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The Daily Volcano Quote: volcanically induced climate change 30 April 2009

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Where archaeologists and palaeoenvironmentalists have proposed the eruption of a distant volcano as the cause of cultural change or environmental stress, they have frequently invoked volcanically generated climate change as the mechanism. However, volcanically induced climate change has been shown to be on a relatively minor scale and no eruption of the past 3000 years has reduced hemispheric temperature by more than 1°C, which is within normal fluctuation and hardly of itself likely to bring about long-lasting cultural or environmental change. In historical times, where poor weather has been coincident with volcanic eruptions and demonstrated social and environmental stress, pre-existing social, cultural, economic, environmental and climatic trends have been in evidence and it is the combination of these that is significant, not the remote influence of a distant volcanic eruption. Where these cannot be identified in the archaeological record, volcanogenic climate change is a theoretical tool which must be used with caution.

John Grattan, Mark Brayshay & Ruud T. E. Schüttenhelm, ‘”The end is nigh”? Social and environmental responses to volcanic gas pollution’, in Robin Torrence & John Grattan (eds.), Natural Disasters and Cultural Change (London: Routledge, 2002), p. 88.

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