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...as anomalous climactic events in the 6th Century are being attributed to a small comet, around 500m across and the resulting atmospheric plume after it exploded without impacting...

"The team has been studying evidence from tree rings, which suggests that the Earth underwent a series of very cold summers around 536-540 AD, indicating an effect rather like a nuclear winter.

The scientists in the School of Physics and Astronomy believe this was caused by a comet hitting the earth and exploding in the upper atmosphere. The debris from this giant explosion was such that it enveloped the earth in soot and ash, blocking out the sunlight and causing the very cold weather. vThis effect is known as a plume and is similar to that which was seen when comet Shoemaker-Levy-9 hit Jupiter in 1995.

Historical references from this period - known as the Dark Ages - are sparse, but what records there are, tell of crop failures and summer frosts."


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 8th, 2004 04:03 pm (UTC)
Annoyingly, everyone seems to have picked up the same news release, and none of them mention how much of the planet this affected. Because if it was the whole Northern Hemisphere, it would be worth looking at Chinese and Indian records for the period. And in any case, it's worth knowing whether a 500-meter-diameter comet is likely to cause planet-wide problems, or affect a smaller area.
Feb. 8th, 2004 04:11 pm (UTC)
Actually, it appears to have been pretty global. Certainly there's a lot of evidence of a global climate collapse around that time (with possible links to the arrival of bubonic plague). I'd recommend reading Catastrophe by David Keys.

While he uses the same evidence to come up with a theory for a super-volcano eruption in the East Indies, it's an interesting piece of detective work...
Feb. 9th, 2004 02:17 am (UTC)
Yes, I thought I'd heard something similar - I believe I saw a Channel 4 documentary that linked in with Keys' work.

So essentially, what the news report tell us about is a different and unsubstantiated explanation for a phenomenon that's already been observed. Which makes it all abit less dramatic.
Feb. 9th, 2004 02:20 am (UTC)
Well, I think it's best described as "yet another unsubstantiated explanation", as there's certainly no evidence for Key's volcano, either...

Heh. The delights of theory...
Feb. 9th, 2004 02:31 am (UTC)
True enough. Either theory is equally (im)plausible. But clearly there is a phenomenon that needs an explanation on this sort of scale. (And I veer towards the super-volcano, as being less immediately observable, and so less likely to leave a direct trace in historical records.)

But my main point was that this particular report is being hyped up as far more newsworthy than it actually is.
Feb. 9th, 2004 02:43 am (UTC)
I think you're right.

However there is the underlying issue that the climate is more fragile than we generally think...
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )