and so was the same as the 14th century Black Death. The link between eruptions and the pandemic is thought to be due to the climatic and environmental deterioration, resulting in food famine, creating a weakened population susceptible to contagion. Perhaps even a degree of increased population movement at the time could have spread the plague further. For example, richer communities would probably import food from further away, or communities may move closer to larger population centres to earn money for food.

    So the eruptions are not the vectors, but rather their climatic effects are the catalyst for the pandemic to take hold.

  51. Jonny, Steve,

    As far as Y. Pestis and the Plague of Justinian goes climate change is the causative factor.The effect it has on the main vector, the flea in its native environment, equatorial east Africa, is that atmospheric cooling has a causes a change in the flea.
    Y pestis lives in the gut of the flea, in its equatorial home, the feeds once and dies, not spreading the disease.
    But when atmospheric temps drop below a certain level, there is a physiological change in the flea, a blood clot forms at the entrance to the gut, preventing the flea from ingesting blood. The flea feeds but never really eats, so as the flea is essentially starving to death, it feeds on multiple hosts, while the blood clot keeps the blood out of the gut of the flea it doesn’t stop the passage of Y. Pestis to the host.
    There is also a roman factor involved, the Eastern empire started direct trade with equatorial east Africa in the early decades of the sixth century. For the first time goods and people from africa were carried directly to the empire. The spread of the plague can be traced directly to roman shipping and trade. The plague decimated roman Britain, while sparing the Angles and Saxons, who did not directly trade with the romans.
    The atmospheric cooling also figures heavily in the onset of the plague in the 14th cent. as it appears during a period of major cooling in northern Europe.
    And Jonny this statement, “The link between eruptions and the pandemic is thought to be due to the climatic and environmental deterioration, resulting in food famine, creating a weakened population susceptible to contagion. Perhaps even a degree of increased population movement at the time could have spread the plague further. For example, richer communities would probably import food from further away, or communities may move closer to larger population centres to earn money for food.”
    sums it up perfectly, especially the last sentence, as time get hard people move around and import more goods to make up for loss of production, thereby accelerating the spread of the disease.

    In the 14th century episode, there is evidence from british records, that there was another pandemic that just preceeded the Y.pestis outbreak. The population of Britain fell by 30-40%? between 1280 and 1320, so when the plague hit Britain it was an already depressed society, enhancing the soread of the disease.

    Jonny, are you guys aware of the lakebed mud core project at Clear Lake California, they planning on retrieving mud samples going back 200k years.
    Clear lake is the only fresh water lake that has survived without being glaciated or have dried up at some point.

  52. Jonny and CevinQ – Thanks for the info!

    The flea-cold-Y. pestis connection makes global warming sound like a good idea. Even though we have such good medical capacity now, the fleas and Y. pestis don’t know that, and if things turned cold enough it sounds like it could try to take off again someday if the climate goes colder.

    The Medieval Warm Period was ending just about the time you mention, CevinQ. And the Roman Warm Period (even warmer, from what I’ve learned) ended just about the time of the 540 plague. But coming DOWN from a warm period – that is not necessarily exactly COLD. It sounds more like it completely reversed, with no mild period to speak of in between. (Of course, our modern perspective on time then is skewed, and is not the way we look at the passage of time in our present. Now, a couple of decades are seen as a long period, but when we look at the past, we compress multiple centuries and think of that period as being short. It’s like looking at the YD and the 1300 years as being not very long, but it is about the same length of time as from Muhammad to now.)

    One question:

    East equatorial Africa has a hot climate along the coast, but very mild at higher elevations. In fact, Nairobi is said to have nearly the best climate in the entire world. Any “cold” there one would think is a relative thing – even if it was very cold in Europe, simply mild weather would be more likely there. What specific part did the Romans trade with? Do you happen to know?

    If it actually got COLD at all in East Equatorial Africa, one shivers with the idea of what it must have been like in Europe.

  53. The romans traded all the way down to Mozambique and Tanzania.
    I think the temps have to be an average, it does cool down at higher elevations but they don’t have the pronounced seasonality that Europe has.
    I think demographics also had a lot to due with the spread, of plague. Populations were not nearly as dense in Africa and there were fewer urban centers, so if some did catch it they would likely not make it to the next village before they died. This same sort of mechanism has been implicated in the early spread of SIV/HIV in tropical Africa during the first decades of the 20th century. Before the dutch and French and germans built railways into the interior the disease was trapped, same with ebola. It might wipe out whole districs it would eventually run its course, while after transportation was available an infected person was able to infect others before succumbing to such things.

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