Ancient Rome Was Teetering – Then Okmok Volcano Erupted 6,000 Miles Away

Researchers have previously hypothesized that an environmental trigger may have helped set in motion the crop failures, famines and social unrest that plagued the Mediterranean region at the time when the Roman Republic collapsed.

What environmental trigger could have been so powerful? An excellent article by Katherine Kornei in The New York Times (22 Jun 2020) provides the explanation.

Here are excerpts (along with some paraphrasing) from that article:

Chaos and conflict roiled the Mediterranean in the first century B.C. Against a backdrop of famine, disease and the assassinations of Julius Caesar and other political leaders, the Roman Republic collapsed, and the Roman Empire rose in its place.

Scientists on Monday announced evidence that a volcanic eruption in the remote Aleutian Islands – Mount Okmok – contributed to the Roman Republic’s demise. That eruption — and others before it and since — played a role in changing the course of history.

Okmok erupting in July 2008 – Credit…C.A. Neal/Alaska Volcano Observatory/United States Geological Survey

Joseph McConnell, a climate scientist at the the Desert Research Institute in Reno, Nevada, and his collaborators recently analyzed six ice cores drilled in the Arctic. In layers of ice corresponding to the early months of 43 B.C., they spotted large upticks in sulfur and, crucially, bits of material that were probably tephra. The timing caught the scientists’ attention.

This eruption was one of the largest of the last few millenniums, Dr. McConnell and his collaborators concluded, and the sulfate aerosols it created remained in the stratosphere for several years. These tiny particles are particularly good at reflecting sunlight, which means they can temporarily alter Earth’s climate.

There’s good evidence that the Northern Hemisphere was colder than normal around 43 B.C. Trees across Europe grew more slowly that year, and a pine forest in North America experienced an unusually early autumn freeze. Using climate models to simulate the impact of an Okmok eruption, Dr. McConnell and his collaborators estimated that parts of the Mediterranean, roughly 6,000 miles away, would have cooled by as much as 13.3 degrees Fahrenheit.

“It was bloody cold,” Dr. McConnell said.

Rain patterns changed as well — some regions would have been drenched by 400 percent more precipitation than normal, the modeling revealed.

These cold, wet conditions would have almost certainly decimated crops, Dr. McConnell and his colleagues said. Historical records compiled by Roman writers and philosophers note food shortages and famines. In 43 B.C., Mark Antony, the Roman military leader, and his army had to subsist on wild fruit, roots, bark and “animals never tasted before,” the philosopher Plutarch wrote.

“It’s an incredible coincidence that it happened exactly in the waning years of the Roman Republic when things were falling apart,” said Dr. McConnell, who published the team’s results in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Read all of this great article:


9 thoughts on “Ancient Rome Was Teetering – Then Okmok Volcano Erupted 6,000 Miles Away”

  1. Donald Trump Is a Broken Man
    In another time, in a different circumstance, there would perhaps be room to pity such a person… by The Atlantic
    July 21, 2020
    …sounds like pretty fair and balanced agitpropaganda by and for the actors and their anti-reason audience

    WHO Cares What Celebrities [actors] Think – #PropagandaWatch

    Yugoslavian Issues Warning To All Americans read’em all

  2. Left-wing agitprop, that reads way below the level of glurge has to be directed to this specific layer of the geologic strata to frac it… delayed eugenics always makes it that much more ‘dramatic’ in the long run… looks like they’re leaving no choice but for ‘crackers’ to become patrons of the ballistic ballets like the Nut Cracker again. Hard winters also have a ‘natural way’ of highgrading the herd. Hang in there… TPTB ranchers and circus ringleaders have done this before.
    “Enjoy the show”… it must go on.

  3. I have borrowed heavily from an Aeon piece written in 2017 called
    ‘How climate change and disease helped the fall of Rome’ that the Smithsonian magazine ( says has now been republished under Creative Commons. Attribution at the end of this comment.

    In the middle of the second century, the Romans controlled a huge, geographically diverse part of the globe, from northern Britain to the edges of the Sahara, from the Atlantic to Mesopotamia. The generally prosperous population peaked at 75 million. Eventually, all free inhabitants of the empire came to enjoy the rights of Roman citizenship.

    Five centuries later, the Roman empire was a small Byzantine rump-state controlled from Constantinople, its near-eastern provinces lost to Islamic invasions, its western lands covered by a patchwork of Germanic kingdoms.
    Trade receded, cities shrank, and technological advance halted. Despite the cultural vitality and spiritual legacy of these centuries, this period was marked by a declining population, political fragmentation, and lower levels of material complexity.

    However during this time politicians and rulers of Rome became more and more corrupt; Infighting and civil wars within the Empire were rife. [Echos of today perhaps]

    …new evidence has started to unveil the crucial role played by changes in the natural environment. The paradoxes of social development, and the inherent unpredictability of nature, worked in concert to bring about Rome’s demise.

    Climate change did not begin with the exhaust fumes of industrialisation, but has been a permanent feature of human existence. Orbital mechanics (small variations in the tilt, spin and eccentricity of the Earth’s orbit) and solar cycles alter the amount and distribution of energy received from the Sun. And volcanic eruptions spew reflective sulphates into the atmosphere, sometimes with long-reaching effects. …
    But climate change per se is nothing new.

    The end of this lucky climate regime did not immediately, or in any simple deterministic sense, spell the doom of Rome. Rather, a less favourable climate undermined its power just when the empire was imperilled by more dangerous enemies – Germans, Persians – from without. Climate instability peaked in the sixth century, during the reign of Justinian. Work by dendro-chronologists and ice-core experts points to an enormous spasm of volcanic activity in the 530s and 540s CE, unlike anything else in the past few thousand years. This violent sequence of eruptions triggered what is now called the ‘Late Antique Little Ice Age’, when much colder temperatures endured for at least 150 years. This phase of climate deterioration had decisive effects in Rome’s unravelling. It was also intimately linked to a catastrophe of even greater moment: the outbreak of the first pandemic of bubonic plague.

    See for the full story complete with nods to modern fiction of ‘climate change’.

  4. I love reading up about the Romans LOL.
    I believe it wasn’t just 1 bad decline after centuries of growth. They experienced cycles within cycles if you get me. I’m sure corruption, mismanagement and natural trends in rulers to have power go to their heads were present.
    A bit of common sense can go a long way. Either way I am happy to read about the triumphs not disasters that befell those giddy old Romans. Hated history in school but I love it now.
    Raise another glass of my favourite. Cheers!

  5. I believe that natural climate changes have brought about the evolution of the human species as we had to adapt or fade away into the sunset. It affected the Roman Empire’s future? This process is still ongoing, methinks, as it threatens to destroy the Democrat’s political fate, in November 2020?

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