In 1110, The Moon Vanished From The Sky. We Might Lastly Know Why

Nearly a millennium in the past, a significant upheaval occurred in Earth’s environment: a large cloud of sulphur-rich particles flowed all through the stratosphere, turning skies darkish for months and even years, earlier than finally falling right down to Earth.


We all know this occasion occurred as a result of researchers have drilled and analysed ice cores – samples taken from deep inside ice sheets or glaciers, which have trapped sulphur aerosols produced by volcanic eruptions reaching the stratosphere and settling again on the floor.

Ice can thus protect proof of volcanism over extremely lengthy timescales, however pinpointing the exact date of an occasion that exhibits up within the layers of an ice core remains to be tough enterprise.

On this case, scientists had assumed the sulphurous deposit was left by a significant eruption unleashed in 1104 by Iceland’s Hekla, a volcano typically known as the ‘Gateway to Hell’. Because the skinny strip of ice ranks among the many largest sulfate deposition alerts of the final millennium, it sounds believable.

Solely, what if the accepted timeline of an ice core seems to be time-warped? A couple of years in the past, one examine concluded {that a} timescale known as the Greenland Ice Core Chronology 2005 (GICC05) was off by as much as seven years within the first millennium CE, and by as much as 4 years early within the subsequent millennium.


These findings, in line with analysis printed in April 2020 – led by palaeoclimatologist Sébastien Guillet from the College of Geneva in Switzerland – imply Hekla could not have been the wrongdoer for the enormous sulphate sign in any case.

“A distinguished discovery arising from this revised ice-core relationship is a significant and hitherto unrecognised bipolar volcanic sign with sulfate deposition beginning in late 1108 or early 1109 CE and persisting till early 1113 CE within the Greenland file,” Guillet and his co-authors clarify in their paper, noting that proof for a similar occasion will also be seen in a equally revised Antarctic ice core chronology.

To analyze what might need been chargeable for leaving these historic tracks at each the highest and the underside of the world, the crew combed historic documentation, on the lookout for medieval information of unusual, dark-looking lunar eclipses that would correspond to the stratospheric haze of main eruptive occasions.

“The spectacular atmospheric optical phenomena related to high-altitude volcanic aerosols have caught the eye of chroniclers since historic instances,” the crew writes.

“Specifically, the reported brightness of lunar eclipses will be employed each to detect volcanic aerosols within the stratosphere and to quantify stratospheric optical depths following giant eruptions.”


In line with NASA information based mostly on astronomical retrocalculation, seven whole lunar eclipses would have been observable in Europe within the first 20 years of the final millennium, between 1100 and 1120 CE.

Amongst these, a witness to a lunar eclipse that occurred in Might 1110 wrote of the distinctive darkness of the Moon in the course of the phenomenon.

“On the fifth night time within the month of Might appeared the Moon shining vivid within the night, and afterwards by little and little its mild diminished, in order that, as quickly as night time got here, it was so fully extinguished withal, that neither mild, nor orb, nor something in any respect of it was seen,” an observer wrote within the Peterborough Chronicle.

Many astronomers have since mentioned this mysterious and unusually darkish lunar eclipse. Centuries after it occurred, the English astronomer Georges Frederick Chambers wrote about it, saying: “It’s evident that this [eclipse] was an occasion of a ‘black’ eclipse when the Moon turns into fairly invisible as a substitute of shining with the acquainted coppery hue”.

Regardless of the occasion being well-known in astronomy historical past, although, researchers have by no means prompt it might need been attributable to the presence of volcanic aerosols within the stratosphere, although that is the almost definitely trigger, the brand new examine suggests.


“We be aware that no different proof of volcanic mud veil, resembling a dimming of the Solar, purple twilight glows and/or reddish photo voltaic haloes, could possibly be discovered throughout our investigations for the years 1108–1110 CE,” the researchers write.

If the timing is true, then what volcano was chargeable for the sulphur cloud, given Hekla is now out of the body?

Whereas it is inconceivable to know for positive, the crew thinks probably the most possible clarification is Japan’s Mount Asama, which produced a large, months-long eruption within the 12 months 1108 – considerably bigger than a subsequent eruption in 1783 that killed over 1,400 folks.

A diary entry recorded by a statesman describes the 1108 occasion: “There was a hearth on the prime of the volcano, a thick layer of ash within the governor’s backyard, in all places the fields and the rice fields are rendered unfit for cultivation. We by no means noticed that within the nation. It’s a very unusual and uncommon factor.”

Along with witness accounts, the researchers additionally checked out tree ring proof, which suggests 1109 CE was an exceptionally chilly 12 months (about 1 diploma Celsius cooler within the Northern Hemisphere), based mostly on considerably thinner tree rings.

Different historic documentation, specifically accounts of climatic and societal impacts within the years 1109–1111 CE, corroborate the speculation that an 1108 eruption (or a sequence of eruptions that started that 12 months), might have led to disastrous results on affected communities.

The researchers discovered an “abundance of testimonies referring to adversarial climate, crop failures, and famines in these years”, noting that the “assembled proof means that the subsistence difficulties, which started in 1109, deepened into famine in a number of areas of western Europe”.

In fact, these long-ago hardships cannot be taken as proof of any specific eruptive occasion, however the researchers say all of the proof, taken collectively, suggests a ‘forgotten’ cluster of volcanic eruptions in 1108 to 1110 unleashed horrible penalties on humanity. We’re solely rediscovering them now.

The findings are reported in Scientific Reviews.

A model of this text was initially printed in Might 2020.


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