An Alaskan Volcano Helped Cause the Decline of the Roman Republic

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How an Alaskan Volcano Is Linked to the Decline of the Roman Republic

by Theresa Machemer/Smithsonianmag.com

The two years after Julius Caesar’s assassination in 44 B.C. were rife with bad luck. The sky turned dark, the weather grew cold, and Mediterranean civilizations experienced drought and famine.

Now, a multidisciplinary team of researchers has pinned down an explosive explanation for these strange occurrences: As detailed in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a volcanic eruption some 6,000 miles away from Rome may have thrown off the region’s weather patterns—and perhaps even contributed to the rise of the Roman Empire.

The new study combines evidence from ice cores, tree rings and historical records to identify an eruption of Alaska’s Okmok volcano in 43 B.C. as the cause of unusual weather following the Ides of March, reports Paul Voosen for Science magazine. The enormous eruption triggered an average 13-degree Fahrenheit drop in temperature across southern Europe and northern Africa.

“This is the second coldest year in the last 2,500 years—I mean, that’s not a small thing,” lead author Joe McConnell, a snow hydrologist at the Desert Research Institute in Nevada, tells Atlas Obscura’s Isaac Schultz. “And when you’re talking about an agrarian society that’s living close to the edge as it is, it had to have had a big impact.”

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Biography
Carol graduated from Riverside White Cross School of Nursing in Columbus, Ohio and received her diploma as a registered nurse. She attended Bowling Green State University where she received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History and Literature. She attended the University of Toledo, College of Nursing, and received a Master’s of Nursing Science Degree as an Educator.

She has traveled extensively, is a photographer, and writes on medical issues. Carol has three children RJ, Katherine, and Stephen – two daughters-in-law; Suzy and Katie – two granddaughters; Isabella Marianna and Zoe Olivia – and one grandson, Alexander Paul. She also shares her life with husband Gordon Duff, many cats, and two rescue pups.

Carol’s Archives 2009-2013
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4 COMMENTS

  1. What weather patterns did the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980 cause to change?
    Now they have to worry about Mt. Rainier. The lahar ( mud flow) could bury half or more of SeaTac. How do you get all those people out of harm’s way? You can’t. They have only about 60 minutes or so before the flow hits the downtown area.

    • John and Gary, Once upon a time I lived on Adak, Alaska, an island in the Aleutian Island Chain. The volcano on the island next door, I think Kanaga, erupted during a very rare snow storm (the Pacific to the south of the island and the Bearing Sea to the north made for usually rainy conditions with gale force winds) and the next day the world was gray, not white. Of course all of those islands were created by volcanoes. It was interesting because Adak was west of that island. I have some awesome pictures of the development of the smoke from it….somewhere.

    • Thanks for the Adak story Carol, yes I know Adak – small world – esp. when talking about Alaska.

  2. I had a twice in a lifetime encounter with a volcanoe eruption in Alaska while flying. Mt. Redoubt erupted and I actually saw the cloud coming east from the Aluetians, but I thought it was snow clouds because it was way far away and dark. The ash from the erruption was substantial in the Mat-su valley. Anyways , on my return flight, I noticed all the snow was brownish , but I was on skiis and landed in Big Lake { coming from Yetna glacier area to the NW } Fastest landing on skiis in history it was – for the ash made the snow ice surface – just like sandpaper. LOL I thought I was landing on an aircraft carrier with that cable strung across the threshold . Had to borrow a 4×4 in order to get the cessna off the friggin runway – and clean my air filters. Ah memoirs. Thanks VT