Science Podcasts

Special episode

Fri, 17th Jul 2015

Volcanoes may have ended the Roman Empire

Erupting volcano (c) Walter Lim

Volcanic eruptions can be both beautiful and destructive at the same time, but now scientists have found evidence they may have also been linked to plagues, and even the fall of the Roman Empire. When a volcano erupts, chemicals are released into the atmosphere in huge quantities, which reflect light away from the earth and therefore cause climate change, in the form of summer cooling.  These chemicals are also locked away in the ice, providing a snapshot of the time of an eruption. Now scientists have dated the ice cores, and the records of summer cooling, from tree rings and have found they match perfectly. Gill Plunkett from Queen’s University Belfast was one member of that team, and she spoke to Tom Crawford.

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