Historical Icelandic Volcanism

On 8 June 1783, the Laki volcanic fissure in Iceland began to erupt. Over the next 8 months, it resulted in the injection of large amounts of toxic gases into the atmosphere that dispersed across Europe to produce one of the great natural catastrophes of modern times.

The seminar will report on findings from a previously unknown daily weather record from Dalkeith, Edinburgh, for the time interval 1783-1790, together with a contemporary weather and farming diary from Aberdeenshire for the period 1758-1795. Both accounts contain exceptionally detailed weather records covering the ca. 9 month period during which the eruption took place as well as for the years after eruption.

We use this information to interpret the experiences of people in Scotland who, unknowingly, lived through the eruption period, but who struggled to understand the exceptional weather conditions experienced during the summer of 1783. We also attempt to resolve long-standing controversies concerning the magnitude and duration of the volcanic forcing of climate caused by this event.

Our findings can be viewed through the prisms of the measurement and modelling of climate change, the vulnerability of 18th Century agricultural society to natural disasters, as well as the risk posed to modern society should an event ever happen like this again.

This first speakers of the spring ISSR Seminar Series: Dr Martin Kirkbride and Prof Alistair Dawson from Geography and Environmental Sciences.


Tickets: Free Book a Place