Why was 536 the worst year in history? Explanation, meaning, definition

Today, historians agree that there was a series of natural disasters in the year 536 and therefore it can be called without hesitation the worst year in history. It was triggered by a natural event that led to a chain reaction and had dramatic consequences throughout Central Europe for decades.

Why was 536 the worst year in history? Explanation, meaning, definition

In the early Middle Ages, people did not yet have the knowledge and understanding of scientific phenomena, but explained mainly unusual weather phenomena with the work of divine powers. In medieval paintings from the end of the 16th century, for example the painting „Triumph of Death“ by Pieter Brueghel the Elder, apocalyptic conditions are depicted, which testify to the huge scale and the great fear of the population of natural forces.

There are other events in history, each of which could be considered the worst on earth. Last but not least are the beginning of the First and Second World Wars, which turned the world upside down. The plague of 1349, which claimed the lives of a good half of Europe’s population, is undoubtedly a similarly dramatic event. THE plague had just as devastating consequences as the Spanish flu in 1918, and it is estimated that the epidemic killed 100 million people.

Nevertheless, the year 536 is considered by many historians to be the worst of all times, because various events accumulated here, so that people had to suffer the consequences for decades. In addition, several contemporary witnesses and historians describe the year 536 as the beginning of the coldest and darkest decade of the last 2,300 years in the northern hemisphere. These are once the historian Prokopios, furthermore the Roman Flavius Cassiodor and Michael the Syrian.

They report unanimously of a dramatic time with very low temperatures, snowfall in the summer and of many years of large bad harvests. The sun had no radiance and appeared darkened. One saw in it a portent of a large evil, which brings death to humans. The premonition was confirmed. Meanwhile, the causes of the events that killed about half of the population of the Eastern Roman Empire can be scientifically explained, although not 100% proven.

Volcanic eruptions as the No. 1 cause

Climate historians and historians today refer to the beginning of the catastrophic decade as the „weather anomaly of 535/36.“ Using examined tree rings, they were able to prove in 1990 that the summer of 536 (and for many years thereafter) was about 2.5 °C colder than usual. Until a few years ago, the cause of the persistent darkening of the sky and the associated cold period was thought to be a series of asteroid impacts in Australia and several volcanic eruptions, although it was not clear where these might have occurred. But in 2018, groundbreaking findings emerged that shed much more light on what happened and can also be narrowed down geographically.

Year 536: Latest findings in 2018

A new attempt to clarify the causes of the darkening of 536 and the associated crop failures was made by a team led by glaciologist Paul Mayewski of the University of Maine (USA). They assume that the volcanic eruption in Iceland took place at the beginning of 36 and must have spread enormous amounts of ash over the northern hemisphere. Shortly after that, namely in the years 540 and 547, other violent volcanic eruptions took place in Iceland.

The scientists‘ thesis was supported by studies of polar ice cores from Antarctica and Greenland. These ice cores contained traces of sulfur and other substances, which were compared with the tree rings. Researchers from the University of Bern, in turn, confirmed that every exceptionally cold summer of the last two and a half millennia was accompanied by a volcanic eruption.

Traces from the eternal ice as scientific evidence

For their latest research, Mayewski and his team looked for eruption traces on the glacier of the 4453-meter-high Colle Gnifetti (Swiss Alps). They were able to read valuable climate information from a 72-meter ice core taken from the glacier in 2013.

The latest imaging techniques made it possible to identify tiny particles of volcanic glass and attribute them to the year 536. The chemical composition of the substances is as clear as a fingerprint. Thus, the assumption is more than obvious that the particles in this ice core originate from an Icelandic volcano and have spread throughout Central Europe. This method of investigation has now also been used by scientists at the University of Nottingham and confirmed as effective.

Autor: Pierre von BedeutungOnline

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