You are on page 1of 5

AAG: Eruption of El Salvador’s Ilopango explains A.D.

536 cooling

A massive eruption of Ilopango volcano in El Salvador, today a crater lake, may have triggered the global climate cooling of A.D. 536. The only historical eruption at Ilopango took place in 1879-1880, during which a lava dome formed creating the Islas Quemadas in the central part of the lake. Credit: NASA Earth Observatory

1. reported Robert A. is known for boating. It may also be the long-sought cause of the extreme climate cooling and crop failures of A. New research on the extent and the timing of the eruption now places the eruption --.000 years. However. Dull of the University of Texas at Austin at the Association of American Geographers annual meeting in New York this week. The massive Plinian-type event with pyroclastic flows would have instantly killed up to 100. displaced up to 400.000 people. it may have been the site of one of the most horrific natural disasters in the world. . scenic beauty of its 100 meter-tall cliffs --. 535-536.El Salvador’s Lake Ilopango.previously thought to have occurred three centuries earlier the right time and place.000 more and filled the skies with ash and dust for more than a year. The new findings would make it the second-largest volcanic eruption in the last 200. diving and the rugged. near the capital city of San Salvador.the lip of the caldera that holds the lake.” Dull said.D. “This event was much bigger than we ever thought.500 years ago.

535-536.D. But the dates and sedimentary evidence didn’t align. known as the A. crop failures and famines that was described in both Roman and Chinese historical accounts. It would also finally explain the global cooling of A. decorative stone columns erected to mark events. “The question has been the cause. “So it’s very well established this event took place. However. others Krakatoa. indicating a massive tropical volcanic eruption had ejected ash around the planet. Dull said. analysis of ice cores recovered in Greenland and Antarctica — dated to A.D. had been attributed to a number of sources over the years including a bolide impact.” Dull said. In 2008. Some suggested Rabaul. an 18-month period of cloudy skies. the location of a tropical volcano that erupted in A. 536 — showed similar levels of sulfate.D. .D.Such an eruption would explain the episode in Mayan history known as the Classic Period Hiatus.” The cooling. 536 and produced a sufficient volume of ash to block the sun remained unknown. when the Maya stopped building stelae. 536 event.

” which had placed the Ilopango eruption at A. white layer of tephra. locally called the Tierra Blanca Joven (TBJ). larger than the .9 on the Volcanic Explosivity Index. Honduras and in offshore deposits. Over the last few years.” Dull said. Dull had re-evaluated carbon-14 dates of a thick. Such an eruption would merit a rating of 6. however. or “young white land. which Dull now calculates at 84 cubic kilometers. “An eruption that big has to leave a big hole in the ground. and the dimensions of Ilopango’s caldera. 400 to 600 — even further afield. 260. The wider geographic distribution of TBJ deposits indicates the eruption produced a much larger volume of ash and debris.D. at 11 kilometers by 17 kilometers. other researchers have discovered TBJ tephra deposits — dated from A.D.D. Dull’s 2001 analysis placed it sometime between A. At the time.In 2001. the TBJ eruption was not thought to have been large enough to have caused global cooling. fit the bill. in Nicaragua. however. 408 and 536. nearly five times larger than previously thought.

“It’s convinced us that we have found the .” http://www.” Dull said.D. which caused the “year without a summer. “That’s a very good fit for this radiocarbon data.” Meanwhile.earthmagazine.1816 eruption of Tambora. 450 and 545. new carbon-14 dates from a tree that was killed and preserved by a pyroclastic flow have placed the Tierra Blanca Joven eruption between A.